“Lyons is celebrated for delicatessen, silk, and churches. At the top of every hill—and there’s a hill every block—is a chapel or a convent, and Notre Dame de Fourviere dominates them all. From a distance this pile looks like an eighteenth century dresser turned upside down, but the interior, which is in process of completion, is amazing. You ought to go and take a look at it some day. You will see the most extraordinary jumble of Assyrian, Roman, Gothic, and God knows what, jacked together by Bossan, the only architect for a century who has known how to create a cathedral interior. The nave glitters with inlays and marble, with bronze and gold. Statues of angels diversify the rows of columns and break up, with impressive grace, the known harmonies of line. It’s Asiatic and barbarous, and reminds one of the architecture shown in Gustave Moreau’s Herodiade.
“And there is an endless stream of pilgrims. They strike bargains with Our Lady. They pray for an extension of markets, new outlets for sausages and silks. They consult her on ways and means of getting rid of spoiled vegetables and pushing off their shoddy. In the centre of the city, in the church of Saint Boniface, I found a placard requesting the faithful, out of respect for the holy place, not to give alms. It was not seemly, you see, that the commercial orisons be disturbed by the ridiculous plaints of the indigent.”
“Well,” said Durtal, “it’s a strange thing, but democracy is the most implacable of the enemies of the poor. The Revolution, which, you would think, ought to have protected them, proved for them the most cruel of regimes. I will show you some day a decree of the Year II, pronouncing penalties not only for those who begged but for those who gave.”
“And yet democracy is the panacea which is going to cure every ill,” said Des Hermies, laughing. And he pointed to enormous posters everywhere in which General Boulanger peremptorily demanded that the people of Paris vote for him in the coming election.
Durtal shrugged his shoulders. “Quite true. The people are very sick. Carhaix and Gevingey are perhaps right in maintaining that no human agency is powerful enough to effect a cure.”
Durtal had resolved not to answer Mme. Chantelouve’s letters. Every day, since their rupture, she had sent him an inflamed missive, but, as he soon noticed, her Maenad cries were subsiding into plaints and reproaches. She now accused him of ingratitude, and repented having listened to him and having permitted him to participate in sacrileges for which she would have to answer before the heavenly tribunal. She pleaded to see him once more. Then she was silent for a while week. Finally, tired, no doubt, of writing unanswered letters, she admitted, in a last epistle, that all was over.
After agreeing with him that their temperaments were incompatible, she ended: