Imagine a priest sworn to vows of celibacy, masquerading his humanity with eyes that focus on the soil, trembling hands, and burning desire. A beautiful nun also enacts the same tactics. Her voice like that of a songbird, an alluring woman, and entrancing femininity. It is a love unable to be in union, although it exists nevertheless.
There is a lone man standing beside an oak tree. His eyes are fixed upon the eyes of another man. Baring a concentrated and stern visage, ghastly and grimacing as an agonized phantom, he seemingly has targeted him for no known reason. No tears, no blinking of the lids, nor a twitch of the brow, and no disturbance call him from this stance of stagnancy. And his garbs, in such a disheveled state with stains and filth, as the wind carries the priestly robes’ fowl stench to his nostrils, though he is again, undisturbed by any related thing. These robes are black and bare a golden cross embroidered near the sternum, but these once-brilliant garments are now little more than rags. At the feet, they are shredded, and grime is caked into the torn edges from being dragged. Dragged through water and the mire. His shoes are nothing more than black, cotton slippers, and exposing a few of the toes.
We had mentioned no disturbance to this priest, nothing to make him move, but to his legs, and arms, we might imagine he’s been in this position for quite some time. From the twitching of his knees and the quivering of his fingers, his teeth clenched, and grinding; oh, there is movement, though not enough to alarm the one he’s watching, and definitely not enough to make him rave. His name is Achille Traver, a priest of the Chartres Cathedral; and a one such man he’s targeting - man of resplendence in attire, compared to the miserable priest. This, we shall describe in detail.
The man is fashionably dressed, baring elegance and poise. A fine wardrobe for a typical bourgeoisie. A woolen double-breasted tail coat of a dark ebony shade shrouds his torso to the groin; and where we might see two plump legs are enveloped in gray, loose-fitting trousers; folded around the ankles the trousers do, where at the deepest bottom on the feet are top-grain, black leather shoes, - the soles might have left prints for another to track in an attempt to plunder them off of this man. Ah, and a washed-out bowtie to finish the brilliant outfit, laid gently atop of a pearly-white doublet, peaking out of the coat like a rabbit in his hole.
An amusing, but otherwise astonishing sight to witness such a contrast between shabby, and ragged priest and one of splendid apparel. It almost confuses one’s imagination and expectation for the normality of the world. None could guess wherefore the priest came from, nor the origin of the other.
Our Achille speaks; he speaks to himself with a hushed tone, ‘I must approach him. I will not be foolish and remain here staring; I must talk. Perhaps he will comprehend what I know. His attire, his appearance alone, fills me with profound disgust. I must speak; I must see what he knows.’
Before we enter into this conversation that of which these two men will engage in, I’d see fit to describe the setting before us. The reader’s imagination might have already painted a scene into his or her mind, though specifics are definitely in order.
Our Achille Traver, as you well know, has stared at this man for a while, but where is he? It should be said that he is near a tavern. A peaceful, albeit plain little place of a food-serving building, and a rather fine place to dine, if a bit mellow. Inside an aroma emanates off of a roasted boar on a spit, dripping juices into the fire, making it hiss and roar. The cook nearby turns the spit every so often, while pouring cooking wine over the fleshy meat. Men at every table holler for more drink, and they are received by maidens lascivious and pitiful. Some poet in the corner plays a melancholy piece to apparently darken the mood, if that was his mood, though he pays no heed to the care of the customers. A cork spouts from a bottle, with drops of vintage staining someone’s frock, or sweetening another’s leg of lamb, while fresh bread and aged cheese are stacked in loaves and wheels upon porcelain plates.
Yes, the mere scent of pleasantries and perspiration, drink and gladness attracts the attention of all who were weary. This tavern’s architecture isn't atypical or original, though it was what brought the frenzying crowd to eat. Gray stone walls which enclose in the sounds of cheers and laughter, but with wooden tables and chairs bearing the marks of fermentation and drunken Frenchman. No matter how many times the furniture is cleaned, the discoloration and stains would reoccur.
The musky fragrance of delicious delights, meats and sauces, spices and herbs, decanters and brews drifts out through a window and arouses the sensibilities of Achille’s target. It pulls and allures him towards it like the Countess to her parlor guests, with fragrance and ingenuity.
Achille Traver approaches the finely dressed man with a cautious gait, as though he were attempting to pass the venomous snake in his path. He deigns to open his lips to speak several times, though no words are uttered from his lips. And amazingly, this man pays no heed to the approaching ragged priest, who looks like a poor street wretch, begging for a franc.
At length, he speaks, ‘Excuse me, Monsieur, but I must ask, do you perchance know of sister Minette, who sings atop of a balcony at the Chartres Cathedral. Certainly you must have at least heard the name spoke aloud in conversation, and you overheard it. Were you not curious?’
