Under the shed he found a number

Luc went to bed and put out the light, hoping that his weariness of
mind and body would bring him sound and refreshing sleep, in which his
fever would at last be dispelled. But when the large room sank into
silence and obscurity around him he found himself quite unable to close
his eyes–they stared into the darkness, and terrible insomnia kept him
burning hot, still a prey to his one obstinate, all-consuming idea.
Josine was ever rising before him, coming back again and again with
her childish face and doleful charm. He once more saw her in tears,
standing, full of terror, as she waited near the gate of the Abyss; he
again saw her standing in the wine-shop, then thrown into the street by
Ragu in so brutal a fashion that blood gushed from her maimed hand; and
he saw her too on the bench near the Mionne, forsaken amidst the tragic
night, satisfying her hunger like some poor wandering animal, and
having no prospect before her save a final tumble into the gutter. And
now, after those three days of unexpected, almost unconscious inquiry,
to which destiny had led him, all that he, Luc, had beheld of unjustly
apportioned toil–toil derided as if it were shame, toil conducting to
the most atrocious misery for the vast majority of mankind, became in
his eyes synthetised in the distressing case of that sorry girl whose
misfortunes wrung his heart.
Visions arose, thronging around him, pressing forward, haunting him
to the point of torture. He beheld terror careering through the
black streets of Beauclair, along which tramped all the disinherited
wretches, secretly dreaming of vengeance. He saw reasoned, organised,
and fatal revolution dawning in such homes as the Bonnaires’ cold,
bare, sorry rooms, where even the mere necessaries of life were
wanting, where lack of work compelled the toiler to tighten his
waistband, and left the family starving. And, on the other hand, he
beheld at La Guerdache all the insolence of corrupting luxury, all the
poisonous enjoyment which was finishing off the privileged plutocrats,
that handful of _bourgeois_ satiated with idleness, gorged to stifling
point with all the iniquitous wealth which they stole from the labour
and the tears of the immense majority of the workers. And even at
La Crêcherie, that wildly lofty blast-furnace, where not one worker
complained, the long efforts of mankind were stricken, so to say, by
a curse, immobilised in eternal dolour, without hope of any complete
freeing of the race, of its final deliverance from slavery, and the
entry of one and all into the city of justice and peace. And Luc had
seen and heard Beauclair cracking upon all sides, for the fratricidal
warfare was not waged only between classes, its destructive ferment
was perverting families, a blast of folly and hatred was sweeping by,
filling every heart with bitterness. Monstrous dramas soiled homes that
should have been cleanly, fathers, mothers, and children alike rolled
into the sewers. Folk lied unceasingly, they stole, they killed. And at
the end of wretchedness and hunger came crime perforce: woman selling
herself, man sinking to drink, all human kind becoming a rageful beast
that rushed along intent solely upon satisfying its vices. Many were
the frightful signs that announced the inevitable catastrophe; the old
social framework was about to topple down amidst blood and mire.
Horror-stricken by those visions of shame and chastisement, weeping
with all the human tenderness within him, Luc then again saw the
pale phantom of Josine returning from the depths of the darkness and
stretching out arms of entreaty. And then, in his fancy, none but her
remained; it was upon her that the worm-eaten, leprous edifice would
fall. She became, as it were, the one victim, she, the puny little
workgirl with the maimed hand, who was starving and who would roll into
the gutter, a pitiable yet charming creature, in whom seemed to be
embodied all the misery that arose from the accursed wage-system. He
now suffered as she must suffer, and, above all else, in his wild dream
of saving Beauclair there was a craving to save her. If some superhuman
power had made him almighty he would have transformed that town, now
rotted by egotism, into a happy abode of solidarity, in order that she
might be happy. He realised at present that this dream of his was an
old one, that it had always possessed him since the days when he had
lived in one of the poor quarters of Paris, among the obscure heroes
and the dolorous victims of labour. It was a dream into which entered
secret disquietude respecting the future, that future which he dared
not predict, and an idea that some mysterious mission had been confided
to him. And all at once, amidst the confusion in which he still
struggled, it seemed to him that the decisive hour had come. Josine was
starving, Josine was sobbing, and that could be allowed no longer. He
must act, he must at once relieve all the misery and all the suffering,
in order that things so iniquitous might cease.
Weary as he was, however, he at last fell into a doze, in the midst
of which it seemed as if voices were calling him. Thus before long he
awoke with a start, and then the voices seemed to gather strength, as
if wildly summoning him to that urgent work for which the hour had
struck, and the imperious need of which he fully recognised, though how
to accomplish it he could not tell. And above all other appeals, he
finally heard the call of a very gentle voice, which he recognised–the
voice of Josine, lamenting and entreating. From that moment again she
alone seemed to be present, he could feel the warm caress of the kiss
which she had set upon his hand, and could smell the little bunch of
pansies which she had thrown him as he stood at the window. Indeed,
the wild fragrance of the flowers now seemed to fill the whole room.
Then he struggled no longer. He lighted his candle, rose, and for a
few minutes walked about the room. In order to rid his brain of the
fixed idea which oppressed it he strove to think of nothing. He looked
at the few old engravings hanging from the walls, he looked at the
old-fashioned articles of furniture which spoke of Doctor Michon’s
simple and studious habits, he gazed around the whole room, in which
a deal of kindliness, good sense, and wisdom seemed to have lingered.
At last his attention became riveted on the bookcase. It was a rather
large one, with glass doors, and therein the former Saint-Simonian
and Fourierist had gathered together the humanitarian writings
which had fired his mind in youth. All the social philosophers, all
the precursors, all the apostles of the new Gospel figured there:
Saint-Simon, Fourier, Auguste Comte, Proudhon, Cabet, Pierre Leroux,
with others and others–indeed, a complete collection, down to the most
obscure disciples. And Luc, candle in hand, read the names and titles
on the backs of the volumes, counted them, and grew astonished at their
number, at the fact that so much good seed should have been cast to the
winds, that so many good words should be slumbering there, waiting for
the harvest.
He himself had read widely, he was well acquainted with the chief
passages of most of those books. The philosophical, economical, and
social systems of their authors were familiar to him. But never as now,
on finding these authors all united there in a serried phalanx, had
he been so clearly conscious of their force, their value, the human
evolution which they typified. They formed, so to say, the advance
guard of the future century, an advance guard soon to be followed by
the huge army of the nations. And on seeing them thus, side by side,
peaceably mingling together, endowed by union with sovereign strength,
Luc was particularly struck by their intense brotherliness. He was
not ignorant of the contradictory views which had formerly parted
them, of the desperate battles even which they had waged together, but
they now seemed to have become all brothers, reconciled in a common
Gospel, in the unique and final truths which all of them had brought.
And that which arose from their words like a dawning promise was that
religion of humanity in which they had all believed, their love for the
disinherited ones of the world, their hatred of all social injustice,
their faith in Work as the true saviour of mankind.
Opening the bookcase, Luc wished to select one of the volumes. Since he
was unable to sleep, he would read a few pages, and thus take patience
until slumber should come to him. He hesitated for a moment, and at
last selected a very little volume, in which one of Fourier’s disciples
had summed up the whole of his master’s work. The title ‘Solidarité’
had moved the young man. Would he not find in that book a few pages
brimful of strength and hope such as he needed? Thus, he slipped into
bed again, and began to read. And soon he became as passionately
interested in his reading as if he had before him some poignant drama
in which the fate of the whole human race was decided. The author’s
doctrines thus condensed, reduced to the very essence of the truths
they contained, acquired extraordinary power. Fourier’s genius had in
the first place asserted itself in turning the passions of man into
the very forces of life. The long and disastrous error of Catholicism
had lain in ever seeking to muzzle the passions, in striving to kill
the man within man, to fling him like a slave at the foot of a deity
of tyranny and nothingness. In the free future society conceived by
Fourier the passions were to produce as much good as they had produced
evil in the chained and terrorised society of the dead centuries.
They constituted immortal desire, the energy which raises worlds, the
internal furnace of will and strength which imparts to each being the
power to act. Man deprived of a single passion would be mutilated, as
if he were deprived of one of his senses. Instincts, hitherto thrust
back and crushed, as if they were evil beasts, would when once they
were freed become only the various needs of universal attraction, all
tending towards unity, striving amidst obstacles to meet and mingle in
final harmony, that ultimate expression of universal happiness. And
there were really no egotists, no idlers; there were only men hungering
for unity and harmony, who would march on in all brotherliness as soon
as they should see that the road was wide enough for all to pass along
it at ease and happily. As for the victims of the heavy servitude that
oppressed the manual toilers who were angered by unjust, excessive,
and often inappropriate tasks, they would all be ready to work right
joyfully as soon as simply their logical chosen share of the great
common labour should be allotted to them.
Then another stroke of genius on Fourier’s part was the restoration
of work to a position of honour, by making it the public function,
the pride, health, gaiety, and very law of life. It would suffice to
reorganise work in order to reorganise the whole of society, of which
work would be the one civic obligation, the vital rule. There would
be no further question of brutally imposing work on vanquished men,
mercenaries crushed down and treated like famished beasts of burden; on
the contrary, work would be freely accepted by all, allotted according
to tastes and natures, performed during the few hours that might be
indispensable, and constantly varied according to the choice of the
voluntary toilers. A town would become an immense hive in which there
would not be one idler, and in which each citizen would contribute his
share towards the general sum of labour which might be necessary for
the town to live. The tendency towards unity and final harmony would
draw the inhabitants together and compel them to group themselves
among the various series of workers. And the whole mechanism would
rest in that: the workman choosing the task which he could perform
most joyously, not riveted for ever to one and the same calling, but
passing from one form of work to another. Moreover, the world would
not be revolutionised all of a sudden, the beginnings would be small,
the system being tried first of all in some township of a few thousand
souls. The dream would then approach fulfilment, the phalange, the unit
at the base of the great human army would be created; the phalanstery,
the common house, would be built. At first, too, one would simply
appeal to willing men, and link them together in such wise as to form
an association of capital, work, and talent. Those who now possessed
money, those whose arms were strong, and those who had brains would be
asked to come to an understanding and combine, putting their various
means together. They would produce with an energy and an abundance
far greater than now, and they would divide the profits they reaped
as equitably as possible, until the day came when capital, work, and
talent might be blended together and form the common patrimony of a
free brotherhood, in which everything would belong to everybody amidst
general harmony.
At each page of the little book which Luc was reading the loving
splendour of its title ‘Solidarité’ became more and more apparent.
Certain phrases shone forth like beacon-fires. Man’s reason was
infallible; truth was absolute; a truth demonstrated by science became
irrevocable, eternal. Work was to be a festival. Each man’s happiness
would some day rest in the happiness of others. Neither envy nor
hatred would be left when room was at last found in the world for the
happiness of one and all. In the social machine, all intermediaries
that were useless and led to a waste of strength would be suppressed;
thus commerce, as it is now understood, would be condemned, and the
consumer would deal with the producer. All parasitic growths, the
innumerable vegetations living upon social corruption, upon the
permanent state of war in which men now languish, would be mown down.
There would be no more armies, no more courts of law, no more prisons!
And, above all, amidst the great Dawn which would thus have risen,
there would appear Justice flaming like the sun, driving away misery,
giving to each being that was born the right to live and partake of
daily bread, and allotting to one and all his or her due share of
Luc had ceased reading: he was reflecting now. The whole great,
heroic Nineteenth Century spread out before his mind’s eye, with its
continuous battling, its dolorous, valiant efforts to attain to truth
and justice. The irresistible democratic advance, the rise of the
masses filled that century from end to end. The Revolution at the end
of the previous one had brought only the middle classes to power;
another century was needed for the evolution to become complete, for
the people to obtain its share of influence. Seeds germinated, however,
in the old and often ploughed monarchical soil; and already during
the days of ’48 the question of the wage-system was plainly brought
forward, the claims of the workers becoming more and more precise,
and shaking the new _régime_ of the _bourgeois_, whom egotistical
and tyrannical possession was in their turn rotting. And now, on the
threshold of the new century, as soon as the spreading onrush of
the masses should have carried the old social framework away, the
reoganisation of labour would prove the very foundation-stone of future
society, which would only be able to exist by a just apportionment of
wealth. The violent crisis which had overthrown empires when the old
world passed from servitude to the wage-system was as nothing compared
with the terrible crisis which for the last hundred years had shaken
and ravaged nations, that crisis of the wage-system passing through
successive evolutions and transformations, and tending to become
something else. And from that something else would be born the happy
and brotherly social system of to-morrow.
Luc gently put down the little book and blew out his light. He had
grown calmer now, and could feel that peaceful, restoring sleep was
approaching. True, no precise answers had come to the urgent appeals
which had previously upset him; but he heard those appeals no more.
It was as if the disinherited beings who had raised them were now
conscious that they had been heard, and were taking patience. Seed was
sown and the harvest would rise. Luc himself was troubled with no more
feverishness, he felt that his mind was pregnant with ideas, to which
indeed it might give birth on the very morrow if his night’s slumber
should be good. And he ended by yielding to his great need of repose,
and fell with delight into a deep sleep, visited by genius, faith, and
When he awoke at seven o’clock on the following morning his first
thought on seeing the sun rise in the broad clear sky was to go out
without warning the Jordans and climb the rocky stairway leading to
the smeltery. He wished to see Morfain again, and obtain certain
information from him. In this respect he was yielding to a sudden
inspiration. With reference to the advice which Jordan had asked of
him, he desired above all to arrive at some precise opinion respecting
the old abandoned mine. The master-smelter, a son of the mountains,
must know, he thought, every stone of it. And indeed Morfain, whom he
found up and about, after his night spent beside the furnace, which
decidedly had now recovered from its ailment, became quite impassioned
directly the mine was mentioned to him. He had always had an idea
of his own, which nobody would heed, although he had often given
expression to it. To his thinking, old Laroche, the engineer, had done
wrong in despairing and forsaking the mine directly the working of it
had failed to prove remunerative. The vein which had been followed
had certainly become an abominable one, charged with sulphur and
phosphates to such a degree that nothing good came out in the smelting.
But Morfain was convinced that they were simply crossing a bad vein,
and that it would be sufficient to carry the galleries further, or to
open fresh ones at a point of the gorge which he designated, in order
to find once more the same excellent ore as formerly. And he based
his opinion upon observation, upon knowledge of all the rocks of the
region, which he had scaled and explored for forty years. As he put it,
he was not a man of science, he was only a poor toiler, and did not
presume to compete with those gentlemen the engineers. Nevertheless
he was astonished that no confidence was shown in his keen scent, and
that his superiors should have simply shrugged their shoulders without
consenting to test his predictions by a few borings.
The man’s quiet confidence impressed Luc the more especially since he
was inclined to pass a severe judgment on the inertia of old Laroche,
who had left the mine in an abandoned state even after the discovery
of the chemical process which would have allowed the defective ore to
be profitably utilised. That alone showed into what slumberous routine
the working of the furnace had fallen. The mine ought to be worked
again immediately, even if they had to rest content with treating the
ore chemically. But what would it be if Morfain’s convictions should
be realised, and they should again come upon rich and pure lodes! Thus
Luc immediately accepted the master-smelter’s proposal to take a stroll
in the direction of the abandoned galleries, in order that the other
might explain his ideas on the spot. That clear and fresh September
morning, the walk among the rocks, through the lonely wilds fragrant
with lavender, was delightful. During three hours the two men climbed
up and down the sides of the gorges, visiting the grottoes, following
the pine-covered ridges where the rocks jutted up through the soil like
portions of the skeleton of some huge buried monster. And by degrees
Morfain’s conviction gained upon Luc, bringing him at least a hope
that there in that spot lay a treasure which man in his sloth had
passed by, and which earth, the inexhaustible mother, was prepared to
yield to those who might seek it.
As it was more than noon when the explorations terminated Luc accepted
a proposal to lunch off eggs and milk up in the Bleuse Mountains. When
about two o’clock he came down again, delighted, his lungs inflated by
the free mountain air, the Jordans received him with exclamations, for
not knowing what had become of him they had begun to grow anxious. He
apologised for not having warned them, and related that he had lost his
way among the tablelands, and had lunched with some peasants there. He
ventured to tell this fib because the Jordans, whom he found still at
table, were not alone. As was their custom every second Tuesday of the
month, they had with them three guests, Abbé Marle, Doctor Novarre,
and Hermeline, the schoolmaster, whom Sœurette delighted to gather
together, laughingly calling them her privy councillors, because they
all three helped her in her charitable works. The doors of La Crêcherie
which were usually kept closed, Jordan living there in solitude like
some cloistered scientist, were thrown open for those three visitors,
who were treated as intimates. It could not be said, however, that they
owed this favour to their cordial agreement, for they were perpetually
disputing together. But, on the other hand, their discussions amused
Sœurette, and indeed rendered her yet more partial to them, since they
proved a distraction for Jordan, who listened to them smiling.
