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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Magic Skin - 1. The Talisman - Part 4
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The Magic Skin - 1. The Talisman - Part 4 Post by :dasmithj007 Category :Long Stories Author :Honore De Balzac Date :May 2012 Read :1612

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The Magic Skin - 1. The Talisman - Part 4

Emile was a journalist who had acquired more reputation by dint of doing nothing than others had derived from their achievements. A bold, caustic, and powerful critic, he possessed all the qualities that his defects permitted. An outspoken giber, he made numberless epigrams on a friend to his face; but would defend him, if absent, with courage and loyalty. He laughed at everything, even at his own career. Always impecunious, he yet lived, like all men of his calibre, plunged in unspeakable indolence. He would fling some word containing volumes in the teeth of folk who could not put a syllable of sense into their books. He lavished promises that he never fulfilled; he made a pillow of his luck and reputation, on which he slept, and ran the risk of waking up to old age in a workhouse. A steadfast friend to the gallows foot, a cynical swaggerer with a child's simplicity, a worker only from necessity or caprice.

"In the language of Maitre Alcofribas, we are about to make a famous _troncon de chiere lie_," he remarked to Raphael as he pointed out the flower-stands that made a perfumed forest of the staircase.

"I like a vestibule to be well warmed and richly carpeted," Raphael said. "Luxury in the peristyle is not common in France. I feel as if life had begun anew here."

"And up above we are going to drink and make merry once more, my dear Raphael. Ah! yes," he went on, "and I hope we are going to come off conquerors, too, and walk over everybody else's head."

As he spoke, he jestingly pointed to the guests. They were entering a large room which shone with gilding and lights, and there all the younger men of note in Paris welcomed them. Here was one who had just revealed fresh powers, his first picture vied with the glories of Imperial art. There, another, who but yesterday had launched forth a volume, an acrid book filled with a sort of literary arrogance, which opened up new ways to the modern school. A sculptor, not far away, with vigorous power visible in his rough features, was chatting with one of those unenthusiastic scoffers who can either see excellence anywhere or nowhere, as it happens. Here, the cleverest of our caricaturists, with mischievous eyes and bitter tongue, lay in wait for epigrams to translate into pencil strokes; there, stood the young and audacious writer, who distilled the quintessence of political ideas better than any other man, or compressed the work of some prolific writer as he held him up to ridicule; he was talking with the poet whose works would have eclipsed all the writings of the time if his ability had been as strenuous as his hatreds. Both were trying not to say the truth while they kept clear of lies, as they exchanged flattering speeches. A famous musician administered soothing consolation in a rallying fashion, to a young politician who had just fallen quite unhurt, from his rostrum. Young writers who lacked style stood beside other young writers who lacked ideas, and authors of poetical prose by prosaic poets.

At the sight of all these incomplete beings, a simple Saint Simonian, ingenuous enough to believe in his own doctrine, charitably paired them off, designing, no doubt, to convert them into monks of his order. A few men of science mingled in the conversation, like nitrogen in the atmosphere, and several _vaudevillistes shed rays like the sparking diamonds that give neither light nor heat. A few paradox-mongers, laughing up their sleeves at any folk who embraced their likes or dislikes in men or affairs, had already begun a two-edged policy, conspiring against all systems, without committing themselves to any side. Then there was the self-appointed critic who admires nothing, and will blow his nose in the middle of a _cavatina at the Bouffons, who applauds before any one else begins, and contradicts every one who says what he himself was about to say; he was there giving out the sayings of wittier men for his own. Of all the assembled guests, a future lay before some five; ten or so should acquire a fleeting renown; as for the rest, like all mediocrities, they might apply to themselves the famous falsehood of Louis XVIII., Union and oblivion.

The anxious jocularity of a man who is expending two thousand crowns sat on their host. His eyes turned impatiently towards the door from time to time, seeking one of his guests who kept him waiting. Very soon a stout little person appeared, who was greeted by a complimentary murmur; it was the notary who had invented the newspaper that very morning. A valet-de-chambre in black opened the doors of a vast dining-room, whither every one went without ceremony, and took his place at an enormous table.

