Madame Vaucorbeil, who was dumpy and waddling in her gait (she was near her confinement), had maintained absolute silence. Bouvard, not knowing what to talk to her about, spoke of the theatre at Caen.
"My wife never goes to the play," interposed the doctor.
M. Marescot observed that, when he lived in Paris, he used to go only to the Italian operas.
"For my part," said Bouvard, "I used to pay for a seat in the pit sometimes at the Vaudeville to hear farces."
Foureau asked Madame Bordin whether she liked farces.
"That depends on what kind they are," she said.
The mayor rallied her. She made sharp rejoinders to his pleasantries. Then she mentioned a recipe for preparing gherkins. However, her talents for housekeeping were well known, and she had a little farm, which was admirably looked after.
Foureau asked Bouvard, "Is it your intention to sell yours?"
"Upon my word, up to this I don't know what to do exactly."
"What! not even the Escalles piece?" interposed the notary. "That would suit you, Madame Bordin."
The widow replied in an affected manner:
"The demands of M. Bouvard would be too high."
"Perhaps someone could soften him."
"I will not try."
"Bah! if you embraced him?"
"Let us try, all the same," said Bouvard.
And he kissed her on both cheeks, amid the plaudits of the guests.
Almost immediately after this incident, they uncorked the champagne, whose detonations caused an additional sense of enjoyment. Pecuchet made a sign; the curtains opened, and the garden showed itself.
In the twilight it looked dreadful. The rockery, like a mountain, covered the entire grass plot; the tomb formed a cube in the midst of spinaches, the Venetian bridge a circumflex accent over the kidney-beans, and the summer-house beyond a big black spot, for they had burned its straw roof to make it more poetic. The yew trees, shaped like stags or armchairs, succeeded to the tree that seemed thunder-stricken, extending transversely from the elm row to the arbour, where tomatoes hung like stalactites. Here and there a sunflower showed its yellow disk. The Chinese pagoda, painted red, seemed a lighthouse on the hillock. The peacocks' beaks, struck by the sun, reflected back the rays, and behind the railed gate, now freed from its boards, a perfectly flat landscape bounded the horizon.
In the face of their guests' astonishment Bouvard and Pecuchet experienced a veritable delight.
Madame Bordin admired the peacocks above all; but the tomb was not appreciated, nor the cot in flames, nor the wall in ruins. Then each in turn passed over the bridge. In order to fill the basin, Bouvard and Pecuchet had been carrying water in carts all the morning. It had escaped between the foundation stones, which were imperfectly joined together, and covered them over again with lime.
While they were walking about, the guests indulged in criticism.
"In your place that's what I'd have done."—"The green peas are late."—"Candidly, this corner is not all right."—"With such pruning you'll never get fruit."
Bouvard was obliged to answer that he did not care a jot for fruit.
As they walked past the hedge of trees, he said with a sly air:
"Ah! here's a lady that puts us out of countenance: a thousand excuses!"
It was a well-seasoned joke; everyone knew "the lady in plaster."
Finally, after many turns in the labyrinth, they arrived in front of the gate with the pipes. Looks of amazement were exchanged. Bouvard observed the faces of his guests, and, impatient to learn what was their opinion, asked:
"What do you say to it?"
Madame Bordin burst out laughing. All the others followed her example, after their respective ways—the cure giving a sort of cluck like a hen, Hurel coughing, the doctor mourning over it, while his wife had a nervous spasm, and Foureau, an unceremonious type of man, breaking an Abd-el-Kader and putting it into his pocket as a souvenir.
When they had left the tree-hedge, Bouvard, to astonish the company with the echo, exclaimed with all his strength:
Nothing! No echo. This was owing to the repairs made in the barn, the gable and the roof having been demolished.
The coffee was served on the hillock; and the gentlemen were about to begin a game of ball, when they saw in front of them, behind the railed fence, a man staring at them.
He was lean and sunburnt, with a pair of red trousers in rags, a blue waistcoat, no shirt, his black beard cut like a brush. He articulated, in a hoarse voice:
"Give me a glass of wine!"
The mayor and the Abbe Jeufroy had at once recognised him. He had formerly been a joiner at Chavignolles.
"Come, Gorju! take yourself off," said M. Foureau. "You ought not to be asking for alms."
"I! Alms!" cried the exasperated man. "I served seven years in the wars in Africa. I've only just got up out of a hospital. Good God! must I turn cutthroat?"
His anger subsided of its own accord, and, with his two fists on his hips, he surveyed the assembled guests with a melancholy and defiant air. The fatigue of bivouacs, absinthe, and fever, an entire existence of wretchedness and debauchery, stood revealed in his dull eyes. His white lips quivered, exposing the gums. The vast sky, empurpled, enveloped him in a blood-red light; and his obstinacy in remaining there caused a species of terror.
Bouvard, to have done with him, went to look for the remnants of a bottle. The vagabond swallowed the wine greedily, then disappeared amongst the oats, gesticulating as he went.
After this, blame was attached by those present to Bouvard. Such kindnesses encouraged disorder. But Bouvard, irritated at the ill-success of his garden, took up the defence of the people. They all began talking at the same time.
Foureau extolled the government. Hurel saw nothing in the world but landed property. The Abbe Jeufroy complained of the fact that it did not protect religion. Pecuchet attacked the taxes. Madame Bordin exclaimed at intervals, "As for me, I detest the Republic." And the doctor declared himself in favour of progress: "For, indeed, gentlemen, we have need of reforms."
"Possibly," said Foureau; "but all these ideas are injurious to business."
"I laugh at business!" cried Pecuchet.
Vaucorbeil went on: "At least let us make allowance for abilities."
Bouvard would not go so far.
"That is your opinion," replied the doctor; "there's an end of you, then! Good evening. And I wish you a deluge in order to sail in your basin!"
"And I, too, am going," said M. Foureau the next moment; and, pointing to the pocket where the Abd-el-Kader was, "If I feel the want of another, I'll come back."
The cure, before departing, timidly confided to Pecuchet that he did not think this imitation of a tomb in the midst of vegetables quite decorous. Hurel, as he withdrew, made a low bow to the company. M. Marescot had disappeared after dessert. Madame Bordin again went over her recipe for gherkins, promised a second for plums with brandy, and made three turns in the large walk; but, passing close to the linden tree, the end of her dress got caught, and they heard her murmuring:
"My God! what a piece of idiocy this tree is!"
At midnight the two hosts, beneath the arbour, gave vent to their resentment.
No doubt one might find fault with two or three little details here and there in the dinner; and yet the guests had gorged themselves like ogres, showing that it was not so bad. But, as for the garden, so much depreciation sprang from the blackest jealousy. And both of them, lashing themselves into a rage, went on:
"Ha! water is needed in the basin, is it? Patience! they may see even a swan and fishes in it!"
"They scarcely noticed the pagoda."
"To pretend that the ruins are not proper is an imbecile's view."
"And the tomb objectionable! Why objectionable? Hasn't a man the right to erect one in his own demesne? I even intend to be buried in it!"
"Don't talk like that!" said Pecuchet.
Then they passed the guests in review.
"The doctor seems to me a nice snob!"
"Did you notice the sneer of M. Marescot before the portrait?"
"What a low fellow the mayor is! When you dine in a house, hang it! you should show some respect towards the curios."
"Madame Bordin!" said Bouvard.
"Ah! that one's a schemer. Don't annoy me by talking about her."
Disgusted with society, they resolved to see nobody any more, but live exclusively by themselves and for themselves.
And they spent days in the wine-cellar, picking the tartar off the bottles, re-varnished all the furniture, enamelled the rooms; and each evening, as they watched the wood burning, they discussed the best system of fuel.
Through economy they tried to smoke hams, and attempted to do the washing themselves. Germaine, whom they inconvenienced, used to shrug her shoulders. When the time came for making preserves she got angry, and they took up their station in the bakehouse. It was a disused wash-house, where there was, under the faggots, a big, old-fashioned tub, excellently fitted for their projects, the ambition having seized them to manufacture preserves.
Fourteen glass bottles were filled with tomatoes and green peas. They coated the stoppers with quicklime and cheese, attached to the rims silk cords, and then plunged them into boiling water. It evaporated; they poured in cold water; the difference of temperature caused the bowls to burst. Only three of them were saved. Then they procured old sardine boxes, put veal cutlets into them, and plunged them into a vessel of boiling water. They came out as round as balloons. The cold flattened them out afterwards. To continue their experiments, they shut up in other boxes eggs, chiccory, lobsters, a hotchpotch of fish, and a soup!—and they applauded themselves like M. Appert, "on having fixed the seasons." Such discoveries, according to Pecuchet, carried him beyond the exploits of conquerors.
They improved upon Madame Bordin's pickles by spicing the vinegar with pepper; and their brandy plums were very much superior. By the process of steeping ratafia, they obtained raspberry and absinthe. With honey and angelica in a cask of Bagnolles, they tried to make Malaga wine; and they likewise undertook the manufacture of champagne! The bottles of Chablis diluted with water must burst of themselves. Then he no longer was doubtful of success.
