The Honor of the Name
On the first Sunday in the month of August, 1815, at ten o'clock precisely--as on every
Sunday morning--the sacristan of the parish church at Sairmeuse sounded the three
strokes of the bell which warn the faithful that the priest is ascending the steps of the altar
to celebrate high mass.
The church was already more than half full, and from every side little groups of peasants
were hurrying into the church-yard. The women were all in their bravest attire, with
cunning little fichus crossed upon their breasts, broad-striped, brightly colored skirts, and
large white coifs.
Being as economical as they were coquettish, they came barefooted, bringing their shoes
in their hands, but put them on reverentially before entering the house of God.
But few of the men entered the church. They remained outside to talk, seating themselves
in the porch, or standing about the yard, in the shade of the century-old elms.
For such was the custom in the hamlet of Sairmeuse.
The two hours which the women consecrated to prayer the men employed in discussing
the news, the success or the failure of the crops; and, before the service ended, they could
generally be found, glass in hand, in the bar-room of the village inn.
For the farmers for a league around, the Sunday mass was only an excuse for a reunion, a
sort of weekly bourse.
All the cures who had been successively stationed at Sairmeuse had endeavored to put an
end to this scandalous habit, as they termed it; but all their efforts had made no
impression upon country obstinacy.
They had succeeded in gaining only one concession. At the moment of the elevation of
the Host, voices were hushed, heads uncovered, and a few even bowed the knee and
made the sign of the cross.
But this was the affair of an instant only, and conversation was immediately resumed
with increased vivacity.
But to-day the usual animation was wanting.
No sounds came from the little knots of men gathered here and there, not an oath, not a
laugh. Between buyers and sellers, one did not overhear a single one of those
interminable discussions, punctuated with the popular oaths, such as: "By my faith in
God!" or "May the devil burn me!"