Raphael took a last look round the room before he left it. His wish had been realized to the full. The rooms were adorned with silk and gold. Countless wax tapers set in handsome candelabra lit up the slightest details of gilded friezes, the delicate bronze sculpture, and the splendid colors of the furniture. The sweet scent of rare flowers, set in stands tastefully made of bamboo, filled the air. Everything, even the curtains, was pervaded by elegance without pretension, and there was a certain imaginative charm about it all which acted like a spell on the mind of a needy man.

"An income of a hundred thousand livres a year is a very nice beginning of the catechism, and a wonderful assistance to putting morality into our actions," he said, sighing. "Truly my sort of virtue can scarcely go afoot, and vice means, to my thinking, a garret, a threadbare coat, a gray hat in winter time, and sums owing to the porter. . . . I should like to live in the lap of luxury a year, or six months, no matter! And then afterwards, die. I should have known, exhausted, and consumed a thousand lives, at any rate."

"Why, you are taking the tone of a stockbroker in good luck," said Emile, who overheard him. "Pooh! your riches would be a burden to you as soon as you found that they would spoil your chances of coming out above the rest of us. Hasn't the artist always kept the balance true between the poverty of riches and the riches of poverty? And isn't struggle a necessity to some of us? Look out for your digestion, and only look," he added, with a mock-heroic gesture, "at the majestic, thrice holy, and edifying appearance of this amiable capitalist's dining-room. That man has in reality only made his money for our benefit. Isn't he a kind of sponge of the polyp order, overlooked by naturalists, which should be carefully squeezed before he is left for his heirs to feed upon? There is style, isn't there, about those bas-reliefs that adorn the walls? And the lustres, and the pictures, what luxury well carried out! If one may believe those who envy him, or who know, or think they know, the origins of his life, then this man got rid of a German and some others--his best friend for one, and the mother of that friend, during the Revolution. Could you house crimes under the venerable Taillefer's silvering locks? He looks to me a very worthy man. Only see how the silver sparkles, and is every glittering ray like a stab of a dagger to him? . . . Let us go in, one might as well believe in Mahomet. If common report speak truth, here are thirty men of talent, and good fellows too, prepared to dine off the flesh and blood of a whole family; . . . and here are we ourselves, a pair of youngsters full of open-hearted enthusiasm, and we shall be partakers in his guilt. I have a mind to ask our capitalist whether he is a respectable character. . . ."

"No, not now," cried Raphael, "but when he is dead drunk, we shall have had our dinner then."

The two friends sat down laughing. First of all, by a glance more rapid than a word, each paid his tribute of admiration to the splendid general effect of the long table, white as a bank of freshly-fallen snow, with its symmetrical line of covers, crowned with their pale golden rolls of bread. Rainbow colors gleamed in the starry rays of light reflected by the glass; the lights of the tapers crossed and recrossed each other indefinitely; the dishes covered with their silver domes whetted both appetite and curiosity.

Few words were spoken. Neighbors exchanged glances as the Maderia circulated. Then the first course appeared in all its glory; it would have done honor to the late Cambaceres, Brillat-Savarin would have celebrated it. The wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy, white and red, were royally lavished. This first part of the banquet might been compared in every way to a rendering of some classical tragedy. The second act grew a trifle noisier. Every guest had had a fair amount to drink, and had tried various crus at this pleasure, so that as the remains of the magnificent first course were removed, tumultuous discussions began; a pale brow here and there began to flush, sundry noses took a purpler hue, faces lit up, and eyes sparkled.

While intoxication was only dawning, the conversation did not overstep the bounds of civility; but banter and bon mots slipped by degrees from every tongue; and then slander began to rear its little snake's heard, and spoke in dulcet tones; a few shrewd ones here and there gave heed to it, hoping to keep their heads. So the second course found their minds somewhat heated. Every one ate as he spoke, spoke while he ate, and drank without heeding the quantity of the liquor, the wine was so biting, the bouquet so fragrant, the example around so infectious. Taillefer made a point of stimulating his guests, and plied them with the formidable wines of the Rhone, with fierce Tokay, and heady old Roussillon.

The champagne, impatiently expected and lavishly poured out, was a scourge of fiery sparks to these men; released like post-horses from some mail-coach by a relay; they let their spirits gallop away into the wilds of argument to which no one listened, began to tell stories which had no auditors, and repeatedly asked questions to which no answer was made. Only the loud voice of wassail could be heard, a voice made up of a hundred confused clamors, which rose and grew like a crescendo of Rossini's. Insidious toasts, swagger, and challenges followed.