Their studies widening, they came to suspect frauds in all articles of food. They cavilled with the baker on the colour of his bread; they made the grocer their enemy by maintaining that he adulterated his chocolate. They went to Falaise for a jujube, and, even under the apothecary's own eyes, they submitted his paste to the test of water. It assumed the appearance of a piece of bacon, which indicated gelatine.
After this triumph, their pride rose to a high pitch. They bought up the stock of a bankrupt distiller, and soon there arrived in the house sieves, barrels, funnels, skimmers, filters, and scales, without counting a bowl of wood with a ball attached and a Moreshead still, which required a reflecting-furnace with a basket funnel. They learned how sugar is clarified, and the different kinds of boilings, the large and the small system of boiling twice over, the blowing system, the methods of making up in balls, the reduction of sugar to a viscous state, and the making of burnt sugar. But they longed to use the still; and they broached the fine liqueurs, beginning with the aniseed cordial. The liquid nearly always drew away the materials with it, or rather they stuck together at the bottom; at other times they were mistaken as to the amount of the ingredients. Around them shone great copper pans; egg-shaped vessels projected their narrow openings; saucepans hung from the walls. Frequently one of them culled herbs on the table, while the other made the ball swing in the suspended bowl. They stirred the ladles; they tasted the mashes.
Bouvard, always in a perspiration, had no garment on save his shirt and his trousers, drawn up to the pit of his stomach by his short braces; but, giddy as a bird, he would forget the opening in the centre of the cucurbit, or would make the fire too strong.
Pecuchet kept muttering calculations, motionless in his long blouse, a kind of child's smock-frock with sleeves; and they looked upon themselves as very serious people engaged in very useful occupations.
At length they dreamed of a cream which would surpass all others. They would put into it coriander as in Kummel, kirsch as in Maraschino, hyssop as in Chartreuse, amber-seed as in Vespetro cordial, and sweet calamus as in Krambambuly; and it would be coloured red with sandalwood. But under what name should they introduce it for commercial purposes?—for they would want a name easy to retain and yet fanciful. Having turned the matter over a long time, they determined that it should be called "Bouvarine."
About the end of autumn stains appeared in the three glass bowls containing the preserves. The tomatoes and green peas were rotten. That must have been due to the way they had stopped up the vessels. Then the problem of stoppage tormented them. In order to try the new methods, they required money; and the farm had eaten up their resources.
Many times tenants had offered themselves; but Bouvard would not have them. His principal farm-servant carried on the cultivation according to his directions, with a risky economy, to such an extent that the crops diminished and everything was imperilled; and they were talking about their embarrassments when Maitre Gouy entered the laboratory, escorted by his wife, who remained timidly in the background.
Thanks to all the dressings they had got, the lands were improved, and he had come to take up the farm again. He ran it down. In spite of all their toils, the profits were uncertain; in short, if he wanted it, that was because of his love for the country, and his regret for such good masters.
They dismissed him coldly. He came back the same evening.
Pecuchet had preached at Bouvard; they were on the point of giving way. Gouy asked for a reduction of rent; and when the others protested, he began to bellow rather than speak, invoking the name of God, enumerating his labours, and extolling his merits. When they called on him to state his terms, he hung down his head instead of answering. Then his wife, seated near the door, with a big basket on her knees, made similar protestations, screeching in a sharp voice, like a hen that has been hurt.
At last the lease was agreed on, the rent being fixed at three thousand francs a year—a third less than it had been formerly.
Before they had separated, Maitre Gouy offered to buy up the stock, and the bargaining was renewed.
The valuation of the chattels occupied fifteen days. Bouvard was dying of fatigue. He let everything go for a sum so contemptible that Gouy at first opened his eyes wide, and exclaiming, "Agreed!" slapped his palm.
After which the proprietors, following the old custom, proposed that they should take a "nip" at the house, and Pecuchet opened a bottle of his Malaga, less through generosity than in the hope of eliciting eulogies on the wine.
But the husbandman said, with a sour look, "It's like liquorice syrup." And his wife, "in order to get rid of the taste," asked for a glass of brandy.
A graver matter engaged their attention. All the ingredients of the "Bouvarine" were now collected. They heaped them together in the cucurbit, with the alcohol, lighted the fire, and waited. However, Pecuchet, annoyed by the misadventure about the Malaga, took the tin boxes out of the cupboard and pulled the lid off the first, then off the second, and then off the third. He angrily flung them down, and called out to Bouvard. The latter had fastened the cock of the worm in order to try the effect on the preserves.
The disillusion was complete. The slices of veal were like boiled boot-soles; a muddy fluid had taken the place of the lobster; the fish-stew was unrecognisable; mushroom growths had sprouted over the soup, and an intolerable smell tainted the laboratory.
Suddenly, with the noise of a bombshell, the still burst into twenty pieces, which jumped up to the ceiling, smashing the pots, flattening out the skimmers and shattering the glasses. The coal was scattered about, the furnace was demolished, and next day Germaine found a spatula in the yard.
The force of the steam had broken the instrument to such an extent that the cucurbit was pinned to the head of the still.
Pecuchet immediately found himself squatted behind the vat, and Bouvard lay like one who had fallen over a stool. For ten minutes they remained in this posture, not daring to venture on a single movement, pale with terror, in the midst of broken glass. When they were able to recover the power of speech, they asked themselves what was the cause of so many misfortunes, and of the last above all? And they could understand nothing about the matter except that they were near being killed. Pecuchet finished with these words:
"It is, perhaps, because we do not know chemistry!"
In order to understand chemistry they procured Regnault's course of lectures, and were, in the first place, informed that "simple bodies are perhaps compound." They are divided into metalloids and metals—a difference in which, the author observes, there is "nothing absolute." So with acids and bases, "a body being able to behave in the manner of acids or of bases, according to circumstances."
The notation appeared to them irregular. The multiple proportions perplexed Pecuchet.
"Since one molecule of a, I suppose, is combined with several particles of b, it seems to me that this molecule ought to be divided into as many particles; but, if it is divided, it ceases to be unity, the primordial molecule. In short, I do not understand."
"No more do I," said Bouvard.
And they had recourse to a work less difficult, that of Girardin, from which they acquired the certainty that ten litres of air weigh a hundred grammes, that lead does not go into pencils, and that the diamond is only carbon.
What amazed them above all is that the earth, as an element, does not exist.
They grasped the working of straw, gold, silver, the lye-washing of linen, the tinning of saucepans; then, without the least scruple, Bouvard and Pecuchet launched into organic chemistry.
What a marvel to find again in living beings the same substances of which the minerals are composed! Nevertheless they experienced a sort of humiliation at the idea that their own personality contained phosphorus, like matches; albumen, like the whites of eggs; and hydrogen gas, like street-lamps.
After colours and oily substances came the turn of fermentation. This brought them to acids—and the law of equivalents once more confused them. They tried to elucidate it by means of the atomic theory, which fairly swamped them.
In Bouvard's opinion instruments would have been necessary to understand all this. The expense was very great, and they had incurred too much already. But, no doubt, Dr. Vaucorbeil could enlighten them.
They presented themselves during his consultation hours.
"I hear you, gentlemen. What is your ailment?"
Pecuchet replied that they were not patients, and, having stated the object of their visit:
"We want to understand, in the first place, the higher atomicity."
The physician got very red, then blamed them for being desirous to learn chemistry.
"I am not denying its importance, you may be sure; but really they are shoving it in everywhere! It exercises a deplorable influence on medicine."
And the authority of his language was strengthened by the appearance of his surroundings. Over the chimney-piece trailed some diachylum and strips for binding. In the middle of the desk stood the surgical case. A basin in a corner was full of probes, and close to the wall there was a representation of a human figure deprived of the skin.
Pecuchet complimented the doctor on it.
"It must be a lovely study, anatomy."
M. Vaucorbeil expatiated on the fascination he had formerly found in dissections; and Bouvard inquired what were the analogies between the interior of a woman and that of a man.
In order to satisfy him, the doctor fetched from his library a collection of anatomical plates.
"Take them with you! You can look at them more at your ease in your own house."
The skeleton astonished them by the prominence of the jawbone, the holes for the eyes, and the frightful length of the hands.
They stood in need of an explanatory work. They returned to M. Vaucorbeil's residence, and, thanks to the manual of Alexander Lauth, they learned the divisions of the frame, wondering at the backbone, sixteen times stronger, it is said, than if the Creator had made it straight (why sixteen times exactly?). The metacarpals drove Bouvard crazy; and Pecuchet, who was in a desperate state over the cranium, lost courage before the sphenoid, although it resembles a Turkish or "Turkesque" saddle.
As for the articulations, they were hidden under too many ligaments; so they attacked the muscles. But the insertions were not easily discovered; and when they came to the vertebral grooves they gave it up completely.
Then Pecuchet said:
"If we took up chemistry again, would not this be only utilising the laboratory?"
Bouvard protested, and he thought he had a recollection of artificial corpses being manufactured according to the custom of hot countries.
Barberou, with whom he communicated, gave him some information about the matter. For ten francs a month they could have one of the manikins of M. Auzoux; and the following week the carrier from Falaise deposited before their gate an oblong box.
Full of emotion, they carried it into the bakehouse. When the boards were unfastened, the straw fell down, the silver paper slipped off, and the anatomical figure made its appearance.
