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Jean Christophe: In Paris by Romain Rolland

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of spending money crops up, they succumb to the temptation: they are always
going to economize next time: and when they do happen to make a little
money, or to think they have made it, they rush out and spend ten times the
amount on the strength of it.

At the end of a few weeks the Jeannins' resources were exhausted. Madame
Jeannin had to gulp down what was left of her pride, and, unknown to her
children, she went and asked Poyet for money. She contrived to see him
alone at his office, and begged him to advance her a small sum until they
had found work to keep them alive. Poyet, who was weak and human enough,
tried at first to postpone the matter, but finally acceded to her request.
He gave her two hundred francs in a moment of emotion, which mastered him,
and he repented of it immediately afterwards,--when he had to make his
peace with Madame Poyet, who was furious with her husband's weakness, and
her sister's slyness.

* * * * *

All day and every day the Jeannins were out and about in Paris, looking
for work. Madame Jeannin, true to the prejudices of her class, would not
hear of their engaging in any other profession than those which are called
"liberal"--no doubt because they leave their devotees free to starve. She
would even have gone so far as to forbid her daughter to take a post as
a family governess. Only the official professions, in the service of the
State, were not degrading in her eyes. They had to discover a means of
letting Olivier finish his education so that he might become a teacher. As
for Antoinette, Madame Jeannin's idea was that she should go to a school
to teach, or to the Conservatoire to win the prize for piano playing. But
the schools at which she applied already had teachers enough, who were
much better qualified than her daughter with her poor little elementary
certificate: and, as for music, she had to recognize that Antoinette's
talent was quite ordinary compared with that of so many others who did not
get on at all. They came face to face with the terrible struggle for life,
and the blind waste of talent, great and small, for which Paris can find no

The two children lost heart and exaggerated their uselessness: they
believed that they were mediocre, and did their best to convince themselves
and their mother that it was so. Olivier, who had had no difficulty in
shining at his provincial school, was crushed by his various rebuffs: he
seemed to have lost possession of all his gifts. At the school for which he
won a scholarship, the results of his first examinations were so disastrous
that his scholarship was taken away from him. He thought himself utterly
stupid. At the same time he had a horror of Paris, and its swarming
inhabitants, and the disgusting immorality of his schoolfellows, and their
shameful conversation, and the bestiality of a few of them who did not
spare him from their abominable proposals. He was not even strong enough to
show his contempt for them. He felt degraded by the mere thought of their
degradation. With his mother and sister, he took refuge in the heartfelt
prayers which they used to say every evening after the day of deceptions
and private humiliations, which to their innocence seemed to be a taint,
of which they dared not tell each other. But, in contact with the latent
spirit of atheism which is in the air of Paris, Olivier's faith was
beginning to crumble away, without his knowledge, like whitewash trickling
down a wall under the beating of the rain. He went on believing: but all
about him God was dying.

His mother and sister pursued their futile quest. Madame Jeannin turned
once more to the Poyets, who were anxious to be quit of them, and offered
them work. Madame Jeannin was to go as reader to an old lady who was
spending the winter in the South of France. A post was found for Antoinette
as governess in a family in the West, who lived all the year round in the
country. The terms were not bad, but Madame Jeannin refused. It was not
so much for herself that she objected to a menial position, but she was
determined that Antoinette should not be reduced to it, and unwilling
to part with her. However unhappy they might be, just because they were
unhappy, they wished to be together.--Madame Poyet took it very badly. She
said that people who had no means of living had no business to be proud.
Madame Jeannin could not refrain from crying out upon her heartlessness.
Madame Poyet spoke bitterly of the bankruptcy and of the money that Madame
Jeannin owed her. They parted, and the breach between them was final. All
relationship between them was broken off. Madame Jeannin had only one
desire left: to pay back the money she had borrowed. But she was unable to
do that.

They resumed their vain search for work. Madame Jeannin went to see the
deputy and the senator of her department, men whom Monsieur Jeannin had
often helped. Everywhere she was brought face to face with ingratitude
and selfishness. The deputy did not even answer her letters, and when she
called on him he sent down word that he was out. The senator commiserated
her ponderously on her unhappy position, which he attributed to "the
wretched Jeannin," whose suicide he stigmatized harshly. Madame Jeannin
defended her husband. The senator said that of course he knew that the
banker had acted, not from dishonesty, but from stupidity, and that he was
a fool, a poor gull, who knew nothing, and would go his own way without
asking anybody's advice or taking a warning from any one. If he had only
ruined himself, there would have been nothing to say: that would have
been his own affair. But--not to mention the ruin that he had brought on
others,--that he should have reduced his wife and children to poverty and
deserted them and left them to get out of it as best they could ... it was
Madame Jeannin's own business if she chose to forgive him, if she were a
saint, but for his part, he, the senator, not being a saint--(s, a, i, n,
t),--but, he flattered himself, just a plain man--(s, a, i, n),--a plain,
sensible, reasonable human being,--he could find no reason for forgiveness:
a man who, in such circumstances, could kill himself, was a wretch. The
only extenuating circumstance he could find in Jeannin's case was that he
was not responsible for his actions. With that he begged Madame Jeannin's
pardon for having expressed himself a little emphatically about her
husband: he pleaded the sympathy that he felt for her: and he opened his
drawer and offered her a fifty-franc note,--charity--which she refused.

She applied for a post in the offices of a great Government department. She
set about it clumsily and inconsequently, and all her courage oozed out at
the first attempt. She returned home so demoralized that for several days
she could not stir. And, when she resumed her efforts, it was too late. She
did not find help either with the church-people, either because they saw
there was nothing to gain by it, or because they took no interest in a
ruined family, the head of which had been notoriously anti-clerical. After
days and days of hunting for work Madame Jeannin could find nothing better
than a post as music-teacher in a convent--an ungrateful task, ridiculously
ill-paid. To eke out her earnings she copied music in the evenings for an
agency. They were very hard on her. She was severely called to task for
omitting words and whole lines, as she did in spite of her application,
for she was always thinking of so many other things and her wits were
wool-gathering. And so, after she had stayed up through the night till
her eyes and her back ached, her copy was rejected. She would return home
utterly downcast. She would spend days together moaning, unable to stir
a finger. For a long time she had been suffering from heart trouble,
which had been aggravated by her hard struggles, and filled her with dark
forebodings. Sometimes she would have pains, and difficulty in breathing
as though she were on the point of death. She never went out without her
name and address written on a piece of paper in her pocket in case she
should collapse in the street. What would happen if she were to disappear?
Antoinette comforted her as best she could by affecting a confidence which
she did not possess: she begged her to be careful and to let her go and
work in her stead. But the little that was left of Madame Jeannin's pride
stirred in her, and she vowed that at least her daughter should not know
the humiliation she had to undergo.

In vain did she wear herself out and cut down their expenses: what she
earned was not enough to keep them alive. They had to sell the few jewels
which they had kept. And the worst blow of all came when the money, of
which they were in such sore need, was stolen from Madame Jeannin the very
day it came into her hands. The poor flustered creature took it into her
head while she was out to go into the _Bon Marche_, which was on her way:
it was Antoinette's birthday next day, and she wanted to give her a little
present. She was carrying her purse in her hand so as not to lose it. She
put it down mechanically on the counter for a moment while she looked at
something. When she put out her hand for it the purse was gone. It was the
last blow for her.

A few days later, on a stifling evening at the end of August,--a hot
steaming mist hung over the town,--Madame Jeannin came in from her copying
agency, whither she had been to deliver a piece of work that was wanted in
a hurry. She was late for dinner, and had saved her three sous' bus fare
by hurrying home on foot to prevent her children being anxious. When she
reached the fourth floor she could neither speak nor breathe. It was not
the first time she had returned home in that condition: the children took
no notice of it. She forced herself to sit down at table with them. They
were both suffering from the heat and did not eat anything: they had to
make an effort to gulp down a few morsels of food, and a sip or two of
stale water. To give their mother time to recover they did not talk--(they
had no desire to talk)--and looked out of the window.

Suddenly Madame Jeannin waved her hands in the air, clutched at the table,
looked at her children, moaned, and collapsed. Antoinette and Olivier
sprang to their feet just in time to catch her in their arms. They were
beside themselves, and screamed and cried to her:

"Mother! Mother! Dear, dear mother!"

But she made no sound. They were at their wit's end. Antoinette clung
wildly to her mother's body, kissed her, called to her. Olivier ran to the
door of the flat and yelled:

"Help! Help!"

The housekeeper came running upstairs, and when she saw what had happened
she ran for a doctor. But when the doctor arrived, he could only say that
the end had come. Death had been instantaneous--happily for Madame
Jeannin--although it was impossible to know what thoughts might have been
hers during the last moments when she knew that she was dying and leaving
her children alone in such misery.

They were alone to bear the horror of the catastrophe, alone to weep, alone
to perform the dreadful duties that follow upon death. The porter's wife, a
kindly soul, helped them a little: and people came from the convent where
Madame Jeannin had taught: but they were given no real sympathy.