A strange question, though still, the man does not pass a glance towards Achille. It was as though his body is animated, though his soul is still. If one were to be viewing the sight from inside the tavern, they might catch a spark of irritation in the countenance of Achille. This priest examines the clothes of the man before him, and wrath arises up higher from where it has hitherto already begun. He desires to send forth a flurry of obscenities towards such a man of well-bred appearance; and to resemble a statue, not responding to his inquiry, turned him seething. He however, maintains himself and keeps from losing it.
Imagine not the appearance he despised, but the imagination within his mind, which forms thoughts of morals, of ethics, and all manner of philosophy he would want to possess, though could not steal. Envy is indeed worthy of the title of “sin.” To be envious is an attempt to better oneself, though one cannot do this without another to look upon whom they believe are not their equal. No one is envious of themselves. And Achille is envious because he is a priest.
With another try, Achille speaks ever so loudly, ‘Monsieur, I demand you to respond to what I’ve asked of you. Do you know of sister Minette, the one and only nun to be allowed out of her convent to wander the streets? She sings atop of a balcony with the voice of heaven’s choir, if I could imagine so. She resides at the Cathedral’s convent, a nun under command of the prioress herself. Monsieur, I am the archpriest, sworn to vows, as well as a preacher of the Chartres Cathedral, and I implore you to hear me and answer me.’
Achille uttered this speech, dripping with impatience, which at last gained the attention of the one whom he spoke to. His head turns towards this shabby priest of the Chartres Cathedral, and with realization, recoils and gasps. His eyes resembles a mix of understanding, as well as shame. This outward realization is easily recognized by Achille, who would have breathed a sigh of relief, and perhaps walked off feeling triumphant if not for knowing his purpose for speaking.
And such an air this unknown figure speaks with that has within the mixture both respect and comprehension, the ingredients of inferiority. ‘You must forgive me, Monsieur priest. I had no idea someone of such esteem was before me. You understand, I was in a trance just before, taking in the atmosphere of this here tavern to my left, and I might have heard your speech, but it was drowned out and reduced to that of an insect’s buzz. But now, I hear you, and this Minette you speak of. A nun allowed outside of the convent. Now, that is something unusual. Could you give me more information?’
This last question, “Could you give me more information?” made Achille’s eyes widen with astonishment, for he had expected the mere name of this nun to grant recognition.
‘Monsieur, I do not have much more information to give you other than what I have heard from rumors, and gossip. They have spoken of a nun named Minette, a fine singer, who rises above the Cathedral’s choir like a hollowed drum among solid drums. The prioress allows her outside of the convent for reasons only few know of, and those few around I do not know. I do not have the privilege or the authority to question the prioress’s instructions. Though I am the archpriest of the cathedral, I cannot question the prioress’s decisions. I will admit, a nun such as Minette has almost made me mad with intrigue.’ This last sentence Achille spoke in a hushed tone. This did not escape the man’s notice.
‘I apologize for I am to disappoint you, for I know nothing of this nun named Minette. But this has peaked my interest as well. I am not from Chartres myself. However, I must inquire: would you give me the opportunity in seeing this nun up close, and perhaps hear her sing?’ spoke the unknown man whose words are bold, and sincere.
And the question he had asked was too much for Achille to bear, for it had caused this holy priest to become enraged. He raised his head like in prayer, and looked upon the man before him, not like the crucified savior, but like the devil wrapped in flames. There wasn’t fear; what there was, was just pure malice, and envy - endless envy. One never believes such stares of contempt to be possible in holy men. To the ordinary mind, the virtuous are virtuous and the vice are vice. We expect things to stay the same, and fight when necessary.
Achille grabbed the man’s collar and pins him against a nearby wall. Struggle as the man deigns to do, he could not overcome the strength of anger. Achille spoke with fire spewing from his throat, trembling with wrath. ‘No! Monsieur, I know not of your origin nor of your true intended purpose, but hear me, you cannot see my beloved Minette! I have watched you, though you did not notice it, behind that oak tree over there, and your face, your clothes, filled me with grievance and defiance. It disgusted me, as does clinging to your clothes. I speak to you using words fit for simple answers, and you respond within minutes, and audit me with something that just now about deafened my ears and made my stomach burn with fire. I will not hear of this! Minette is mine, a beauty to exceed all others. She shall not be in your claws!’
The man in Achille’s grasp would not succumb to terror during this speech. The man remained calm, and merely said, ‘My respect for the Catholic faith has heightened in recent times, as has my faith in God, but now I see, as I have seen many times before, that humans still walk this earth.’
Oh, simple response! Oh, pleasurable joy in hearing it echo through the ears of the listener, and comprehension stirs, and realization boils over. There is triumph and glory in responding to the guillotine with a stone neck, or the carriage wheel with an iron foot. Humans! People! One never believes themselves to be weak, when their soul is still living.
Achille’s grip softens and he let go of the man’s collar. The man then gracefully bows; no sweat on his brow, nor tremor in his hands. He says, ‘Allow me take my leave. Such a man of your esteem is certainly busy, and he needs not an obstacle in his path.’ This well-mannered man trots away from the tavern with no resemblance to pride, no showing of standing tall with chin raised up. He left as he came, and promised never to return. Perhaps, maybe.