‘So you have lunched?’ said Sœurette, addressing Luc. ‘Still, that
won’t prevent you from taking a cup of coffee with us, will it?’
‘Oh! I’ll accept the cup of coffee,’ he answered gaily. ‘You are too
amiable–I deserve the bitterest reproaches.’
They then passed into the drawing-room. Its windows were open, the
lawns of the park spread out, and all the exquisite aroma of the great
trees came into the house. In a horn-shaped porcelain vase bloomed
a splendid bouquet of roses–roses which Doctor Novarre lovingly
cultivated, and a bunch of which he brought for Sœurette each time that
he lunched at La Crêcherie.
Whilst the coffee was being served a discussion on educational matters
began afresh between the priest and the schoolmaster, who had not
ceased battling on this subject since the beginning of the lunch.
‘If you can do nothing with your pupils,’ declared Abbé Marle, ‘it is
because you have driven religion out of your schools. God is the master
of human intelligence; one knows nothing excepting through Him.’
Tall and sturdy, with his eagle beak set in a broad, full, regular
face, the priest spoke with all the authoritative stubbornness born of
his narrow doctrines, placing the only chance of the world’s salvation
in Catholicism, and the rigid observance of its dogmas. And, in front
of him, Hermeline, the schoolmaster, slim of build and angular of face,
with a bony forehead and pointed chin, evinced similar stubbornness,
being quite as formalist and authoritative as the other in the practice
of his own mechanical religion of progress, which last was to be
arrived at by dint of laws and military discipline.
‘Don’t bother me,’ said he, ‘with your religion, which has never led
men to aught but error and ruin. If I get nothing out of my pupils it
is because, in the first place, they are taken from me too early, to
be placed in the factories. And secondly, and more particularly, it
is because there is less and less discipline, because the master is
left without any authority. If a child is whipped nowadays the parents
shriek like a pack of fools. But if I were only allowed to give those
youngsters a few good canings I think I should open their minds a
Then, as Sœurette, quite affected by this theory, began to protest, he
explained his views. For him, given the general corruption, there was
only one means of saving society, which was to subject the children
to the discipline of liberty, insert belief in republican principles
in them by force, if necessary, and in such a manner that they should
never lose it. His dream was to make each pupil a servant of the State,
a slave of the State, one who sacrificed to the State his entire
personality. And he could picture nothing beyond one and the same
lesson, learnt by all in one and the same manner, with the one object
of serving the community. Such was his harsh and doleful religion, a
religion in which the democracy was delivered from the past by dint of
punishments, and then again condemned to forced labour, happiness being
decreed under penalty of being caned.
But Abbé Marle obstinately repeated: ‘Outside the pale of Catholicism
there is only darkness.’
‘Why, Catholicism is toppling over!’ exclaimed Hermeline. ‘It’s for
that very reason that we have to raise another social framework.’
The priest, no doubt, was conscious of the supreme battle which
Catholicism was waging against the spirit of science, whose victory
spread day by day. But he would not acknowledge it; he did not even
admit that his church was gradually emptying. ‘Catholicism!’ he
resumed, ‘its framework is still so solid, so eternal, so divine, that
you copy it when you talk of raising I know not what atheistical State
in which you would replace the Deity by some mechanical contrivance
appointed to instruct and govern men!’
‘Some mechanical contrivance, why not!’ retorted Hermeline, exasperated
by the touch of truth contained in the priest’s attack. ‘Rome has never
been aught but a wine-press, pressing out the blood of the world!’
When their discussions reached this violent stage Doctor Novarre
usually intervened in his smiling and conciliatory way. ‘Come, come,
don’t get heated!’ said he. ‘You are on the point of agreeing, since
you have got so far as to accuse one another of copying your religions
one from the other.’
Short and spare, with a slender nose and keen eyes, the doctor was a
man of a tolerant, gentle, but slightly sarcastic turn of mind, one
who, having given himself to science, refused to let himself be excited
by political and social questions. Like Jordan, whose great friend
he was, he often said that he only adopted truths when they had been
scientifically demonstrated. Modest, timid, too, as he was, without any
ambition, he contented himself with healing his patients to the best
of his ability, and his only passion was for the rosebushes which he
cultivated between the four walls of the garden of the little dwelling
where he lived in happy peacefulness.
Luc had hitherto contented himself with listening. But at last he
recalled what he had read the previous night, and he then spoke out:
‘The terrible part of it,’ said he, ‘is that in our schools the
starting-point is invariably the idea that man is an evil being, who
brings into the world with him a spirit of rebellion and sloth, and
that a perfect system of punishments and rewards is necessary if one
is to get anything out of him. Thus education has been turned into
torture, and study has become as repulsive to our brains as manual
labour is to our limbs. Our professors have been turned into so many
gaolers ruling a scholastic penitentiary, and the mission given to them
is that of kneading the minds of children in accordance with certain
fixed programmes, and running them all through one and the same mould,
without taking any account of varying individualities. Thus the masters
are no longer aught but the slayers of initiative; they crush all
critical spirit, all free examination, all personal awakening of talent
beneath a pile of ready-made ideas and official-truths, and the worst
is that the characters of the children are affected quite as badly as
their minds, and that the system of teaching employed produces in the
long run little else but dolts and hypocrites.’
Hermeline must have fancied that he was being personally attacked, for
he now broke in rather sharply: ‘But how would you have one proceed
then, monsieur? Come and take my place, and you will soon see how
little you will get out of the pupils if you don’t subject them one
and all to the same discipline, like a master who for them is the
embodiment of authority.’
‘The master,’ continued Luc with his dreamy air, ‘should have no other
duty than that of awakening energy and encouraging the child’s aptitude
in one or another respect by provoking questions from him and enabling
him to develop his personality. Deep in the human race there is an
immense insatiable craving to learn and know, and this should be the
one incentive to study without need of any rewards or punishments. It
would evidently be sufficient if one contented oneself with giving each
pupil facilities for prosecuting the particular studies that pleased
him, and with rendering those studies attractive to him, allowing him
to engage in them by himself, then progress in them by the force of his
own understanding, with the continually recurring delight of making
fresh discoveries. For men to make their offspring men by treating them
as such, is not that the whole educational problem which has to be
Abbé Marle, who was finishing his coffee, shrugged his broad shoulders;
and, like a priest whom dogma endowed with infallibility, he remarked:
‘Sin is in man, and he can only be saved by penitence. Idleness,
which is one of the capital sins, can only be redeemed by labour, the
punishment which God imposed on the first man after the fall.’
‘But that’s an error, Abbé,’ quietly said Doctor Novarre. ‘Idleness is
simply a malady when it really exists, that is, when the body refuses
to work, shrinks from all fatigue. You may be certain then that this
invincible languor is a sign of grave internal disorder. And apart
from that, where have you ever seen idle people? Take those who are
so-called idle people by race, habit, and taste. Does not a society
lady, who dances all night at a ball, do greater harm to her eyesight
and expend far more muscular energy than a workwoman who sits at her
little table embroidering till daylight? Do not the men of pleasure,
who are for ever figuring in public, taking part in exhausting
festivities, work in their own way quite as hard as the men who toil
at their benches and anvils? And remember how lightly and joyfully,
on emerging from some repulsive task, we all rush into some violent
amusement or exercise which tires out our limbs. The meaning of it
all is that work is only oppressive when it does not please us. And
if one could succeed in imposing on people only such work as would be
agreeable to them, as they might freely choose, there would certainly
be no idlers left.’
But Hermeline in his turn shrugged his shoulders, saying: ‘Ask a child
which he prefers, his grammar or his arithmetic. He will tell you that
he prefers neither. The whole question has been threshed out; a child
is a sapling which needs to be trained straight and corrected.’
‘And one can only correct,’ said the priest, this time in full
agreement with the schoolmaster, ‘by crushing everything in any way
shameful or diabolic that original sin has left in man.’