It was brick-coloured, without hair or skin, and variegated with innumerable strings, red, blue, and white. It did not look like a corpse, but rather like a kind of plaything, very ugly, very clean, and smelling of varnish.
They next took off the thorax; and they perceived the two lungs, like a pair of sponges, the heart like a big egg, slightly sidewise behind the diaphragm, the kidneys, the entire bundle of entrails.
"To work!" said Pecuchet. The day and the evening were spent at it. They had put blouses on, just as medical students do in the dissecting-rooms; and, by the light of three candles, they were working at their pieces of pasteboard, when a fist knocked at the door.
It was M. Foureau, followed by the keeper.
Germaine's masters were pleased to show him the manikin. She had rushed immediately to the grocer's shop to tell the thing, and the whole village now imagined that they had a real corpse concealed in their house. Foureau, yielding to the public clamour, had come to make sure about the fact. A number of persons, anxious for information, stood outside the porch.
When he entered, the manikin was lying on its side, and the muscles of the face, having been loosened, caused a monstrous protrusion, and looked frightful.
"What brings you here?" said Pecuchet.
Foureau stammered: "Nothing, nothing at all." And, taking up one of the pieces from the table, "What is this?"
"The buccinator," replied Bouvard.
Foureau said nothing, but smiled in a sly fashion, jealous of their having an amusement which he could not afford.
The two anatomists pretended to be pursuing their investigations. The people outside, getting bored with waiting, made their way into the bakehouse, and, as they began pushing one another a little, the table shook.
"Ah! this is too annoying," exclaimed Pecuchet. "Let us be rid of the public!"
The keeper made the busybodies take themselves off.
"Very well," said Bouvard; "we don't want anyone."
Foureau understood the allusion, and put it to them whether, not being medical men, they had the right to keep such an object in their possession. However, he was going to write to the prefect.
What a country district it was! There could be nothing more foolish, barbarous, and retrograde. The comparison which they instituted between themselves and the others consoled them—they felt a longing to suffer in the cause of science.
The doctor, too, came to see them. He disparaged the model as too far removed from nature, but took advantage of the occasion to give them a lecture.
Bouvard and Pecuchet were delighted; and at their request M. Vaucorbeil lent them several volumes out of his library, declaring at the same time that they would not reach the end of them. They took note of the cases of childbirth, longevity, obesity, and extraordinary constipation given in the Dictionary of Medical Sciences. Would that they had known the famous Canadian, De Beaumont, the polyphagi, Tarare and Bijou, the dropsical woman from the department of Eure, the Piedmontese who went every twenty days to the water-closet, Simon de Mirepoix, who was ossified at the time of his death, and that ancient mayor of Angouleme whose nose weighed three pounds!
The brain inspired them with philosophic reflections. They easily distinguished in the interior of it the septum lucidum, composed of two lamellae, and the pineal gland, which is like a little red pea. But there were peduncles and ventricles, arches, columns, strata, ganglions, and fibres of all kinds, and the foramen of Pacchioni and the "body" of Paccini; in short, an inextricable mass of details, enough to wear their lives out.
Sometimes, in a fit of dizziness, they would take the figure completely to pieces, then would get perplexed about putting back each part in its proper place. This was troublesome work, especially after breakfast, and it was not long before they were both asleep, Bouvard with drooping chin and protruding stomach, and Pecuchet with his hands over his head and both elbows on the table.
Often at that moment M. Vaucorbeil, having finished his morning rounds, would open the door.
"Well, comrades, how goes anatomy?"
"Splendidly," they would answer.
Then he would put questions to them, for the pleasure of confusing them.
When they were tired of one organ they went on to another, in this way taking up and then throwing aside the heart, the stomach, the ear, the intestines; for the pasteboard manikin bored them to death, despite their efforts to become interested in him. At last the doctor came on them suddenly, just as they were nailing him up again in his box.
"Bravo! I expected that."
At their age they could not undertake such studies; and the smile that accompanied these words wounded them deeply.
What right had he to consider them incapable? Did science belong to this gentleman, as if he were himself a very superior personage? Then, accepting his challenge, they went all the way to Bayeux to purchase books there. What they required was physiology, and a second-hand bookseller procured for them the treatises of Richerand and Adelon, celebrated at the period.
All the commonplaces as to ages, sexes, and temperaments appeared to them of the highest importance. They were much pleased to learn that there are in the tartar of the teeth three kinds of animalcules, that the seat of taste is in the tongue, and the sensation of hunger in the stomach.
In order to grasp its functions better, they regretted that they had not the faculty of ruminating, as Montegre, M. Gosse, and the brother of Gerard had; and they masticated slowly, reduced the food to pulp, and insalivated it, accompanying in thought the alimentary mass passing into their intestines, and following it with methodical scrupulosity and an almost religious attention to its final consequences.
In order to produce digestion artificially, they piled up meat in a bottle, in which was the gastric juice of a duck, and they carried it under their armpits for a fortnight, without any other result save making their persons smell unpleasantly. You might have seen them running along the high-road in wet clothes under a burning sun. This was for the purpose of determining whether thirst is quenched by the application of water to the epidermis. They came back out of breath, both of them having caught cold.
Experiments in hearing, speech, and vision were then made in a lively fashion; but Bouvard made a show-off on the subject of generation.
Pecuchet's reserve with regard to this question had always surprised him. His friend's ignorance appeared to him so complete that Bouvard pressed him for an explanation, and Pecuchet, colouring, ended by making an avowal.
Some rascals had on one occasion dragged him into a house of ill-fame, from which he made his escape, preserving himself for the woman whom he might fall in love with some day. A fortunate opportunity had never come to him, so that, what with bashfulness, limited means, obstinacy, the force of custom, at fifty-two years, and in spite of his residence in the capital, he still possessed his virginity.
Bouvard found difficulty in believing it; then he laughed hugely, but stopped on perceiving tears in Pecuchet's eyes—for he had not been without attachments, having by turns been smitten by a rope-dancer, the sister-in-law of an architect, a bar-maid, and a young washerwoman; and the marriage had even been arranged when he had discovered that she was enceinte by another man.
Bouvard said to him:
"There is always a way to make up for lost time. Come—no sadness! I will take it on myself, if you like."
Pecuchet answered, with a sigh, that he need not think any more about it; and they went on with their physiology.
Is it true that the surfaces of our bodies are always letting out a subtle vapour? The proof of it is that the weight of a man is decreasing every minute. If each day what is wanting is added and what is excessive subtracted, the health would be kept in perfect equilibrium. Sanctorius, the discoverer of this law, spent half a century weighing his food every day together with its excretions, and took the weights himself, giving himself no rest, save for the purpose of writing down his computations.
They tried to imitate Sanctorius; but, as their scales could not bear the weight of both of them, it was Pecuchet who began.
He took his clothes off, in order not to impede the perspiration, and he stood on the platform of the scales perfectly naked, exposing to view, in spite of his modesty, his unusually long torso, resembling a cylinder, together with his short legs and his brown skin. Beside him, on his chair, his friend read for him:
"'Learned men maintain that animal heat is developed by the contractions of the muscles, and that it is possible by moving the thorax and the pelvic regions to raise the temperature of a warm bath.'"
Bouvard went to look for their bathing-tub, and, when everything was ready, plunged into it, provided with a thermometer. The wreckage of the distillery, swept towards the end of the room, presented in the shadow the indistinct outlines of a hillock. Every now and then they could hear the mice nibbling; there was a stale odour of aromatic plants, and finding it rather agreeable, they chatted serenely.
However, Bouvard felt a little cool.
"Move your members about!" said Pecuchet.
He moved them, without at all changing with the thermometer. "'Tis decidedly cold."
"I am not hot either," returned Pecuchet, himself seized with a fit of shivering. "But move about your pelvic regions—move them about!"
Bouvard spread open his thighs, wriggled his sides, balanced his stomach, puffed like a whale, then looked at the thermometer, which was always falling.
"I don't understand this at all! Anyhow, I am stirring myself!"
And he continued his gymnastics.
This had gone on for three hours when once more he grasped the tube.
"What! twelve degrees! Oh, good-night! I'm off to bed!"
A dog came in, half mastiff, half hound, mangy, with yellowish hair and lolling tongue.
What were they to do? There was no bell, and their housekeeper was deaf. They were quaking, but did not venture to budge, for fear of being bitten.
Pecuchet thought it a good idea to hurl threats at him, and at the same time to roll his eyes about.
Then the dog began to bark; and he jumped about the scales, in which Pecuchet, by clinging on to the cords and bending his knees, tried to raise himself up as high as ever he could.
"You're getting your death of cold up there!" said Bouvard; and he began making smiling faces at the dog, while pretending to give him things.
The dog, no doubt, understood these advances. Bouvard went so far as to caress him, stuck the animal's paws on his shoulders, and rubbed them with his finger-nails.
"Hollo! look here! there, he's off with my breeches!"
The dog cuddled himself upon them, and lay quiet.
At last, with the utmost precautions, they ventured the one to come down from the platform of the scales, and the other to get out of the bathing-tub; and when Pecuchet had got his clothes on again, he gave vent to this exclamation:
"You, my good fellow, will be of use for our experiments."
