At about four o’clock on the afternoon of the following day Lisa betook herself to Saint Eustache. For the short walk across the square she had arrayed herself very seriously in a black silk gown and thick woollen shawl. The handsome Norman, who, from her stall in the fish market, watched her till she vanished into the church porch, was quite amazed.
“Hallo! So the fat thing’s gone in for priests now, has she?” she exclaimed, with a sneer. “Well, a little holy water may do her good!”
She was mistaken in her surmises, however, for Lisa was not a devotee. She did not observe the ordinances of the Church, but said that she did her best to lead an honest life, and that this was all that was necessary. At the same time, however, she disliked to hear religion spoken ill of, and often silenced Gavard, who delighted in scandalous stories of priests and their doings. Talk of that sort seemed to her altogether improper. Everyone, in her opinion, should be allowed to believe as they pleased, and every scruple should be respected. Besides, the majority of the clergy were most estimable men. She knew Abbe Roustan, of Saint Eustache—a distinguished priest, a man of shrewd sense, and one, she thought, whose friendship might be safely relied upon. And she would wind up by explaining that religion was absolutely necessary for the people; she looked upon it as a sort of police force that helped to maintain order, and without which no government would be possible. When Gavard went too far on this subject and asserted that the priests ought to be turned into the streets and have their shops shut up, Lisa, shrugged her shoulders and replied: “A great deal of good that would do! Why, before a month was over the people would be murdering one another in the streets, and you would be compelled to invent another God. That was just what happened in ’93. You know very well that I’m not given to mixing with the priests, but for all that I say that they are necessary, as we couldn’t do without them.”
And so when Lisa happened to enter a church she always manifested the utmost decorum. She had bought a handsome missal, which she never opened, for use when she was invited to a funeral or a wedding. She knelt and rose at the proper times, and made a point of conducting herself with all propriety. She assumed, indeed, what she considered a sort of official demeanour, such as all well-to-do folks, tradespeople, and house-owners ought to observe with regard to religion.
As she entered Saint Eustache that afternoon she let the double doors, covered with green baize, faded and worn by the frequent touch of pious hands, close gently behind her. Then she dipped her fingers in the holy water and crossed herself in the correct fashion. And afterwards, with hushed footsteps, she made her way to the chapel of Saint Agnes, where two kneeling women with their faces buried in their hands were waiting, whilst the blue skirts of a third protruded from the confessional. Lisa seemed rather put out by the sight of these women, and, addressing a verger who happened to pass along, wearing a black skullcap and dragging his feet over the slabs, she inquired: “Is this Monsieur l’Abbe Roustan’s day for hearing confessions?”