Silence fell. Sœurette had been listening intently, whilst Jordan,
looking out through one of the windows, let his glance stray
thoughtfully under the big trees. In the words of the priest and the
schoolmaster Luc recognised the pessimist conceptions of Catholicism
adopted by the sectarian followers of progress, which the State was to
decree by exercise of authority. Man was regarded as a child ever in
fault. His passions were hunted down: for centuries efforts had been
made to crush them, to kill the man which was within man. And then
again, Luc recalled Fourier, who had preached quite another doctrine:
the passions, utilised and ennobled, becoming necessary creative
energies, whilst man was at last delivered from the deadly weight of
the religions of nothingness, which are merely so many hateful social
police systems devised to maintain the usurpation of the powerful and
the rich.
And Luc, as though reflecting aloud, thereupon resumed, ‘It would be
sufficient to convince people of this truth, that the greater the
happiness realised for all, the greater will be the happiness of the
But Hermeline and Abbé Marle began to laugh.
‘That’s no use!’ said the schoolmaster. ‘To awaken energy, you begin
by destroying personal interest. Pray explain to me what motive will
prompt man to action when he no longer works for himself? Personal
interest is like the fire under the boiler, it will be found at the
outset of all work. But you would crush it, and although you desire man
to retain all his instincts you begin by depriving him of his egotism.
Perhaps you rely on conscience, on the idea of honour and duty?’
‘I don’t need to rely on that,’ Luc answered in the same quiet way.
‘Truth to tell, egotism, such as we have hitherto understood it, has
given us such a frightful social system, instinct with so much hatred
and suffering, that it would really be allowable to try some other
factor. But I repeat that I accept egotism if by such you mean the
very legitimate desire, the invincible craving, which each man has for
happiness. Far from destroying personal interest, I would strengthen
it by making it what it ought to be in order to bring about the happy
community in which the happiness of each will be the outcome of the
happiness of all. Besides, it is sufficient that we should be convinced
that in working for others we are working for ourselves. Social
injustice sows eternal hatred, and universal suffering is the crop. For
those reasons an agreement must be arrived at for the reorganisation of
work based upon the certainty that our own highest felicity will some
day be the result of felicity in the homes of our neighbours.’
Hermeline sneered, and Abbé Marle again broke in: ‘”Love one another,”
that is the teaching of our Divine Master. Only He also said that
happiness was not of this world, and it is assuredly guilty madness to
attempt to set the Kingdom of God upon this earth when it is in heaven.’
‘Yet that will some day be done,’ Luc retorted. ‘The whole effort of
mankind upon its march, all progress and all science, tend to that
future city of happiness.’
But the schoolmaster, who was no longer listening, eagerly assailed
the priest: ‘Ah! no, Abbé, don’t begin again with your promises of a
celestial paradise; they are only fit to dupe the poor. And besides,
Jesus of Nazareth really belongs to us; you stole Him from us, and
arranged His sayings and everything else in order to suit the purposes
of your domination. As a matter of fact, He was simply a revolutionary
and a free-thinker!’
Thus the battle began anew, and Doctor Novarre had to calm them once
more by showing that one was right in certain respects and the other
in others. As usual, however, the various questions which had been
debated remained in suspense, for no final solution was ever arrived
at. The coffee had been drunk long since, and it was Jordan who, in his
thoughtful manner, put in the last word.
‘The one sole truth,’ said he, ‘lies in Work; the world will some day
become such as Work will make it.’
Then Sœurette, who, without intervening, had listened to Luc
with passionate interest, spoke of a refuge which she thought of
establishing for the infant children of factory women. From that moment
the doctor, schoolmaster, and priest engaged in quiet and friendly
conversation as to how this asylum might best be organised, and the
abuses of similar establishments avoided. And, meantime, the shadows
of the great trees lengthened over the lawns of the park, and the
wood-pigeons flew down to the grass in the golden September sunshine.
It was already four o’clock when the three guests quitted La Crêcherie.
Jordan and Luc, for the sake of a little exercise, accompanied them as
far as the first houses of the town. Then, on their way back across
some stony fields which Jordan left uncultivated, the latter suggested
that they should extend their stroll a little in order to call upon
Lange the potter. Jordan had allowed him to instal himself in a wild
nook of his estate below the smeltery, asking no rent or other payment
from him. And Lange, like Morfain, had made himself a dwelling in a
rocky cavity which some of the old torrents rushing past the lower part
of the Bleuse Mountains had excavated in the gigantic wall formed by
the promontory. Moreover, he had ended by constructing three kilns near
the slope whence he took his clay; and he lived there without God or
master amidst all the free independence of his work.
‘No doubt he’s a man of extreme views,’ added Jordan, in answer to a
question from Luc, who felt greatly interested in Lange. ‘What you told
me about his violent outburst in the Rue de Brias the other evening
did not surprise me. He was lucky in getting released, for the affair
might have turned out very badly for him. But you have no notion how
intelligent he is, and what art he puts into his simple earthen pots,
although he has virtually had no education. He was born hereabouts, and
his parents were poor workpeople. Left an orphan at ten years of age,
he worked as a mason’s help, then as an apprentice potter, and now,
since I’ve allowed him to settle on my land, he is his own employer, as
he laughingly puts it…. I am the more particularly interested in some
attempts he is making with refractory clay, for, as you know, I want
to find the clay best suited to resist the terrible temperature of my
electrical furnaces.’
At last, on looking up, Luc perceived Lange’s dwelling-place among
the bushes. Faced by a little parapet of dry stones, it suggested
a barbarian camp. And as the young man saw a tall, shapely,
dark-oomplexioned girl erect upon the threshold he inquired: ‘Is Lange
married, then?’
‘No,’ replied Jordan, ‘but he lives with that girl, who is both his
slave and his wife. It is quite a romance. Five years ago, when she
was barely fifteen, he found her lying in a ditch, very ill, half dead
in fact, abandoned there by some band of gypsies. Nobody has ever
known exactly where she came from; she herself won’t answer when she’s
questioned. Well, Lange carried her home upon his shoulders, nursed
her and cured her, and you can’t imagine the ardent gratitude that she
has always shown him since. She lacked even shoes for her feet when
he found her. Even to-day she seldom puts any on, unless indeed she
is going down into the town; in such wise that the whole district and
even Lange himself call her ‘Barefeet.’ She is the only person that he
employs, she helps him with his work and even in dragging his barrow
when he goes about the fairs to sell his pottery, for that is his way
of disposing of his goods, which are well known throughout the region.’
Erect on the threshold of the little enclosure, which had a gate of
open fencing, Barefeet watched the gentlemen approach, and thus Luc on
his side was well able to examine her with her dark regular-featured
face, her hair black as ink, and her large wild eyes, which became full
of ineffable tenderness whenever they turned upon Lange. The young man
also remarked her bare feet, childish feet, of a light bronze hue,
resting in the clayey soil, which was always damp. And she stood there
in working costume, that is, barely clad in garments of grey linen,
and showing her shapely legs and muscular arms. When she had come to
the conclusion that the gentleman accompanying the owner of the estate
was a friend, she quitted her post of observation, and, after warning
Lange, returned to the kiln which she had previously been watching.
‘Ah! it’s you, Monsieur Jordan,’ exclaimed Lange, in his turn
presenting himself. ‘Do you know that since that affair the other
evening Barefeet is for ever imagining that people are coming to
arrest me. I fancy that if any policeman should present himself here
he would not escape whole from her clutches…. You have come to see
my last refractory bricks, eh? Well, here they are–I’ll tell you the
Luc readily recognised the knotty little man, of whom he had caught a
glimpse amidst the gloom of the Rue de Brias whilst he was announcing
the inevitable catastrophe, and cursing that corrupt town of Beauclair,
whose crimes had condemned it. Only, as he now scrutinised him in
detail, he was surprised by the loftiness of his brow, over which fell
a dark tangle of hair, and the keenness of his eyes, which glittered
with intelligence, and at times flared up with anger. Most of all,
however, the young fellow was surprised at divining beneath a rugged
exterior and apparent violence a man of contemplative nature, a gentle
dreamer, a simple rustic poet, who, urged on by his absolute ideas of
justice, had finally come to the point of desiring to annihilate the
old and guilty world.
After introducing Luc as an engineer, a friend of his, Jordan asked
Lange with a laugh to show the young man what he called his museum.
