I1949 was a year full of events in the Charterhouse.
Roland, who was now sixty years old, decided to leave the Dean's responsibilities to Serge, and to devote himself exclusively to enrich and develop the Institution's library. The Charterhouse had in that year three hundred and twenty-seven boys, divided in twenty family-houses. The adults working there in the various roles, were in all sixty-three.
Serge decided they had to commemorate all the alumni who fell in the war, therefore he had all their names, with their birth and death date, carved in one of the empty niches at the side of the church entrance gate, which before the French revolution contained statues of Saints, and had put there a bronze lamp so to have a perennial flame lit.
One day, then, a telephone call came to the dean's studio.
"Charles Claudel speaking. May I have dean Roland Laforest, please?"
"Charles? I'm Serge, how are you?"
"Oh, Serge, what a pleasure hearing you! I'm very well, and you?"
"I too, thank you. I am now the new dean, do you know? Roland wanted to retire and so now he devotes all his time to our library... But tell me, you are married, if I remember rightly..."
"Yes, just after leaving the Charterhouse. And now I have four wonderful children."
"Four? My compliments! Why don't you come to visit us with all your family?"
"I will, I will come sooner or later, but not now. Listen to me carefully, rather. I'm working at the Education Ministry, here in Paris. Just yesterday I came to know that the Minister ordered, prior to giving you the needed certifications and funds, an accurate inspection of the Charterhouse. The commission will stay there for a full week, and will be a pain in your arse. They certainly will see everything, know everything, they will examine all the boys... They are all terribly nosy people, they will split hairs. So I thought... I appreciated very much the healthy sexual education you gave us and the degree of freedom... even on the sexual field. It helped me very much once I was out, to be a better man and, as much, also to be a better husband and father.
"But we both know very well how reigning here outside Montsabot is a respectable, puritan and hypocritical mentality... If they suspected anything, not only you would get nothing, but they would force Montsabot to shut down and possibly they would accuse you adults of... corruption of minors and god knows what else! Therefore you have to prepare all the boys in hurry, and to carefully hide anything that can... compromise you. I pray you. It would sadden me terribly if something bad happened to you because of a pack of Puritans!"
"Do you know when they will be here?"
"No, I couldn't get the exact date, but I presume before this month's end."
"Thank you Charles, you are a real friend. We will do as you said, surely. They said nothing to Roland about this inspection; we really didn't expect it. Anyway, when you can, remember to come to see us with all your family, agreed?"
Serge at once summoned all the adults and the boys with responsibilities and presented the problem to them. They all were mobilized to revise all the material, the writings, the notes, and the books. The boys, who after the soldiers left the Charterhouse had resumed doing physical education in total nakedness, used again undershirts and shorts. But above all it was explained to all the boys and mainly to the youngest ones who were also the most naïve, what was normally already explained them - that the people from outside can't understand and don't share their choices about their life, therefore they had absolutely not to tell the strangers, and especially those of the commission, who would certainly cover them with questions...
In each family the older boys went on asking questions to the youngest ones, to correct their answers, to get them used to giving the "right" answers. The children were amused, to them it was like a game. Besides that, they thoroughly cleaned all the rooms, so that everything was tidy, shining and in perfect order.
Finally one day three big black cars came and nine inspectors got off, six men and three women, who showed their credentials. Amongst them there were three school inspectors, two doctors, a psychologist, a sociologist, an expert in administration and a lawyer. The youngest of them was about forty years old and the oldest about sixty. All were showing an air of self-importance, but falsely affable and kind.
Serge, in his role of dean, bid them welcome and offered them hospitality on the top floor of the Abbott's Tower, where five bedrooms were available.
"If you would adapt yourselves to share two to a room... we can host all of you. If we knew beforehand about your visit, we could have provided better accommodations... But we never have had so many visitors stopping here for more than a day; you should forgive us..."
"It's not important, sir the dean, thank you. The Ministry already provided to book our rooms at the Hotel Terre de Gaule, downtown. First of all we would like to be shown all around, to get an idea of the general organization of this orphanage. After that each of us will execute his tasks according to his competence."
"Certainly. Please let me, anyway, point out that we, even though technically and legally this is an orphanage, we never use this label, and neither the word orphan, but we call this the institute, and the boys... simply boys or pupils. Also downtown, on our suggestion, nobody uses those terms any more, and you will normally hear them call our institute the Charterhouse, and the boys, the Cartusians..."
"Well, this is just a question of nomenclature... but we will remember it. Would you please lead us for a first general visit?"