What experiments? They might inject phosphorus into him, and then shut him up in a cellar, in order to see whether he would emit fire through the nostrils.
But how were they to inject it? and furthermore, they could not get anyone to sell them phosphorus.
They thought of putting him under a pneumatic bell, of making him inhale gas, and of giving him poison to drink. All this, perhaps, would not be funny! Eventually, they thought the best thing they could do was to apply a steel magnet to his spinal marrow.
Bouvard, repressing his emotion, handed some needles on a plate to Pecuchet, who fixed them against the vertebrae. They broke, slipped, and fell on the ground. He took others, and quickly applied them at random. The dog burst his bonds, passed like a cannon-ball through the window, ran across the yard to the vestibule, and presented himself in the kitchen.
Germaine screamed when she saw him soaked with blood, and with twine round his paws.
Her masters, who had followed him, came in at the same moment. He made one spring and disappeared.
The old servant turned on them.
"This is another of your tomfooleries, I'm sure! And my kitchen, too! It's nice! This perhaps will drive him mad! People are in jail who are not as bad as you!"
They got back to the laboratory in order to examine the magnetic needles.
Not one of them had the least particle of the filings drawn off.
Then Germaine's assumption made them uneasy. He might get rabies, come back unawares, and make a dash at them.
Next day they went making inquiries everywhere, and for many years they turned up a by-path whenever they saw in the open country a dog at all resembling this one.
Their other experiments were unsuccessful. Contrary to the statements in the text-books, the pigeons which they bled, whether their stomachs were full or empty, died in the same space of time. Kittens sunk under water perished at the end of five minutes; and a goose, which they had stuffed with madder, presented periostea that were perfectly white.
The question of nutrition puzzled them.
How did it happen that the same juice is produced by bones, blood, lymph, and excrementitious materials? But one cannot follow the metamorphoses of an article of food. The man who uses only one of them is chemically equal to him who absorbs several. Vauquelin, having made a calculation of all the lime contained in the oats given as food to a hen, found a greater quantity of it in the shells of her eggs. So, then, a creation of substance takes place. In what way? Nothing is known about it.
It is not even known what is the strength of the heart. Borelli says it is what is necessary for lifting a weight of one hundred and eighty thousand pounds, while Kiell estimates it at about eight ounces; and from this they drew the conclusion that physiology is—as a well-worn phrase expresses it—the romance of medicine. As they were unable to understand it, they did not believe in it.
A month slipped away in doing nothing. Then they thought of their garden. The dead tree, displayed in the middle of it, was annoying, and accordingly, they squared it. This exercise fatigued them. Bouvard very often found it necessary to get the blacksmith to put his tools in order.
One day, as he was making his way to the forge, he was accosted by a man carrying a canvas bag on his back, who offered to sell him almanacs, pious books, holy medals, and lastly, the Health Manual of Francois Raspail.
This little book pleased him so much that he wrote to Barberou to send him the large work. Barberou sent it on, and in his letter mentioned an apothecary's shop for the prescriptions given in the work.
The simplicity of the doctrine charmed them. All diseases proceed from worms. They spoil the teeth, make the lungs hollow, enlarge the liver, ravage the intestines, and cause noises therein. The best thing for getting rid of them is camphor. Bouvard and Pecuchet adopted it. They took it in snuff, they chewed it and distributed it in cigarettes, in bottles of sedative water and pills of aloes. They even undertook the care of a hunchback. It was a child whom they had come across one fair-day. His mother, a beggar woman, brought him to them every morning. They rubbed his hump with camphorated grease, placed there for twenty minutes a mustard poultice, then covered it over with diachylum, and, in order to make sure of his coming back, gave him his breakfast.
As his mind was fixed on intestinal worms, Pecuchet noticed a singular spot on Madame Bordin's cheek. The doctor had for a long time been treating it with bitters. Round at first as a twenty-sou piece, this spot had enlarged and formed a red circle. They offered to cure it for her. She consented, but made it a condition that the ointment should be applied by Bouvard. She took a seat before the window, unfastened the upper portion of her corset, and remained with her cheek turned up, looking at him with a glance of her eye which would have been dangerous were it not for Pecuchet's presence. In the prescribed doses, and in spite of the horror felt with regard to mercury, they administered calomel. One month afterwards Madame Bordin was cured. She became a propagandist in their behalf, and the tax-collector, the mayor's secretary, the mayor himself, and everybody in Chavignolles sucked camphor by the aid of quills.
However, the hunchback did not get straight; the collector gave up his cigarette; it stopped up his chest twice as much. Foureau made complaints that the pills of aloes gave him hemorrhoids. Bouvard got a stomachache, and Pecuchet fearful headaches. They lost confidence in Raspail, but took care to say nothing about it, fearing that they might lessen their own importance.
They now exhibited great zeal about vaccine, learned how to bleed people over cabbage leaves, and even purchased a pair of lancets.
They accompanied the doctor to the houses of the poor, and then consulted their books. The symptoms noticed by the writers were not those which they had just observed. As for the names of diseases, they were Latin, Greek, French—a medley of every language. They are to be counted by thousands; and Linnaeus's system of classification, with its genera and its species, is exceedingly convenient; but how was the species to be fixed? Then they got lost in the philosophy of medicine. They raved about the life-principle of Van Helmont, vitalism, Brownism, organicism, inquired of the doctor whence comes the germ of scrofula, towards what point the infectious miasma inclines, and the means in all cases of disease to distinguish the cause from its effects.
"The cause and the effect are entangled in one another," replied Vaucorbeil.
His want of logic disgusted them—and they went by themselves to visit the sick, making their way into the houses on the pretext of philanthropy. At the further end of rooms, on dirty mattresses, lay persons with faces hanging on one side, others who had them swollen or scarlet, or lemon-coloured, or very violet-hued, with pinched nostrils, trembling mouths, rattlings in the throat, hiccoughs, perspirations, and emissions like leather or stale cheese.
They read the prescriptions of their physicians, and were surprised at the fact that anodynes are sometimes excitants, and emetics purgatives, that the same remedy suits different ailments, and that a malady may disappear under opposite systems of treatment.
Nevertheless, they gave advice, got on the moral hobby again, and had the assurance to auscultate. Their imagination began to ferment. They wrote to the king, in order that there might be established in Calvados an institute of nurses for the sick, of which they would be the professors.
They would go to the apothecary at Bayeux (the one at Falaise had always a grudge against them on account of the jujube affair), and they gave him directions to manufacture, like the ancients, pila purgatoria, that is to say, medicaments in the shape of pellets, which, by dint of handling, become absorbed in the individual.
In accordance with the theory that by diminishing the heat we impede the watery humours, they suspended in her armchair to the beams of the ceiling a woman suffering from meningitis, and they were swinging her with all their force when the husband, coming on the scene, kicked them out. Finally, they scandalised the cure thoroughly by introducing the new fashion of thermometers in the rectum.
Typhoid fever broke out in the neighbourhood. Bouvard declared that he would not have anything to do with it. But the wife of Gouy, their farmer, came groaning to them. Her man was a fortnight sick, and M. Vaucorbeil was neglecting him. Pecuchet devoted himself to the case.
Lenticular spots on the chest, pains in the joints, stomach distended, tongue red, these were all symptoms of dothienenteritis. Recalling the statement of Raspail that by taking away the regulation of diet the fever may be suppressed, he ordered broth and a little meat.
The doctor suddenly made his appearance. His patient was on the point of eating, with two pillows behind his back, between his wife and Pecuchet, who were sustaining him. He drew near the bed, and flung the plate out through the window, exclaiming:
"This is a veritable murder!"
"You perforate the intestine, since typhoid fever is an alteration of its follicular membrane."
And a dispute ensued as to the nature of fevers. Pecuchet believed that they were essential in themselves; Vaucorbeil made them dependent on our bodily organs.
"Therefore, I remove everything that might excite them excessively."
"But regimen weakens the vital principle."
"What twaddle are you talking with your vital principle? What is it? Who has seen it?"
Pecuchet got confused.
"Besides," said the physician, "Gouy does not want food."
The patient made a gesture of assent under his cotton nightcap.
"No matter, he requires it!"
"Not a bit! his pulse is at ninety-eight!"
"What matters about his pulse?" And Pecuchet proceeded to give authorities.
"Let systems alone!" said the doctor.
Pecuchet folded his arms. "So then, you are an empiric?"
"By no means; but by observing——"
"But if one observes badly?"
Vaucorbeil took this phrase for an allusion to Madame Bordin's skin eruption—a story about which the widow had made a great outcry, and the recollection of which irritated him.
"To start with, it is necessary to have practised."
"Those who revolutionised the science did not practise—Van Helmont, Boerhaave, Broussais himself."
Without replying, Vaucorbeil stooped towards Gouy, and raising his voice:
"Which of us two do you select as your doctor?"
The patient, who was falling asleep, perceived angry faces, and began to blubber. His wife did not know either what answer to make, for the one was clever, but the other had perhaps a secret.
"Very well," said Vaucorbeil, "since you hesitate between a man furnished with a diploma——"
"Why do you laugh?"
"Because a diploma is not always an argument."
The doctor saw himself attacked in his means of livelihood, in his prerogative, in his social importance. His wrath gave itself full vent.