The first moments brought inexpressible despair. The only thing that saved
them was the very excess of that despair, which made Olivier really ill.
Antoinette's thoughts were distracted from her own suffering, and her one
idea was to save her brother: and her great, deep love filled Olivier and
plucked him back from the violent torment of his grief. Locked in her arms,
near the bed where their mother was lying in the glimmer of a candle,
Olivier said over and over again that they must die, that they must both
die, at once: and he pointed to the window. In Antoinette, too, there was
the dark desire: but she fought it down: she wished to live....

"Why? Why?"

"For her sake," said Antoinette--(she pointed to her mother).--"She is
still with us. Think ... after all that she has suffered for our sake, we
must spare her the crowning sorrow, that of seeing us die in misery....
Ah!" (she went on emphatically).... "And then, we must not give way. I will
not! I refuse to give in. You must, you shall be happy, some day!"


"Yes. You shall be happy. We have had too much unhappiness. A change will
come: it must. You shall live your life. You shall have children, you shall
be happy, you shall, you shall!"

"How are we to live? We cannot do it...."

"We can. What is it, after all? We have to live somehow until you can earn
your living. I will see to that. You will see: I'll do it. Ah! If only
mother had let me do it, as I could have done...."

"What will you do? I will not have you degrading yourself. You could not do

"I can.... And there is nothing humiliating in working for one's
living--provided it be honest work. Don't you worry about it, please. You
will see, everything will come right. You shall be happy, we shall be
happy: dear Olivier, _she_ will be happy through us...."

The two children were the only mourners at their mother's grave. By common
consent they agreed not to tell the Poyets: the Poyets had ceased to exist
for them: they had been too cruel to their mother: they had helped her
to her death. And, when the housekeeper asked them if they had no other
relations, they replied:

"No. Nobody."

By the bare grave they prayed hand in hand. They set their teeth in
desperate resolve and pride and preferred their solitude to the presence of
their callous and hypocritical relations.--They returned on foot through
the throng of people who were strangers to their grief, strangers to their
thoughts, strangers to their lives, and shared nothing with them but their
common language. Antoinette had to support Olivier.

They took a tiny flat in the same house on the top floor--two little
attics, a narrow hall, which had to serve as a dining-room, and a kitchen
that was more like a cupboard. They could have found better rooms in
another neighborhood: but it seemed to them that they were still with their
mother in that house. The housekeeper took an interest in them for a time:
but she was soon absorbed in her own affairs and nobody bothered about
them. They did not know a single one of the other tenants: and they did not
even know who lived next door.

Antoinette obtained her mother's post as music-teacher at the convent. She
procured other pupils. She had only one idea: to educate her brother until
he was ready for the _Ecole Normale_. It was her own idea, and she had
decided upon it after mature reflection: she had studied the syllabus and
asked about it, and had also tried to find out what Olivier thought:--but
he had no ideas, and she chose for him. Once at the _Ecole Normale_ he
would be sure of a living for the rest of his life, and his future would
be assured. He must get in, somehow; whatever it cost, they would have to
keep alive till then. It meant five or six terrible years: they would win
through. The idea possessed Antoinette, absorbed her whole life. The poor
solitary existence which she must lead, which she saw clearly mapped out
in front of her, was only made bearable through the passionate exaltation
which filled her, her determination, by all means in her power, to save her
brother and make him happy. The light-hearted, gentle girl of seventeen or
eighteen was transfigured by her heroic resolution: there was in her an
ardent quality of devotion, a pride of battle, which no one had suspected,
herself least of all. In that critical period of a woman's life, during
the first fevered days of spring, when love fills all her being, and like
a hidden stream murmuring beneath the earth, laves her soul, envelops
it, floods it with tenderness, and fills it with sweet obsessions, love
appears in divers shapes: demanding that she should give herself, and
yield herself up to be its prey: for love the least excuse is enough, and
for its profound yet innocent sensuality any sacrifice is easy. Love made
Antoinette the prey of sisterly devotion.

Her brother was less passionate and had no such stay. Besides, the
sacrifice was made for him, it was not he who was sacrificed--which is so
much easier and sweeter when one loves. He was weighed down with remorse at
seeing his sister wearing herself out for him. He would tell her so, and
she would reply:

"Ah! My dear!... But don't you see that that is what keeps me going?
Without you to trouble me, what should I have to live for?"

He understood. He, too, in Antoinette's position, would have been jealous
of the trouble he caused her: but to be the cause of it!... That hurt his
pride and his affection. And what a burden it was for so weak a creature to
bear such a responsibility, to be bound to succeed, since on his success
his sister had staked her whole life! The thought of it was intolerable to
him, and, instead of spurring him on, there were times when it robbed him
of all energy. And yet she forced him to struggle on, to work, to live, as
he never would have done without her aid and insistence. He had a natural
predisposition towards depression,--perhaps even towards suicide:--perhaps
he would have succumbed to it had not his sister wished him to be ambitious
and happy. He suffered from the contradiction of his nature: and yet it
worked his salvation. He, too, was passing through a critical age, that
fearful period when thousands of young men succumb, and give themselves up
to the aberrations of their minds and senses, and for two or three years'
folly spoil their lives beyond repair. If he had had time to yield to his
thoughts he would have fallen into discouragement or perhaps taken to
dissipation: always when he turned in upon himself he became a prey to his
morbid dreams, and disgust with life, and Paris, and the impure
fermentation of all those millions of human beings mingling and rotting
together. But the sight of his sister's face was enough to dispel the
nightmare: and since she was living only that he might live, he would live,
yes, he would be happy, in spite of himself.

So their lives were built on an ardent faith fashioned of stoicism,
religion, and noble ambition. All their endeavor was directed towards the
one end: Olivier's success. Antoinette accepted every kind of work, every
humiliation that was offered her: she went as a governess to houses where
she was treated almost as a servant: she had to take her pupils out for
walks, like a nurse, wandering about the streets with them for hours
together under pretext of teaching them German. In her love for her brother
and her pride she found pleasure even in such moral suffering and

She would return home worn out to look after Olivier, who was a day-boarder
at his school and only came home in the evening. She would cook their
dinner--a wretched dinner--on the gas-stove or over a spirit-lamp. Olivier
had never any appetite and everything disgusted him, and his gorge would
rise at the food: and she would have to force him to eat, or cudgel her
brains to invent some dish that would catch his fancy, and poor Antoinette
was by no means a good cook. And when she had taken a great deal of
trouble she would have the mortification of hearing him declare that
her cooking was uneatable. It was only after moments of despair at her
cooking-stove,--those moments of silent despair which come to inexperienced
young housekeepers and poison their lives and sometimes their sleep,
unknown to everybody--that she began to understand it a little.

After dinner, when she had washed up the dishes--(he would offer to help
her, but she would never let him),--she would take a motherly interest in
her brother's work. She would hear him his lessons, read his exercises, and
even look up certain words in the dictionary for him, always taking care
not to ruffle up his sensitive little soul. They would spend the evening at
their one table at which they had both to eat and write. He would do his
homework, she would sew or do some copying. When he had gone to bed she
would sit mending his clothes or doing some work of her own.

Although they had difficulty in making both ends meet, they were both
agreed that every penny they could put by should be used in the first place
to settle the debt which their mother owed to the Poyets. It was not that
the Poyets were importunate creditors: they had given no sign of life: they
never gave a thought to the money, which they counted as lost: they thought
themselves very lucky to have got rid of their undesirable relatives so
cheaply. But it hurt the pride and filial piety of the young Jeannins to
think that their mother should have owed anything to these people whom they
despised. They pinched and scraped: they economized on their amusements, on
their clothes, on their food, in order to amass the two hundred francs--an
enormous sum for them. Antoinette would have liked to have done the saving
by herself. But when her brother found out what she was up to, nothing
could keep him from doing likewise. They wore themselves out in the effort,
and were delighted when they could set aside a few sous a day.

In three years, by screwing and scraping, sou by sou, they had succeeded in
getting the sum together. It was a great joy to them. Antoinette went to
the Poyets one evening. She was coldly received, for they thought she had
come to ask for help. They thought it advisable to take the initiative: and
reproached her for not letting them have any news of them: and not having
even told them of the death of her mother, and not coming to them when
she wanted help. She cut them short calmly by telling them that she had
no intention of incommoding them: she had come merely to return the money
which had been borrowed from them: and she laid two banknotes on the table
and asked for a receipt. They changed their tone at once, and pretended to
be unwilling to accept it: they were feeling for her that sudden affection
which comes to the creditor for the debtor, who, after many years, returns
the loan which he had ceased to reckon upon. They inquired where she was
living with her brother, and how they lived. She did not reply, asked once
more for the receipt, said that she was in a hurry, bowed coldly, and went
away. The Poyets were horrified at the girl's ingratitude.