‘Oh! if it can interest the gentleman, willingly,’ said Lange; ‘they
are merely things which I fire for amusement’s sake–there, all that
pottery under the shed. You may give it all a glance, monsieur, while I
explain my bricks to Monsieur Jordan.’
Luc’s astonishment increased. Under the shed he found a number of
faïence figures, vases, pots, and dishes of the strangest shapes and
colours, which, whilst denoting great ignorance on the maker’s part,
were yet delightful in their original _naïveté_. The firings had at
times yielded some superb results; much of the enamel displayed a
wondrous richness of tone. But what particularly struck the young man
among the current pottery which Lange prepared for his usual customers
at the markets and fairs, the crockery, the stock-pots, the pitchers
and basins, was the elegance of shape and charm of colour which
showed forth like some florescence of the popular genius. It seemed
indeed as if the potter had derived his talent from his race, that
those creations of his, instinct with the soul of the masses, sprang
naturally from his big fingers, as though in fact he had intuitively
rediscovered the primitive models, so full of practical beauty.
When Lange came back with Jordan, who had ordered of him a few hundred
bricks with which it was intended to try a new electrical furnace, he
received with a smile the congratulations tendered him by Luc, who
marvelled at the gaiety of the faïences, which looked so bright, so
flowery with purple and azure, in the broad sunlight.
‘Yes, yes,’ said the potter, ‘they set a few poppies and cornflowers,
as it were, in people’s houses. I’ve always thought that roofs and
house-fronts ought to be decorated in that style. It would not cost
very much, if the tradesmen would only leave off thieving; and you’d
see, too, how pleasant a town would look–quite like a nosegay set in
greenery. But there’s nothing to be done with the dirty _bourgeois_ of
Then he at once lapsed into his sectarian passion, plunged into the
ideas of Anarchy which he had derived from a few pamphlets that by
some chance had fallen into his hands. First of all one had to destroy
everything, seize everything in revolutionary style. Salvation would
only be obtained by the annihilation of all authority, for if any, even
the most insignificant, remained standing, it would suffice for the
reconstruction of the whole edifice of iniquity and tyranny. Next the
free commune, without any government whatever, might be established by
means of agreement between different groups, which would incessantly
be varied and modified, according to the desires and needs of each.
Luc was struck at finding in this theory much that had been devised by
Fourier, and indeed the ultimate dream was the same, even if the roads
to be followed were different. Thus the Anarchist was but a Fourierist,
a disabused and exasperated Collectivist, who no longer believed in
political means, but was resolved to use force and extermination as his
instrument to reach social happiness, since centuries of slow evolution
seemed unlikely to achieve it. And thus, when Luc mentioned Bonnaire,
Lange became quite ferocious in his irony, showing more bitter disdain
for the master-puddler than he would have shown for a _bourgeois_. Ah,
yes, indeed! Bonnaire’s barracks, that famous Collectivism in which one
would be numbered, disciplined, imprisoned as in a penitentiary! And
stretching out his fist towards Beauclair, whose roofs he overlooked,
the potter once more poured his lamentation, his prophetic curse, upon
that corrupt town which fire would destroy, and which would be razed to
the very ground in order that the city of truth and justice might at
last rise from its ashes.
Astonished by this violence, Jordan looked at him curiously, saying:
‘But, Lange, my good fellow, you are not so badly off.’
‘I, Monsieur Jordan, I’m very happy, as happy as one can be. I live in
freedom here, and it’s almost the realisation of anarchy. You have let
me take this little bit of earth, the earth which belongs to us all,
and I’m my own master; I pay rent to nobody. Then, too, I work as I
fancy; I’ve no employer to crush me, and no workman for me to crush; I
myself sell my pots and pitchers to good folk who need them, without
being robbed by tradesmen or allowing them to rob customers. And when
I’m so inclined I’ve still time to amuse myself by firing those faïence
figures and ornamental pots and plates, whose bright colours please my
eyes. Ah! no, indeed, we don’t complain, we feel happy in living when
the sun comes to cheer us. Isn’t that so, Barefeet?’
The girl had drawn near, with her hands quite pink from removing a pot
from the wheel. And she smiled divinely as she looked at the man, the
god whose servant she had made herself, and to whom she wholly belonged.
‘But all the same,’ resumed Lange, ‘there are too many poor devils
suffering, and so we shall have to blow up Beauclair one of these fine
mornings in order that it may be built again properly. Propaganda by
deeds is the only thing that is of any good; only bombs can rouse the
people. And do you know that I’ve everything here that’s necessary
to prepare two or three dozen bombs which would prove wonderfully
powerful. Some fine day, perhaps, I shall start off with the barrow,
which I pull in front, you know, while Barefeet pushes it behind. It’s
fairly heavy when it is laden with pottery, and one has to drag it
along the bad village roads from market to market. So we take a rest
now and again under the trees, at spots where there are springs handy.
Only, that day, we sha’n’t quit Beauclair, we shall go along all the
streets, and there’ll be a bomb hidden in each stock-pot. We shall
deposit one at the sub-prefecture, another at the town-hall, another
at the law courts, then another at the church, at all the places in
fact where there’s anything in the shape of authority to be destroyed.
The matches will burn, each will last the necessary time. Then all at
once Beauclair will go up! A frightful eruption will burn it and carry
it away. Eh? What do you think of that, of my little promenade, with
my barrow, and my little distribution of the stock-pots I’m making to
bring about the happiness of mankind?’
He laughed a laugh of ecstasy, his face all aglow with excitement, and
as the beautiful dark girl began to laugh with him he turned and said
to her: ‘Isn’t that so, Barefeet? I’ll pull and you shall push, and
it will be even a finer walk than the one we take under the willows
alongside the Mionne when we go to the fair at Magnolles!’
Jordan did not argue the point, but made a gesture as much as to say
that he, as a scientist, regarded such a conception as imbecility.
But when they had taken leave and were returning to La Crêcherie Luc
quivered at the thought of that black poem, that dream of ensuring
happiness by destruction, which thus haunted the minds of a few
primitive poets among the disinherited classes. And thus, each deep in
his own meditations, the two men went homeward in silence.

On repairing direct to the laboratory they there found Sœurette quietly
seated at a little table, where she was making a clean copy of one of
her brother’s manuscripts. She just raised her head and smiled at him
and his companion, then turned to her task once more.
‘Ah!’ said Jordan, throwing himself back in an arm-chair, ‘it is quite
certain that my only good time is that which I spend here among my
appliances and papers. As soon as I come back to this laboratory, hope
and peace seem to rise to my heart once more.’
He glanced affectionately around the spacious room, whose large windows
were open, the glow of the setting sun entering warmly and caressingly,
whilst between the trees one saw the roofs and casements of Beauclair
shining in the distance.
‘How wretched and futile all those disputes are!’ Jordan resumed,
whilst Luc softly paced up and down. ‘As I listened to the priest and
the schoolmaster after lunch I felt astonished that people could
lose their time in striving to convince one another when they viewed
questions from opposite standpoints, and could not even speak the same
language. Please observe, that they never come here without beginning
precisely the same discussions afresh, and reaching absolutely the
same point as on the previous occasion. And besides, how silly it is
to confine oneself to the absolute, to take no account of experience,
and to fight on simply with contradictory arguments! I am entirely of
the opinion of the doctor, who amuses himself with annihilating both
priest and schoolmaster by merely opposing one to the other! And then,
as regards that fellow Lange, can one imagine a man dreaming of more
ridiculous things–losing himself in more manifest, dangerous errors,
all through bestirring himself chancewise, and disdaining certainties?
No, decidedly, political passions do not suit me; the things which
those people say to one another seem to me devoid of sense, and the
biggest questions which they broach are in my eyes mere pastimes for
amusement on the road. I cannot understand why such vain battles should
be fought over petty incidents, when the discovery of the smallest
scientific truth does more for progress than fifty years of social
Luc began to laugh. ‘You are falling into the absolute yourself,’ said
he. ‘Man ought to struggle, politics simply represent the necessity
in which he finds himself to defend his needs and ensure himself the
greatest sum of happiness possible.’
‘You are right,’ acknowledged Jordan, with his simple good faith.
