Ninety-three/3.3.5

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Ninety-three by Victor Hugo
The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew (V).

CHAPTER V.

In the meantime, René-Jean, possibly jealous of his younger brother, Gros-Alain's discoveries, had conceived a great plan. For some time, while he was picking the berries and pricking his fingers, his eyes had been frequently turning toward the reading-desk mounted on a pivot and standing by itself like a monument in the middle of the library. On this desk was displayed the famous volume of "Saint Bartholomew."

It was really a magnificent and notable folio. This "Saint Bartholomew" had been published in Cologne by the famous publisher of the Bible in 1682, Blœuw, in Latin, Cœsius. It had been printed on movable wooden types, held in position with a band made of ox-sinew.

It was printed, not on Holland paper, but on that beautiful Arabian paper so much admired by Edrisi, made of silk and cotton, and always retaining its whiteness.

The binding was of gilded leather, and the clasps of silver; the fly leaves were of that parchment which the parchment-makers of Paris swore they would buy in the Halle Saint Mathurin and "nowhere else."

This volume was full of woodcuts and copper engravings, and geographical maps of many countries; it was prefaced with a protestation of printers, paper-makers and booksellers against the edict of 1635, placing a tax on "leather, beer, cloven-footed animals, sea-fish, and paper," and on the reverse page of the frontispiece, there was a dedication addressed to the Gryphes, who are to Lyons what the Elzévirs are to Amsterdam.

All this resulted in a famous volume, almost as rare as the Apostol at Moscow.

It was a beautiful book; that was why René-Jean looked at it; perhaps too intently. The volume was open just where there was a large engraving representing Saint Bartholomew carrying his skin over his arm. This engraving could be seen from below. When all the berries had been eaten, René-Jean looked at it with a terrible longing, and Georgette, whose eyes followed her brother's, noticed the engraving and said, "Pickshur."

This word seemed to determine René-Jean. Then, to the great amazement of Gros-Alain, he did an extraordinary thing.

A great oak chair stood in a corner of the library; René-Jean walked to this chair, seized it and dragged it all by himself to the desk. Then when the chair touched the desk, he got up on it and placed his two hands on the book.

Having reached this height, he felt that it was necessary to be, generous; he took the "pickshur" by the upper corner and carefully tore it out; Saint Bartholomew's picture tore crosswise, but that was not René-Jean's fault; he left all the left side, with one eye and a little of the old apocryphal evangelist's halo, in the book, and offered the other half of the saint, and all his skin, to Georgette. Georgette took the saint and said,—

"Mummum."

"Give me one!" cried Gros-Alain.

The first torn page is like the first drop of blood shed. It decides slaughter.

René-Jean turned the leaf; after the saint came the commentator Pantœnus; René-Jean bestowed Pantœnus on Gros-Alain.

In the meantime, Georgette tore her large piece into two small ones, then the two small ones into four; so that history might say, that after having been flayed in Armenia, Saint-Bartholomew was quartered in Brittany.