They were five friends about the same age, met together at the house of one of them, five young comrades at their studies whom a certain conformity of mind and a first sorting out of opinions had grouped together apart from the rest. And yet no two of them who thought the same way. Beneath the pretended unanimity of forty millions of Frenchmen there are forty million brains that keep right to themselves. Thought in France is like the country, a state composed of small properties. From one bit of farm to the other the five friends tried to exchange their ideas across the hedge. But they did that only to affirm themselves more imperatively in their several opinions, each for himself. Each one, for that matter, liberal in mind, and, if not all of them republicans, all foes of intellectual or social reaction, or any backward return.