Les Miserables HTML version

Chapter 4
His conversation was gay and affable. He put himself on a level with the two old women
who had passed their lives beside him. When he laughed, it was the laugh of a
schoolboy. Madame Magloire liked to call him Your Grace [Votre Grandeur]. One day
he rose from his arm-chair, and went to his library in search of a book. This book was
on one of the upper shelves. As the bishop was rather short of stature, he could not
reach it. "Madame Magloire," said he, "fetch me a chair. My greatness [grandeur] does
not reach as far as that shelf."
One of his distant relatives, Madame la Comtesse de Lo, rarely allowed an opportunity
to escape of enumerating, in his presence, what she designated as "the expectations"
of her three sons. She had numerous relatives, who were very old and near to death,
and of whom her sons were the natural heirs. The youngest of the three was to receive
from a grand-aunt a good hundred thousand livres of income; the second was the heir
by entail to the title of the Duke, his uncle; the eldest was to succeed to the peerage of
his grandfather. The Bishop was accustomed to listen in silence to these innocent and
pardonable maternal boasts. On one occasion, however, he appeared to be more
thoughtful than usual, while Madame de Lo was relating once again the details of all
these inheritances and all these "expectations." She interrupted herself impatiently:
"Mon Dieu, cousin! What are you thinking about?" "I am thinking," replied the Bishop, "of
a singular remark, which is to be found, I believe, in St. Augustine,--`Place your hopes
in the man from whom you do not inherit.'"
At another time, on receiving a notification of the decease of a gentleman of the
country-side, wherein not only the dignities of the dead man, but also the feudal and
noble qualifications of all his relatives, spread over an entire page: "What a stout back
Death has!" he exclaimed. "What a strange burden of titles is cheerfully imposed on
him, and how much wit must men have, in order thus to press the tomb into the service
of vanity!"
He was gifted, on occasion, with a gentle raillery, which almost always concealed a
serious meaning. In the course of one Lent, a youthful vicar came to D----, and
preached in the cathedral. He was tolerably eloquent. The subject of his sermon was
charity. He urged the rich to give to the poor, in order to avoid hell, which he depicted in
the most frightful manner of which he was capable, and to win paradise, which he
represented as charming and desirable. Among the audience there was a wealthy
retired merchant, who was somewhat of a usurer, named M. Geborand, who had
amassed two millions in the manufacture of coarse cloth, serges, and woollen galloons.
Never in his whole life had M. Geborand bestowed alms on any poor wretch. After the
delivery of that sermon, it was observed that he gave a sou every Sunday to the poor
old beggar-women at the door of the cathedral. There were six of them to share it. One