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The Three Christmas Masses
by [?]


“Two truffled turkeys, Garrigou?”

“Yes, reverend Father, two magnificent turkeys stuffed with truffles. There’s no mistake, for I helped to stuff them myself. The flesh almost cracked as they roasted, it was so tight–so—-“

“Holy Virgin! and I, who love truffles as—-Hurry; give me my surplice, Garrigou. And what else besides the turkeys; what else did you see in the kitchen?”

“Oh! all sorts of good things. Since noon we’ve done nothing but pluck pheasants, pewits, wood-hens, and heath-cocks. Feathers are scattered thick. Then from the pond they’ve brought eels and golden carp and trout, and—-“

“What size are the trout, Garrigou?”

“Oh, as big as that! reverend Father. Enormous!”

“Heavens, I seem to see them! Have you put the wine in the flasks?”

“Yes, reverend Father, I’ve put the wine in the flasks. But what’s a mouthful or two as you go to midnight Mass! You should see the dining-hall in the chateau, full of decanters that sparkle with wine of every color. And the silver dishes, above all the ornamented ones; the flowers; the candlesticks! I never saw anything to equal it. Monsieur the Marquis has invited all the nobility of the neighborhood. You will be at least forty at table, without counting either the bailiff or the notary. Ah! it will make you very happy to be there, reverend Father. Why, only to smell the delicious turkeys–the odor of truffles pursues me even yet. Muh!”

“Come, come, Garrigou, you must guard against the sin of greediness, and especially on the night of the Nativity. Quickly, now, light the candles and sound the first bell for Mass; midnight is very near, and we must not be late.”

This conversation was held on Christmas night, in the year of grace sixteen hundred and sixteen, between the reverend Dom Balaguere, formerly prior of Barnabites, now chaplain in the service of the Sires de Trinquelague, and his clerk Garrigou; or at least what he supposed was his clerk Garrigou, because you will learn that the devil had that night taken on the round face and wavering traits of the young sacristan, the better to tempt the reverend Father to commit the dreadful sin of gluttony. Now, while the supposed Garrigou (hum! hum!) rung, with all his might, the bells of the seignorial chapel, the reverend Father put on his chasuble in the little sacristy of the chateau; and, his mind already becoming troubled by the gastronomic descriptions he had heard, he repeated to himself:

“Roasted turkeys; golden carp; trout as large as that!”

Outside, the night wind blew, scattering the music of the bells, and one by one lights began to appear in the shadows about the flanks of Mont Ventoux, upon the summit of which rose the ancient towers of Trinquelague. These lights were carried by the farmers on their way to attend midnight Mass at the chateau. They climbed the paths in groups of five or six, the father leading, lantern in hand, the women enveloped in their big brown mantles, where their infants nestled for shelter. In spite of the hour and the cold all these honest people marched cheerfully on, sustained by the thought that when they came out from the Mass they would find, as they did each year, tables spread for them below in the kitchens. Now and again on the rough ascent, the coach of some seigneur, preceded by torch-bearing porters, reflected in its glasses the cold moonlight; or, maybe, a mule trotted along shaking his bells, and in the light of the lanterns covered with frost, the farmers recognized their bailiff and saluted him as he passed:

“Good-evening, good-evening, Master Arnoton.”

“Good-evening, good-evening, my children.”

The night was clear, the stars were polished with cold, the wind stung, and a fine sleet, which glistened on the clothes without wetting them, kept faithfully the tradition of Christmases white with snow. Raised there aloft, the chateau appeared like the goal of all things, with its enormous mass of towers and gables, the belfry of its chapel mounting into the blue-black sky, and a crowd of small lights that winked, went and came, twinkled at all the windows, and seemed, on the sombre background of the building, like sparks running through the cinders of burnt paper. Once past the drawbridge and the postern, it was necessary, in order to gain the chapel, to traverse the first courtyard, full of coaches, of valets, of sedan-chairs, and bright with the flare of torches and the fires of the kitchens. There was the click of the turnspits, the crash of stewpans, the noises of glass and silver preparing for the dinner. From below, a warm vapor, which smelt of roasting meat and the strong herbs of curious sauces, whispered to the farmers, to the chaplain, to the bailiff–to all the world: