Les Miserables HTML version
PRUDENCE COUNSELLED TO WISDOM.
That evening, the Bishop of D----, after his promenade through the town, remained shut
up rather late in his room. He was busy over a great work on Duties, which was never
completed, unfortunately. He was carefully compiling everything that the Fathers and
the doctors have said on this important subject. His book was divided into two parts:
firstly, the duties of all; secondly, the duties of each individual, according to the class to
which he belongs. The duties of all are the great duties. There are four of these. Saint
Matthew points them out: duties towards God (Matt. vi.); duties towards one's self (Matt.
v. 29, 30); duties towards one's neighbor (Matt. vii. 12); duties towards animals (Matt. vi.
20, 25). As for the other duties the Bishop found them pointed out and prescribed
elsewhere: to sovereigns and subjects, in the Epistle to the Romans; to magistrates, to
wives, to mothers, to young men, by Saint Peter; to husbands, fathers, children and
servants, in the Epistle to the Ephesians; to the faithful, in the Epistle to the Hebrews; to
virgins, in the Epistle to the Corinthians. Out of these precepts he was laboriously
constructing a harmonious whole, which he desired to present to souls.
At eight o'clock he was still at work, writing with a good deal of inconvenience upon little
squares of paper, with a big book open on his knees, when Madame Magloire entered,
according to her wont, to get the silver-ware from the cupboard near his bed. A moment
later, the Bishop, knowing that the table was set, and that his sister was probably
waiting for him, shut his book, rose from his table, and entered the dining-room.
The dining-room was an oblong apartment, with a fireplace, which had a door opening
on the street (as we have said), and a window opening on the garden.
Madame Magloire was, in fact, just putting the last touches to the table.
As she performed this service, she was conversing with Mademoiselle Baptistine.
A lamp stood on the table; the table was near the fireplace. A wood fire was burning
One can easily picture to one's self these two women, both of whom were over sixty
years of age. Madame Magloire small, plump, vivacious; Mademoiselle Baptistine
gentle, slender, frail, somewhat taller than her brother, dressed in a gown of puce-
colored silk, of the fashion of 1806, which she had purchased at that date in Paris, and
which had lasted ever since. To borrow vulgar phrases, which possess the merit of
giving utterance in a single word to an idea which a whole page would hardly suffice to
express, Madame Magloire had the air of a peasant, and Mademoiselle Baptistine that
of a lady. Madame Magloire wore a white quilted cap, a gold Jeannette cross on a
velvet ribbon upon her neck, the only bit of feminine jewelry that there was in the house,