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The Vicar of Tours by Honoré de Balzac

Produced by John Bickers, and Dagny

THE VICAR OF TOURS

By Honore De Balzac

Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley

DEDICATION

To David, Sculptor:

The permanence of the work on which I inscribe your name --twice made illustrious in this century--is very problematical; whereas you have graven mine in bronze which survives nations --if only in their coins. The day may come when numismatists, discovering amid the ashes of Paris existences perpetuated by you, will wonder at the number of heads crowned in your atelier and endeavour to find in them new dynasties.

To you, this divine privilege; to me, gratitude.

De Balzac.

THE VICAR OF TOURS

I

Early in the autumn of 1826 the Abbe Birotteau, the principal personage of this history, was overtaken by a shower of rain as he returned home from a friend's house, where he had been passing the evening. He therefore crossed, as quickly as his corpulence would allow, the deserted little square called "The Cloister," which lies directly behind the chancel of the cathedral of Saint-Gatien at Tours.

The Abbe Birotteau, a short little man, apoplectic in constitution and about sixty years old, had already gone through several attacks of gout. Now, among the petty miseries of human life the one for which the worthy priest felt the deepest aversion was the sudden sprinkling of his shoes, adorned with silver buckles, and the wetting of their soles. Notwithstanding the woollen socks in which at all seasons he enveloped his feet with the extreme care that ecclesiastics take of themselves, he was apt at such times to get them a little damp, and the next day gout was sure to give him certain infallible proofs of constancy. Nevertheless, as the pavement of the Cloister was likely to be dry, and as the abbe had won three francs ten sous in his rubber with Madame de Listomere, he bore the rain resignedly from the middle of the place de l'Archeveche, where it began to come down in earnest. Besides, he was fondling his chimera,--a desire already twelve years old, the desire of a priest, a desire formed anew every evening and now, apparently, very near accomplishment; in short, he had wrapped himself so completely in the fur cape of a canon that he did not feel the inclemency of the weather. During the evening several of the company who habitually gathered at Madame de Listomere's had almost guaranteed to him his nomination to the office of canon (then vacant in the metropolitan Chapter of Saint-Gatien), assuring him that no one deserved such promotion as he, whose rights, long overlooked, were indisputable.


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