"We shall see that when you are brought up before the courts for illegally practising medicine!" Then, turning round to the farmer's wife, "Get him killed by this gentleman at your ease, and I'm hanged if ever I come back to your house!"
And he dashed past the beech trees, shaking his walking-stick as he went.
When Pecuchet returned, Bouvard was himself in a very excited state. He had just had a visit from Foureau, who was exasperated about his hemorrhoids. Vainly had he contended that they were a safeguard against every disease. Foureau, who would listen to nothing, had threatened him with an action for damages. He lost his head over it.
Pecuchet told him the other story, which he considered more serious, and was a little shocked at Bouvard's indifference.
Gouy, next day, had a pain in his abdomen. This might be due to the ingestion of the food. Perhaps Vaucorbeil was not mistaken. A physician, after all, ought to have some knowledge of this! And a feeling of remorse took possession of Pecuchet! He was afraid lest he might turn out a homicide.
For prudence' sake they sent the hunchback away. But his mother cried a great deal at his losing the breakfast, not to speak of the infliction of having made them come every day from Barneval to Chavignolles.
Foureau calmed down, and Gouy recovered his strength. At the present moment the cure was certain. A success like this emboldened Pecuchet.
"If we studied obstetrics with the aid of one of these manikins——"
"Enough of manikins!"
"There are half-bodies made with skin invented for the use of students of midwifery. It seems to me that I could turn over the foetus!"
But Bouvard was tired of medicine.
"The springs of life are hidden from us, the ailments too numerous, the remedies problematical. No reasonable definitions are to be found in the authors of health, disease, diathesis, or even pus."
However, all this reading had disturbed their brains.
Bouvard, whenever he caught a cold, imagined he was getting inflammation of the lungs. When leeches did not abate a stitch in the side, he had recourse to a blister, whose action affected the kidneys. Then he fancied he had an attack of stone.
Pecuchet caught lumbago while lopping the elm trees, and vomited after his dinner—a circumstance which frightened him very much. Then, noticing that his colour was rather yellow, suspected a liver complaint, and asked himself, "Have I pains?" and ended by having them.
Mutually becoming afflicted, they looked at their tongues, felt each other's pulses, made a change as to the use of mineral waters, purged themselves—and dreaded cold, heat, wind, rain, flies, and principally currents of air.
Pecuchet imagined that taking snuff was fatal. Besides, sneezing sometimes causes the rupture of an aneurism; and so he gave up the snuff-box altogether. From force of habit he would thrust his fingers into it, then suddenly become conscious of his imprudence.
As black coffee shakes the nerves, Bouvard wished to give up his half cup; but he used to fall asleep after his meals, and was afraid when he woke up, for prolonged sleep is a foreboding of apoplexy.
Their ideal was Cornaro, that Venetian gentleman who by the regulation of his diet attained to an extreme old age. Without actually imitating him, they might take the same precautions; and Pecuchet took down from his bookshelves a Manual of Hygiene by Doctor Morin.
"How had they managed to live till now?"
Their favourite dishes were there prohibited. Germaine, in a state of perplexity, did not know any longer what to serve up to them.
Every kind of meat had its inconveniences. Puddings and sausages, red herrings, lobsters, and game are "refractory." The bigger a fish is, the more gelatine it contains, and consequently the heavier it is. Vegetables cause acidity, macaroni makes people dream; cheeses, "considered generally, are difficult of digestion." A glass of water in the morning is "dangerous." Everything you eat or drink being accompanied by a similar warning, or rather by these words: "Bad!" "Beware of the abuse of it!" "Does not suit everyone!" Why bad? Wherein is the abuse of it? How are you to know whether a thing like this suits you?
What a problem was that of breakfast! They gave up coffee and milk on account of its detestable reputation, and, after that, chocolate, for it is "a mass of indigestible substances." There remained, then, tea. But "nervous persons ought to forbid themselves the use of it completely." Yet Decker, in the seventeenth century, prescribed twenty decalitres of it a day, in order to cleanse the spongy parts of the pancreas.
This direction shook Morin in their estimation, the more so as he condemns every kind of head-dress, hats, women's caps, and men's caps—a requirement which was revolting to Pecuchet.
Then they purchased Becquerel's treatise, in which they saw that pork is in itself "a good aliment," tobacco "perfectly harmless in its character," and coffee "indispensable to military men."
Up to that time they had believed in the unhealthiness of damp places. Not at all! Casper declares them less deadly than others. One does not bathe in the sea without refreshing one's skin. Begin advises people to cast themselves into it while they are perspiring freely. Wine taken neat after soup is considered excellent for the stomach; Levy lays the blame on it of impairing the teeth. Lastly, the flannel waistcoat—that safeguard, that preserver of health, that palladium cherished by Bouvard and inherent to Pecuchet, without any evasions or fear of the opinions of others—is considered unsuitable by some authors for men of a plethoric and sanguine temperament!
What, then, is hygiene? "Truth on this side of the Pyrenees, error on the other side," M. Levy asserts; and Becquerel adds that it is not a science.
So then they ordered for their dinner oysters, a duck, pork and cabbage, cream, a Pont l'Eveque cheese, and a bottle of Burgundy. It was an enfranchisement, almost a revenge; and they laughed at Cornaro! It was only an imbecile that could be tyrannised over as he had been! What vileness to be always thinking about prolonging one's existence! Life is good only on the condition that it is enjoyed.
"Yes, I will."
"So will I."
"And let us laugh at the rest of the world."
They became elated. Bouvard announced that he wanted three cups of coffee, though he was not a military man. Pecuchet, with his cap over his ears, took pinch after pinch, and sneezed without fear; and, feeling the need of a little champagne, they ordered Germaine to go at once to the wine-shop to buy a bottle of it. The village was too far away; she refused. Pecuchet got indignant:
"I command you—understand!—I command you to hurry off there."
She obeyed, but, grumbling, resolved soon to have done with her masters; they were so incomprehensible and fantastic.
Then, as in former days, they went to drink their coffee and brandy on the hillock.
The harvest was just over, and the stacks in the middle of the fields rose in dark heaps against the tender blue of a calm night. Nothing was astir about the farms. Even the crickets were no longer heard. The fields were all wrapped in sleep.
The pair digested while they inhaled the breeze which blew refreshingly against their cheeks.
Above, the sky was covered with stars; some shone in clusters, others in a row, or rather alone, at certain distances from each other. A zone of luminous dust, extending from north to south, bifurcated above their heads. Amid these splendours there were vast empty spaces, and the firmament seemed a sea of azure with archipelagoes and islets.
"What a quantity!" exclaimed Bouvard.
"We do not see all," replied Pecuchet. "Behind the Milky Way are the nebulae, and behind the nebulae, stars still; the most distant is separated from us by three millions of myriametres."
He had often looked into the telescope of the Place Vendome, and he recalled the figures.
"The sun is a million times bigger than the earth; Sirius is twelve times the size of the sun; comets measure thirty-four millions of leagues."
"'Tis enough to make one crazy!" said Bouvard.
He lamented his ignorance, and even regretted that he had not been in his youth at the Polytechnic School.
Then Pecuchet, turning him in the direction of the Great Bear, showed him the polar star; then Cassiopeia, whose constellation forms a Y; Vega, of the Lyra constellation—all scintillating; and at the lower part of the horizon, the red Aldebaran.
Bouvard, with his head thrown back, followed with difficulty the angles, quadrilaterals, and pentagons, which it is necessary to imagine in order to make yourself at home in the sky.
Pecuchet went on:
"The swiftness of light is eighty thousand leagues a second; one ray of the Milky Way takes six centuries to reach us; so that a star at the moment we observe it may have disappeared. Several are intermittent; others never come back; and they change positions. Every one of them is in motion; every one of them is passing on."
"However, the sun is motionless."
"It was believed to be so formerly. But to-day men of science declare that it rushes towards the constellation of Hercules!"
This put Bouvard's ideas out of order—and, after a minute's reflection:
"Science is constructed according to the data furnished by a corner of space. Perhaps it does not agree with all the rest that we are ignorant of, which is much vaster, and which we cannot discover."
So they talked, standing on the hillock, in the light of the stars; and their conversation was interrupted by long intervals of silence.
At last they asked one another whether there were men in the stars. Why not? And as creation is harmonious, the inhabitants of Sirius ought to be gigantic, those of Mars of middle stature, those of Venus very small. Unless it should be everywhere the same thing. There are merchants up there, and gendarmes; they trade there; they fight there; they dethrone kings there.
Some shooting stars slipped suddenly, describing on the sky, as it were, the parabola of an enormous rocket.
"Stop!" said Bouvard; "here are vanishing worlds."
"If ours, in its turn, kicks the bucket, the citizens of the stars will not be more moved than we are now. Ideas like this may pull down your pride."
"What is the object of all this?"
"Perhaps it has no object."
"However——" And Pecuchet repeated two or three times "however," without finding anything more to say.
"No matter. I should very much like to know how the universe is made."
"That should be in Buffon," returned Bouvard, whose eyes were closing.
"I am not equal to any more of it. I am going to bed."
The Epoques de la Nature informed them that a comet by knocking against the sun had detached one portion of it, which became the earth. First, the poles had cooled; all the waters had enveloped the globe; they subsided into the caverns; then the continents separated from each other, and the beasts and man appeared.