Then, when she was rid of that obsession, Antoinette went on with the same
sparing existence, but now it was entirely for her brother's sake. Only she
concealed it more to prevent his knowing it: she economized on her clothes
and sometimes on her food, to keep her brother well-dressed and amused,
and to make his life pleasanter and gayer, and to let him go every now and
then to a concert, or to the opera, which was Olivier's greatest joy. He
was unwilling to go without her, but she would always make excuses for not
going so that he should feel no remorse: she would pretend that she was too
tired and did not want to go out: she would even go so far as to say that
music bored her. Her fond quibbles would not deceive him: but his boyish
selfishness would be too strong for him. He would go to the theater: once
inside, he would be filled with remorse, and it would haunt him all through
the piece, and spoil his pleasure. One Sunday, when she had packed him
off to the _Chatelet_ concert, he returned half an hour later, and told
Antoinette that when he reached the Saint Michel Bridge he had not the
heart to go any farther: the concert did not interest him: it hurt him too
much to have any pleasure without her. Nothing was sweeter to Antoinette,
although she was sorry that her brother should be deprived of his Sunday
entertainment because of her. But Olivier never regretted it: when he saw
the joy that lit up his sister's face as he came in, a joy that she tried
in vain to conceal, he felt happier than the most lovely music in the world
could ever have made him. They spent the afternoon sitting together by the
window, he with a book in his hand, she with her work, hardly reading at
all, hardly sewing at all, talking idly of things that interested neither
of them. Never had they had so delightful a Sunday. They agreed that they
would never go alone to a concert again: they could never enjoy anything

She managed secretly to save enough money to surprise and delight Olivier
with a hired piano, which, on the hire-purchase system became their
property at the end of a certain number of months. The payments for it were
a heavy burden for her to shoulder! It often haunted her dreams, and she
ruined her health in screwing together the necessary money. But, folly as
it was, it did assure them both so much happiness. Music was their Paradise
in their hard life. It filled an enormous place in their existence. They
steeped themselves in music so as to forget the rest of the world. There
was danger in it too. Music is one of the great modern dissolvents. Its
languorous warmth, like the heat of a stove, or the enervating air of
autumn, excites the senses and destroys the will. But it was a relaxation
for a creature forced into excessive, joyless activity as was Antoinette.
The Sunday concert was the only ray of light that shone through the week of
unceasing toil. They lived in the memory of the last concert and the eager
anticipation of the next, in those few hours spent outside Paris and out of
the vile weather. After a long wait outside in the rain, or the snow, or
the wind and the cold, clinging together, and trembling lest all the places
should be taken, they would pass into the theater, where they were lost in
the throng, and sit on dark uncomfortable benches. They were crushed and
stifling, and often on the point of fainting from the heat and discomfort
of it all:--but they were happy, happy in their own and in each other's
pleasure, happy to feel coursing through their veins the flood of kindness,
light, and strength, that surged forth from the great souls of Beethoven
and Wagner, happy, each of them, to see the dear, dear face light up--the
poor, pale face worn by suffering and premature anxieties. Antoinette would
feel so tired and as though loving arms were about her, holding her to a
motherly breast! She would nestle in its softness and warmth: and she would
weep quietly. Olivier would press her hand. No one noticed them in the
dimness of the vast hall, where they were not the only suffering souls
taking refuge under the motherly wing of Music.

Antoinette had her religion to support her. She was very pious, and every
day never missed saying her prayers fervently and at length, and every
Sunday she never missed going to Mass. Even in the injustice of her
wretched life she could not help believing in the love of the divine
Friend, who suffers with you, and, some day, will console you. Even more
than with God, she was in close communion with the beloved dead, and she
used secretly to share all her trials with them. But she was of an
independent spirit and a clear intelligence: she stood apart from other
Catholics, who did not regard her altogether favorably: they thought her
possessed of an evil spirit: they were not far from regarding her as a Free
Thinker, or on the way to it, because, like the honest little Frenchwoman
she was, she had no intention of renouncing her own independent judgment:
she believed not from obedience, like the base rabble, but from love.

Olivier no longer believed. The slow disintegration of his faith, which
had set in during his first months in Paris, had ended in its complete
destruction. He had suffered cruelly: for he was not of those who are
strong enough or commonplace enough to dispense with faith: and so he had
passed through crises of mental agony. But he was at heart a mystic: and,
though he had lost his belief, yet no ideas could be closer to his own than
those of his sister. They both lived in a religious atmosphere. When they
came home in the evening after the day's parting their little flat was to
them a haven, an inviolable refuge, poor, bitterly cold, but pure. How far
removed they felt there from the noise and the corrupt thoughts of

They never talked much of their doings: for when one comes home tired one
has hardly the heart to revive the memory of a painful day by the tale of
its happenings. Instinctively they set themselves to forget it. Especially
during the first hour when they met again for dinner they avoided questions
of all kinds. They would greet each other with their eyes: and sometimes
they would not speak a word all through the meal. Antoinette would look at
her brother as he sat dreaming, just as he used to do when he was a little
boy. She would gently touch his hand:

"Come!" she would say, with a smile. "Courage!"

He would smile too and go on eating. So dinner would pass without their
trying to talk. They were hungry for silence. Only when they had done would
their tongues be loosed a little, when they felt rested, and when each of
them in the comfort of the understanding love of the other had wiped out
the impure traces of the day.

Olivier would sit down at the piano. Antoinette was out of practice from
letting him play always: for it was the only relaxation that he had: and he
would give himself up to it wholeheartedly. He had a fine temperament for
music: his feminine nature, more suited to love than to action, with loving
sympathy could catch the thoughts of the musicians whose works he played,
and merge itself in them and with passionate fidelity render the finest
shades,--at least, within the limitations of his physical strength, which
gave out before the Titanic effort of _Tristan_, or the later sonatas of
Beethoven. He loved best to take refuge in Mozart or Gluck, and theirs was
the music that Antoinette preferred.

Sometimes she would sing too, but only very simple songs, old melodies. She
had a light mezzo voice, plaintive and delicate. She was so shy that she
could never sing in company, and hardly even before Olivier: her throat
used to contract. There was an air of Beethoven set to some Scotch words,
of which she was particularly fond: _Faithful Johnnie_: it was calm, so
calm ... and with what a depth of tenderness!... It was like herself.
Olivier could never hear her sing it without the tears coming to his eyes.

But she preferred listening to her brother. She would hurry through her
housework and leave the door of the kitchen open the better to hear
Olivier: but in spite of all her care he would complain impatiently of the
noise she made with her pots and pans. Then she would close the door; and,
when she had finished, she would come and sit in a low chair, not near the
piano--(for he could not bear any one near him when he was playing),--but
near the fireplace: and there she would sit curled up like a cat, with her
back to the piano, and her eyes fixed on the golden eyes of the fire, in
which a lump of coal was smoldering, and muse over her memories of the
past. When nine o'clock rang she would have to pull herself together to
remind Olivier that it was time to stop. It would be hard to drag him, and
to drag herself, away from dreams: but Olivier would still have some work
to do. And he must not go to bed too late. He would not obey her at once:
he always needed a certain time in which to shake free of the music before
he could apply himself seriously to his work. His thoughts would be off
wandering. Often it would be half-past nine before he could shake free of
his misty dreams. Antoinette, bending over her work at the other side of
the table, would know that he was doing nothing: but she dared not look
in his direction too often for fear of irritating him by seeming to be
watching him.

He was at the ungrateful age--the happy age--when a boy saunters dreamily
through his days. He had a clear forehead, girlish eyes, deep and trustful,
often with dark circles round them, a wide mouth with rather thick pouting
lips, a rather crooked smile, vague, absent, taking: he wore his hair long
so that it hung down almost to his eyes, and made a great bunch at the back
of his neck, while one rebellious lock stuck up at the back: a neckerchief
loosely tied round his neck--(his sister used to tie it carefully in a bow
every morning):--a waistcoat which was always buttonless, although she was
for ever sewing them on: no cuffs: large hands with bony wrists. He had a
heavy, sleepy, bantering expression, and he was always wool-gathering. His
eyes would blink and wander round Antoinette's room:--(his work-table was
in her room):--they would light on the little iron bed, above which hung an
ivory crucifix, with a sprig of box,--on the portraits of his father and
mother,--on an old photograph of the little provincial town with its tower
mirrored in its waters. And when they reached his sister's pallid face,
bending in silence over her work, he would be filled with an immense pity
for her and his own indolence: and he would work furiously to make up for
lost time.

He spent his holidays in reading. They would read together each with a
separate book. In spite of their love for each other they could not read
aloud. That hurt them as an offense against modesty. A fine book was to
them as a secret which should only be murmured in the silence of the heart.
When a passage delighted them, instead of reading it aloud, they would hand
the book over, with a finger marking the place: and they would say:

"Read that."

Then, while the other was reading, the one who had already read would with
shining eyes gaze into the dear face to see what emotions were roused and
to share the enjoyment of it.

