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    Chapter 15

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    Chapter 16
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    One of our pleasantest visits was to Pere la Chaise, the national
    burying-ground of France, the honored resting-place of some of her
    greatest and best children, the last home of scores of illustrious men
    and women who were born to no titles, but achieved fame by their own
    energy and their own genius. It is a solemn city of winding streets and
    of miniature marble temples and mansions of the dead gleaming white from
    out a wilderness of foliage and fresh flowers. Not every city is so well
    peopled as this, or has so ample an area within its walls. Few palaces
    exist in any city that are so exquisite in design, so rich in art, so
    costly in material, so graceful, so beautiful.

    We had stood in the ancient church of St. Denis, where the marble
    effigies of thirty generations of kings and queens lay stretched at
    length upon the tombs, and the sensations invoked were startling and
    novel; the curious armor, the obsolete costumes, the placid faces, the
    hands placed palm to palm in eloquent supplication--it was a vision of
    gray antiquity. It seemed curious enough to be standing face to face, as
    it were, with old Dagobert I., and Clovis and Charlemagne, those vague,
    colossal heroes, those shadows, those myths of a thousand years ago! I
    touched their dust-covered faces with my finger, but Dagobert was deader
    than the sixteen centuries that have passed over him, Clovis slept well
    after his labor for Christ, and old Charlemagne went on dreaming of his
    paladins, of bloody Roncesvalles, and gave no heed to me.

    The great names of Pere la Chaise impress one, too, but differently.
    There the suggestion brought constantly to his mind is, that this place
    is sacred to a nobler royalty--the royalty of heart and brain. Every
    faculty of mind, every noble trait of human nature, every high occupation
    which men engage in, seems represented by a famous name. The effect is a
    curious medley. Davoust and Massena, who wrought in many a battle
    tragedy, are here, and so also is Rachel, of equal renown in mimic
    tragedy on the stage. The Abbe Sicard sleeps here--the first great
    teacher of the deaf and dumb--a man whose heart went out to every
    unfortunate, and whose life was given to kindly offices in their service;
    and not far off, in repose and peace at last, lies Marshal Ney, whose
    stormy spirit knew no music like the bugle call to arms. The man who
    originated public gas-lighting, and that other benefactor who introduced
    the cultivation of the potato and thus blessed millions of his starving
    countrymen, lie with the Prince of Masserano, and with exiled queens and
    princes of Further India. Gay-Lussac the chemist, Laplace the
    astronomer, Larrey the surgeon, de Suze the advocate, are here, and with
    them are Talma, Bellini, Rubini; de Balzac, Beaumarchais, Beranger;
    Moliere and Lafontaine, and scores of other men whose names and whose
    worthy labors are as familiar in the remote by-places of civilization as
    are the historic deeds of the kings and princes that sleep in the marble
    vaults of St. Denis.

    But among the thousands and thousands of tombs in Pere la Chaise, there
    is one that no man, no woman, no youth of either sex, ever passes by
    without stopping to examine. Every visitor has a sort of indistinct idea
    of the history of its dead and comprehends that homage is due there, but
    not one in twenty thousand clearly remembers the story of that tomb and
    its romantic occupants. This is the grave of Abelard and Heloise--a
    grave which has been more revered, more widely known, more written and
    sung about and wept over, for seven hundred years, than any other in
    Christendom save only that of the Saviour. All visitors linger pensively
    about it; all young people capture and carry away keepsakes and mementoes
    of it; all Parisian youths and maidens who are disappointed in love come
    there to bail out when they are full of tears; yea, many stricken lovers
    make pilgrimages to this shrine from distant provinces to weep and wail
    and "grit" their teeth over their heavy sorrows, and to purchase the
    sympathies of the chastened spirits of that tomb with offerings of
    immortelles and budding flowers.

    Go when you will, you find somebody snuffling over that tomb. Go when
    you will, you find it furnished with those bouquets and immortelles. Go
    when you will, you find a gravel-train from Marseilles arriving to supply
    the deficiencies caused by memento-cabbaging vandals whose affections
    have miscarried.

