Ninety-three/3.3.6

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

CHAPTER VI.

Having finished the quartering, Georgette held out her hand to René-Jean, saying, "More!"

After the saint and the commentator came stern portraits of the glossarists. The earliest was Gavantus; René-Jean tore Gavantus out and placed him in Georgette's hand.

All Saint Bartholomew's glossarists followed. Giving is a privilege. René-Jean kept nothing for himself. Gros-Alain and Georgette were gazing at him; this was enough; he was satisfied with the admiration of his public.

René-Jean, inexhaustible and magnanimous, offered Fabricio Pignatelli to Gros-Alain, and Father Stilting to Georgette; he offered Alphonse Tostat to Gros-Alain, and Cornelius a Lapide to Georgette; Gros-Alain had Henry Hammond, and Georgette had Roberti, besides a view of the town of Douai, where he was born in 1619. Gros-Alain received the protestation of the paper-makers, and Georgette had the dedication to the Gryphes bestowed upon her. Then there were the maps. René-Jean distributed these. He gave Ethiopia to Gros-Alain, and Lycaonia to Georgette. When this was done, he threw the book on the floor.

It was a terrible moment. Gros-Alain and Georgette, with an ecstasy of delight mingled with fear, saw René-Jean frown, brace his legs, contract his hands, and push the massive folio volume off the desk. A majestic old book losing countenance is a tragic sight. The heavy volume, displaced, hung for a moment from the desk, hesitated, balanced itself, then fell down; and, torn, rumpled, lacerated, out of its binding, its clasps broken, flattened itself out lamentably on the floor. Fortunately, it did not fall on the children.

They were bewildered, not crushed. The adventures of conquerors do not always end as well.

Like all glorious deeds, it made a great noise and a cloud of dust.

Having thrown down the book, René-Jean dismounted from the chair.

There was a moment of silence and awe; victory has its terrors. The children took hold of each other's hands, and drew away, to contemplate the great dilapidated volume.

But after some consideration, Gros-Alain started towards the book with determination and gave it a kick.

This was enough. There is such a thing as an appetite for destruction. René-Jean gave it a kick, Georgette gave it a kick, which made her tumble down, but in a sitting posture; she took advantage of this to throw herself on Saint Bartholomew; the spell was broken; René-Jean rushed on it, Gros-Alain made a dash for it; joyous, wild, triumphant, pitiless, tearing the engravings, slashing the leaves, pulling out the bookmarks, scratching the binding, ripping off the gilt leather, pulling out the nails, from the silver corners, breaking the parchment, marring the noble text, working with feet, hands, nails, and teeth, rosy, laughing, cruel, these three angels of destruction swooped down on the defenceless evangelist.

They annihilated Armenia, Judea, Benevento, where there are relics of the saint; Nathaniel, who is possibly the same as Bartholomew; Pope Gelasius, who declared the Bartholomew-Nathaniel gospel to be apocryphal, all the heads, all the maps, and the inexorable destruction of the old book absorbed them to such a degree that a mouse passed by without their noticing it.

It was an extermination.

To pull to pieces history, legend, science, miracles, true or false, church Latin, superstitions, fanaticisms, mysteries, to tear up a whole religion from top to bottom, is a work for three giants, as well as three children; the hours passed quickly over this labor, but they came to an end; nothing was left of Saint Bartholomew.

When this was at an end, when the last page was torn out, when the last engraving was destroyed, when nothing was left of the book but fragments of the text and pictures, in a skeleton of a binding, René-Jean jumped to his feet, looked at the floor strewn with all these scattered leaves, and clapped his hands.

Gros-Alain clapped his hands.

Georgette took one of the leaves from the floor, got up, leaned against the window, which came just to her chin, and began to tear the large page into little pieces, and threw them out.

Seeing this, René-Jean and Gros-Alain began to do the same. They picked up the leaves and tore them in pieces, picked up and tore them again and again, throwing the pieces out of the window as Georgette had done; and page by page, reduced to scraps by these destructive little fingers, almost the entire ancient book blew away in the wind. Georgette looked thoughtfully after these swarms of bits of white paper, scattered by all the breezes of the air and said,—

"Butterflies."

And the massacre ended with a vanishing into thin air.