‘Perhaps my disdain for politics merely comes from some covert remorse,
some desire to live in ignorance of the country’s political affairs in
order to avoid being disturbed by them. But, sincerely now, I think
that I am still a good citizen in shutting myself up in my laboratory,
for each serves the nation according to his lights. And assuredly
the real revolutionaries, the real men of action, those who do the
most to ensure the advent of truth and justice in the future, are the
scientists. A government passes and falls; a people grows, triumphs,
and then declines; but the truths of science are transmitted from
generation to generation, ever spreading, ever giving increase of light
and certainty. A pause of a century does not count, the forward march
is always resumed at last, and in spite of every obstacle mankind
goes on towards knowledge. The objection that one will never know
everything is ridiculous; the question is to learn as much as we can
in order that we may attain to the greatest happiness possible. And
so, I repeat it, how unimportant are those political jolts on the road
in which nations take such passionate interest. Whilst people set the
salvation of progress in the maintenance or fall of a ministry, it
is really the scientist who determines what the morrow shall be by
illumining the darkness of the multitude with a fresh spark of truth.
All injustice will cease when all truth has been acquired.’
Silence fell. Sœurette, who had put down her pen, was now listening.
After pondering for a few moments, Jordan, without transition, resumed:
‘Work, ah! work, I owe my life to it. You see what a poor, puny little
being I am. I remember that my mother used to wrap me in thick rugs
whenever the wind was at all violent; yet it was she who set me to
work, as to a _régime_, which was certain to bring good health. She
did not condemn me to crushing studies, forms of punishment with which
growing minds are so often tortured. But she instilled into me a habit
of regular, varied, and attractive work. And it was thus that I learnt
to work as one learns to breathe and to walk. Work has become like
the function of my being, the necessary natural play of my limbs and
organs, the object of my life, and the very means that enables me to
live. I have lived because I have worked; some sort of equilibrium has
been arrived at between the world and me; I have given it back in work
what it has brought me in the form of sensations, and I believe that
all health lies therein, that is in well-regulated exchanges, a perfect
adaptation of the organism to its surroundings. And, however slight of
build I may be, I shall live to a good old age, that’s certain, since
like a little machine I have been carefully put together and wound up,
and work logically.’
Luc had paused in his slow perambulation. Like Sœurette he was now
listening with passionate interest.
‘But that is only a question of the life of beings, of the necessity
of good hygiene, if one is to have good life,’ continued Jordan. ‘Work
is life itself; life is the continual work of chemical and mechanical
forces. Since the first atom stirred to join the atoms near it, the
great creative work has never ceased; and this creative work, which
continues and will always continue, is like the very task of eternity,
the universal task to which we all contribute our store. Is not the
universe an immense workshop, where there is never an ‘off day,’
where matter from the simplest ferments to the most perfect creatures
acts, makes, brings forth unceasingly. The fields which become
covered with crops work; the slowly growing forests work; the rivers
streaming through the valleys work; the seas rolling their waves from
one to another continent work; the worlds, carried by the rhythm of
gravitation through the infinite, work. There is not a being, not a
thing that can remain still, in idleness; all find themselves carried
along, set to work, forced to contribute to the common task. Who or
whatever does not work, disappears from that very cause, is thrust
aside as something useless and cumbersome, and has to yield place to
the necessary, indispensable worker. Such is the one law of life,
which, upon the whole, is simply matter working, a force in perpetual
activity tending towards that final work of happiness, an imperious
craving for which we all have within us.’
For another moment Jordan reflected, his eyes wandering far away. Then
he resumed: ‘And what an admirable regulator is work, what orderliness
it brings with it whomever it reigns! It is peace, it is joy, even
as it is health. I am confounded when I see it disdained, vilified,
regarded as chastisement and shame. Whilst saving me from certain
death, it also gave me all that is good in me. And what an admirable
organiser it is, how well it regulates the faculties of the mind,
the play of the muscles, the rôle of each group in a collectivity of
workers. It would of itself suffice as a political constitution, a
human police, a social _raison d’être_. We are born solely for the
sake of the hive: we none of us bring into the world more than our
individual, momentary effort. All other explanations would be vain and
false. Our individual lives appear to be sacrificed to the universal
life of future worlds. No happiness is possible unless we set it in
the solidary happiness of eternal and general toil. And this is why I
should like to see the foundation of the Religion of Work–a hosannah
to work which saves, work in which is to be found the one truth, and
sovereign health, joy, and peace!’
He ceased speaking and Sœurette raised a cry of loving enthusiasm: ‘How
right you are, brother, and how true! how beautiful it is!’
But Luc seemed more moved even than she. He had remained standing
there, motionless, his eyes gradually filling with light, as if he were
some apostle illumined by a suddenly descending ray. And all at once he
spoke: ‘Listen, Jordan, you must not sell your property to Delaveau,
you must keep everything, both the blast-furnace and the mine. That’s
my answer, I give it you now because I have quite made up my mind upon
the subject.’
Surprised by those words, the connection of which with what he had
just said escaped him, the master of La Crêcherie started slightly and
blinked. ‘Why so, my dear Luc?’ he asked. ‘Why do you say that? Explain
The young man, however, remained silent for a moment, overcome as
he was by emotion. That hymn, that glorification of pacifying and
reorganising work had suddenly raised him, carried him away in spirit,
at last showing him the great horizon, which hitherto had been clouded
in mist. To his eyes everything now acquired precision, grew animated,
assumed absolute certainty. Faith also glowed within him, and his words
came from his lips with extraordinary power of persuasion.
‘You must not sell the property to Delaveau,’ he repeated. ‘I visited
the abandoned mine to-day. Such as the ore is in the present veins,
one can still derive good profit from it by subjecting it to the new
chemical processes. And Morfain has convinced me that one will find
excellent lodes on the other side of the gorge. There is incalculable
wealth there. The blast-furnace will yield cast iron cheaply, and if it
be completed by a forge, some puddling furnaces, rolling mills, steam
hammers and so forth, one may again begin making rails and girders
in such a way as to compete victoriously with the most prosperous
steel-works of the north and the east.’
Jordan’s surprise was increasing, becoming sheer consternation. ‘But
I don’t want to get any richer,’ he protested; ‘I’ve too much money
already; and if I desire to sell the place it is precisely in order to
escape from all the cares of gain.’
With a fine, passionate gesture Luc broke in: ‘Let me finish, my
friend. It isn’t you that I desire to enrich, it is the disinherited
ones, the workers whom we were speaking of just now, the victims of
iniquitous and vilified labour! As you have said, work ought of itself
alone to be a social _raison d’être_. At the moment I heard you,
the path to salvation became manifest to me. The happy community of
to-morrow can only be brought about by such a reorganisation of work as
will lead to an equitable apportionment of wealth, the only solution
by which our misery and sufferings may be dispelled lies in that. If
the old social fabric, now cracking and rotting, is to be replaced by
another it must be upon the basis of work, shared by all and benefiting
all, accepted, indeed, as the universal law. Well, that is what I
should like to attempt here, a reorganisation of work on a small scale,
a brotherly enterprise, a rough draft, as it were, of the social system
of to-morrow, which I should contrast with the other enterprises, those
based upon the wage system, the ancient prisons where workmen are
regarded as slaves and tortured and dishonoured.’
He went on speaking in quivering accents, outlining his dream, all
that had germinated in his mind since his recent perusal of Fourier’s
theories. There ought to be an association between capital, work, and
talent. Jordan would provide the money required, Bonnaire and his mates
would give their arms, and his, Luc’s, would be the brain that plans
and directs. Whilst speaking, the young man again began to walk up and
down, pointing vehemently the while towards the neighbouring roofs of
Beauclair. It was Beauclair that he would save, extricate from the
shame and crime in which he had seen it sinking for three days past.
As he gradually unfolded his plan of action he marvelled at himself,
for he had not thought that he had all this in him. But he at last saw
things clearly, he had found his road. And he now replied to all the
distressing questions which he had put to himself during his insomnia
without then finding any answer to them. In particular he now responded
to those appeals from the wretched which had come to him from out of
the darkness. At present he distinctly heard those cries, and he went
forward to succour the poor beings who raised them; he would save
them by regenerated work, by work which would no longer divide men
into inimical, all-devouring castes, but would Unite them in one sole
brotherly family, wherein the efforts of each would be directed to
obtaining the happiness of all.
‘But the application of Fourier’s formula,’ said Jordan, ‘does not
destroy the wage-system. Even among the Collectivists little of that
system is changed excepting the name. To annihilate it, one would have
to go as far as anarchy.’
Luc was obliged to admit the truth of this objection; and in doing
so he passed his feelings and opinions in review. The theories of
Bonnaire, the Collectivist, and the dreams of Lange, the Anarchist,
still lingered in his ears. The discussions between Abbé Marle,
schoolmaster Hermeline, and Doctor Novarre, also seemed to begin afresh
and continue endlessly. The whole made up a chaos of contrary opinions,
particularly as Luc likewise recalled the objections exchanged by the
precursors of Socialism, Saint-Simon, Auguste Comte, and Proudhon. Why
was it then that amongst so many formulas he himself should choose
those of Fourier? No doubt he was acquainted with a few fortunate
applications of them, but he also knew how slowly attempts progressed,
and what difficulties stood in the way of any decisive result. Perhaps
his choice was due to the fact that revolutionary violence was quite
repugnant to him personally, since he had set his scientific faith in
ceaseless evolution, which has all eternity before it to achieve its
ends. Moreover, a complete and sudden expropriation of present-day
possessors could not be effected without terrible catastrophes which
would increase the present sum of misery and sorrow. Would it not
be best therefore to profit by the opportunity of such a practical
experiment as lay before him, an attempt in which he would find
contentment for his whole being: his own native goodness of heart and
his faith in man’s goodness also? He was upbuoyed by some exalted
heroic feeling, a faith, a kind of prescience, which seemed to make
success a certainty. And, besides, even if the application of Fourier’s
formulas should not bring about the immediate end of the wage-system,
it would at least be a forward step, it would tend towards the final
victory, the destruction of capital, the disappearance of mere traders,
commercial middle-men, and the annihilation of the power of money,
that source of all evils whose uselessness would be proved. The great
quarrel of the socialist schools is one as to the means which should be
employed. The schools are all agreed as to the object in view, and they
will all be reconciled when some day the happy community is at last
established. It was the first foundations of that community which Luc
desired to lay, by collecting scattered forces, associating men of good
will together, and he was convinced that, given the frightful massacre
now going on, there could be no better point of departure.
Jordan remained sceptical, however. ‘Fourier had flashes of genius,’
said he, ‘that is certain. Only he has now been dead more than sixty
years, and if he still retains a few stubborn disciples I see no sign
of his religion conquering the world.’
‘Catholicism took four centuries to conquer a small part of it,’ Luc
quickly retorted. ‘Besides, I don’t adopt the whole of Fourier’s views;
I regard him simply as a wise man, to whom one day a vision of the
truth appeared. Moreover, he is not the only one; others helped to
prepare the formula and others will perfect it. One thing which you
cannot deny is that the evolution now proceeding so rapidly dates from
far back. The whole of our century has been given to the laborious
engendering of the new social system which will arise to-morrow. Each
day for a hundred years past the workers have been born a little more
to social life, and to-morrow they will be masters of their destinies
by virtue of that scientific law which ensures life to the strongest,
healthiest, and worthiest. It is all that which we nowadays behold,
the final struggle between the privileged few by whom wealth has been
stolen, and the great toiling masses who wish to recover the possession
of wealth of which they have been despoiled for long centuries. History
teaches us how a few seized on the greatest happiness possible–to
the detriment of all the others; and how since then all the wretched
despoiled ones have never ceased to struggle furiously, eager to
reconquer as much happiness as they could. For the last fifty years
the contest has become merciless, and one now sees the privileged folk
seized with fear, and slowly relinquishing of their own accord certain
of their privileges. The times are approaching, one can feel it by
all the concessions which the holders of land and wealth make to the
people. In the political sphere much has been given it already, and
it will also be necessary to give it much in the economic sphere. One
sees nothing but new laws favouring the workers, humanitarian measures
of all kinds, the triumphs too of associations and unions, and all
announce the coming era. The battle between labour and capital has
reached such an acute crisis that one can already predict the defeat of
the latter. In time, the disappearance of the wage-system is certain.
And this is why I feel convinced that I shall conquer by helping on the
advent of that something else which will replace the wage-system, that
reorganisation of work, which will give us more justice and a loftier
He was radiant with benevolence, faith, and hope. And continuing he
went back to history, to the robberies perpetrated by the stronger in
the earliest days of the world, the wretched multitude being reduced
to slavery and the possessors piling crime upon crime in order that
they might not be obliged to restore anything to those who were
despoiled, and who perished by starvation or violence. And he showed
the accumulation of wealth increased by time, and still now in the
hands of a few, who held the country estates, the houses in the towns,
the factories of the industrial centres, the mines where coal and metal
slumber, the means of transport by road, canal, and rail, and then the
Rentes, the gold and the silver, the millions which circulate through
the banks, briefly the whole wealth of earth, all that constitutes the
incalculable fortune of mankind. And was it not abominable that so
much wealth should only lead to the frightful indigence of the greater
number? Did not such a state of things demand justice? Could one not
see the inevitable necessity of proceeding to a fresh apportionment of
wealth? Such iniquity, in which on the one hand one beheld idleness
gorged with possession, and on the other pain-racked labour, agonising
in misery, had made man wolfish towards man.
Instead of uniting to conquer and domesticate the forces of nature,
men wolfishly devoured one another. Their barbarous social system cast
them to hatred and error and madness; infants and aged beings were
abandoned, and woman was crushed down, to become a beast of burden
for some, and a mere instrument of pleasure for others. The workers
themselves, corrupted by example, accepted their servitude, bending
their heads amidst the universal cowardice. And how frightful, too, was
the waste of human fortune, the colossal sums spent on warfare, and all
the money given to useless functionaries, to judges and to gendarmes!
And then there was all the money winch without necessity remained in
the hands of the traders, those parasite intermediaries, whose gains
were levied on the consumers! But, after all, this was only the daily
loss of an illogical, badly constructed social system. Apart from it
there was downright crime, famine deliberately organised by those who
detained the instruments of labour, in order to protect their profits.
They reduced the output of a factory, they imposed off-days upon
miners, they created misery for purposes of economic warfare, in order
to keep up high prices. And yet people were astonished that the machine
should be cracking and collapsing beneath such a pile of suffering,
injustice, and shame!
‘No, no!’ cried Luc, ‘that cannot last, unless mankind is to disappear
in a final attack of madness. The social compact must be changed, each
man that is born has a right to life, and the earth is the common
fortune of us all. The instruments of work must be restored to all,
each must do his own share of the general labour. If history, with
its hatreds, its wars, its crimes, has hitherto been nothing but the
abominable outcome of original theft, of the tyranny of a few thieves
who had to urge men on to murder one another, and institute law courts
and prisons to defend their deeds of rapine, it is time to begin
history afresh, and to set, at the dawn of the new era, a great act of
equity, the restoration of the wealth of the earth to all men, work
once again becoming the universal law of human society, even as it is
that of the universe, in order that peace may be made among us and
happy brotherliness at last prevail. And that shall be! I will work for
it, and I will succeed!’
He seemed so passionate, so lofty, so victorious in his prophetic
exaltation, that Jordan, marvelling, turned towards Sœurette to say,
‘Just look at him, is he not handsome?’
Sœurette herself, quivering, pale with admiration, had not taken her
eyes from Luc. It seemed as if a kind of religious fervour possessed
her. ‘Oh! he is handsome,’ she murmured faintly, ‘and he is good as
‘Only, my dear friend,’ resumed Jordan, smiling, ‘you are really an
Anarchist, however much you may deem yourself to be an evolutionist.
But you are right in holding that one begins by Fourier’s formula, and
ends by the free man in the free commune.’
Luc himself had begun to laugh. ‘At all events,’ said he, ‘let’s make a
start; we shall see whither logic will lead us.’
Jordan had become thoughtful, however, and no longer seemed to hear
him. He, the cloistered scientist, had been profoundly stirred, and if
he still doubted the possibility of hastening mankind’s advance, he no
longer denied the utility of experiment.
‘Individual initiative is no doubt in some respects all-powerful,’ he
said. ‘To determine facts, one simply needs a man of will and action,
some rebel of genius and free mind who brings the new truth with him.
In cases of accident, when salvation depends on cutting a cable or
splitting a beam, only a man and a hatchet are necessary. Will is
everything, the saviour is he who wields the hatchet. Nothing resists,
mountains collapse and seas retire before an individuality that acts.’