    Yet who really knows the story of Abelard and Heloise? Precious few
    people. The names are perfectly familiar to every body, and that is
    about all. With infinite pains I have acquired a knowledge of that
    history, and I propose to narrate it here, partly for the honest
    information of the public and partly to show that public that they have
    been wasting a good deal of marketable sentiment very unnecessarily.


    Heloise was born seven hundred and sixty-six years ago. She may have had
    parents. There is no telling. She lived with her uncle Fulbert, a canon
    of the cathedral of Paris. I do not know what a canon of a cathedral is,
    but that is what he was. He was nothing more than a sort of a mountain
    howitzer, likely, because they had no heavy artillery in those days.
    Suffice it, then, that Heloise lived with her uncle the howitzer and was
    happy. She spent the most of her childhood in the convent of Argenteuil
    --never heard of Argenteuil before, but suppose there was really such a
    place. She then returned to her uncle, the old gun, or son of a gun, as
    the case may be, and he taught her to write and speak Latin, which was
    the language of literature and polite society at that period.

    Just at this time, Pierre Abelard, who had already made himself widely
    famous as a rhetorician, came to found a school of rhetoric in Paris.
    The originality of his principles, his eloquence, and his great physical
    strength and beauty created a profound sensation. He saw Heloise, and
    was captivated by her blooming youth, her beauty, and her charming
    disposition. He wrote to her; she answered. He wrote again; she
    answered again. He was now in love. He longed to know her--to speak to
    her face to face.

    His school was near Fulbert's house. He asked Fulbert to allow him to
    call. The good old swivel saw here a rare opportunity: his niece, whom
    he so much loved, would absorb knowledge from this man, and it would not
    cost him a cent. Such was Fulbert--penurious.

    Fulbert's first name is not mentioned by any author, which is
    unfortunate. However, George W. Fulbert will answer for him as well as
    any other. We will let him go at that. He asked Abelard to teach her.

    Abelard was glad enough of the opportunity. He came often and staid
    long. A letter of his shows in its very first sentence that he came
    under that friendly roof like a cold-hearted villain as he was, with the
    deliberate intention of debauching a confiding, innocent girl. This is
    the letter:

    "I cannot cease to be astonished at the simplicity of Fulbert;
    I was as much surprised as if he had placed a lamb in the power
    of a hungry wolf. Heloise and I, under pretext of study, gave
    ourselves up wholly to love, and the solitude that love seeks
    our studies procured for us. Books were open before us, but we
    spoke oftener of love than philosophy, and kisses came more
    readily from our lips than words."

    And so, exulting over an honorable confidence which to his degraded
    instinct was a ludicrous "simplicity," this unmanly Abelard seduced the
    niece of the man whose guest he was. Paris found it out. Fulbert was
    told of it--told often--but refused to believe it. He could not
    comprehend how a man could be so depraved as to use the sacred protection
    and security of hospitality as a means for the commission of such a crime
    as that. But when he heard the rowdies in the streets singing the
    love-songs of Abelard to Heloise, the case was too plain--love-songs come
    not properly within the teachings of rhetoric and philosophy.

    He drove Abelard from his house. Abelard returned secretly and carried
    Heloise away to Palais, in Brittany, his native country. Here, shortly
    afterward, she bore a son, who, from his rare beauty, was surnamed
    Astrolabe--William G. The girl's flight enraged Fulbert, and he longed
    for vengeance, but feared to strike lest retaliation visit Heloise--for
    he still loved her tenderly. At length Abelard offered to marry Heloise
    --but on a shameful condition: that the marriage should be kept secret
    from the world, to the end that (while her good name remained a wreck, as
    before,) his priestly reputation might be kept untarnished. It was like
    that miscreant. Fulbert saw his opportunity and consented. He would see
    the parties married, and then violate the confidence of the man who had
    taught him that trick; he would divulge the secret and so remove somewhat
    of the obloquy that attached to his niece's fame. But the niece
    suspected his scheme. She refused the marriage at first; she said
    Fulbert would betray the secret to save her, and besides, she did not
    wish to drag down a lover who was so gifted, so honored by the world,
    and who had such a splendid career before him. It was noble,
    self-sacrificing love, and characteristic of the pure-souled Heloise,
    but it was not good sense.