"I would do it with real pleasure, but if you don't mind, I would rather prefer that our President lead you on the visit..."
"As far as we know we never heard about a president in your... institution. Aren't you the one responsible for this place?"
Serge smiled, "Legally that is so, no doubt. But, you see, we are trying to educate our boys to democracy and social life... Later we will have the time to illustrate to you how we try to obtain this... For the moment... just know that here all of us adults is assisted by one of the boys, elected by the same boys, with an equivalent role. Therefore the boy assisting the dean, that is me, is the highest level representative of the boys, that is a boy having the role of president. If you please, I would like the president to lead you in your visit of our institution..."
"That's interesting... So, then, introduce us to this... president, and ask him to be our guide."
So started the first "Explorative tour" of the whole Charterhouse. The president was priceless, he had at the same time the deferent attitude that adults expect from a boy, and the determined way a responsible one should have. This first tour made rather an impression on all the nine inspectors who evidently were thinking to see one of the usual orphanages or boarding schools that were more like barracks or prisons than small industrious towns.
In the following days the inspectors got on their tracks, following their competencies, to examine in detail all the aspects of the life in the Charterhouse. Each of them was assisted by the boy who was responsible for that sector, who was their guide and answered to all their questions, always joined by the corresponding adult who anyway was there only to assist and grant that everything was carried on without problems.
At the end the inspectors were, to say the least, enthusiastic; everything went on smoothly, they appreciated the atmosphere they breathed in the institute and how everything was organised, included the system of internal democracy, including the internal currency and the bank. The only criticism was that it was suggested to organise also an infirmary with a small isolation ward in case of infectious illness, a suggestion which was immediately accepted.
Everything went smoothly... by the skin of the teeth. In fact there was a moment when they feared that came to light what must not.
While he was visiting one of the family-houses, one of the inspectors asked to a ten year old child, whose name was Mathieu, a rather innocent question.
"Tell me, little one, what do you like best amongst what they teach you here?"
"I like everything well enough, sir. But above all I like when they explain to me that when I grow up like him (and he pointed towards a boy of fourteen) I can also try the things that the older people do outside of here."
"What do they do, the grown up people, out there?" the man asked, curious.
Uselessly the family-head, at the back of the inspector, threw a black glance to the boy.
Mathieu, angelically, answered, "I cannot tell you, sir, because they are things that are done outside here, but are never told."
The family-head was desperate and was asking himself what should he do, then intervened, "If you would please follow me, sir, I would like to show you what we call the family album..."
The inspector interrupted him, "No, wait. I want to better understand what this child is saying. How did you say your name is, little one?"
"Mathieu, sir. And what's your name?"
"My name is not important... so, then we were saying..."
"Oh, so your name is also one of the things outside here that can't be said, sir?" Mathieu asked, made curious.
"No, what's that got to do with it? Which are the things that outside here are done but are never told?" the man insisted, trying to understand what the boy was referring to.
"Oh, as you come from outside here, you should know better than me, sir." Mathieu answered, angelically.
An older boy quickly intervened, "Oh yes, for instance outside of here there are military secrets, industrial ones... things that are done but one doesn't talk about... isn't that right?"
Mathieu then asked the inspector, widening his eyes, "You, sir, you know military secrets?"
"Of course not, I am not in the army. But, YOU answer me, Mathieu, what are the things that you learned here, that are done outside but one shouldn't tell?"
"Well... for instance... they taught us that when one goes to cast his vote, he should not tell everybody who he voted for... Here I can't yet cast a vote, but he can. But he shouldn't tell everybody who he chose...
Isn't it so, sir?"
"Of course, in a true democracy the vote has to be secret. This is what they taught you?"
"Yes... and then... they also taught me..."
The family-head was desperately giving him the sign to shut up, but Mathieu was not looking at him, so he imperturbably went on.
"Then they taught me... You, sir, are you able to perform magic?"
"Magic?" the man asked confounded.
"Yes... there also, he who performs them should not tell how he does them, or else all the fun ends. We children are not yet skilled, but he is very, very skilled, do you know? And he never tells how he does it. When I am grown up, possibly I too will learn, sir..."
"Yes, yes, I understand..." the man said and with great relief of the family-head, he passed to ask questions to the other boys.
When, after the inspection was over, that poor family-head told Serge and the others about that episode, everybody laughed and said that they had been lucky.
>From the Education ministry came all the needed authorizations for the official recognition of all the studies carried out at the Charterhouse, and also some funds, not very much but useful, in proportion to the number of boys.
