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Les Miserables

Chapter 3
A HARD BISHOPRIC FOR A GOOD BISHOP
The Bishop did not omit his pastoral visits because he had converted his carriage into
alms. The diocese of D---- is a fatiguing one. There are very few plains and a great
many mountains; hardly any roads, as we have just seen; thirty-two curacies, forty-one
vicarships, and two hundred and eighty-five auxiliary chapels. To visit all these is quite a
task.
The Bishop managed to do it. He went on foot when it was in the neighborhood, in a
tilted spring-cart when it was on the plain, and on a donkey in the mountains. The two
old women accompanied him. When the trip was too hard for them, he went alone.
One day he arrived at Senez, which is an ancient episcopal city. He was mounted on an
ass. His purse, which was very dry at that moment, did not permit him any other
equipage. The mayor of the town came to receive him at the gate of the town, and
watched him dismount from his ass, with scandalized eyes. Some of the citizens were
laughing around him. "Monsieur the Mayor," said the Bishop, "and Messieurs Citizens, I
perceive that I shock you. You think it very arrogant in a poor priest to ride an animal
which was used by Jesus Christ. I have done so from necessity, I assure you, and not
from vanity."
In the course of these trips he was kind and indulgent, and talked rather than preached.
He never went far in search of his arguments and his examples. He quoted to the
inhabitants of one district the example of a neighboring district. In the cantons where
they were harsh to the poor, he said: "Look at the people of Briancon! They have
conferred on the poor, on widows and orphans, the right to have their meadows mown
three days in advance of every one else. They rebuild their houses for them gratuitously
when they are ruined. Therefore it is a country which is blessed by God. For a whole
century, there has not been a single murderer among them."
In villages which were greedy for profit and harvest, he said: "Look at the people of
Embrun! If, at the harvest season, the father of a family has his son away on service in
the army, and his daughters at service in the town, and if he is ill and incapacitated, the
cure recommends him to the prayers of the congregation; and on Sunday, after the
mass, all the inhabitants of the village--men, women, and children--go to the poor man's
field and do his harvesting for him, and carry his straw and his grain to his granary." To
families divided by questions of money and inheritance he said: "Look at the
mountaineers of Devolny, a country so wild that the nightingale is not heard there once
in fifty years. Well, when the father of a family dies, the boys go off to seek their
fortunes, leaving the property to the girls, so that they may find husbands." To the
cantons which had a taste for lawsuits, and where the farmers ruined themselves in
stamped paper, he said: "Look at those good peasants in the valley of Queyras! There
 
 
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