But often with their books open in front of them they would not read: they
would talk. Especially towards the end of the evening they would feel
the need of opening their hearts, and they would have less difficulty
in talking. Olivier had sad thoughts: and in his weakness he had to rid
himself of all that tortured him by pouring out his troubles to some one
else. He was a prey to doubt. Antoinette had to give him courage, to defend
him against himself: it was an unceasing struggle, which began anew each
day. Olivier would say bitter, gloomy things: and when he had said them he
would be relieved: but he never troubled to think how they might hurt his
sister. Only very late in the day did he see how he was exhausting her: he
was sapping her strength and infecting her with his own doubts. Antoinette
never let it appear how she suffered. She was by nature valiant and gay,
and she forced herself to maintain a show of gaiety, even when that
gracious quality was long since dead in her. She had moments of utter
weariness, and revolt against the life of perpetual sacrifice to which she
had pledged herself. But she condemned such thoughts and would not analyze
them: they came to her in spite of herself, and she would not accept
them. She found help in prayer, except when her heart could not pray--(as
sometimes happens)--when it was, as it were, withered and dry. Then she
could only wait in silence, feverish and ashamed, for the return of grace.
Olivier never had the least suspicion of the agony she suffered. At such
times Antoinette would make some excuse and go away and lock herself in her
room: and she would not appear again until the crisis was over: then she
would be smiling, sorrowful, more tender than ever, and, as it were,
remorseful for having suffered.

Their rooms were adjoining. Their beds were placed on either side of the
same wall: they could talk to each other through it in whispers: and when
they could not sleep they would tap gently on the wall to say:

"Are you asleep? I can't sleep."

The partition was so thin that it was almost as though they shared the same
room. But the door between their rooms was always locked at night, in
obedience to an instinctive and profound modesty,--a sacred feeling:--it
was only left open when Olivier was ill, as too often happened.

He did not gain in health. Rather he seemed to grow weaker. He was always
ailing: throat, chest, head or heart: if he caught the slightest cold there
was always the danger of its turning to bronchitis: he caught scarlatina
and almost died of it: but even when he was not ill he would betray strange
symptoms of serious illnesses, which fortunately did not come to anything:
he would have pains in his lungs or his heart. One day the doctor who
examined him diagnosed pericarditis, or peripneumonia, and the great
specialist who was then consulted confirmed his fears. But it came to
nothing. It was his nerves that were wrong, and it is common knowledge that
disorders of the nerves take the most unaccountable shapes: they are got
rid of at the cost of days of anxiety. But such days were terrible for
Antoinette, and they gave her sleepless nights. She would lie in a state of
terror in her bed, getting up every now and then to listen to her brother's
breathing. She would think that perhaps he was dying, she would feel sure,
convinced of it: she would get up, trembling, and clasp her hands, and hold
them fast against her lips to keep herself from crying out.

"Oh! God! Oh! God!" she would moan. "Take him not from me! Not that ... not
that. You have no right!... Not that, oh! God, I beg!... Oh, mother,
mother! Come to my aid! Save him: let him live!..."

She would lie at full stretch.

"Ah! To die by the way, when so much has been done, when we were nearly
there, when he was going to be happy ... no: that could not be: it would be
too cruel!..."

* * * * *

It was not long before Olivier gave her other reasons for anxiety.

He was profoundly honest, like herself, but he was weak of will and too
open-minded and too complex not to be uneasy, skeptical, indulgent towards
what he knew to be evil, and attracted by pleasure. Antoinette was so pure
that it was some time before she understood what was going on in her
brother's mind. She discovered it suddenly, one day.

Olivier thought she was out. She usually had a lesson at that hour: but at
the last moment she had received word from her pupil, telling her that she
could not have her that day. She was secretly pleased, although it meant
a few francs less in that week's earnings: but she was very tired and she
lay down on her bed: she was very glad to be able to rest for once without
reproaching herself. Olivier came in from school bringing another boy with
him. They sat down in the next room and began to talk. She could hear
everything they said: they thought they were alone and did not restrain
themselves. Antoinette smiled as she heard her brother's merry voice. But
soon she ceased to smile, and her blood ran cold. They were talking of
dirty things with an abominable crudity of expression: they seemed to revel
in it. She heard Olivier, her boy Olivier, laughing: and from his lips,
which she had thought so innocent, there came words so obscene that the
horror of it chilled her. Keen anguish stabbed her to the heart. It went on
and on: they could not stop talking, and she could not help listening. At
last they went out, and Antoinette was left alone. Then she wept: something
had died in her: the ideal image that she had fashioned of her brother--of
her boy--was plastered with mud: it was a mortal agony to her. She did not
say anything to him when they met again in the evening. He saw that she had
been weeping and he could not think why. He could not understand why she
had changed her manner towards him. It was some time before she was able to
recover herself.

But the worst blow of all for her was one evening when he did not come
home. She did not go to bed, but sat up waiting for him. It was not only
her moral purity that was hurt: her suffering went down to the most
mysterious inner depths of her heart--those same depths where there lurked
the most awful feelings of the human heart, feelings over which she cast a
veil, to hide them from her sight.

Olivier's first aim had been the declaration of his independence. He
returned in the morning, casting about for the proper attitude and quite
prepared to fling some insolent remark at his sister if she had said
anything to him. He stole into the flat on tiptoe so as not to waken her.
But when he saw her standing there, waiting for him, pale, red-eyed from
weeping, when he saw that, instead of making any effort to reproach him,
she only set about silently cooking his breakfast, before he left for
school, and that she had nothing to say to him, but was overwhelmed, so
that she was, in herself, a living reproach, he could hold out no longer:
he flung himself down before her, buried his face in her lap, and they both
wept. He was ashamed of himself, sick at the thought of what he had done:
he felt degraded. He tried to speak, but she would not let him and laid
her hand on his lips: and he kissed her hand. They said no more: they
understood each other. Olivier vowed that he would never again do anything
to hurt Antoinette, and that he would be in all things what she wanted him
to be. But though she tried bravely she could not so easily forget so sharp
a wound: she recovered from it slowly. There was a certain awkwardness
between them. Her love for him was just the same: but in her brother's soul
she had seen something that was foreign to herself, and she was fearful of

* * * * *

She was the more overwhelmed by the glimpse she had had into Olivier's
inmost heart, in that, about the same time, she had to put up with the
unwelcome attentions of certain men. When she came home in the evening at
nightfall, and especially when she had to go out after dinner to take or
fetch her copying, she suffered agonies from her fear of being accosted,
and followed (as sometimes happened) and forced to listen to insulting
advances. She took her brother with her whenever she could under pretext of
making him take a walk: but he only consented grudgingly and she dared not
insist: she did not like to interrupt his work. She was so provincial and
so pure that she could not get used to such ways. Paris at night was to
her like a dark forest in which she felt that she was being tracked by
dreadful, savage beasts: and she was afraid to leave the house. But she had
to go out. She would put off going out as long as possible: she was always
fearful. And when she thought that her Olivier would be--was perhaps--like
one of those men who pursued her, she could hardly hold out her hand to him
when she came in. He could not think what he had done to change her so, and
she was angry with herself.

She was not very pretty, but she had charm, and attracted attention though
she did nothing to do so. She was always very simply dressed, almost always
in black: she was not very tall, graceful, frail-looking; she rarely spoke:
she tripped quietly through the crowded streets, avoiding attention,
which, however, she attracted in spite of herself by the sweetness of the
expression of her tired eyes and her pure young lips. Sometimes she saw
that she had attracted notice: and though it put her to confusion she was
pleased all the same. Who can say what gentle and chaste pleasure in itself
there may be in so innocent a creature at feeling herself in sympathy
with others? All that she felt was shown in a slight awkwardness in her
movements, a timid, sidelong glance: and it was sweet to see and very
touching. And her uneasiness added to her attraction. She excited interest,
and, as she was a poor girl, with none to protect her, men did not hesitate
to tell her so.

Sometimes she used to go to the house of some rich Jews, the Nathans, who
took an interest in her because they had met her at the house of some
friends of theirs where she gave lessons: and, in spite of her shyness,
she had not been able to avoid accepting invitations to their parties.
M. Alfred Nathan was a well-known professor in Paris, a distinguished
scientist, and at the same time he was very fond of society, with that
strange mixture of learning and frivolity which is so common among the
Jews. Madame Nathan was a mixture in equal proportions of real kindliness
and excessive worldliness. They were both generous, with loud-voiced,
sincere, but intermittent sympathy for Antoinette.--Generally speaking
Antoinette had found more kindness among the Jews than among the
members of her own sect. They have many faults: but they have one great
quality--perhaps the greatest of all: they are alive, and human: nothing
human is foreign to them and they are interested in every living being.
Even when they lack real, warm sympathy they feel a perpetual curiosity
which makes them seek out men and ideas that are of worth, however
different from themselves they may be. Not that, generally speaking, they
do anything much to help them, for they are interested in too many things
at once and much more a prey to the vanities of the world than other
people, while they pretend to be immune from them. But at least they
do something: and that is saying a great deal in the present apathetic
condition of society. They are an active balm in society, the very leaven
of life.--Antoinette who, among the Catholics, had been brought sharp up
against a wall of icy indifference, was keenly alive to the worth of the
interest, however superficial it might be, which the Nathans took in her.
Madame Nathan had marked Antoinette's life of devoted sacrifice: she was
sensible of her physical and moral charm: and she made a show of taking her
under her protection. She had no children: but she loved young people and
often had gatherings of them in her house: and she insisted on Antoinette's
coming also, and breaking away from her solitude, and having some amusement
in her life. And as she had no difficulty in guessing that Antoinette's
shyness was in part the result of her poverty, she even went so far as to
offer to give her a pretty frock or two, which Antoinette refused proudly:
but her kindly patroness found a way of forcing her to accept a few of
those little presents which are so dear to a woman's innocent vanity.
Antoinette was both grateful and embarrassed. She forced herself to go to
Madame Nathan's parties from time to time: and being young she managed to
enjoy herself in spite of everything.

