Page 2 , Red And the Black, The - Stendhal
the top of the hill, he would see a tall man appear, walking with anair of great importance. At sight of him all hats are hastilyraised. His hair is gray, and the suit he wears is gray. With his highforehead and aquiline nose, his face altogether is not without someregularity. He is a Knight in several Orders. One sees, too, atfirst glance, that there is mingled with the dignity of mayor a sortof solid contentment natural to a man of forty-eight or fifty. Butthis contended self-complaisance, in which is seen an element ofsomething hard and prosaic, soon grates upon the Parisian traveller.The impression is gathered that the sole genius of the man lies inexacting prompt payment from his debtors, and in demurring paymentto the very last to his creditors.This is the Mayor of Verrieres, M. de Renal. He walks across thestreet with much deliberation, and enters the Town Hall,disappearing then from the traveller's eyes. But a hundred stepsfarther, if the latter continued his walk, he would see a verypretty house and, beyond an iron railing leading from it, abeautiful garden. Beyond it the line of the horizon is made up ofthe hills of Bourgogne, formed apparently just to please the eye. Thisview is somewhat of a relief to the traveller depressed by theatmosphere of insatiable greed surrounding him.He is informed that the house belongs to M. de Renal. It is from theprofits he made in his great nail factory that the Mayor ofVerrieres has built this beautiful stone residence, just latelyfinished. The report goes that the Mayor is of an old Spanishfamily; according to his own declaration, his family had beenestablished in the neighborhood long before the time of Louis XIV.Ever since 1815 he has blushed at being a manufacturer; that yearhad made him Mayor of Verrieres. The terrace walls, retainingvarious portions of this magnificent garden, which slopes sobeautifully from plane to plane down to the Doube, are the reward ofM. de Renal's knowledge of the iron trade. Of course, one must notexpect to find those picturesque gardens in France which surroundthe manufacturing cities of Germany, like Leipzig, Frankfort, orNuremberg. In Franche-Comte the more walls one builds, stone on stone,on property, the higher does he rise in the estimation of hisneighbors. M. de Renal's gardens, therefore, are a network of walls,and these are the more admired because the ground over which theystretch was not bought at a bargain. That saw-mill, for instance,which, with the name Sorel in gigantic letters on a roof-board,attracted your attention upon entering Verrieres, was six years agolocated on the very spot on which the wall of the fourth terrace isbeing built in M. de Renal's gardens.Notwithstanding his pride, his honor the Mayor had been forced tomake many a concession to this obstinate, hard-headed peasant Sorel.He had to pay him a pretty penny for having him move his mill away.The public stream by which the mill was turned, M. de Renal, thanks tostrong influence in Paris, was then able to turn off in anotherdirection. That privilege he obtained after the elections in 182_.