    But she was overruled, and the private marriage took place. Now for
    Fulbert! The heart so wounded should be healed at last; the proud spirit
    so tortured should find rest again; the humbled head should be lifted up
    once more. He proclaimed the marriage in the high places of the city and
    rejoiced that dishonor had departed from his house. But lo! Abelard
    denied the marriage! Heloise denied it! The people, knowing the former
    circumstances, might have believed Fulbert had only Abelard denied it,
    but when the person chiefly interested--the girl herself--denied it, they
    laughed, despairing Fulbert to scorn.

    The poor canon of the cathedral of Paris was spiked again. The last hope
    of repairing the wrong that had been done his house was gone. What next?
    Human nature suggested revenge. He compassed it. The historian says:

    "Ruffians, hired by Fulbert, fell upon Abelard by night, and
    inflicted upon him a terrible and nameless mutilation."

    I am seeking the last resting place of those "ruffians." When I find it
    I shall shed some tears on it, and stack up some bouquets and
    immortelles, and cart away from it some gravel whereby to remember that
    howsoever blotted by crime their lives may have been, these ruffians did
    one just deed, at any rate, albeit it was not warranted by the strict
    letter of the law.

    Heloise entered a convent and gave good-bye to the world and its
    pleasures for all time. For twelve years she never heard of Abelard
    --never even heard his name mentioned. She had become prioress of
    Argenteuil and led a life of complete seclusion. She happened one day to
    see a letter written by him, in which he narrated his own history. She
    cried over it and wrote him. He answered, addressing her as his "sister
    in Christ." They continued to correspond, she in the unweighed language
    of unwavering affection, he in the chilly phraseology of the polished
    rhetorician. She poured out her heart in passionate, disjointed
    sentences; he replied with finished essays, divided deliberately into
    heads and sub-heads, premises and argument. She showered upon him the
    tenderest epithets that love could devise, he addressed her from the
    North Pole of his frozen heart as the "Spouse of Christ!" The abandoned

    On account of her too easy government of her nuns, some disreputable
    irregularities were discovered among them, and the Abbot of St. Denis
    broke up her establishment. Abelard was the official head of the
    monastery of St. Gildas de Ruys, at that time, and when he heard of her
    homeless condition a sentiment of pity was aroused in his breast (it is a
    wonder the unfamiliar emotion did not blow his head off,) and he placed
    her and her troop in the little oratory of the Paraclete, a religious
    establishment which he had founded. She had many privations and
    sufferings to undergo at first, but her worth and her gentle disposition
    won influential friends for her, and she built up a wealthy and
    flourishing nunnery. She became a great favorite with the heads of the
    church, and also the people, though she seldom appeared in public. She
    rapidly advanced in esteem, in good report, and in usefulness, and
    Abelard as rapidly lost ground. The Pope so honored her that he made her
    the head of her order. Abelard, a man of splendid talents, and ranking
    as the first debater of his time, became timid, irresolute, and
    distrustful of his powers. He only needed a great misfortune to topple
    him from the high position he held in the world of intellectual
    excellence, and it came. Urged by kings and princes to meet the subtle
    St. Bernard in debate and crush him, he stood up in the presence of a
    royal and illustrious assemblage, and when his antagonist had finished he
    looked about him and stammered a commencement; but his courage failed
    him, the cunning of his tongue was gone: with his speech unspoken, he
    trembled and sat down, a disgraced and vanquished champion.