Each renounced any pride in his own intellectual capacity, in order to vindicate that of hogsheads, casks, and vats; and each made noise enough for two. A time came when the footmen smiled, while their masters all talked at once. A philosopher would have been interested, doubtless, by the singularity of the thoughts expressed, a politician would have been amazed by the incongruity of the methods discussed in the melee of words or doubtfully luminous paradoxes, where truths, grotesquely caparisoned, met in conflict across the uproar of brawling judgments, of arbitrary decisions and folly, much as bullets, shells, and grapeshot are hurled across a battlefield.

It was at once a volume and a picture. Every philosophy, religion, and moral code differing so greatly in every latitude, every government, every great achievement of the human intellect, fell before a scythe as long as Time's own; and you might have found it hard to decide whether it was wielded by Gravity intoxicated, or by Inebriation grown sober and clear-sighted. Borne away by a kind of tempest, their minds, like the sea raging against the cliffs, seemed ready to shake the laws which confine the ebb and flow of civilization; unconsciously fulfilling the will of God, who has suffered evil and good to abide in nature, and reserved the secret of their continual strife to Himself. A frantic travesty of debate ensued, a Walpurgis-revel of intellects. Between the dreary jests of these children of the Revolution over the inauguration of a newspaper, and the talk of the joyous gossips at Gargantua's birth, stretched the gulf that divides the nineteenth century from the sixteenth. Laughingly they had begun the work of destruction, and our journalists laughed amid the ruins.

"What is the name of that young man over there?" said the notary, indicating Raphael. "I thought I heard some one call him Valentin."

"What stuff is this?" said Emile, laughing; "plain Valentin, say you? Raphael DE Valentin, if you please. We bear an eagle or, on a field sable, with a silver crown, beak and claws gules, and a fine motto: NON CECIDIT ANIMUS. We are no foundling child, but a descendant of the Emperor Valens, of the stock of the Valentinois, founders of the cities of Valence in France, and Valencia in Spain, rightful heirs to the Empire of the East. If we suffer Mahmoud on the throne of Byzantium, it is out of pure condescension, and for lack of funds and soldiers."

With a fork flourished above Raphael's head, Emile outlined a crown upon it. The notary bethought himself a moment, but soon fell to drinking again, with a gesture peculiar to himself; it was quite impossible, it seemed to say to secure in his clientele the cities of Valence and Byzantium, the Emperor Valens, Mahmoud, and the house of Valentinois.

"Should not the destruction of those ant-hills, Babylon, Tyre, Carthage, and Venice, each crushed beneath the foot of a passing giant, serve as a warning to man, vouchsafed by some mocking power?" said Claude Vignon, who must play the Bossuet, as a sort of purchased slave, at the rate of fivepence a line.

"Perhaps Moses, Sylla, Louis XI., Richelieu, Robespierre, and Napoleon were but the same man who crosses our civilizations now and again, like a comet across the sky," said a disciple of Ballanche.

"Why try to fathom the designs of Providence?" said Canalis, maker of ballads.

"Come, now," said the man who set up for a critic, "there is nothing more elastic in the world than your Providence."

"Well, sir, Louis XIV. sacrificed more lives over digging the foundations of the Maintenon's aqueducts, than the Convention expended in order to assess the taxes justly, to make one law for everybody, and one nation of France, and to establish the rule of equal inheritance," said Massol, whom the lack of a syllable before his name had made a Republican.

"Are you going to leave our heads on our shoulders?" asked Moreau (of the Oise), a substantial farmer. "You, sir, who took blood for wine just now?"

"Where is the use? Aren't the principles of social order worth some sacrifices, sir?"

"Hi! Bixiou! What's-his-name, the Republican, considers a landowner's head a sacrifice!" said a young man to his neighbor.

"Men and events count for nothing," said the Republican, following out his theory in spite of hiccoughs; "in politics, as in philosophy, there are only principles and ideas."

"What an abomination! Then you would ruthlessly put your friends to death for a shibboleth?"

"Eh, sir! the man who feels compunction is your thorough scoundrel, for he has some notion of virtue; while Peter the Great and the Duke of Alva were embodied systems, and the pirate Monbard an organization."

"But can't society rid itself of your systems and organizations?" said Canalis.