In the Pilgrims Hall, on the second floor, they prepared the infirmary by annexing two rooms, one for isolation, and the other for the long periods in bed, adequately equipped.
They then also decided to start the Charterhouse alumni association, thinking that the various competencies of the most affectionate alumni could result to be useful, as had been the telephone call they got about the inspection, or like now to find a doctor and a nurse for the Charterhouse.
Inspiring themselves on the Charterhouse coat of arms, that was carved above the great stone gate of the former church, and that consisted of four horizontal light blue stripes alternated with four white ones, and on them five red balls put in a cross and each astride two stripes, they made the arms of the "Society for the Assistance to the Institute of the Charterhouse" or SAIC, that was a bipartite blue and white shield with a red ball in its centre.
A great number of alumni, amongst which many were already in touch thanks to the magazine called "Montsabot Charterhouse", readily adhered to the initiative, declaring their competencies and availability, and also sending a single donations or monthly money transfers. With a postal referendum organized by the magazine, the alumni decided that they would not be called Montsabot alumni nor former Cartusians as some proposed, but... the "Ancestors"... in fact each of them was still feeling a member, deep in their heart, of the House-family where he lived.
Therefore the Charterhouse, thank to the initial capital of the Laforests, to the state funds and the private donations of the Ancestors, as well of other private institutions, gained a certain economic prosperity and could further improve its structures.
First of all they restored all the remaining small houses and built seven more, perfectly identical to the old ones, so that in all there were twenty-six family-houses, in the three rows up the slope behind the church. They renovated all the toilet and bath facilities in all the houses. Finally they moved the movie theatre on the ground floor of the library, which now had forty thousand books, then the second floor was also restored in order to enlarge the library in the future.
All was completed in 1950 and that same year was held the first plenary meeting of all the Ancestors of the SAIC. It was a great family festivity, and the boys were all very excited; each family competed to know all their Ancestors and be known by them. The strong affection that bound the ancient pupils with the new ones was something moving... especially for Roland, to whom on that occasion was presented a collar with the Charterhouse coat of arms and a beautiful artistic parchment where he was declared "the real Dad of us all"...
In 1954 the Institution of Monsabot Charterhouse, was at its thirtieth anniversary! They decided to held great celebrations.
Serge for that occasion simplified the old uniforms of the boys, taking away the starched collar and the spats, and replacing the short mantle with a light blue overcoat. For the first time it was also decided on a uniform for all the adult personnel working in the Charterhouse, in fact they thought that it was not fair asking the boys to wear a uniform if the adults didn't set the "good example".
They also decided to restore the stone baroque fountain that was on the square, connecting it directly with the spring that feeds the small lake near Saint Bruno chapel.
The SAIC organised a full month of celebrations to which took part personalities of politics, of show business, reporters... This was also the occasion for starting a campaign of funds gathering, involving banks and privates, to renovate the Charterhouse facilities. The kitchens were renovated, the three sheds that the German and American armies left were demolished and in their place were erected new buildings in style with the old Charterhouse, the laboratories for the boys were modernized and expanded. But above all now the institution was able to receive more orphans.
So the printing plant now could also print in four-colour process and the weekly magazine "The Montsabot Charterhouse" became a nice colour magazine. Their private radio, "The Voice of Montsabot" had good success among the youths of the region, and was named by the readers of the most prestigious French magazines the "Radio of the Year" to the great joy and pride of all the boys.
The SAIC showed on many occasions to be a powerful means to support, help and protect the institution; in fact a high percentage of the Charterhouse alumni, thanks to the wonderful preparation, not only technical but also social and moral, had very good careers and several of them held important positions. Amongst them there were politicians, a general director of a bank, lawyers, a juvenile judge, a writer, journalists, three show business stars, administrators, a prefect, two mayors, army officers...
It was thanks to one of the Ancestors of the SAIC, who was an inspector of the state schools, that Joseph became one of the teachers of the Charterhouse.
It was 1956. Joseph, who was then twenty-six, was a physical education teacher in a Lyon high school, just behind Perrache. Among his pupils there was a seventeen year old boy, shy and reserved, orphan of mother and with a father almost absent. Joseph took to heart that boy, often unfairly the subject of rude jokes by his school-mates, so the boy opened his heart to him.
Soon between them affection was born, and this lead the boy to feel an increasingly stronger desire to push his relation with Joseph further, until he succeeded in seducing him, so that the boy and the teacher, both gay, ended in each other's arms. So started a secret, warm and tender relationship between the teacher and his student.
