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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesLes Miserables - Volume I - FANTINE - BOOK FIRST - A JUST MAN - Chapter VII. Cravatte
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Les Miserables - Volume I - FANTINE - BOOK FIRST - A JUST MAN - Chapter VII. Cravatte Post by :stskelton Category :Long Stories Author :Victor Hugo Date :February 2011 Read :1824

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Les Miserables - Volume I - FANTINE - BOOK FIRST - A JUST MAN - Chapter VII. Cravatte

It is here that a fact falls naturally into place, which we must
not omit, because it is one of the sort which show us best what sort
of a man the Bishop of D---- was.

After the destruction of the band of Gaspard Bes, who had infested
the gorges of Ollioules, one of his lieutenants, Cravatte, took refuge
in the mountains. He concealed himself for some time with his bandits,
the remnant of Gaspard Bes's troop, in the county of Nice;
then he made his way to Piedmont, and suddenly reappeared in France,
in the vicinity of Barcelonette. He was first seen at Jauziers,
then at Tuiles. He hid himself in the caverns of the Joug-de-l'Aigle,
and thence he descended towards the hamlets and villages through
the ravines of Ubaye and Ubayette.

He even pushed as far as Embrun, entered the cathedral one night,
and despoiled the sacristy. His highway robberies laid waste the
country-side. The gendarmes were set on his track, but in vain.
He always escaped; sometimes he resisted by main force. He was a
bold wretch. In the midst of all this terror the Bishop arrived.
He was making his circuit to Chastelar. The mayor came to meet him,
and urged him to retrace his steps. Cravatte was in possession
of the mountains as far as Arche, and beyond; there was danger even
with an escort; it merely exposed three or four unfortunate gendarmes
to no purpose.

"Therefore," said the Bishop, "I intend to go without escort."

"You do not really mean that, Monseigneur!" exclaimed the mayor.

"I do mean it so thoroughly that I absolutely refuse any gendarmes,
and shall set out in an hour."

"Set out?"

"Set out."



"Monseigneur, you will not do that!"

"There exists yonder in the mountains," said the Bishop, a tiny
community no bigger than that, which I have not seen for three years.
They are my good friends, those gentle and honest shepherds. They own
one goat out of every thirty that they tend. They make very pretty
woollen cords of various colors, and they play the mountain airs
on little flutes with six holes. They need to be told of the good
God now and then. What would they say to a bishop who was afraid?
What would they say if I did not go?"

"But the brigands, Monseigneur?"

"Hold," said the Bishop, "I must think of that. You are right.
I may meet them. They, too, need to be told of the good God."

"But, Monseigneur, there is a band of them! A flock of wolves!"

"Monsieur le maire, it may be that it is of this very flock
of wolves that Jesus has constituted me the shepherd. Who knows
the ways of Providence?"

"They will rob you, Monseigneur."

"I have nothing."

"They will kill you."

"An old goodman of a priest, who passes along mumbling his prayers?
Bah! To what purpose?"

"Oh, mon Dieu! what if you should meet them!"

"I should beg alms of them for my poor."

"Do not go, Monseigneur. In the name of Heaven! You are risking
your life!"

"Monsieur le maire," said the Bishop, "is that really all?
I am not in the world to guard my own life, but to guard souls."

They had to allow him to do as he pleased. He set out, accompanied
only by a child who offered to serve as a guide. His obstinacy
was bruited about the country-side, and caused great consternation.

He would take neither his sister nor Madame Magloire. He traversed
the mountain on mule-back, encountered no one, and arrived safe
and sound at the residence of his "good friends," the shepherds.
He remained there for a fortnight, preaching, administering the sacrament,
teaching, exhorting. When the time of his departure approached,
he resolved to chant a Te Deum pontifically. He mentioned it to
the cure. But what was to be done? There were no episcopal ornaments.
They could only place at his disposal a wretched village sacristy, with
a few ancient chasubles of threadbare damask adorned with imitation lace.

"Bah!" said the Bishop. "Let us announce our Te Deum from the pulpit,
nevertheless, Monsieur le Cure. Things will arrange themselves."

They instituted a search in the churches of the neighborhood.
All the magnificence of these humble parishes combined would not have
sufficed to clothe the chorister of a cathedral properly.

While they were thus embarrassed, a large chest was brought and
deposited in the presbytery for the Bishop, by two unknown horsemen,
who departed on the instant. The chest was opened; it contained
a cope of cloth of gold, a mitre ornamented with diamonds,
an archbishop's cross, a magnificent crosier,--all the pontifical
vestments which had been stolen a month previously from the treasury
of Notre Dame d'Embrun. In the chest was a paper, on which
these words were written, "From Cravatte to Monseigneur Bienvenu."

"Did not I say that things would come right of themselves?" said
the Bishop. Then he added, with a smile, "To him who contents himself
with the surplice of a curate, God sends the cope of an archbishop."

"Monseigneur," murmured the cure, throwing back his head with a smile.
"God--or the Devil."

The Bishop looked steadily at the cure, and repeated
with authority, "God!"

When he returned to Chastelar, the people came out to stare at him
as at a curiosity, all along the road. At the priest's house in
Chastelar he rejoined Mademoiselle Baptistine and Madame Magloire,
who were waiting for him, and he said to his sister: "Well! was
I in the right? The poor priest went to his poor mountaineers
with empty hands, and he returns from them with his hands full.
I set out bearing only my faith in God; I have brought back the
treasure of a cathedral."

That evening, before he went to bed, he said again: "Let us
never fear robbers nor murderers. Those are dangers from without,
petty dangers. Let us fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers;
vices are the real murderers. The great dangers lie within ourselves.
What matters it what threatens our head or our purse! Let us think
only of that which threatens our soul."

Then, turning to his sister: "Sister, never a precaution on the part
of the priest, against his fellow-man. That which his fellow does,
God permits. Let us confine ourselves to prayer, when we think
that a danger is approaching us. Let us pray, not for ourselves,
but that our brother may not fall into sin on our account."

However, such incidents were rare in his life. We relate those
of which we know; but generally he passed his life in doing the
same things at the same moment. One month of his year resembled
one hour of his day.

As to what became of "the treasure" of the cathedral of Embrun,
we should be embarrassed by any inquiry in that direction.
It consisted of very handsome things, very tempting things,
and things which were very well adapted to be stolen for the benefit
of the unfortunate. Stolen they had already been elsewhere.
Half of the adventure was completed; it only remained to impart
a new direction to the theft, and to cause it to take a short trip
in the direction of the poor. However, we make no assertions
on this point. Only, a rather obscure note was found among
the Bishop's papers, which may bear some relation to this matter,
and which is couched in these terms, "The question is, to decide
whether this should be turned over to the cathedral or to the hospital."

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