When we got back, we found my uncle Chambrun, my mother’s only brother, standing at the door. He was the minister of a small town near Avignon, and did not care to go to the Fair; nevertheless he was very glad to hear all about it from those who had been there. We were well pleased to have so ready a listener; and when we had said our say, he fell into grave talk with my father and mother of the signs of the times, which he thought very threatening.
“What can we expect otherwise,” said he, “with Louis the Fourteenth for king and Louvois for his minister, and Pere la Chaise for his confessor, and Madame de Maintenon for his confidante and adviser? A storm is gathering overhead, but never mind—there is a heaven higher than all.” These words checked us; but youthful spirits soon rise, and the impression did not last long. I now seemed walking on air, for I loved and was loved by Madeleine.
A few days after our return from Beaucaire, Marie Lefevre burst in on us with troubled looks, and exclaimed,
“Have you seen my boy?”
“No!” exclaimed we all.
“Then something has befallen him,” cried she, wringing her hands. “We have lost sight of him.”
We gathered about her, full of pity, and asked where he had last been seen.
“Near Les Arenes.”
“He may have fallen into some pit, or lost himself among the dungeons,” said my mother. “We will go and help you to find him.”
So she and I accompanied Marie, who was crying bitterly, and made frequent inquiries for him by the way.
When we got inside that vast, circular inclosure, we agreed that Marie should explore one side and we the other, and thus meet at the other end. This took us some time, for you must know that it consists of two stories, each of sixty arcades, seventy feet high; and under its great arches and pillars are many vaulted chambers and passages, wherein good Christians have been confined; and again, wherein other good Christians have found asylums in time of hot persecution. Within the amphitheatre were originally thirty-two rows of seats, which would accommodate at least twenty thousand spectators that had a mind to feast their eyes on scenes of blood in the central arena. I looked with curiosity at this place, which I had never so thoroughly visited before. Some of the dens were still in use for the bulls that were baited on Sundays, and others seemed lairs for rogues and vagabonds; but there was many a corner which, as I said to my mother, would afford a good hiding-place in time of danger, and one, especially, in which I thought a fugitive might defy detection (though I had detected it).
Well, we hunted high and low, but could not find little Jules. His mother was distracted: we feared she would lose her reason altogether. Madeleine devoted herself to her like an angel; neighbors were full of compassion—those of our own persuasion, I mean; for the Catholics mocked her and said, “Go seek him in the Jews’ quarter. The Jew baker’s daughter has, doubtless, made him into pies. Go seek him in their secret assemblies—in their cellars—in their slaughter-houses—doubtless they are fattening him for their Passover.” Conceive the anguish of the mother.