Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1205
Because their fabulous library was so large and valuable, the d’Esparvieu family employed Monsieur Julien Sariette to look after the three hundred thousand volumes. The books were the most precious charge that Sariette had ever had, and he guarded them as if they were jewels. There were rare first editions, some with notations in the handwriting of famous men of history. There were several unpublished manuscripts written on sheepskins and sycamore tablets. It was no more difficult to steal an emerald than to borrow one of those precious books or manuscripts from Sariette.
One morning he entered the library to find many of the books in complete disorder. Some of the finest specimens were among the desecrated books, and for a time the old librarian could not comprehend what his eyes saw. He was even more disturbed when he realized that some of the books were gone. When he reported the theft to his master, he was told that he had probably left them lying carelessly around. Sariette was greatly disturbed by this accusation.
The thefts continued for more than two months. Locks were changed, and a detective was employed, but all precautions failed. Sariette hid himself in the library one night, and what he saw there frightened him more than ever. He had fallen asleep. When he awoke, he saw that the room was filled with a queer, phosphorescent light. A book he held in his hand opened, and he could not close it. When he tried to force it shut, the book leaped up and struck him over the head, knocking him unconscious.
From that time on Sariette could neither sleep nor eat. He was at the point of insanity when young Maurice d’Esparvieu, who lived in the garden pavilion and who had not heard of the losses, asked him why so many of the books from the library were piled in his rooms. Sariette rushed to the pavilion. There lay his precious books, scattered around but all complete. He carefully carried them back into the house and put them on the shelves again.
The books continued to disappear each night and appear in the pavilion the next morning. Sariette knew no more than he did before. One day a fine talcum scattered on the floor revealed a strange footprint. Some thought it the print of a fairy, others that of a small, dainty woman.
While these events were disrupting the peace of the d’Esparvieu household, Maurice was having a love affair with Madame Gilberte des Aubels. While she was visiting him in his pavilion one evening, they were startled by the sight of a nude man who suddenly appeared. Thinking that the intruder was a burglar, Maurice offered him Gilberte’s money and jewels, but the stranger announced in a calm voice that he was Arcade, Maurice’s guardian angel. He explained his appearance by telling them that angels could take human form when they pleased. He had come to the earth at Maurice’s birth but had remained invisible, as all good guardian angels do. Because Maurice was a lazy young man, Arcade had found time heavy on his hands, and he had gone into the d’Esparvieu library to find something to read. He had studied the great books on philosophy, theology, and science, and the scientific approach to the creation of the universe had impressed him so much that he had decided to assume human form and lead the angels into revolt against God.
In his explanation to Gilberte and Maurice, he acknowledged that God existed, but he denied that He was the creator of the universe. Arcade now considered God, or Ialdabaoth, as He was called in Heaven, as only one of the strong men of that kingdom. Ialdabaoth and Satan had battled for the supremacy of that beautiful and rich land, and Ialdabaoth had won. Now there were many other angels on earth who had also assumed human form, thus disobeying Ialdabaoth, and they were also ready to revolt. Arcade was determined to join the rebel angels and lead them to victory against Ialdabaoth.
Gilberte and Maurice were shocked. They begged Arcade to renounce his wicked ways and return to God, but he was firm in his decision. Not wishing to leave his angel in a nude state, Maurice secured some clothes for him before Arcade left the pavilion.
Arcade found many revolutionary angels to plan with him for the final battle. There was Prince Istar, the chemist, who spent his time manufacturing bombs. Zita was a female angel, as willing to go to war as any of the males. Theophile was not a revolutionary and did not want to go to war against Ialdabaoth. Theophile was a fallen angel who had succumbed to the lust he felt for a mortal woman, but he still believed in God and would not join in plans for the revolt. While they were gathering recruits, most of the angels enjoyed the pursuits of mortal men. Many of them took lovers; Arcade seduced Gilberte in Maurice’s pavilion, after Maurice had brought the angel home with him. Arcade tried to enlist the help of Sophar, an angel who had become a Jewish banker named Max Everdingen, but Sophar would not give them money for the revolution. Nevertheless, he offered to sell them munitions and to finance the purchases at his bank.
While the angels were preparing for the final attack, Gilberte and Maurice continued their affair, for Maurice had forgiven Arcade and Gilberte. Sariette was happy among his books because Arcade, busy with the revolution, no longer stole the precious volumes. Through a mishap, however, Lucretius, one of the most precious of the rare editions, was taken from the library and lost. This final blow drove Sariette to madness.
At last all was in readiness for the revolt. Hundreds of thousands of rebel angels joined Arcade and presented themselves to Satan, asking him to lead them into the battle against Ialdabaoth. Satan asked them to wait until the next day for his answer. That night he had a dream. He dreamed that he led the rebels against Ialdabaoth and that they were victorious. Satan was crowned king, and he banished Ialdabaoth as He had banished Satan millions of years ago, but Satan dreamed that as he received the praises of mankind and the angels, he became like the other God, Ialdabaoth, and lost his sympathy for humanity.
Satan awoke from his dream and called the leaders of the angels around him. He told them that they would not conquer Heaven, that one war always brings on another because the vanquished seek constantly to regain what they have lost. He told them that he did not want to be God and that he loved the earth and wanted to stay on earth and help his fellowmen. Furthermore, he told the angels that they had done much already to destroy God on earth, for they had been slowly destroying ignorance and superstitions concerning the false religion taught by God. Satan told the angels to stay on earth to spread the doctrine of love and kindness; in this way they would triumph over God and bring peace to heaven and earth.