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Bishop

Samuel Ornik, native of Basle, was, as you know, a very amiable young man who, besides, knew his New Testament by heart in Greek and German. When he was twenty his parents sent him on a journey. He was charged to carry some books to the coadjutor of Paris, at the time of the Fronde. He arrived at the door of the archbishop's residence; the Swiss told him that Monseigneur saw nobody. "Comrade," said Ornik to him, "you are very rude to your compatriots. The apostles let everyone approach, and Jesus Christ desired that people should suffer all the little children to come to him. I have nothing to ask of your master; on the contrary, I have brought him something."

"Come inside, then," said the Swiss.

He waits an hour in a first antechamber. As he was very naïve, he began a conversation with a servant, who was very fond of telling all he knew of his master. "He must be mightily rich," said Ornik, "to have this crowd of pages and flunkeys whom I see running about the house."

"I don't know what his income is," answered the other, "but I heard it said to Joly and the Abbé Charier that he already had two millions of debts."

"But who is that lady coming out of the room?"

"That is Madame de Pomereu, one of his mistresses."

"She is really very pretty; but I have not read that the apostles had such company in their bedrooms in the mornings. Ah! I think the archbishop is going to give audience."

"Say--'His Highness, Monseigneur.'"

"Willingly." Ornik salutes His Highness, presents his books, and is received with a very gracious smile. The archbishop says four words to him, then climbs into his coach, escorted by fifty horsemen. In climbing, Monseigneur lets a sheath fall. Ornik is quite astonished that Monseigneur carries so large an ink-horn in his pocket. "Don't you see that's his dagger?" says the chatterbox. "Everyone carries a dagger when he goes to parliament."

"That's a pleasant way of officiating," says Ornik; and he goes away very astonished.

He traverses France, and enlightens himself from town to town; thence he passes into Italy. When he is in the Pope's territory, he meets one of those bishops with a thousand crowns income, walking on foot. Ornik was very polite; he offers him a place in his cambiature. "You are doubtless on your way to comfort some sick man, Monseigneur?"

"Sir, I am on my way to my master's."

"Your master? that is Jesus Christ, doubtless?"

"Sir, it is Cardinal Azolin; I am his almoner. He pays me very poorly; but he has promised to place me in the service of Donna Olimpia, the favourite sister-in-law di nostro signore."

"What! you are in the pay of a cardinal? But do you not know that there were no cardinals in the time of Jesus Christ and St. John?"

"Is it possible?" cried the Italian prelate.

"Nothing is more true; you have read it in the Gospel."

"I have never read it," answered the bishop; "all I know is Our Lady's office."

"I tell you there were neither cardinals nor bishops, and when there were bishops, the priests were their equals almost, according to Jerome's assertions in several places."

"Holy Virgin," said the Italian. "I knew nothing about it: and the popes?"

"There were not any popes any more than cardinals."

The good bishop crossed himself; he thought he was with an evil spirit, and jumped out of the cambiature.


Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire