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Urbain Grandier

Chapter 1
On Sunday, the 26th of November, 1631, there was great excitement in the little town of
Loudun, especially in the narrow streets which led to the church of Saint-Pierre in the
marketplace, from the gate of which the town was entered by anyone coming from the
direction of the abbey of Saint-Jouin-les-Marmes. This excitement was caused by the
expected arrival of a personage who had been much in people's mouths latterly in
Loudun, and about whom there was such difference of opinion that discussion on the
subject between those who were on his side and those who were against him was carried
on with true provincial acrimony. It was easy to see, by the varied expressions on the
faces of those who turned the doorsteps into improvised debating clubs, how varied were
the feelings with which the man would be welcomed who had himself formally
announced to friends and enemies alike the exact date of his return.
About nine o'clock a kind of sympathetic vibration ran through the crowd, and with the
rapidity of a flash of lightning the words, "There he is! there he is!" passed from group to
group. At this cry some withdrew into their houses and shut their doors and darkened
their windows, as if it were a day of public mourning, while others opened them wide, as
if to let joy enter. In a few moments the uproar and confusion evoked by the news was
succeeded by the deep silence of breathless curiosity.
Then, through the silence, a figure advanced, carrying a branch of laurel in one hand as a
token of triumph. It was that of a young man of from thirty-two to thirty-four years of
age, with a graceful and well-knit frame, an aristocratic air and faultlessly beautiful
features of a somewhat haughty expression. Although he had walked three leagues to
reach the town, the ecclesiastical garb which he wore was not only elegant but of dainty
freshness. His eyes turned to heaven, and singing in a sweet voice praise to the Lord, he
passed through the streets leading to the church in the market-place with a slow and
solemn gait, without vouchsafing a look, a word, or a gesture to anyone. The entire
crowd, falling into step, marched behind him as he advanced, singing like him, the
singers being the prettiest girls in Loudun, for we have forgotten to say that the crowd
consisted almost entirely of women.
Meanwhile the object of all this commotion arrived at length at the porch of the church of
Saint-Pierre. Ascending the steps, he knelt at the top and prayed in a low voice, then
rising he touched the church doors with his laurel branch, and they opened wide as if by
magic, revealing the choir decorated and illuminated as if for one of the four great feasts
of the year, and with all its scholars, choir boys, singers, beadles, and vergers in their
places. Glancing around, he for whom they were waiting came up the nave, passed
through the choir, knelt for a second time at the foot of the altar, upon which he laid the
branch of laurel, then putting on a robe as white as snow and passing the stole around his
neck, he began the celebration of the mass before a congregation composed of all those
who had followed him. At the end of the mass a Te Deum was sung.
 
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