    He died a nobody, and was buried at Cluny, A.D., 1144. They removed his
    body to the Paraclete afterward, and when Heloise died, twenty years
    later, they buried her with him, in accordance with her last wish. He
    died at the ripe age of 64, and she at 63. After the bodies had remained
    entombed three hundred years, they were removed once more. They were
    removed again in 1800, and finally, seventeen years afterward, they were
    taken up and transferred to Pere la Chaise, where they will remain in
    peace and quiet until it comes time for them to get up and move again.

    History is silent concerning the last acts of the mountain howitzer. Let
    the world say what it will about him, I, at least, shall always respect
    the memory and sorrow for the abused trust and the broken heart and the
    troubled spirit of the old smooth-bore. Rest and repose be his!

    Such is the story of Abelard and Heloise. Such is the history that
    Lamartine has shed such cataracts of tears over. But that man never
    could come within the influence of a subject in the least pathetic
    without overflowing his banks. He ought to be dammed--or leveed, I
    should more properly say. Such is the history--not as it is usually
    told, but as it is when stripped of the nauseous sentimentality that
    would enshrine for our loving worship a dastardly seducer like Pierre
    Abelard. I have not a word to say against the misused, faithful girl,
    and would not withhold from her grave a single one of those simple
    tributes which blighted youths and maidens offer to her memory, but I am
    sorry enough that I have not time and opportunity to write four or five
    volumes of my opinion of her friend the founder of the Parachute, or the
    Paraclete, or whatever it was.

    The tons of sentiment I have wasted on that unprincipled humbug in my
    ignorance! I shall throttle down my emotions hereafter, about this sort
    of people, until I have read them up and know whether they are entitled
    to any tearful attentions or not. I wish I had my immortelles back, now,
    and that bunch of radishes.

    In Paris we often saw in shop windows the sign "English Spoken Here,"
    just as one sees in the windows at home the sign "Ici on parle
    francaise." We always invaded these places at once--and invariably
    received the information, framed in faultless French, that the clerk who
    did the English for the establishment had just gone to dinner and would
    be back in an hour--would Monsieur buy something? We wondered why those
    parties happened to take their dinners at such erratic and extraordinary
    hours, for we never called at a time when an exemplary Christian would be
    in the least likely to be abroad on such an errand. The truth was, it
    was a base fraud--a snare to trap the unwary--chaff to catch fledglings
    with. They had no English-murdering clerk. They trusted to the sign to
    inveigle foreigners into their lairs, and trusted to their own
    blandishments to keep them there till they bought something.

    We ferreted out another French imposition--a frequent sign to this
    procured the services of a gentleman experienced in the nomenclature of
    the American bar, and moved upon the works of one of these impostors. A
    bowing, aproned Frenchman skipped forward and said:

    "Que voulez les messieurs?" I do not know what "Que voulez les
    messieurs?" means, but such was his remark.

    Our general said, "We will take a whiskey straight."

    [A stare from the Frenchman.]

    "Well, if you don't know what that is, give us a champagne cock-tail."

    [A stare and a shrug.]

    "Well, then, give us a sherry cobbler."

    The Frenchman was checkmated. This was all Greek to him.

    "Give us a brandy smash!"

    The Frenchman began to back away, suspicious of the ominous vigor of the
    last order--began to back away, shrugging his shoulders and spreading his
    hands apologetically.

    The General followed him up and gained a complete victory. The
    uneducated foreigner could not even furnish a Santa Cruz Punch, an
    Eye-Opener, a Stone-Fence, or an Earthquake. It was plain that he was a
    wicked impostor.