But unhappily, a letter that the boy was writing to Joseph fell into the hands of the boy's father. The letter was explicit enough to not leave room for doubt about the nature of their relationship. The boy's father took the letter to the school headmaster. Joseph and the boy were summoned at once. They could not deny their "guilt" but the boy tried with all his strength to exculpate Joseph, telling it was he who had seduced his teacher, because in Joseph he found the love that nobody gave him in all his life...
The boy's father didn't want a scandal, because, as he was a rather famous psychologist, that would greatly endanger his professional reputation; but he demanded Joseph to be chased not only from his son's school but from all the public education. When the headmaster informed his superiors, the inquiry was assigned to a departmental inspector who was, by chance, an Ancestor of Montsabot.
The man questioned Joseph.
"Tell me, monsieur Baronet, did you always have this drive towards the boys?"
Joseph moved ill at ease on his chair and answered in a low voice, "For what I can remember... I never felt attraction towards the gentle sex, sir."
"And... always to minor boys?"
"No... sincerely... just at times, if they are physically and mentally developed, but usually toward older boys... and anyway... this is the first time I... with one of my students... I always avoided to..."
"It seems that the boy swore and insisted very much that it was he who... who seduced you."
"But I let him seduce me... and willingly, sir. And I am an adult, it was up to me to keep my head in place, sir. But I pray you to believe me, it was not just desire that made me accept his advances... but rather the affection I have for him..."
"Legally... you could be charged with corruption of a minor, are you aware?"
"Of course, mister inspector."
"For your luck... the boy's father doesn't intend to report you to the law, to avoid a scandal, but he demands you to be barred from teaching, and not just in this school. But without a legal charge... the only means we have to bar you from teaching, we would need to demonstrate that you have not enough skills to be a good teacher... And this would be anything but easy, as you, as an athlete, also won several prizes, from what I know."
"I like teaching very much, sir... and I always respected my students, I can swear it. I always tried to help them to grow up, not only physically but also morally... even though after what I did you can doubt about that. But I pray you to believe me, even if between Dourier and me there has been... a physical relationship... it has been as a consequence of our previous spiritual relationship... not its preamble, and even less the goal... I know that people like us..."
"Monsieur Baronnet, to be attracted towards his own sex, or the opposite one, or both, doesn't give to anybody a license of morality or of immorality. There can be morality or immorality in all the three types of relationship I just mentioned. At least, this is what I firmly believe and what as I child I was taught. Now, in my opinion, what happened between you and your student, if on one hand is clearly illegal, on the other hand seems to me absolutely... moral, believe me."
Joseph looked at him extremely astounded, and remained to look at him his mouth agape, almost unbelieving.
The inspector smiled, "I well know that ninety percent of my colleagues wouldn't see it in this way... But in my opinion immoral is violence, deceit, dishonesty and not how one lives his sexuality... But let's come back to us... So, to you, teaching is above all a mission, if I well understood."
Joseph hinted a shy smile, "I don't feel like being a missionary... but... it's above all to do one's best to help the boys to grow up sound, honest and happy... I think. Of course, any teacher has to follow a curriculum with precise contents, but if we limited ourselves to just that... books would be enough, I think; there would not be need of teachers of flesh and blood."
"Tell me, Monsieur Baronnet, do you have family, here?"
"No, I live by myself."
"You would therefore have no difficulties in moving, in going to work in another town?"
"There wouldn't be the least problem..."
The inspector nodded. "Listen, young man, I have to confess to you that, after hearing the boy's testimony and his passionate defence of you, and after talking with you... I like you. I therefore would like to give you a hand to get out of this problem in the best possible way. If I can give you a bit of advice, resign from your post as a state teacher. But then, go to this address," the man said checking his pocket diary and writing down something on a sheet, "introducing yourself with my name, and ask there if they can give you a teaching position. If you assure me you will go, I will call them announcing your visit and explaining to them your problem..."
"You mean... telling about my student and me?" Joseph asked, worried.
"Of course. But this, you will see, will not at all be prejudicial to your candidacy... So, then do you accept?"
"I can hence go on being a teacher?"
"Yes, if they hire you. It isn't a state school but an officially recognized one, therefore they are free to hire who they please."
"In spite of what... what I did?"
"Excuse me, young man, but possibly I didn't explain myself clearly enough. What you did, in my opinion, is not immoral, at least as much as it isn't immoral the fact that... that you and I are French. Therefore, don't you think it would be a weird question if you asked me if they would hire you in spite of the fact that you are French?"