"Oh, granted!" cried the Republican.

"That stupid Republic of yours makes me feel queasy. We sha'n't be able to carve a capon in peace, because we shall find the agrarian law inside it."

"Ah, my little Brutus, stuffed with truffles, your principles are all right enough. But you are like my valet, the rogue is so frightfully possessed with a mania for property that if I left him to clean my clothes after his fashion, he would soon clean me out."

"Crass idiots!" replied the Republican, "you are for setting a nation straight with toothpicks. To your way of thinking, justice is more dangerous than thieves."

"Oh, dear!" cried the attorney Deroches.

"Aren't they a bore with their politics!" said the notary Cardot. "Shut up. That's enough of it. There is no knowledge nor virtue worth shedding a drop of blood for. If Truth were brought into liquidation, we might find her insolvent."

"It would be much less trouble, no doubt, to amuse ourselves with evil, rather than dispute about good. Moreover, I would give all the speeches made for forty years past at the Tribune for a trout, for one of Perrault's tales or Charlet's sketches."

"Quite right! . . . Hand me the asparagus. Because, after all, liberty begets anarchy, anarchy leads to despotism, and despotism back again to liberty. Millions have died without securing a triumph for any one system. Is not that the vicious circle in which the whole moral world revolves? Man believes that he has reached perfection, when in fact he has but rearranged matters."

"Oh! oh!" cried Cursy, the _vaudevilliste_; "in that case, gentlemen, here's to Charles X., the father of liberty."

"Why not?" asked Emile. "When law becomes despotic, morals are relaxed, and vice versa.

"Let us drink to the imbecility of authority, which gives us such an authority over imbeciles!" said the good banker.

"Napoleon left us glory, at any rate, my good friend!" exclaimed a naval officer who had never left Brest.

"Glory is a poor bargain; you buy it dear, and it will not keep. Does not the egotism of the great take the form of glory, just as for nobodies it is their own well-being?"

"You are very fortunate, sir----"

"The first inventor of ditches must have been a weakling, for society is only useful to the puny. The savage and the philosopher, at either extreme of the moral scale, hold property in equal horror."

"All very fine!" said Cardot; "but if there were no property, there would be no documents to draw up."

"These green peas are excessively delicious!"

"And the _cure was found dead in his bed in the morning. . . ."

"Who is talking about death? Pray don't trifle, I have an uncle."

"Could you bear his loss with resignation?"

"No question."

"Gentlemen, listen to me! _How to kill an uncle_. Silence! (Cries of "Hush! hush!") In the first place, take an uncle, large and stout, seventy years old at least, they are the best uncles. (Sensation.) Get him to eat a pate de foie gras, any pretext will do."

"Ah, but my uncle is a thin, tall man, and very niggardly and abstemious."

"That sort of uncle is a monster; he misappropriates existence."

"Then," the speaker on uncles went on, "tell him, while he is digesting it, that his banker has failed."

"How if he bears up?"

"Let loose a pretty girl on him."

"And if----?" asked the other, with a shake of the head.

"Then he wouldn't be an uncle--an uncle is a gay dog by nature."

"Malibran has lost two notes in her voice."

"No, sir, she has not."

"Yes, sir, she has."

"Oh, ho! No and yes, is not that the sum-up of all religious, political, or literary dissertations? Man is a clown dancing on the edge of an abyss."

"You would make out that I am a fool."

"On the contrary, you cannot make me out."

"Education, there's a pretty piece of tomfoolery. M. Heineffettermach estimates the number of printed volumes at more than a thousand millions; and a man cannot read more than a hundred and fifty thousand in his lifetime. So, just tell me what that word _education means. For some it consists in knowing the name of Alexander's horse, of the dog Berecillo, of the Seigneur d'Accords, and in ignorance of the man to whom we owe the discovery of rafting and the manufacture of porcelain. For others it is the knowledge how to burn a will and live respected, be looked up to and popular, instead of stealing a watch with half-a-dozen aggravating circumstances, after a previous conviction, and so perishing, hated and dishonored, in the Place de Greve."

"Will Nathan's work live?"

"He has very clever collaborators, sir."

"Or Canalis?"

"He is a great man; let us say no more about him."

"You are all drunk!"