But in that rather mixed society of all sorts of young people Madame
Nathan's protegee, being poor and pretty, became at once the mark of two or
three young gentlemen, who with perfect confidence in themselves picked her
out for their attentions. They calculated how far her timidity would go:
they even made bets about her.

One day she received certain anonymous letters--or rather letters signed
with a noble pseudonym--which conveyed a declaration of love: at first
they were love-letters, flattering, ardent, appointing a rendezvous: then
they quickly became bolder, threatening, and soon insulting and basely
slanderous: they stripped her, exposed her, besmirched her with their
coarse expressions of desire: they tried to play upon Antoinette's
simplicity by making her fearful of a public insult if she did not go to
the appointed rendezvous. She wept bitterly at the thought of having called
down on herself such base proposals: and these insults scorched her pride.
She did not know what to do. She did not like to speak to her brother about
it: she knew that he would feel it too keenly and that he would make the
affair even more serious than it was. She had no friends. The police? She
would not do that for fear of scandal. But somehow she had to make an end
of it. She felt that her silence would not sufficiently defend her, that
the blackguard who was pursuing her would hold to the chase and that he
would go on until to go farther would be dangerous.

He had just sent her a sort of ultimatum commanding her to meet him next
day at the Luxembourg. She went.--By racking her brains she had come to the
conclusion that her persecutor must have met her at Madame Nathan's. In one
of his letters he had alluded to something which could only have happened
there. She begged Madame Nathan to do her a great favor and to drive her to
the door of the gallery and to wait for her outside. She went in. In front
of the appointed picture her tormentor accosted her triumphantly and began
to talk to her with affected politeness. She stared straight at him without
a word. When he had finished his remark he asked her jokingly why she was
staring at him. She replied:

"You are a coward."

He was not put out by such a trifle as that, and became familiar in his
manner. She said:

"You have tried to threaten me with a scandal. Very well, I have come to
give you your scandal. You have asked for it!"

She was trembling all over, and she spoke in a loud voice to show him that
she was quite equal to attracting attention to themselves. People had
already begun to watch them. He felt that she would stick at nothing. He
lowered his voice. She said once more, for the last time:

"You are a coward," and turned her back on him.

Not wishing to seem to have given in he followed her. She left the gallery
with the fellow following hard on her heels. She walked straight to the
carriage waiting there, wrenched the door open, and her pursuer found
himself face to face with Madame Nathan, who recognized him and greeted him
by name. His face fell and he bolted.

Antoinette had to tell the whole story to her companion. She was unwilling
to do so, and only hinted roughly at the facts. It was painful to her to
reveal to a stranger the intimate secrets of her life, and the sufferings
of her injured modesty. Madame Nathan scolded her for not having told her
before. Antoinette begged her not to tell anybody. That was the end of it:
and Madame Nathan did not even need to strike the fellow off her visiting
list: for he was careful not to appear again.

About the same time another sorrow of a very different kind came to

At the Nathans' she met a man of forty, a very good fellow, who was in
the Consular service in the Far East, and had come home on a few months'
leave. He fell in love with her. The meeting had been planned unknown to
Antoinette, by Madame Nathan, who had taken it into her head that she must
find a husband for her little friend. He was a Jew. He was not good-looking
and he was no longer young. He was rather bald, and round-shouldered: but
he had kind eyes, an affectionate way with him, and he could feel for and
understand suffering, for he had suffered himself. Antoinette was no longer
the romantic girl, the spoiled child, dreaming of life as a lovely day's
walk on her lover's arm: now she saw the hard struggle of life, which began
again, every day, allowing no time for rest, or, if rest were taken, it
might be to lose in one moment all the ground that had been gained, inch
by inch, through years of striving: and she thought it would be very sweet
to be able to lean on the arm of a friend, and share his sorrows with him,
and be able to close her eyes for a little, while he watched over her. She
knew that it was a dream: but she had not had the courage to renounce her
dream altogether. In her heart she knew quite well that a dowerless girl
had nothing to hope for in the world in which she lived. The old French
middle-classes are known throughout the world for the spirit of sordid
interest in which they conduct their marriages. The Jews are far less
grasping with money. Among the Jews it is no uncommon thing for a rich
young man to choose a poor girl, or a young woman of fortune to set herself
passionately to win a man of intellect. But in the French middle-classes,
Catholic and provincial in their outlook, almost always money woos money.
And to what end? Poor wretches, they have none but dull commonplace
desires: they can do nothing but eat, yawn, sleep--save. Antoinette knew
them. She had observed their ways from her childhood on. She had seen them
with the eyes of wealth and the eyes of poverty. She had no illusions left
about them, nor about the treatment she had to expect from them. And so the
attentions of this man who had asked her to marry him came as an unhoped
for treasure in her life. At first she did not think of him as a lover, but
gradually she was filled with gratitude and tenderness towards him. She
would have accepted his proposal if it had not meant following him to the
colonies and consequently leaving her brother. She refused: and though her
lover understood the magnanimity of her reason for doing so, he could not
forgive her: love is so selfish, that the lover will not hear of being
sacrificed even to those virtues which are dearest to him in the beloved.
He gave up seeing her: when he went away he never wrote: she had no news
of him at all until, five or six months later, she received a printed
intimation, addressed in his hand, that he had married another woman.

Antoinette felt it deeply. She was broken-hearted, and she offered up her
suffering to God: she tried to persuade herself that she was justly
punished for having for one moment lost sight of her one duty, to devote
herself to her brother: and she grew more and more wrapped up in it.

She withdrew from the world altogether. She even dropped going to the
Nathans', for they were a little cold towards her after she refused
the marriage which they had arranged for her: they too refused to see
any justification for her. Madame Nathan had decided that the marriage
should take place, and her vanity was hurt at its missing fire through
Antoinette's fault. She thought her scruples certainly quite praiseworthy,
but exaggerated and sentimental: and thereafter she lost interest in the
silly little goose. It was necessary for her always to be helping people,
with or without their consent, and she quickly found another protegee to
absorb, for the time being, all the interest and devotion which she had to

Olivier knew nothing of his sister's sad little romance. He was a
sentimental, irresponsible boy, living in his dreams and fancies. It was
impossible to depend on him in spite of his intelligence and charm and
his very real tenderheartedness. Often he would fling away the results of
months of work by his irresponsibility, or in a fit of discouragement, or
by some boyish freak, or some fancied love affair, in which he would waste
all his time and energy. He would fall in love with a pretty face, that
he had seen once, with coquettish little girls, whom perhaps he once met
out somewhere, though they never paid any attention to him. He would be
infatuated with something he had read, a poet, or a musician: he would
steep himself in their works for months together, to the exclusion of
everything else and the detriment of his studies. He had to be watched
always, though great care had to be taken that he did not know it, for he
was easily wounded. There was always a danger of a seizure. He had the
feverish excitement, the want of balance, the uneasy trepidation, that are
often found in those who have a consumptive tendency. The doctor had not
concealed the danger from Antoinette. The sickly plant, transplanted from
the provinces to Paris, needed fresh air and light. Antoinette could not
provide them. They had not enough money to be able to go away from Paris
during the holidays. All the rest of their year every day in the week was
full, and on Sundays they were so tired that they never wanted to go out,
except to a concert.

There were Sundays in the summer when Antoinette would make an effort and
drag Olivier off to the woods outside Paris, near Chaville or Saint-Cloud.
But the woods were full of noisy couples, singing music-hall songs, and
littering the place with greasy bits of paper: they did not find the divine
solitude which purifies and gives rest. And in the evening when they turned
homewards they had to suffer the roar and clatter of the trains, the dirty,
crowded, low, narrow, dark carriages of the suburban lines, the coarseness
of certain things they saw, the noisy, singing, shouting, smelly
people, and the reek of tobacco smoke. Neither Antoinette nor Olivier
could understand the people, and they would return home disgusted and
demoralized. Olivier would beg Antoinette not to go for Sunday walks again;
and for some time Antoinette would not have the heart to go again. And
then she would insist, though it was even more disagreeable to her than to
Olivier: but she thought it necessary for her brother's health. She would
force him to go out once more. But their new experience would be no better
than the last, and Olivier would protest bitterly. So they stayed shut up
in the stifling town, and, in their prison-yard, they sighed for the open

* * * * *

Olivier had reached the end of his schooldays. The examinations for the
_Ecole Normale_ were over. It was quite time. Antoinette was very tired.
She was counting on his success: her brother had everything in his favor.
At school he was regarded as one of the best pupils: and all his masters
were agreed in praising his industry and intelligence, except for a certain
want of mental discipline which made it difficult for him to bend to any
sort of plan. But the responsibility of it weighed on Olivier so heavily
that he lost his head as the examination came near. He was worn out, and
paralyzed by the fear of failure, and a morbid shyness that crept over him.
He trembled at the thought of appearing before the examiners in public. He
had always suffered from shyness: in class he would blush and choke when he
had to speak: at first he could hardly do more than answer his name. And it
was much more easy for him to reply impromptu than when he knew that he was
going to be questioned: the thought of it made him ill: his mind rushed
ahead picturing every detail of the ordeal as it would happen: and the
longer he had to wait, the more he was obsessed by it. It might be said
that he passed every examination at least twice: for he passed it in his
dreams on the night before and expended all his energy, so that he had none
left for the real examination.

But he did not even reach the _viva voce_, the very thought of which had
sent him into a cold sweat the night before. In the written examination on
a philosophical subject, which at any ordinary time would have sent him
flying off, he could not even manage to squeeze out a couple of pages in
six hours. For the first few hours his brain was empty; he could think of
nothing, nothing. It was like a blank wall against which he hurled himself
in vain. Then, an hour before the end, the wall was rent and a few rays of
light shone through the crevices. He wrote an excellent short essay, but it
was not enough to place him. When Antoinette saw the despair on his face as
he came out, she foresaw the inevitable blow, and she was as despairing as
he: but she did not show it. Even in the most desperate situations she had
always an inexhaustible capacity for hope.

Olivier was rejected.

He was crushed by it. Antoinette pretended to smile as though it were
nothing of any importance: but her lips trembled. She consoled her brother,
and told him that it was an easily remedied misfortune, and that he would
be certain to pass next year, and win a better place. She did not tell
him how vital it was to her that he should have passed, that year, or how
utterly worn out she felt in soul and body, or how uneasy she felt about
fighting through another year like that. But she had to go on. If she were
to go away before Olivier had passed he would never have the courage to go
on fighting alone: he would succumb.

She concealed her weariness from him, and even redoubled her efforts.
She wore herself to skin and bone to let him have amusement and change
during the holidays so that he might resume work with greater energy and
confidence. But at the very outset her small savings had to be broken into,
and, to make matters worse, she lost some of her most profitable pupils.

Another year!... Within sight of the final ordeal they were almost at
breaking-point. Above all, they had to live, and discover some other means
of scraping along. Antoinette accepted a situation as a governess in
Germany which had been offered her through the Nathans. It was the very
last thing she would have thought of, but nothing else offered at the time,
and she could not wait. She had never left her brother for a single day
during the last six years: and she could not imagine what life would be
like without seeing and hearing him from day to day. Olivier was terrified
when he thought of it: but he dared not say anything: it was he who had
brought it about: if he had passed Antoinette would not have been reduced
to such an extremity: he had no right to say anything, or to take into
account his own grief at the parting: it was for her to decide.

They spent the last days together in dumb anguish, as though one of them
were about to die: they hid away from each other when their sorrow was too
much for them. Antoinette gazed into Olivier's eyes for counsel. If he had
said to her: "Don't go!" she would have stayed, although she had to go. Up
to the very last moment, in the cab in which they drove to the station,
she was prepared to break her resolution: she felt that she could never go
through with it. At a word from him one word!... But he said nothing. Like
her, he set his teeth and would not budge.--She made him promise to write
to her every day, and to conceal nothing from her, and to send for her if
he were ever in the least danger.

* * * * *

They parted. While Olivier returned with a heavy heart to his school, where
it had been agreed that he should board, the train carried Antoinette,
crushed and sorrowful, towards Germany. Lying awake and staring through the
night they felt the minutes dragging them farther and farther apart, and
they called to each other in whispering voices.

Antoinette was fearful of the new world to which she was going. She had
changed much in six years. She who had once been so bold and afraid of
nothing had grown so used to silence and isolation that it hurt her to
go out into the world again. The laughing, gay, chattering Antoinette of
the old happy times had passed away with them. Unhappiness had made her
sensitive and shy. No doubt living with Olivier had infected her with his
timidity. She had had hardly anybody to talk to except her brother. She was
scared by the least little thing, and was really in a panic when she had to
pay a call. And so it was a nervous torture to her to think that she was
now going to live among strangers, to have to talk to them, to be always
with them. The poor girl had no more real vocation for teaching than her
brother: she did her work conscientiously, but her heart was not in it, and
she had not the support of feeling that there was any use in it. She was
made to love and not to teach. And no one cared for her love.

* * * * *

Nowhere was her capacity for love less in demand than in her new situation
in Germany. The Gruenebaums, whose children she was engaged to teach French,
took not the slightest interest in her. They were haughty and familiar,
indifferent and indiscreet: they paid fairly well: and, as a result, they
regarded everybody in their payment as being under an obligation to them,
and thought they could do just as they liked. They treated Antoinette as a
superior sort of servant and allowed her hardly any liberty. She did not
even have a room to herself: she slept in a room adjoining that of the
children and had to leave the door open all night. She was never alone.
They had no respect for her need of taking refuge every now and then
within herself--the sacred right of every human being to preserve an inner
sanctuary of solitude. The only happiness she had lay in correspondence and
communion with her brother: she made use of every moment of liberty she
could snatch. But even that was encroached upon. As soon as she began to
write they would prowl about in her room and ask her what she was writing.
When she was reading a letter they would ask her what was in it: by their
persistent impertinent curiosity they found out about her "little brother."
She had to hide from them. Too shameful sometimes were the expedients to
which she had to resort, and the holes and crannies in which she had to
hide, in order to be able to read Olivier's letters unobserved. If she left
a letter lying in her room she was sure it would be read: and as she had
nothing she could lock except her box, she had to carry any papers she did
not want to have read about with her: they were always prying into her
business and her intimate affairs, and they were always fishing for her
secret thoughts. It was not that the Gruenebaums were really interested in
her, only they thought that, as they paid her, she was their property. They
were not malicious about it: indiscretion was with them an incurable habit:
they were never offended with each other.

Nothing could have been more intolerable to Antoinette than such espionage,
such a lack of moral modesty, which made it impossible for her to escape
even for an hour a day from their curiosity. The Gruenebaums were hurt by
the haughty reserve with which she treated them. Naturally they found
highly moral reasons to justify their vulgar curiosity, and to condemn
Antoinette's desire to be immune from it.

"It was their duty," they thought, "to know the private life of a girl
living under their roof, as a member of their household, to whom they
had intrusted the education of their children: they were responsible for
her."--(That is the sort of thing that so many mistresses say of their
servants, mistresses whose "responsibility" does not go so far as to
spare the unhappy girls any fatigue or work that must revolt them, but
is entirely limited to denying them every sort of pleasure.)--"And that
Antoinette should refuse to acknowledge that duty, imposed on them by
conscience, could only show," they concluded, "that she was conscious
of being not altogether beyond reproach: an honest girl has nothing to

So Antoinette lived under a perpetual persecution, against which she was
always on her guard, so that it made her seem even more cold and reserved
than she was.

Every day her brother wrote her a twelve-page letter: and she contrived to
write to him every day even if it were only a few lines. Olivier tried hard
to be brave and not to show his grief too clearly. But he was bored and
dull. His life had always been so bound up with his sister's that, now that
she was torn from him, he seemed to have lost part of himself: he could
not use his arms, or his legs, or his brains, he could not walk, or play
the piano, or work, or do anything, not even dream--except through her. He
slaved away at his books from morning to night: but it was no good: his
thoughts were elsewhere: he would be suffering, or thinking of her, or of
the morrow's letter: he would sit staring at the clock, waiting for the
day's letter: and when it arrived his fingers would tremble with joy--with
fear, too--as he tore open the envelope. Never did lover tremble with more
tenderness and anxiety at a letter from his mistress. He would hide away,
like Antoinette, to read his letters: he would carry them about with him:
and at night he always had the last letter under his pillow, and he would
touch it from time to time to make sure that it was still there, during
the long, sleepless nights when he lay awake dreaming of his dear sister.
How far removed from her he felt! He felt that most dreadfully when
Antoinette's letters were delayed by the post and came a day late. Two
days, two nights, between them!... He exaggerated the time and the distance
because he had never traveled. His imagination would take fire:

"Heavens! If she were to fall ill! There would be time for her to die
before he could see her ... Why had she not written to him, just a line or
two, the day before?... Was she ill?... Yes. She was surely ill ..." He
would choke.--More often still he would be terrified of dying away from
her, dying alone, among people who did not care, in the horrible school,
in grim, gray Paris. He would make himself ill with the thought of it....
"Should he write and tell her to come back?"--But then he would be ashamed
of his cowardice. Besides, as soon as he began to write to her it gave him
such joy to be in communion with her that for a moment he would forget
his suffering. It seemed to him that he could see her, hear her voice: he
would tell her everything: never had he spoken to her so intimately, so
passionately, when they had been together: he would call her "my true,
brave, dear, kind, beloved, little sister," and say, "I love you so."
Indeed they were real love-letters.

