It is said that M. de Talleyrand, remarking a certain hesitation on the part of the priest who was about to convert him, ejaculated: “This young man does not know his business.” If he really did make this remark, he was very much mistaken. Never was a priest better up in his calling than this young man. The aged statesman, resolved not to erase his past until the very last hour, met all the entreaties made to him with a sullen “not yet.” The Sto ad ostium etpulso had to be brought into play with great tact. A fainting-fit, or a sudden acceleration in the progress of the death-agony would be fatal, and too much importunity might bring out a “No” which would upset the plans so skilfully laid. Upon the morning of May 17th, which was the day of his death, nothing was yet signed. Catholics, as is well known, attach very great importance to the moment of death. If future rewards and punishments have any real existence, it is evident that they must be proportioned to a whole life of virtue or of vice. But the Catholic does not look at it in this light, and an edifying death-bed makes up for all other things. Salvation is left to the chances of the eleventh hour. Time pressed, and it was resolved to play a bold game. M. Dupanloup was waiting in the next room, and he sent the winsome daughter of the Duchesse de Dino, of whom Talleyrand was always so fond, to ask if he might come in. The answer, for a wonder, was in the affirmative, and the priest spent several minutes with him, bringing out from the sick-room a paper signed “Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, Prince de Benevent.”
There was joy—if not in heaven, at all events in the Catholic world of the Faubourgs St. Germain and St. Honore. The credit of this victory was ascribed, in the main, to the female grace which had succeeded in getting round the aged prince, and inducing him to retract the whole of his revolutionary past, but some of it went to the youthful ecclesiastic who had displayed so much tact in bringing to a satisfactory conclusion a project in which it was so easy to fail. M. Dupanloup was from that day one of the first of French priests. Position, honours, and money were pressed upon him by the wealthy and influential classes in Paris. The money he accepted, but do not for a moment suppose that it was for himself, as there never was any one so unselfish as M. Dupanloup. The quotation from the Bible which was oftenest upon his lips, and which was doubly a favourite one with him because it was truly Scriptural and happened to terminate like a Latin verse was: Da mihi animas; cetera tolle tibi. He had at that time in his mind the general outlines of a grand propaganda by means of classical and religious education, and he threw himself into it with all the passionate ardour which he displayed in the undertakings upon which he embarked.