"The consequence of a Constitution is the immediate stultification of intellects. Art, science, public works, everything, is consumed by a horribly egoistic feeling, the leprosy of the time. Three hundred of your bourgeoisie, set down on benches, will only think of planting poplars. Tyranny does great things lawlessly, while Liberty will scarcely trouble herself to do petty ones lawfully."

"Your reciprocal instruction will turn out counters in human flesh," broke in an Absolutist. "All individuality will disappear in a people brought to a dead level by education."

"For all that, is not the aim of society to secure happiness to each member of it?" asked the Saint-Simonian.

"If you had an income of fifty thousand livres, you would not think much about the people. If you are smitten with a tender passion for the race, go to Madagascar; there you will find a nice little nation all ready to Saint-Simonize, classify, and cork up in your phials, but here every one fits into his niche like a peg in a hole. A porter is a porter, and a blockhead is a fool, without a college of fathers to promote them to those positions."

"You are a Carlist."

"And why not? Despotism pleases me; it implies a certain contempt for the human race. I have no animosity against kings, they are so amusing. Is it nothing to sit enthroned in a room, at a distance of thirty million leagues from the sun?"

"Let us once more take a broad view of civilization," said the man of learning who, for the benefit of the inattentive sculptor, had opened a discussion on primitive society and autochthonous races. "The vigor of a nation in its origin was in a way physical, unitary, and crude; then as aggregations increased, government advanced by a decomposition of the primitive rule, more or less skilfully managed. For example, in remote ages national strength lay in theocracy, the priest held both sword and censer; a little later there were two priests, the pontiff and the king. To-day our society, the latest word of civilization, has distributed power according to the number of combinations, and we come to the forces called business, thought, money, and eloquence. Authority thus divided is steadily approaching a social dissolution, with interest as its one opposing barrier. We depend no longer on either religion or physical force, but upon intellect. Can a book replace the sword? Can discussion be a substitute for action? That is the question."

"Intellect has made an end of everything," cried the Carlist. "Come now! Absolute freedom has brought about national suicides; their triumph left them as listless as an English millionaire."

"Won't you tell us something new? You have made fun of authority of all sorts to-day, which is every bit as vulgar as denying the existence of God. So you have no belief left, and the century is like an old Sultan worn out by debauchery! Your Byron, in short, sings of crime and its emotions in a final despair of poetry."

"Don't you know," replied Bianchon, quite drunk by this time, "that a dose of phosphorus more or less makes the man of genius or the scoundrel, a clever man or an idiot, a virtuous person or a criminal?"

"Can any one treat of virtue thus?" cried Cursy. "Virtue, the subject of every drama at the theatre, the denoument of every play, the foundation of every court of law. . . ."

"Be quiet, you ass. You are an Achilles for virtue, without his heel," said Bixiou.

"Some drink!"

"What will you bet that I will drink a bottle of champagne like a flash, at one pull?"

"What a flash of wit!"

"Drunk as lords," muttered a young man gravely, trying to give some wine to his waistcoat.

"Yes, sir; real government is the art of ruling by public opinion."

"Opinion? That is the most vicious jade of all. According to you moralists and politicians, the laws you set up are always to go before those of nature, and opinion before conscience. You are right and wrong both. Suppose society bestows down pillows on us, that benefit is made up for by the gout; and justice is likewise tempered by red-tape, and colds accompany cashmere shawls."

"Wretch!" Emile broke in upon the misanthrope, "how can you slander civilization here at table, up to the eyes in wines and exquisite dishes? Eat away at that roebuck with the gilded horns and feet, and do not carp at your mother. . ."

"Is it any fault of mine if Catholicism puts a million deities in a sack of flour, that Republics will end in a Napoleon, that monarchy dwells between the assassination of Henry IV. and the trial of Louis XVI., and Liberalism produces Lafayettes?"

"Didn't you embrace him in July?"


"Then hold your tongue, you sceptic."

"Sceptics are the most conscientious of men."

"They have no conscience."

"What are you saying? They have two apiece at least!"

"So you want to discount heaven, a thoroughly commercial notion. Ancient religions were but the unchecked development of physical pleasure, but we have developed a soul and expectations; some advance has been made."

"What can you expect, my friends, of a century filled with politics to repletion?" asked Nathan. "What befell _The History of the King of Bohemia and his Seven Castles_, a most entrancing conception? . . ."