‘Twas that indeed; in those words Luc found an expression of the will
and conviction glowing within him. He knew not yet what genius he
brought with him, but he was pervaded by a strength that seemed to have
been long accumulating, a strength compounded of revolt against all the
injustice of centuries, and an ardent craving to bring justice into
the world at last. His also was the freed mind, he only accepted such
facts as were scientifically proved. He was alone too, he wished to act
alone, he set all his faith in action. He was the man who dares, and
that would be sufficient, his mission would be fulfilled.
Silence reigned for a moment, and then Jordan, with a friendly gesture
of surrender, said: ‘As I have already told you, there are hours of
lassitude when I would give Delaveau the whole property, both the
smeltery and the mine and the land, so as to rid myself of them and
to be able to devote myself in peace to my studies and experiments.
So take them, you–I prefer to give them to you, since you think you
can turn them to good use. All that I ask of you is to deliver me
completely from the burden, to leave me in my corner to work and finish
my task, without ever speaking to me of these affairs again.’
Luc gazed at him with sparkling eyes, in which all his gratitude,
all his affection, glittered. Then, without any hesitation, like one
certain of the reply he would receive, he said: ‘That is not all,
my friend. Your great heart must do something more. I can undertake
nothing without money, I need five hundred thousand francs[1] to
establish the works I dream of, which will be like the foundation of
the future city … I am convinced that I offer you a good investment,
since your capital will enter into the association, and ensure you a
large part of the profits.’
And as Jordan wished to interpose, he went on: ‘Yes, I know that you
do not desire to become any richer. Nevertheless you must live; and if
you give me your money I shall strive to provide for all your material
wants in such a manner that your peace as a worker shall never be
Once more did silence, grave, full of emotion, fall in that spacious
room, where so much work was already germinating for the harvests of
the days to come. The decision that had to be taken was fraught with
such great importance for the future that it set something like a
religious quiver there during that august interval of suspense.
‘Yours is a soul of renunciation and benevolence,’ said Luc again. ‘Did
you not apprise me of it yesterday when you told me that you would not
trade upon the discoveries you pursue, those electrical furnaces which
will some day reduce human labour and enrich mankind with new wealth?
For my part it is not a gift that I ask of you, it is brotherly help,
help to enable me to lessen the injustice of the times and create some
happiness in the world.’
Then, in very simple fashion, Jordan consented. ‘I’m willing, my
friend,’ he said. ‘You shall have the money to realise your dream.
Only, as one never ought to tell a falsehood, I will add that, in my
eyes, that dream is still only so much generous utopia, for you have
not fully convinced me. Excuse the doubts of a scientist…. But no
matter, you are a good fellow; make your attempt–I will be with you!’
Luc, whom enthusiasm seemed to raise from the ground, gave a cry of
triumph: ‘Thanks! I tell you that the work is as good as done, and that
we shall know the divine joy of having accomplished it!
Sœurette hitherto had not intervened–she had not even stirred. But
all the kindliness of her heart had made itself manifest in her face,
big tears of tender emotion filled her eyes. All at once, under some
irresistible impulse, she rose, drew near to Luc, silent, distracted,
and kissed him on the face, her tears gushing forth as she did so.
Then, in her wondrous emotion, she flung herself into her brother’s
arms, and long remained sobbing there.
Slightly surprised by the kiss she had given the young man, Jordan
anxiously inquired: ‘What is the matter, little sister? At least you
don’t disapprove of what is proposed, do you? It is true that we ought
to have consulted you. But there is still time–are you with us?’
‘Oh, yes! oh, yes!’ she stammered, smiling, suddenly radiant amidst her
tears; ‘you are two heroes, and I will serve you–dispose of me.’
Late on the evening of that same day, towards eleven o’clock, Luc
leant out of the window of the little pavilion, as on the previous
night, in order to inhale for a moment the calm fresh air. In front
of him, beyond the uncultivated fields strewn with rocks, Beauclair
was falling asleep, extinguishing its lights one by one; whilst on the
left the Abyss resounded with all the noise of its hammers. Never had
the breathing of the pain-racked giant seemed to Luc more hoarse, more
oppressed. But again, as on the previous night, a sound arose from
across the road, so light a sound that he fancied it was caused by
the beating wings of some night-bird. His heart suddenly palpitated,
however, when he heard the sound afresh, for he recognised a gentle
quiver of approach. And again he saw a vague, delicate, and slender
form which seemed to float over the grass. Then, with the spring of a
wild goat, a woman crossed the road, and threw him a little bouquet so
skilfully that he once more received it on his lips like a caress. As
on the previous night, too, it was a little bunch of mountain pansies,
gathered just then among the rocks, and of such powerful aroma that he
was quite perfumed by it.
‘Oh, Josine, Josine!’ he exclaimed, penetrated by infinite tenderness.
She it was who had returned, and who, naïve, simple like those very
flowers, once again gave him her whole soul, ever with the same gesture
of passionate gratitude. And he felt refreshed, revived, amidst all
the physical and mental fatigue following upon so decisive a day. Were
not those flowers already a reward for his first efforts, for his
resolution to proceed to action? And it was in her, Josine, that he
loved the suffering toilers, it was she whom he wished to save from
monstrous fate. He had found her the most wretched, the most insulted
and derided, so near to debasement that she was on the point of falling
into the gutter. With her poor hand mutilated by work, she typified
the whole race of the victims, the slaves, who gave their flesh for
work or for pleasure. When he should have redeemed her, he would have
redeemed the entire race. And she, too, was love, love that is needful
for harmony, for the happiness of the city of the future.
He gently called her: ‘Josine! Josine! It is you, Josine!’ But without
a word she was already fleeing, disappearing into the darkness of the
uncultivated moor. Then he again called her: ‘Josine! Josine! It is
you, I know it, Josine; I want to speak to you!’
Thereupon, trembling but happy, she came back with the same light step,
and paused on the road below the window. ‘Yes, it is I, Monsieur Luc,’
she murmured.
He did not hasten to speak, however–he was trying to see her better,
so slim, so vague she was, like some vision which a wave of darkness
would soon carry away. At last he spoke: ‘Will you do me a service?
Tell Bonnaire to come to speak with me to-morrow morning. I have some
good news for him–I have found him some work.’
She showed her pleasure by a laugh, tinged with emotion, and so faint
and musical that it recalled the warbling of a bird. ‘Ah! you are kind!
you are kind!’ she murmured.
‘And,’ continued he in a lower voice, for he, likewise, was feeling
moved, ‘I shall have work for all who wish to work. Yes, I am going to
try to provide a little justice and happiness for everybody.’
She must have understood him, for her laugh became yet more gentle,
more expressive of passionate gratitude. ‘Thank you, thank you,
Monsieur Luc!’ Then the vision began to fade, and Luc again saw the
light shadow fleeing through the bushes, accompanied by another and
smaller one, Nanet, whom he had not previously seen, but who was now
bounding along beside his big sister.
‘Josine! Josine! _Au revoir_, Josine!’
‘Thank you, Monsieur Luc!’
He could no longer distinguish her, she had disappeared, but he still
heard her expressions of gratitude and joy, that bird-like warble which
the night breeze wafted to him; and it was instinct with an infinite
charm which penetrated and enchanted his heart.
For a long time did he linger at the window, full of rapture and
boundless hope. Between the Abyss, where accursed toil was panting,
and La Guerdache, whose park formed a great black patch upon the
low plain of La Roumagne, he perceived Old Beauclair, the workers’
dwelling-place, with its shaky rotting hovels slumbering beneath the
crushing weight of misery and suffering. There lay the cloaca which
he wished to purify, the antique gaol of the wage-system, which must
be razed to the ground with all its hateful iniquity and cruelty, in
order that mankind might be cured of the effects of the long efforts to
poison it. And on the same spot he was, in imagination, already raising
the future city, the abode of truth, justice, and happiness, whose
white houses he could already picture smiling freely and fraternally
amongst delicate verdure, under a mighty sun of joy.
But, all at once, the whole horizon was illumined, a great pink
glow lighted up the roofs of Beauclair, the promontory of the Bleuse
Mountains, the entire stretch of country. It was the glow of liquid
metal running from the furnace of La Crêcherie, and Luc had, at first,
taken it for the dawn. But it was not dawn, it symbolised rather the
setting of a planet–old Vulcan, tortured at his anvil, throwing forth
his final flames. Work, hereafter, would no longer be aught than health
and joy, to-morrow was coming fast.