The majesty of creation engendered in them an amazement infinite as itself. Their heads got enlarged. They were proud of reflecting on such lofty themes.
The minerals ere long proved wearisome to them, and for distraction they sought refuge in the Harmonies of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre.
Vegetable and terrestrial harmonies, aerial, aquatic, human, fraternal, and even conjugal—every one of them is here dealt with, not omitting the invocations to Venus, to the Zephyrs, and to the Loves. They exhibited astonishment at fishes having fins, birds wings, seeds an envelope; full of that philosophy which discovers virtuous intentions in Nature, and regards her as a kind of St. Vincent de Paul, always occupied in performing acts of benevolence.
Then they wondered at her prodigies, the water-spouts, the volcanoes, the virgin forests; and they bought M. Depping's work on the Marvels and Beauties of Nature in France. Cantal possesses three of them, Herault five, Burgundy two—no more, while Dauphine reckons for itself alone up to fifteen marvels. But soon we shall find no more of them. The grottoes with stalactites are stopped up; the burning mountains are extinguished; the natural ice-houses have become heated; and the old trees in which they said mass are falling under the leveller's axe, or are on the point of dying.
Their curiosity next turned towards the beasts.
They re-opened their Buffon, and got into ecstasies over the strange tastes of certain animals.
But all the books are not worth one personal observation. They hurried out into the farmyard, and asked the labourers whether they had seen bulls consorting with mares, hogs seeking after cows, and the males of partridges doing strange things among themselves.
"Never in their lives." They thought such questions even a little queer for gentlemen of their age.
They took a fancy to try abnormal unions. The least difficult is that of the he-goat and the ewe. Their farmer had not a he-goat in his possession; a neighbour lent his, and, as it was the period of rutting, they shut the two beasts up in the press, concealing themselves behind the casks in order that the event might be quietly accomplished.
Each first ate a little heap of hay; then they ruminated; the ewe lay down, and she bleated continuously, while the he-goat, standing erect on his crooked legs, with his big beard and his drooping ears, fixed on her his eyes, which glittered in the shade.
At length, on the evening of the third day, they deemed it advisable to assist nature, but the goat, turning round on Pecuchet, hit him in the lower part of the stomach with his horns. The ewe, seized with fear, began turning about in the press as if in a riding-school. Bouvard ran after her, threw himself on top of her to hold her, and fell on the ground with both hands full of wool.
They renewed their experiments on hens and a drake, on a mastiff and a sow, in the hope that monsters might be the result, not understanding anything about the question of species.
This word denotes a group of individuals whose descendants reproduce themselves, but animals classed as of different species may possess the power of reproduction, while others comprised in the same species have lost the capacity. They flattered themselves that they would obtain clear ideas on this subject by studying the development of germs; and Pecuchet wrote to Dumouchel in order to get a microscope.
By turns they put on the glass surface hairs, tobacco, finger-nails, and a fly's claw, but they forgot the drop of water which is indispensable; at other times it was the little lamel, and they pushed each other forward, and put the instrument out of order; then, when they saw only a haze, they blamed the optician. They went so far as to have doubts about the microscope. Perhaps the discoveries that have been attributed to it are not so certain?
Dumouchel, in sending on the invoice to them, begged of them to collect on his account some serpent-stones and sea-urchins, of which he had always been an admirer, and which were commonly found in country districts. In order to interest them in geology he sent them the Lettres of Bertrand with the Discours of Cuvier on the revolutions of the globe.
After the perusal of these two works they imagined the following state of things:
First, an immense sheet of water, from which emerged promontories speckled with lichens, and not one human being, not one sound. It was a world silent, motionless, and bare; there long plants swayed to and fro in a fog that resembled the vapour of a sweating-room. A red sun overheated the humid atmosphere. Then volcanoes burst forth; the igneous rocks sent up mountains of liquid flame, and the paste of the streaming porphyry and basalt began to congeal. Third picture: in shallow seas have sprung up isles of madrepore; a cluster of palm trees overhangs them here and there. There are shells like carriage wheels, tortoises three metres in length, lizards of sixty feet; amphibians stretch out amid the reeds their ostrich necks and crocodile jaws; winged serpents fly about. Finally, on the large continents, huge mammifers make their appearance, their limbs misshapen, like pieces of wood badly squared, their hides thicker than plates of bronze, or else shaggy, thick-lipped, with manes and crooked fangs. Flocks of mammoths browsed on the plains where, since, the Atlantic has been; the paleotherium, half horse, half tapir, overturned with his tumbling the ant-hills of Montmartre; and the cervus giganteus trembled under the chestnut trees at the growls of the bears of the caverns, who made the dog of Beaugency, three times as big as a wolf, yelp in his den.
All these periods had been separated from one another by cataclysms, of which the latest is our Deluge. It was like a drama of fairyland in several acts, with man for apotheosis.
They were astounded when they learned that there existed on stones imprints of dragon-flies and birds' claws; and, having run through one of the Roret manuals, they looked out for fossils.
One afternoon, as they were turning over some flints in the middle of the high-road, the cure passed, and, accosting them in a wheedling tone:
"These gentlemen are busying themselves with geology. Very good."
For he held this science in esteem. It confirmed the authority of the Scriptures by proving the fact of the Deluge.
Bouvard talked about coprolites, which are animals' excrements in a petrified state.
The Abbe Jeufroy appeared surprised at the matter. After all, if it were so, it was a reason the more for wondering at Providence.
Pecuchet confessed that, up to the present, their inquiries had not been fruitful; and yet the environs of Falaise, like all Jurassic soils, should abound in remains of animals.
"I have been told," replied the Abbe Jeufroy, "that the jawbone of an elephant was at one time found at Villers."
However, one of his friends, M. Larsoneur, advocate, member of the bar at Lisieux, and archaeologist, would probably supply them with information about it. He had written a history of Port-en-Bessin, in which the discovery of an alligator was noticed.
Bouvard and Pecuchet exchanged glances: the same hope took possession of both; and, in spite of the heat, they remained standing a long time questioning the ecclesiastic, who sheltered himself from the sun under a blue cotton umbrella. The lower part of his face was rather heavy, and his nose was pointed. He was perpetually smiling, or bent his head while he closed his eyelids.
The church-bell rang the Angelus.
"A very good evening, gentlemen! You will allow me, will you not?"
At his suggestion they waited three weeks for Larsoneur's reply. At length it arrived.
The name of the man who had dug up the tooth of the mastodon was Louis Bloche. Details were wanting. As to his history, it was comprised in one of the volumes of the Lisieux Academy, and he could not lend his own copy, as he was afraid of spoiling the collection. With regard to the alligator, it had been discovered in the month of November, 1825, under the cliff of the Hachettes of Sainte-Honorine, near Port-en-Bessin, in the arrondissement of Bayeux. His compliments followed.
The obscurity that enshrouded the mastodon provoked in Pecuchet's mind a longing to search for it. He would fain have gone to Villers forthwith.
Bouvard objected that, to save themselves a possibly useless and certainly expensive journey, it would be desirable to make inquiries. So they wrote a letter to the mayor of the district, in which they asked him what had become of one Louis Bloche. On the assumption of his death, his descendants or collateral relations might be able to enlighten them as to his precious discovery, when he made it, and in what public place in the township this testimony of primitive times was deposited? Were there any prospects of finding similar ones? What was the cost of a man and a car for a day?
And vainly did they make application to the deputy-mayor, and then to the first municipal councillor. They received no news from Villers. No doubt the inhabitants were jealous about their fossils—unless they had sold them to the English. The journey to the Hachettes was determined upon.
Bouvard and Pecuchet took the public conveyance from Falaise to Caen. Then a covered car brought them from Caen to Bayeux; from Bayeux, they walked to Port-en-Bessin.
They had not been deceived. There were curious stones alongside the Hachettes; and, assisted by the directions of the innkeeper, they succeeded in reaching the strand.
The tide was low. It exposed to view all its shingles, with a prairie of sea-wrack as far as the edge of the waves. Grassy slopes cut the cliff, which was composed of soft brown earth that had hardened and become in its lower strata a rampart of greyish stone. Tiny streams of water kept flowing down incessantly, while in the distance the sea rumbled. It seemed sometimes to suspend its throbbing, and then the only sound heard was the murmur of the little springs.
They staggered over the sticky soil, or rather they had to jump over holes.
Bouvard sat down on a mound overlooking the sea and contemplated the waves, thinking of nothing, fascinated, inert. Pecuchet brought him over to the side of the cliff to show him a serpent-stone incrusted in the rock, like a diamond in its gangue. It broke their nails; they would require instruments; besides, night was coming on. The sky was empurpled towards the west, and the entire sea-shore was wrapped in shadow. In the midst of the blackish wrack the pools of water were growing wider. The sea was coming towards them. It was time to go back.
Next day, at dawn, with a mattock and a pick, they made an attack on their fossil, whose covering cracked. It was an ammonite nodosus, corroded at the ends but weighing quite six pounds; and in his enthusiasm Pecuchet exclaimed:
"We cannot do less than present it to Dumouchel!"