    An acquaintance of mine said the other day that he was doubtless the only
    American visitor to the Exposition who had had the high honor of being
    escorted by the Emperor's bodyguard. I said with unobtrusive frankness
    that I was astonished that such a long-legged, lantern-jawed,
    unprepossessing-looking specter as he should be singled out for a
    distinction like that, and asked how it came about. He said he had
    attended a great military review in the Champ de Mars some time ago, and
    while the multitude about him was growing thicker and thicker every
    moment he observed an open space inside the railing. He left his
    carriage and went into it. He was the only person there, and so he had
    plenty of room, and the situation being central, he could see all the
    preparations going on about the field. By and by there was a sound of
    music, and soon the Emperor of the French and the Emperor of Austria,
    escorted by the famous Cent Gardes, entered the enclosure. They seemed
    not to observe him, but directly, in response to a sign from the
    commander of the guard, a young lieutenant came toward him with a file of
    his men following, halted, raised his hand, and gave the military salute,
    and then said in a low voice that he was sorry to have to disturb a
    stranger and a gentleman, but the place was sacred to royalty. Then this
    New Jersey phantom rose up and bowed and begged pardon, then with the
    officer beside him, the file of men marching behind him, and with every
    mark of respect, he was escorted to his carriage by the imperial Cent
    Gardes! The officer saluted again and fell back, the New Jersey sprite
    bowed in return and had presence of mind enough to pretend that he had
    simply called on a matter of private business with those emperors, and so
    waved them an adieu and drove from the field!

    Imagine a poor Frenchman ignorantly intruding upon a public rostrum
    sacred to some six-penny dignitary in America. The police would scare
    him to death first with a storm of their elegant blasphemy, and then pull
    him to pieces getting him away from there. We are measurably superior to
    the French in some things, but they are immeasurably our betters in

    Enough of Paris for the present. We have done our whole duty by it. We
    have seen the Tuileries, the Napoleon Column, the Madeleine, that wonder
    of wonders the tomb of Napoleon, all the great churches and museums,
    libraries, imperial palaces, and sculpture and picture galleries, the
    Pantheon, Jardin des Plantes, the opera, the circus, the legislative
    body, the billiard rooms, the barbers, the grisettes--

    Ah, the grisettes! I had almost forgotten. They are another romantic
    fraud. They were (if you let the books of travel tell it) always so
    beautiful--so neat and trim, so graceful--so naive and trusting--so
    gentle, so winning--so faithful to their shop duties, so irresistible
    to buyers in their prattling importunity--so devoted to their
    poverty-stricken students of the Latin Quarter--so lighthearted and
    happy on their Sunday picnics in the suburbs--and oh, so charmingly,
    so delightfully immoral!

    Stuff! For three or four days I was constantly saying:

    "Quick, Ferguson! Is that a grisette?"

    And he always said, "No."

    He comprehended at last that I wanted to see a grisette. Then he showed
    me dozens of them. They were like nearly all the Frenchwomen I ever saw
    --homely. They had large hands, large feet, large mouths; they had pug
    noses as a general thing, and moustaches that not even good breeding
    could overlook; they combed their hair straight back without parting;
    they were ill-shaped, they were not winning, they were not graceful; I
    knew by their looks that they ate garlic and onions; and lastly and
    finally, to my thinking it would be base flattery to call them immoral.

    Aroint thee, wench! I sorrow for the vagabond student of the Latin
    Quarter now, even more than formerly I envied him. Thus topples to earth
    another idol of my infancy.

    We have seen every thing, and tomorrow we go to Versailles. We shall see
    Paris only for a little while as we come back to take up our line of
    march for the ship, and so I may as well bid the beautiful city a
    regretful farewell. We shall travel many thousands of miles after we
    leave here and visit many great cities, but we shall find none so
    enchanting as this.

    Some of our party have gone to England, intending to take a roundabout
    course and rejoin the vessel at Leghorn or Naples several weeks hence.
    We came near going to Geneva, but have concluded to return to Marseilles
    and go up through Italy from Genoa.

    I will conclude this chapter with a remark that I am sincerely proud to
    be able to make--and glad, as well, that my comrades cordially endorse
    it, to wit: by far the handsomest women we have seen in France were born
    and reared in America.

    I feel now like a man who has redeemed a failing reputation and shed
    luster upon a dimmed escutcheon, by a single just deed done at the
    eleventh hour.

    Let the curtain fall, to slow music.
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    Chapter 16
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