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My Uncle Sosthenes
by [?]

“At any rate, he wishes it, and if it does him no good it can do him no harm.”

The old Jesuit, who was startled, delighted, and almost trembling, said to me:

“Wait a moment, my son; I will come with you.” But I replied: “Pardon me, reverend father, if I do not go with you; but my convictions will not allow me to do so. I even refused to come and fetch you, so I beg you not to say that you have seen me, but to declare that you had a presentiment–a sort of revelation of his illness.”

The priest consented and went off quickly; knocked at my uncle’s door, and was soon let in; and I saw the black cassock disappear within that stronghold of Free Thought.

I hid under a neighboring gateway to wait results. Had he been well, my uncle would have half-murdered the Jesuit, but I knew that he would scarcely be able to move an arm, and I asked myself gleefully what sort of a scene would take place between these antagonists, what disputes, what arguments, what a hubbub, and what would be the issue of the situation, which my uncle’s indignation would render still more tragic?

I laughed till my sides ached, and said half aloud: “Oh, what a joke, what a joke!”

Meanwhile it was getting very cold, and I noticed that the Jesuit stayed a long time, and I thought: “They are having an argument, I suppose.”

One, two, three hours passed, and still the reverend father did not come out. What had happened? Had my uncle died in a fit when he saw him, or had he killed the cassocked gentleman? Perhaps they had mutually devoured each other? This last supposition appeared very unlikely, for I fancied that my uncle was quite incapable of swallowing a grain more nourishment at that moment.

At last the day broke.

I was very uneasy, and, not venturing to go into the house myself, went to one of my friends who lived opposite. I woke him up, explained matters to him, much to his amusement and astonishment, and took possession of his window.

At nine o’clock he relieved me, and I got a little sleep. At two o’clock I, in my turn, replaced him. We were utterly astonished.

At six o’clock the Jesuit left, with a very happy and satisfied look on his face, and we saw him go away with a quiet step.

Then, timid and ashamed, I went and knocked at the door of my uncle’s house; and when the servant opened it I did not dare to ask her any questions, but went upstairs without saying a word.

My uncle was lying, pale and exhausted, with weary, sorrowful eyes and heavy arms, on his bed. A little religious picture was fastened to one of the bed curtains with a pin.

“Why, uncle,” I said, “in bed still? Are you not well?”

He replied in a feeble voice:

“Oh, my dear boy, I have been very ill, nearly dead.”

“How was that, uncle?”

“I don’t know; it was most surprising. But what is stranger still is that the Jesuit priest who has just left–you know, that excellent man whom I have made such fun of–had a divine revelation of my state, and came to see me.”

I was seized with an almost uncontrollable desire to laugh, and with difficulty said: “Oh, really!”

“Yes, he came. He heard a voice telling him to get up and come to me, because I was going to die. I was a revelation.”

I pretended to sneeze, so as not to burst out laughing; I felt inclined to roll on the ground with amusement.

In about a minute I managed to say indignantly:

“And you received him, uncle? You, a Freethinker, a Freemason? You did not have him thrown out of doors?”

He seemed confused, and stammered:

“Listen a moment, it is so astonishing–so astonishing and providential! He also spoke to me about my father; it seems he knew him formerly.”