Joseph for the second time smiled and nodded, then justified himself, "You are the first person ever to tell me to think in this way... I'm not used to it, can you see? I had to always carefully hide my... my inclinations, and everybody always did so that I had to feel ashamed of them... So you can understand my... my astonishment."
"Good. This means that possibly your setback, after all, is proving to be less bad than you feared... Please, write down and give me your resignation letter as I asked you and I will settle all the rest. When do you think you can present yourself at this institution?"
"Even next week..."
"Good, therefore before Sunday I will talk about you with those responsible. My best wishes, Monsieur Baronnet."
So Joseph went to the Charterhouse. Serge received him.
"Monsieur Baronnet, I was waiting for you. Have a seat, please. I received a warm introduction about you, therefore, if we can, we will try to help you."
"You therefore know why... why I had to give my resignation from the state school. The real reason, I mean."
"Yes, of course. Tell me, Joseph... I can call you by your name, can't I? My name is Serge... Tell me, in your opinion a physical relationship with a person of your same sex is against nature, sinful, normal, bad, good... or what?"
"It is against the laws of our nation and of the church..."
"But for you..."
"If I deemed it to be bad, unnatural, I would do all in my means to avoid it... But in my opinion... when it is dictated by love, or at least affection, and when there is mutual respect... it could even be good, beautiful, right..." the young man said and blushed.
"Good. And your relationship with your student... what dictated it?"
"A deep affection, believe me. I know that as he was still a minor... I should not have... but... I could have told him no, I could have refused his need only because... I could have told him no, to wait some years... Of course there was also my desire, I can't deny it. But I swear that more than a physical desire, it was my desire to give him affection, support, love that pushed me towards him. I felt desire also towards other boys, as I am what I am, but not for that I ever allowed myself to... to try to attract them to me... to use them to soothe my need... I am not trying to justify myself, but more than for my sake, it has been for him that I..."
"Yes, I know what that boy declared and it corresponds to what you are saying. You don't need to insist, you are explaining what is obvious... Changing to a technical level, and to your value as a teacher, I know that you won several medals and cups in sport competitions..."
"Yes, here is my curriculum..."
"I personally think that you would be a good acquisition for our institution. But here the decisions are always taken collectively. Therefore I will now summon the college of teachers and students and if, as I think, you will be deemed suitable, starting from next month you will become one of our teachers. And as soon as the college will give its approval, I will also explain to you in detail our educational principles, our organization; we will give you a room in the Old Guest House, that is used as the residence of the adult members in this Charterhouse, and you will be one of us..."
So Joseph met the college of teachers and students who examined him and in the end gave its assent. Joseph was thus hired. When they explained to him the principles that ruled the Charterhouse, Joseph passed from incredulity to amazement to enthusiasm. So he became one of the physical education instructors, revealing to be a skilled and valuable teacher who was really able to understand, lead and spur the enthusiasm of the boys.
One day Joseph said to Serge, "I passed through a nightmare to wake up in heaven!"
Serge smiled, "It could be... so then do your best so that you can leave this... heaven a little better than how you found it. Only with hard and serious work from us all, both boys and adults, will this be possible."
"Of course I will do my best!" the young man joyfully exclaimed.
In that same year it was also decided that the twenty-six family-houses would be called in alphabetical order from A to Z, painting over the entrance door of each of them a coat of arms representing the family name. So for instance, a boy said that he was Marc Bosse of the Flower, as he lived in the house F, or Jules Creyx of the Eagle as he lived in the house E.
Another new thing introduced in the Charterhouse's life, so that the life in the little houses became much nearer to that of a true family, was that each house got a refrigerator and a washing machine, the gift of an ancestor, the owner of a household appliances factory. Such gifts from the Ancestors were everything but uncommon. Anyway, even though each Ancestor had a strong bond with his old family-house, the rule was that, except for some small things of little value or of particular sentimental value, the gift had to be given to all the institution and not to a single family, to avoid differences and discriminations.
The Charterhouse could also buy a small bus and three service cars, to use besides the two old military jeeps that the American army left them as a gift, old and anyway working perfectly. Near the garage for all these cars, they also built a small maintenance shop, completely equipped by another of the Ancestors, so that the boys who liked could learn that work.
Maurice, working hard with the boys, transformed all the land between the little houses into a beautiful English style garden, and the area at the east of the church and behind the laboratories, into a vegetable garden so that they could always have fresh vegetables. Also the small vineyard was producing a good wine, just in part used in the Charterhouse and in great part sold in the shop they had downtown that was still managed by Michel Laforest-Brout.