Read A TRANSLATION BY ALFRED ALLINSON XXXII of The Aspirations of Jean Servien, free online book, by Anatole France, on ReadCentral.com.

He was recovered and, with a book in his hand, was talking a quiet walk in the Luxembourg gardens.  He had that feeling of harmless selfishness, that self-pity that comes with convalescence.  Of his previous life, all he cared to remember was a charming face bending over him and a voice sweeter than the loveliest music murmuring:  “So you love me still?” Oh! never fear, he would not answer now as he did on that dreadful staircase:  “I don’t love you any longer.”  No, he would answer with eyes and lips and open arms:  “I shall love you always!” Still the odious spectre of his rival would cross his memory at times and cause him agonies.  Suddenly his eyes were caught by an extraordinary sight.

Two yards away from him in the garden, in front of the orange-house, was Monsieur Tudesco, burly and full-blown as usual, but how metamorphosed in costume!  He wore a National Guard’s tunic, covered with glittering aiguillettes; from his red sash peeped the butts of a brace of pistols.  On his head was perched a képi with five gold bands.  The central figure of a group of women and children, he was gazing at the heavens with as much tender emotion as his little green eyes were capable of expressing.  His whole person breathed a sense of power and kindly patronage.  His right hand rested at arm’s length on a little boy’s head, and he was addressing him in a set speech: 

“Young citizen, pride of your mother’s heart, ornament of the public parks, hope of the Commune, hear the words of the proscribed exile.  I say it:  Young citizen, the 18th of March is a great day; it witnessed the foundation of the Commune, it rescued you from slavery.  Grave on your heart’s core that never-to-be-forgotten date.  I say it:  We have suffered and fought for you.  Son of the disinherited and despairing, you shall be a free man!”

He ended, and restoring the child to its mother, smiled upon his listeners of the fair sex, who were lost in admiration of his eloquence, his red sash, his gold lace and his green old age.

Albeit it was three o’clock in the afternoon, he had not drunk more than he could carry, and he trod the sandy walks with a mien of masterful assurance amid the plaudits of the people.

Jean advanced to meet him; he had a soft place in his heart for the old man.  Monsieur Tudesco grasped his hand with a fatherly affection and declaimed: 

“I am overjoyed to see my dear disciple, the child of my intellect.  Monsieur Servien, look yonder and never forget the sight; it is the spectacle of a free people.”

The fact is, a throng of citizens of both sexes was tramping over the lawns, picking the flowers in the beds and breaking branches from the trees.

The two friends tried to find seats on a bench; but these were all occupied by federes of all ranks huddled up on them and snoring in chorus.  For this reason Monsieur Tudesco opined it was better to adjourn to a cafe.

They came upon one in the Place de l’Odéon, where Monsieur Tudesco could display his striking uniform to his own satisfaction.

“I am an engineer,” he announced, when he was seated with his bitter before him, “an engineer in the service of the Commune, with the rank of Colonel.”

Jean thought it mighty strange all the same.  No doubt he had heard his old tutor’s tales about his confabulations at the dram-shop with the leaders of the Commune, but it struck him as extraordinary that the Monsieur Tudesco he knew should have blossomed into an engineer and Colonel under any circumstances.  But there was the fact.  Monsieur Tudesco manifested no surprise, not he!

“Science!” he boasted, “science is everything!  It’s study does it!  Knowledge is power!  To vanquish the myrmidons of despotism, we must have science.  That is why I am an engineer with the rank of Colonel.”

And Monsieur Tudesco went on to relate how he was charged with very special duties ­to discover the underground passages which the instruments of tyranny had dug beneath the capital, tunnelling under the two branches of the Seine, for the transport of munitions of war.  At the head of a gang of navvies, he inspected the palaces, hospitals, barracks and religious houses, breaking up cellars and staving in drain-pipes.  Science! science is everything!  He also inspected the crypts of churches, to unearth traces of the priests’ lubricity.  Knowledge is power!

After the bitter came absinthe, and Colonel Tudesco proposed for Servien’s consideration a lucrative post at the Delegacy for Foreign Affairs.

But Jean shook his head.  He felt tired and had lost all heart.

“I see what it is,” cried the Colonel, patting him on the shoulder; “you are young and in love.  There are two spirits breathe their inspiration alternately in the ear of mankind ­Love and Ambition.  Love speaks the first; and you are still hearkening to his voice, my young friend.”

Jean, who had drunk his share of absinthe, confessed that he was deeper in love than ever and that he was jealous.  He related the episode of the staircase and inveighed bitterly against Monsieur Bargemont.  Nor did he fail to identify his case with the good of the Commune, by making out Gabrielle’s lover to be a Bonapartist and an enemy of the people.

Colonel Tudesco drew a note-book from his pocket, inscribed Bargemont’s name and address in it, and cried: 

“If the man has not fled like a poltroon, we will make a hostage of him!  I am the friend of the Citizen Delegate in charge of the Prefecture of Police, and I say it:  you shall be avenged on the infamous Bargemont!  Have you read the decree concerning hostages?  No?  Read it then; it is an inimitable monument of the wisdom of the people.

“I tear myself regretfully from your company, my young friend.  But I must be gone to discover an underground passage the Sisters of Marie-Joseph, in their contumacy, have driven right from the Prison of Saint-Lazare to the Mother Convent in the village of Argenteuil.  It is a long tunnel by which they communicate with the traitors at Versailles.  Come and see me in my quarters at the General Staff, in the Place Vendome.  Farewell and fraternal greeting!”

Jean paid the Colonel’s score and set out for home.  The walls were all plastered over with posters and proclamations.  He read one that was half hidden under bulletins of victories: 

“Article IV. All persons detained in custody by the verdict of the jury of accusation shall be hostages of the people of Paris.

“Article V. Every execution of a prisoner of war or a partisan of the government of the Commune of Paris shall be followed by the instant execution of thrice the number of hostages detained in virtue of Article IV, the same being chosen by lot.

He frowned dubiously and asked himself: 

“Can it be I have denounced a man as hostage?”

But his fears were soon allayed; Colonel Tudesco was only a wind-bag, and could not really arrest people.  Besides, was it credible that Bargemont, head of a Ministerial Department, was still in Paris?  And after all, if he did come to harm, well, so much the worse for him!