Their tenderness was sweet and comforting to Antoinette: they were all the
air she had to breathe. If they did not come in the morning at the usual
time she would be miserable. Once or twice it happened that the Gruenebaums,
from carelessness, or--who knows?--from a wicked desire to tease, forgot to
give them to her until the evening, and once even until the next morning:
and she worked herself into a fever.--On New Year's Day they had the same
idea, without telling each other: they planned a surprise, and each sent a
long telegram--(at vast expense)--and their messages arrived at the same
time.--Olivier always consulted Antoinette about his work and his troubles:
Antoinette gave him advice, and encouragement, and fortified him with her
strength, though indeed she had not really enough for herself.

She was stifled in the foreign country, where she knew nobody, and nobody
was interested in her, except the wife of a professor, lately come to
the town, who also felt out of her element. The good creature was kind
and motherly, and sympathetic with the brother and sister who loved each
other so and had to live apart--(for she had dragged part of her story
out of Antoinette):--but she was so noisy, so commonplace, she was so
lacking--though quite innocently--in tact and discretion that aristocratic
little Antoinette was irritated and drew back. She had no one in whom she
could confide and so all her troubles were pent up, and weighed heavily
upon her: sometimes she thought she must give way under them: but she set
her teeth and struggled on. Her health suffered: she grew very thin. Her
brother's letters became more and more downhearted. In a fit of depression
he wrote:

"Come back, come back, come back!..."

But he had hardly sent the letter off than he was ashamed of it and wrote
another begging Antoinette to tear up the first and give no further thought
to it. He even pretended to be in good spirits and not to be wanting his
sister. It hurt his umbrageous vanity to think that he might seem incapable
of doing without her.

Antoinette was not deceived: she read his every thought: but she did not
know what to do. One day she almost went to him: she went to the station to
find out what time the train left for Paris. And then she said to herself
that it was madness: the money she was earning was enough to pay for
Olivier's board: they must hold on as long as they could. She was not
strong enough to make up her mind: in the morning her courage would spring
forth again: but as the day dragged towards evening her strength would fail
her and she would think of flying to him. She was homesick,--longing for
the country that had treated her so hardly, the country that enshrined all
the relics of her past life,--and she was aching to hear the language that
her brother spoke, the language in which she told her love for him.

Then it was that a company of French actors passed through the little
German town. Antoinette, who rarely visited the theater--(she had neither
time nor taste for it)--was seized with an irresistible longing to hear her
own language spoken, to take refuge in France.

The rest is known.[Footnote: See _Jean-Christophe_--I, "Revolt."]

There were no seats left in the theater: she met the young musician,
Jean-Christophe, whom she did not know, and he, seeing her disappointment,
offered to share with her a box which he had to give away: in her confusion
she accepted. Her presence with Christophe set tongues wagging in the
little town: and the malicious rumors came at once to the ears of the
Gruenebaums, who, being already inclined to believe anything ill of the
young Frenchwoman, and furious with Christophe as a result of certain
events which have been narrated elsewhere, dismissed Antoinette without
more ado.

She, who was so chaste and modest, she, whose whole life had been absorbed
by her love for her brother and never yet had been besmirched with one
thought of evil, nearly died of shame, when she understood the nature
of the charge against her. Not for one moment was she resentful against
Christophe. She knew that he was as innocent as she, and that, if he had
injured her, he had meant only to be kind: she was grateful to him. She
knew nothing of him, save that he was a musician, and that he was much
maligned: but, in her ignorance of life and men, she had a natural
intuition about people, which unhappiness had sharpened, and in her queer,
boorish companion she had recognized a quality of candor equal to her own,
and a sturdy kindness, the mere memory of which was comforting and good
to think on. The evil she had heard of him did not at all affect the
confidence which Christophe had inspired in her. Being herself a victim she
had no doubt that he was in the same plight, suffering, as she did, though
for a longer time, from the malevolence of the townspeople who insulted
him. And as she always forgot herself in the thought of others the idea of
what Christophe must have suffered distracted her mind a little from her
own torment. Nothing in the world could have induced her to try to see him
again, or to write to him: her modesty and pride forbade it. She told
herself that he did not know the harm he had done, and, in her gentleness,
she hoped that he would never know it.

She left Germany. An hour away from the town it chanced that the train in
which she was traveling passed the train by which Christophe was returning
from a neighboring town where he had been spending the day.

For a few minutes their carriages stopped opposite each other, and in the
silence of the night they saw each other, but did not speak. What could
they have said save a few trivial words? That would have been a profanation
of the indefinable feeling of common pity and mysterious sympathy which
had sprung up in them, and was based on nothing save the sureness of their
inward vision. During those last moments, when, still strangers, they
gazed into each other's eyes, they saw in each other things which never
had appeared to any other soul among the people with whom they lived.
Everything must pass: the memory of words, kisses, passionate embraces: but
the contact of souls, which have once met and hailed each other and the
throng of passing shapes, that never can be blotted out. Antoinette bore
it with her in the innermost recesses of her heart--that poor heart, so
swathed about with sorrow and sad thoughts, from out the midst of which
there smiled a misty light, which seemed to steal sweetly from the earth, a
pale and tender light like that which floods the Elysian Shades of Gluck.

* * * * *

She returned to Olivier. It was high time she returned to him. He had just
fallen ill: and the poor, nervous, unhappy little creature who trembled, at
the thought of illness before it came--now that he was really ill, refused
to write to his sister for fear of upsetting her. But he called to her,
prayed for her coming as for a miracle.

When the miracle happened he was lying in the school infirmary, feverish
and wandering. When he saw her he made no sound. How often had he seen her
enter in his fevered fancy!... He sat up in bed, gaping, and trembling lest
it should be once more only an illusion. And when she sat down on the bed
by his side, when she took him in her arms and he had taken her in his,
when he felt her soft cheek against his lips, and her hands still cold from
traveling by night in his, when he was quite, quite sure that it was his
dear sister he began to weep. He could do nothing else: he was still the
"little cry-baby" that he had been when he was a child. He clung to her and
held her close for fear she should go away from him again. How changed they
were! How sad they looked!... No matter! They were together once more:
everything was lit up, the infirmary, the school, the gloomy day: they
clung to each other, they would never let each other go. Before she had
said a word he made her swear that she would not go away again. He had no
need to make her swear: no, she would never go away again: they had been
too unhappy away from each other: their mother was right: anything was
better than being parted. Even poverty, even death, so only they were

They took rooms. They wanted to take their old little flat, horrible though
it was: but it was occupied. Their new rooms also looked out on to a yard:
but above a wall they could see the top of a little acacia and grew fond of
it at once, as a friend from the country, a prisoner like themselves, in
the paved wilderness of the city. Olivier quickly recovered his health, or
rather, what he was pleased to call his health:--(for what was health to
him would have been illness to a stronger boy).--Antoinette's unhappy stay
in Germany had helped her to save a little money: and she made some more by
the translation of a German book which a publisher accepted. For a time,
then, they were free of financial anxiety: and all would be well if Olivier
passed his examination at the end of the year.--But if he did not pass?

No sooner had they settled down to the happiness of being together again
than they were once more obsessed by the prospect of the examination. They
tried hard not to think about it, but in vain, they were always coming back
to it. The fixed idea haunted them, even when they were seeking distraction
from their thoughts: at concerts it would suddenly leap out at them in the
middle of the performance: at night when they woke up it would lie there
like a yawning gulf before them. In addition to his eagerness to please his
sister and repay her for the sacrifice of her youth that she had made for
his sake, Olivier lived in terror of his military service which he could
not escape if he were rejected:--(at that time admission to the great
schools was still admitted as an exemption from service).--He had an
invincible disgust for the physical and moral promiscuity, the kind
of intellectual degradation, which, rightly or wrongly, he saw in
barrack-life. Every pure and aristocratic quality in him revolted from such
compulsion, and it seemed to him that death would be preferable. In these
days it is permitted to make light of such feelings, and even to decry
them in the name of a social morality which, for the moment, has become
a religion: but they are blind who deny it: there is no more profound
suffering than that of the violation of moral solitude by the coarse
liberal Communism of the present day.

