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by [?]

“A few years later I heard that Moiron had again been called to the emperor’s attention on account of his exemplary conduct in the prison at Toulon and was now employed as a servant by the director of the penitentiary.

“For a long time I heard nothing more of this man. “But about two years ago, while I was spending a summer near Lille with my cousin, De Larielle, I was informed one evening, just as we were sitting down to dinner, that a young priest wished to speak to me.

“I had him shown in and he begged me to come to a dying man who desired absolutely to see me. This had often happened to me in my long career as a magistrate, and, although I had been set aside by the Republic, I was still often called upon in similar circumstances. I therefore followed the priest, who led me to a miserable little room in a large tenement house.

“There I found a strange-looking man on a bed of straw, sitting with his back against the wall, in order to get his breath. He was a sort of skeleton, with dark, gleaming eyes.

“As soon as he saw me, he murmured: ‘Don’t you recognize me?’


“‘I am Moiron.’

“I felt a shiver run through me, and I asked ‘The schoolmaster?’


“‘How do you happen to be here?’

“‘The story is too long. I haven’t time to tell it. I was going to die –and that priest was brought to me–and as I knew that you were here I sent for you. It is to you that I wish to confess–since you were the one who once saved my life.’

“His hands clutched the straw of his bed through the sheet and he continued in a hoarse, forcible and low tone: ‘You see–I owe you the truth–I owe it to you–for it must be told to some one before I leave this earth.

“‘It is I who killed the children–all of them. I did it–for revenge!

“‘Listen. I was an honest, straightforward, pure man–adoring God–this good Father–this Master who teaches us to love, and not the false God, the executioner, the robber, the murderer who governs the earth. I had never done any harm; I had never committed an evil act. I was as good as it is possible to be, monsieur.

“‘I married and had children, and I loved them as no father or mother ever loved their children. I lived only for them. I was wild about them. All three of them died! Why? why? What had I done? I was rebellious, furious; and suddenly my eyes were opened as if I were waking up out of a sleep. I understood that God is bad. Why had He killed my children? I opened my eyes and saw that He loves to kill. He loves only that, monsieur. He gives life but to destroy it! God, monsieur, is a murderer! He needs death every day. And He makes it of every variety, in order the better to be amused. He has invented sickness and accidents in order to give Him diversion all through the months and the years; and when He grows tired of this, He has epidemics, the plague, cholera, diphtheria, smallpox, everything possible! But this does not satisfy Him; all these things are too similar; and so from time to time He has wars, in order to see two hundred thousand soldiers killed at once, crushed in blood and in the mud, blown apart, their arms and legs torn off, their heads smashed by bullets, like eggs that fall on the ground.

“‘But this is not all. He has made men who eat each other. And then, as men become better than He, He has made beasts, in order to see men hunt them, kill them and eat them. That is not all. He has made tiny little animals which live one day, flies who die by the millions in one hour, ants which we are continually crushing under our feet, and so many, many others that we cannot even imagine. And all these things are continually killing each other and dying. And the good Lord looks on and is amused, for He sees everything, the big ones as well as the little ones, those who are in the drops of water and those in the other firmaments. He watches them and is amused. Wretch!

“‘Then, monsieur, I began to kill children played a trick on Him. He did not get those. It was not He, but I! And I would have killed many others, but you caught me. There!

“‘I was to be executed. I! How He would have laughed! Then I asked for a priest, and I lied. I confessed to him. I lied and I lived.

“‘Now, all is over. I can no longer escape from Him. I no longer fear Him, monsieur; I despise Him too much.’

“This poor wretch was frightful to see as he lay there gasping, opening an enormous mouth in order to utter words which could scarcely be heard, his breath rattling, picking at his bed and moving his thin legs under a grimy sheet as though trying to escape.

“Oh! The mere remembrance of it is frightful!

“‘You have nothing more to say?’ I asked.

“‘No, monsieur.’

“‘Then, farewell.’

“‘Farewell, monsieur, till some day—-‘

“I turned to the ashen-faced priest, whose dark outline stood out against the wall, and asked: ‘Are you going to stay here, Monsieur l’Abbe?’


“Then the dying man sneered: ‘Yes, yes, He sends His vultures to the corpses.’

“I had had enough of this. I opened the door and ran away.”