The effemination of the males had continued with quickened tempo. As if to conclude the work of long years, the Des. Esseintes had intermarried for two centuries, using up, in such consanguineous unions, such strength as remained. At first the Fathers pampered the lad whose intelligence astonished them. But despite their efforts, they could not induce him to concentrate on studies requiring discipline. He nibbled at various books and was precociously brilliant in Latin.
In this representation of one of the most intimate friends of the Duc d'Epernon and the Marquis d'O, the ravages of a sluggish and impoverished constitution were already noticeable. It was obvious that the decadence of this family had followed an unvarying course.
His contempt for humanity deepened. He reached the conclusion that the world, for the most part, was composed of scoundrels and imbeciles. Certainly, he could not hope to discover in others aspirations and aversions similar to his own, could not expect companionship with an intelligence exult. Thus he lived in perfect contentment, scarcely feeling the parental yoke of the priests. He continued his Latin and French studies when the whim seized him and, although theology did not figure in his schedule, he finished his apprenticeship in this science, begun at the Chateau de Lourps, in the library bequeathed by his grand-uncle, Dom Prosper, the old prior. These changes did not escape them. Subtle and observant, accustomed by their profession to plumb souls to their depths, they were fully aware of his unresponsiveness to their teachings. They knew that this student would never contribute to the glory of their order, and as his family was rich and apparently careless of his future, they soon renounced the idea. As a last resort, through prudence and fear of the harm he might effect, they permitted him to pursue whatever studies pleased him and to neglect the others, being loath to antagonize this bold and independent spirit by the quibblings of the lay school assistants.