"I say," the would-be critic cried down the whole length of the table. "The phrases might have been drawn at hap-hazard from a hat, 'twas a work written 'down to Charenton.'"

"You are a fool!"

"And you are a rogue!"

"Oh! oh!"

"Ah! ah!"

"They are going to fight."

"No, they aren't."

"You will find me to-morrow, sir."

"This very moment," Nathan answered.

"Come, come, you pair of fire-eaters!"

"You are another!" said the prime mover in the quarrel.

"Ah, I can't stand upright, perhaps?" asked the pugnacious Nathan, straightening himself up like a stag-beetle about to fly.

He stared stupidly round the table, then, completely exhausted by the effort, sank back into his chair, and mutely hung his head.

"Would it not have been nice," the critic said to his neighbor, "to fight about a book I have neither read nor seen?"

"Emile, look out for your coat; your neighbor is growing pale," said Bixiou.

"Kant? Yet another ball flung out for fools to sport with, sir! Materialism and spiritualism are a fine pair of battledores with which charlatans in long gowns keep a shuttlecock a-going. Suppose that God is everywhere, as Spinoza says, or that all things proceed from God, as says St. Paul . . . the nincompoops, the door shuts or opens, but isn't the movement the same? Does the fowl come from the egg, or the egg from the fowl? . . . Just hand me some duck . . . and there, you have all science."

"Simpleton!" cried the man of science, "your problem is settled by fact!"

"What fact?"

"Professors' chairs were not made for philosophy, but philosophy for the professors' chairs. Put on a pair of spectacles and read the budget."





"Where but in Paris will you find such a ready and rapid exchange of thought?" cried Bixiou in a deep, bass voice.

"Bixiou! Act a classical farce for us! Come now."

"Would you like me to depict the nineteenth century?"


"Pay attention."

"Clap a muffle on your trumpets."

"Shut up, you Turk!"

"Give him some wine, and let that fellow keep quiet."

"Now, then, Bixiou!"

The artist buttoned his black coat to the collar, put on yellow gloves, and began to burlesque the _Revue des Deux Mondes by acting a squinting old lady; but the uproar drowned his voice, and no one heard a word of the satire. Still, if he did not catch the spirit of the century, he represented the _Revue at any rate, for his own intentions were not very clear to him.

Dessert was served as if by magic. A huge epergne of gilded bronze from Thomire's studio overshadowed the table. Tall statuettes, which a celebrated artist had endued with ideal beauty according to conventional European notions, sustained and carried pyramids of strawberries, pines, fresh dates, golden grapes, clear-skinned peaches, oranges brought from Setubal by steamer, pomegranates, Chinese fruit; in short, all the surprises of luxury, miracles of confectionery, the most tempting dainties, and choicest delicacies. The coloring of this epicurean work of art was enhanced by the splendors of porcelain, by sparkling outlines of gold, by the chasing of the vases. Poussin's landscapes, copied on Sevres ware, were crowned with graceful fringes of moss, green, translucent, and fragile as ocean weeds.

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The Magic Skin - 1. The Talisman - Part 5 The Magic Skin - 1. The Talisman - Part 5

The Magic Skin - 1. The Talisman - Part 5
The revenue of a German prince would not have defrayed the cost of this arrogant display. Silver and mother-of-pearl, gold and crystal, were lavished afresh in new forms; but scarcely a vague idea of this almost Oriental fairyland penetrated eyes now heavy with wine, or crossed the delirium of intoxication. The fire and fragrance of the wines acted like potent philters and magical fumes, producing a kind of mirage in the brain, binding feet, and weighing down hands. The clamor increased. Words were no longer distinct, glasses flew in pieces, senseless peals of laughter broke out. Cursy snatched up a horn

The Magic Skin - 1. The Talisman - Part 3 The Magic Skin - 1. The Talisman - Part 3

The Magic Skin - 1. The Talisman - Part 3
The sympathy and love, and the gentle serenity in the divine face, exerted an instant sway over the younger spectator. Some influence falling from heaven bade cease the burning torment that consumed the marrow of his bones. The head of the Saviour of mankind seemed to issue from among the shadows represented by a dark background; an aureole of light shone out brightly from his hair; an impassioned belief seemed to glow through him, and to thrill every feature. The word of life had just been uttered by those red lips, the sacred sounds seemed to linger still in the air;