They next chanced upon sponges, lampshells, orks—but no alligator. In default of it, they were hoping to get the backbone of a hippopotamus or an ichthyosaurus, the bones of any animals whatever that were contemporaneous with the Deluge, when they discovered against the cliff, at a man's height, outlines which assumed the form of a gigantic fish.
They deliberated as to the means by which they could get possession of it. Bouvard would extricate it at the top, while Pecuchet beneath would demolish the rock in order to make it descend gently without spoiling it.
Just as they were taking breath they saw above their heads a custom-house officer in a cloak, who was gesticulating with a commanding air.
"Well! What! Let us alone!" And they went on with their work, Bouvard on the tips of his toes, trapping with his mattock, Pecuchet, with his back bent, digging with his pick.
But the custom-house officer reappeared farther down, in an open space between the rocks, making repeated signals. They treated him with contempt. An oval body bulged out under the thinned soil, and sloped down, was on the point of slipping.
Suddenly another individual, with a sabre, presented himself.
It was the field-guard on his rounds, and, at the same instant, the man from the custom-house came up, having hastened through a ravine.
"Take them into custody for me, Pere Morin, or the cliff will fall in!"
"It is for a scientific object," replied Pecuchet.
Then a mass of stone fell, grazing them all four so closely that a little more and they were dead men.
When the dust was scattered, they recognised the mast of a ship, which crumbled under the custom-house officer's boot.
Bouvard said with a sigh, "We did no great harm!"
"One should not do anything within the fortification limits," returned the guard.
"In the first place, who are you, in order that I may take out a summons against you?"
Pecuchet refused to give his name, cried out against such injustice.
"Don't argue! follow me!"
As soon as they reached the port a crowd of ragamuffins ran after them. Bouvard, red as a poppy, put on an air of dignity; Pecuchet, exceedingly pale, darted furious looks around; and these two strangers, carrying stones in their pocket-handkerchiefs, did not present a good appearance. Provisionally, they put them up at the inn, whose master on the threshold guarded the entrance. Then the mason came to demand back his tools. They were paying him for them, and still there were incidental expenses!—and the field-guard did not come back! Wherefore? At last, a gentleman, who wore the cross of the Legion of Honour, set them free, and they went away, after giving their Christian names, surnames, and their domicile, with an undertaking on their part to be more circumspect in future.
Besides a passport, they were in need of many things, and before undertaking fresh explorations they consulted the Geological Traveller's Guide, by Bone. It was necessary to have, in the first place, a good soldier's knapsack, then a surveyor's chain, a file, a pair of nippers, a compass, and three hammers, passed into a belt, which is hidden under the frock-coat, and "thus preserves you from that original appearance which one ought to avoid on a journey." As for the stick, Pecuchet freely adopted the tourist's stick, six feet high, with a long iron point. Bouvard preferred the walking-stick umbrella, or many-branched umbrella, the knob of which is removed in order to clasp on the silk, which is kept separately in a little bag. They did not forget strong shoes with gaiters, "two pairs of braces" each "on account of perspiration," and, although one cannot present himself everywhere in a cap, they shrank from the expense of "one of those folding hats, which bear the name of 'Gibus,' their inventor."
The same work gives precepts for conduct: "To know the language of the part of the country you visit": they knew it. "To preserve a modest deportment": this was their custom. "Not to have too much money about you": nothing simpler. Finally, in order to spare yourself embarrassments of all descriptions, it is a good thing to adopt the "description of engineer."
"Well, we will adopt it."
Thus prepared, they began their excursions; were sometimes eight days away, and passed their lives in the open air.
Sometimes they saw, on the banks of the Orne, in a rent, pieces of rock raising their slanting surfaces between some poplar trees and heather; or else they were grieved by meeting, for the entire length of the road, nothing but layers of clay. In the presence of a landscape they admired neither the series of perspectives nor the depth of the backgrounds, nor the undulations of the green surfaces; but that which was not visible to them, the underpart, the earth: and for them every hill was only a fresh proof of the Deluge.
To the Deluge mania succeeded that of erratic blocks. The big stones alone in the fields must come from vanished glaciers, and they searched for moraines and faluns.
They were several times taken for pedlars on account of their equipage; and when they had answered that they were "engineers," a dread seized them—the usurpation of such a title might entail unpleasant consequences.
At the end of each day they panted beneath the weight of their specimens; but they dauntlessly carried them off home with them. They were deposited on the doorsteps, on the stairs, in the bedrooms, in the dining-room, and in the kitchen; and Germaine used to make a hubbub about the quantity of dust. It was no slight task, before pasting on the labels, to know the names of the rocks; the variety of colours and of grain made them confuse argil and marl, granite and gneiss, quartz and limestone.
And the nomenclature plagued them. Why Devonian, Cambrian, Jurassic—as if the portions of the earth designated by these names were not in other places as well as in Devonshire, near Cambridge, and in the Jura? It was impossible to know where you are there. That which is a system for one is for another a stratum, for a third a mere layer. The plates of the layers get intermingled and entangled in one another; but Omalius d'Halloy warns you not to believe in geological divisions.
This statement was a relief to them; and when they had seen coral limestones in the plain of Caen, phillades at Balleroy, kaolin at St. Blaise, and oolite everywhere, and searched for coal at Cartigny and for mercury at Chapelle-en-Juger, near St. Lo, they decided on a longer excursion: a journey to Havre, to study the fire-resisting quartz and the clay of Kimmeridge.
As soon as they had stepped out of the packet-boat they asked what road led under the lighthouses.
Landslips blocked up the way; it was dangerous to venture along it.
A man who let out vehicles accosted them, and offered them drives around the neighbourhood—Ingouville, Octeville, Fecamp, Lillebonne, "Rome, if it was necessary."
His charges were preposterous, but the name of Falaise had struck them. By turning off the main road a little, they could see Etretat, and they took the coach that started from Fecamp to go to the farthest point first.
In the vehicle Bouvard and Pecuchet had a conversation with three peasants, two old women, and a seminarist, and did not hesitate to style themselves engineers.
They stopped in front of the bay. They gained the cliff, and five minutes after, rubbed up against it to avoid a big pool of water which was advancing like a gulf stream in the middle of the sea-shore. Then they saw an archway which opened above a deep grotto; it was sonorous and very bright, like a church, with descending columns and a carpet of sea-wrack all along its stone flooring.
This work of nature astonished them, and as they went on their way collecting shells, they started considerations as to the origin of the world.
Bouvard inclined towards Neptunism; Pecuchet, on the contrary, was a Plutonist.
"The central fire had broken the crust of the globe, heaved up the masses of earth, and made fissures. It is, as it were, an interior sea, which has its flow and ebb, its tempests; a thin film separates us from it. We could not sleep if we thought of all that is under our heels. However, the central fire diminishes, and the sun grows more feeble, so much so that one day the earth will perish of refrigeration. It will become sterile; all the wood and all the coal will be converted into carbonic acid, and no life can subsist there."
"We haven't come to that yet," said Bouvard.
"Let us expect it," returned Pecuchet.
No matter, this end of the world, far away as it might be, made them gloomy; and, side by side, they walked in silence over the shingles.
The cliff, perpendicular, a mass of white, striped with black here and there by lines of flint, stretched towards the horizon like the curve of a rampart five leagues wide. An east wind, bitter and cold, was blowing; the sky was grey; the sea greenish and, as it were, swollen. From the highest points of rocks birds took wing, wheeled round, and speedily re-entered their hiding places. Sometimes a stone, getting loosened, would rebound from one place to another before reaching them.
Pecuchet continued his reflections aloud:
"Unless the earth should be destroyed by a cataclysm! We do not know the length of our period. The central fire has only to overflow."
"However, it is diminishing."
"That does not prevent its explosions from having produced the Julia Island, Monte Nuovo, and many others."
Bouvard remembered having read these details in Bertrand.
"But such catastrophes do not happen in Europe."
"A thousand pardons! Witness that of Lisbon. As for our own countries, the coal-mines and the firestone useful for war are numerous, and may very well, when decomposing, form the mouths of volcanoes. Moreover, the volcanoes always burst near the sea."
Bouvard cast his eyes over the waves, and fancied he could distinguish in the distance a volume of smoke ascending to the sky.
"Since the Julia Island," returned Pecuchet, "has disappeared, the fragments of the earth formed by the same cause will perhaps have the same fate. An islet in the Archipelago is as important as Normandy and even as Europe."
Bouvard imagined Europe swallowed up in an abyss.
"Admit," said Pecuchet, "that an earthquake takes place under the British Channel: the waters rush into the Atlantic; the coasts of France and England, tottering on their bases, bend forward and reunite—and there you are! The entire space between is wiped out."
Instead of answering, Bouvard began walking so quickly that he was soon a hundred paces away from Pecuchet. Being alone, the idea of a cataclysm disturbed him. He had eaten nothing since morning; his temples were throbbing. All at once the soil appeared to him to be shaking, and the cliff over his head to be bending forward at its summit. At that moment a shower of gravel rolled down from the top of it. Pecuchet observed him scampering off wildly, understood his fright, and cried from a distance:
"Stop! stop! The period is not completed!"
And in order to overtake him he made enormous bounds with the aid of his tourist's stick, all the while shouting out:
"The period is not completed! The period is not completed!"
Bouvard, in a mad state, kept running without stopping. The many-branched umbrella fell down, the skirts of his coat were flying, the knapsack was tossing on his back. He was like a tortoise with wings about to gallop amongst the rocks. One bigger than the rest concealed him from view.
Pecuchet reached the spot out of breath, saw nobody, then returned in order to gain the fields through a defile, which Bouvard, no doubt, had taken.
This narrow ascent was cut by four great steps in the cliff, as lofty as the heights of two men, and glittering like polished alabaster.
At an elevation of fifty feet Pecuchet wished to descend; but as the sea was dashing against him in front, he set about clambering up further. At the second turning, when he beheld the empty space, terror froze him. As he approached the third, his legs were becoming weak. Volumes of air vibrated around him, a cramp gripped his epigastrium; he sat down on the ground, with eyes closed, no longer having consciousness of aught save the beatings of his own heart, which were suffocating him; then he flung his tourist's stick on the ground, and on his hands and knees resumed his ascent. But the three hammers attached to his belt began to press against his stomach; the stones with which he had crammed his pockets knocked against his sides; the peak of his cap blinded him; the wind increased in violence. At length he reached the upper ground, and there found Bouvard, who had ascended higher through a less difficult defile. A cart picked them up. They forgot all about Etretat.
The next evening, at Havre, while waiting for the packet-boat, they saw at the tail-end of a newspaper, a short scientific essay headed, "On the Teaching of Geology." This article, full of facts, explained the subject as it was understood at the period.
"There has never been a complete cataclysm of the globe, but the same space has not always the same duration, and is exhausted more quickly in one place than in another. Lands of the same age contain different fossils, just as depositaries very far distant from each other enclose similar ones. The ferns of former times are identical with the ferns of to-day. Many contemporary zoophytes are found again in the most ancient layers. To sum up, actual modifications explain former convulsions. The same causes are always in operation; Nature does not proceed by leaps; and the periods, Brogniart asserts, are, after all, only abstractions."
Cuvier's work up to this time had appeared to them surrounded with the glory of an aureola at the summit of an incontestable science. It was sapped. Creation had no longer the same discipline, and their respect for this great man diminished.
From biographies and extracts they learned something of the doctrines of Lamarck and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire.
All that was contrary to accepted ideas, the authority of the Church.
Bouvard experienced relief as if from a broken yoke. "I should like to see now what answer Citizen Jeufroy would make to me about the Deluge!"
They found him in his little garden, where he was awaiting the members of the vestry, who were to meet presently with a view to the purchase of a chasuble.
"These gentlemen wish for——?"
"An explanation, if you please."
And Bouvard began, "What means, in Genesis, 'The abyss which was broken up,' and 'The cataracts of heaven?' For an abyss does not get broken up, and heaven has no cataracts."
The abbe closed his eyelids, then replied that it was always necessary to distinguish between the sense and the letter. Things which shock you at first, turn out right when they are sifted.
"Very well, but how do you explain the rain which passed over the highest mountains—those that are two leagues in height. Just think of it! Two leagues!—a depth of water that makes two leagues!"
And the mayor, coming up, added:
"Bless my soul! What a bath!"
"Admit," said Bouvard, "that Moses exaggerates like the devil."
The cure had read Bonald, and answered:
"I am ignorant of his motives; it was, no doubt, to inspire a salutary fear in the people of whom he was the leader."
"Finally, this mass of water—where did it come from?"
"How do I know? The air was changed into water, just as happens every day."
Through the garden gate they saw M. Girbal, superintendent of taxes, making his way in, together with Captain Heurtaux, a landowner; and Beljambe, the innkeeper, appeared, assisting with his arm Langlois, the grocer, who walked with difficulty on account of his catarrh.
Pecuchet, without bestowing a thought on them, took up the argument:
"Excuse me, M. Jeufroy. The weight of the atmosphere, science demonstrates to us, is equal to that of a mass of water which would make a covering of ten metres around the globe. Consequently, if all the air that had been condensed fell down in a liquid state, it would augment very little the mass of existing waters."
The vestrymen opened their eyes wide, and listened.
The cure lost patience. "Will you deny that shells have been found on the mountains? What put them there, if not the Deluge? They are not accustomed, I believe, to grow out of the ground of themselves alone, like carrots!" And this joke having made the assembly laugh, he added, pressing his lips together: "Unless this be another discovery of science!"
Bouvard was pleased to reply by referring to the rising of mountains, the theory of Elie de Beaumont.
"Don't know him," returned the abbe.
Foureau hastened to explain: "He is from Caen. I have seen him at the Prefecture."
"But if your Deluge," Bouvard broke in again, "had sent shells drifting, they would be found broken on the surface, and not at depths of three hundred metres sometimes."
The priest fell back on the truth of the Scriptures, the tradition of the human race, and the animals discovered in the ice in Siberia.
"That does not prove that man existed at the time they did."
The earth, in Pecuchet's view, was much older. "The delta of the Mississippi goes back to tens of thousands of years. The actual epoch is a hundred thousand, at least. The lists of Manetho——"
The Count de Faverges appeared on the scene. They were all silent at his approach.
"Go on, pray. What were you talking about?"
"These gentlemen are wrangling with me," replied the abbe.
"About Holy Writ, M. le Comte."
Bouvard immediately pleaded that they had a right, as geologists, to discuss religion.
"Take care," said the count; "you know the phrase, my dear sir, 'A little science takes us away from it, a great deal leads us back to it'?" And in a tone at the same time haughty and paternal: "Believe me, you will come back to it! you will come back to it!"
"Perhaps so. But what were we to think of a book in which it is pretended that the light was created before the sun? as if the sun were not the sole cause of light!"
"You forget the light which we call boreal," said the ecclesiastic.
Bouvard, without answering this point, strongly denied that light could be on one side and darkness on the other, that evening and morning could have existed when there were no stars, or that the animals made their appearance suddenly, instead of being formed by crystallisation.
As the walks were too narrow, while gesticulating, they trod on the flower-borders. Langlois took a fit of coughing.
The captain exclaimed: "You are revolutionaries!"
Girbal: "Peace! peace!"
The priest: "What materialism!"
Foureau: "Let us rather occupy ourselves with our chasuble!"
"No! let me speak!" And Bouvard, growing more heated, went on to say that man was descended from the ape!
All the vestrymen looked at each other, much amazed, and as if to assure themselves that they were not apes.
Bouvard went on: "By comparing the foetus of a woman, of a bitch, of a bird, of a frog——"
"For my part, I go farther!" cried Pecuchet. "Man is descended from the fishes!"
There was a burst of laughter. But without being disturbed:
"The Telliamed—an Arab book——"
"Come, gentlemen, let us hold our meeting."
And they entered the sacristy.
The two comrades had not given the Abbe Jeufroy such a fall as they expected; therefore, Pecuchet found in him "the stamp of Jesuitism." His "boreal light," however, caused them uneasiness. They searched for it in Orbigny's manual.
"This is a hypothesis to explain why the vegetable fossils of Baffin's Bay resemble the Equatorial plants. We suppose, in place of the sun, a great luminous source of heat which has now disappeared, and of which the Aurora Borealis is but perhaps a vestige."
Then a doubt came to them as to what proceeds from man, and, in their perplexity, they thought of Vaucorbeil.
He had not followed up his threats. As of yore, he passed every morning before their grating, striking all the bars with his walking-stick one after the other.
Bouvard watched him, and, having stopped him, said he wanted to submit to him a curious point in anthropology.
"Do you believe that the human race is descended from fishes?"
"From apes rather—isn't that so?"
"Directly, that is impossible!"
On whom could they depend? For, in fact, the doctor was not a Catholic!
They continued their studies, but without enthusiasm, being weary of eocene and miocene, of Mount Jurillo, of the Julia Island, of the mammoths of Siberia and of the fossils, invariably compared in all the authors to "medals which are authentic testimonies," so much so that one day Bouvard threw his knapsack on the ground, declaring that he would not go any farther.
"Geology is too defective. Some parts of Europe are hardly known. As for the rest, together with the foundation of the oceans, we shall always be in a state of ignorance on the subject."
Finally, Pecuchet having pronounced the word "mineral kingdom":
"I don't believe in it, this mineral kingdom, since organic substances have taken part in the formation of flint, of chalk, and perhaps of gold. Hasn't the diamond been charcoal; coal a collection of vegetables? and by heating it to I know not how many degrees, we get the sawdust of wood, so that everything passes, everything goes to ruin, and everything is transformed. Creation is carried out in an undulating and fugitive fashion. Much better to occupy ourselves with something else."
He stretched himself on his back and went to sleep, while Pecuchet, with his head down and one knee between his hands, gave himself up to his own reflections.
A border of moss stood on the edge of a hollow path overhung by ash trees, whose slender tops quivered; angelica, mint, and lavender exhaled warm, pungent odours. The atmosphere was drowsy, and Pecuchet, in a kind of stupor, dreamed of the innumerable existences scattered around him—of the insects that buzzed, the springs hidden beneath the grass, the sap of plants, the birds in their nests, the wind, the clouds—of all Nature, without seeking to unveil her mysteries, enchanted by her power, lost in her grandeur.