The examinations began. Olivier was almost incapable of going in: he was
unwell, and he was so fearful of the torment he would have to undergo,
whether he passed or not, that he almost longed to be taken seriously ill.
He did quite well in the written examination. But he had a cruel time
waiting to hear the results. Following the immemorial custom of the country
of Revolutions, which is the worst country in the world for red-tape and
routine, the examinations were held in July during the hottest days of the
year, as though it were deliberately intended to finish off the luckless
candidates, who were already staggering under the weight of cramming a
monstrous list of subjects, of which even the examiners did not know a
tenth part. The written examinations were held on the day after the holiday
of the 14th July, when the whole city was upside down, and making merry, to
the undoing of the young men who were by no means inclined to be merry, and
asked for nothing but silence. In the square outside the house booths were
set up, rifles cracked at the miniature ranges, merry-go-rounds creaked
and grunted, and hideous steam organs roared from morning till night. The
idiotic noise went on for a week. Then a President of the Republic, by way
of maintaining his popularity, granted the rowdy merry-makers another three
days' holiday. It cost him nothing: he did not hear the row. But Olivier
and Antoinette were distracted and appalled by the noise, and had to keep
their windows shut, so that their rooms were stifling, and stop their ears,
trying vainly to escape the shrill, insistent, idiotic tunes which were
ground out from morning till night and stabbed through their brains like
daggers, so that they were reduced to a pitiful condition.

The _viva voce_ examination began immediately after the publication of
the first results. Olivier begged Antoinette not to go. She waited at the
door,--much more anxious than he. Of course he never told her what he
thought of his performance. He tormented her by telling her what he had
said and what he had not said.

At last the final results were published. The names of the candidates were
posted in the courtyard of the Sorbonne. Antoinette would not let Olivier
go alone. As they left the house, they thought, though they did not say it,
that when they came back they would _know_, and perhaps they would regret
their present fears, when at least there was still hope. When they came
in sight of the Sorbonne they felt their legs give way under them. Brave
little Antoinette said to her brother:

"Please not so fast...."

Olivier looked at his sister, and she forced a smile. He said:

"Shall we sit down for a moment on the seat here?"

He would gladly have gone no further. But, after a moment, she pressed his
hand and said:

"It's nothing, dear. Let us go on."

They could not find the list at first. They read several others in which
the name of Jeannin did not appear. When at last they saw it, they did not
take it in at first: they read it several times and could not believe it.
Then when they were quite sure that it was true that Jeannin was Olivier,
that Jeannin had passed, they could say nothing: they hurried home: she
took his arm, and held his wrist, and leaned her weight on him: they almost
ran, and saw nothing of what was going on about them: as they crossed the
boulevard they were almost run over. They said over and over again:

"Dear ... Darling ... Dear ... Dear...."

They tore upstairs to their rooms and then they flung their arms round each
other. Antoinette took her brother's hand and led him to the photographs of
their father and mother, which hung on the wall near her bed, in a corner
of her room, which was a sort of sanctuary to her: they knelt down before
them: and with tears in their eyes they prayed.

Antoinette ordered a jolly little dinner: but they could not eat a morsel:
they were not hungry. They spent the evening, Olivier kneeling by his
sister's side while she petted him like a child. They hardly spoke at all.
They could not even be happy, for they were too worn out. They went to bed
before nine o'clock and slept the sleep of the just.

Next day Antoinette had a frightful headache, but there was such a load
taken from her heart! Olivier felt, for the first time in his life, that
he could breathe freely. He was saved, she was saved, she had accomplished
her task: and he had shown himself to be not unworthy of his sister's
expectations!... For the first time for years and years they allowed
themselves a little laziness. They stayed in bed till twelve talking
through the wall, with the door between their rooms open: when they looked
in the mirror they saw their faces happy and tired-looking: they smiled,
and threw kisses to each other, and dozed off again, and watched each
other's sleep, and lay weary and worn with hardly the strength to do more
than mutter tender little scraps of words.

* * * * *

Antoinette had always put by a little money, sou by sou, so as to have some
small reserve in case of illness. She did not tell her brother the surprise
she had in store for him. The day after his success she told him that they
were going to spend a month in Switzerland to make up for all their years
of trouble and hardship. Now that Olivier was assured of three years at the
_Ecole Normale_ at the expense of the State, and then, when he left the
_Ecole_, of finding a post, they could be extravagant and spend all their
savings. Olivier shouted for joy when she told him. Antoinette was even
more happy than he,--happy in her brother's happiness,--happy to think that
she was going to see the country once more: she had so longed for it.

It took them some time to get ready for the journey, but the work of
preparation was an unending joy. It was well on in August when they set
out. They were not used to traveling. Olivier did not sleep the night
before. And he did not sleep in the train. The whole day they had been
fearful of missing the train. They were in a feverish hurry, they had been
jostled about at the station, and finally huddled into a second-class
carriage, where they could not even lean back to go to sleep:--(that is
one of the privileges of which the eminently democratic French companies
deprive poor travelers, so that rich travelers may have the pleasure of
thinking that they have a monopoly of it).--Olivier did not sleep a wink:
he was not sure that they were in the right train, and he looked out for
the name of every station. Antoinette slept lightly and woke up very
frequently: the jolting of the train made her head bob. Olivier watched her
by the light of the funereal lamp, which shone at the top of the moving
sarcophagus: and he was suddenly struck by the change in her face. Her eyes
were hollow: her childish lips were half-open from sheer weariness: her
skin was sallow, and there were little wrinkles on her cheeks, the marks
of the sad years of sorrow and disillusion. She looked old and ill.--And,
indeed, she was so tired! If she had dared she would have postponed their
journey. But she did not like to spoil her brother's pleasure: she tried to
persuade herself that she was only tired, and that the country would make
her well again. She was fearful lest she should fall ill on the way.--She
felt that he was looking at her: and she suddenly flung off the drowsiness
that was creeping over her, and opened her eyes,--eyes still young,
still clear and limpid, across which, from time to time, there passed an
involuntary look of pain, like shadows on a little lake. He asked her in
a whisper, anxiously and tenderly, how she was: she pressed his hand and
assured him that she was well. A word of love revived her.

Then, when the rosy dawn tinged the pale country between Dole and
Pontarlier, the sight of the waking fields, and the gay sun rising from the
earth,--the sun, who, like themselves, had escaped from the prison of the
streets, and the grimy houses, and the thick smoke of Paris:--the waving
fields wrapped in the light mist of their milk-white breath: the little
things they passed: a little village belfry, a glimpse of a winding stream,
a blue line of hills hovering on the far horizon: the tinkling, moving
sound of the angelus borne from afar on the wind, when the train stopped
in the midst of the sleeping country: the solemn shapes of a herd of cows
browsing on a slope above the railway,--all absorbed Antoinette and her
brother, to whom it all seemed new. They were like parched trees, drinking
in ecstasy the rain from heaven.

Then, in the early morning, they reached the Swiss Customs, where they had
to get out. A little station in a bare country-side. They were almost worn
out by their sleepless night, and the cold, dewy freshness of the dawn made
them shiver: but it was calm, and the sky was clear, and the fragrant air
of the fields was about them, upon their lips, on their tongues, down their
throats, flowing down into their lungs like a cooling stream: and they
stood by a table, out in the open air, and drank comforting hot coffee with
creamy milk, heavenly sweet, and tasting of the grass and the flowers of
the fields.

They climbed up into the Swiss carriage, the novel arrangement of which
gave them a childish pleasure. But Antoinette was so tired! She could not
understand why she should feel so ill. Why was everything about her so
beautiful, so absorbing, when she could take so little pleasure in it?
Was it not all just what she had been dreaming for years: a journey with
her brother, with all anxiety for the future left behind, dear mother
Nature?... What was the matter with her? She was annoyed with herself, and
forced herself to admire and share her brother's naive delight.

They stopped at Thun. They were to go up into the mountains next day. But
that night in the hotel, Antoinette was stricken with a fever, and violent
illness, and pains in her head. Olivier was at his wits' ends, and spent a
night of frightful anxiety. He had to send for a doctor in the morning--(an
unforeseen expense which was no light tax on their slender purse).--The
doctor could find nothing immediately serious, but said that she was run
down, and that her constitution was undermined. There could be no question
of their going on. The doctor forbade Antoinette to get up all day; and
he thought they would perhaps have to stay at Thun for some time. They
were very downcast--though very glad to have got off so cheaply after all
their fears. But it was hard to have come so far to be shut up in a nasty
hotel-room into which the sunlight poured so that it was like a hothouse.
Antoinette insisted on her brother going out. He went a few yards from the
hotel, saw the beautiful green Aar, and, hovering in the distance against
the sky, a white peak: he bubbled over with joy: but he could not keep it
to himself. He rushed back to his sister's room, and told her excitedly
what he had just seen: and when she expressed her surprise at his coming
back so soon and made him promise to go out again, he said, as once before
he had said when he came back from the _Chatelet_ concert:

"No, no. It is too beautiful: it hurts me to see it without you."

That feeling was not new to them: they knew that they had to be together to
enjoy anything wholly. But they always loved to hear it said. His tender
words did Antoinette more good than any medicine. She smiled now,
languidly, happily.--And after a good night, although it was not very wise
to go on so soon, she decided that they would get away very early, without
telling the doctor, who would only want to keep them back. The pure air and
the joy of seeing so much beauty made her stronger, so that she did not
have to pay for her rashness, and without any further misadventure they
reached the end of their journey--a mountain village, high above the lake,
some distance away from Spiez.

There they spent three or four weeks in a little hotel. Antoinette did not
have any further attack of fever, but she never got really well. She still
felt a heaviness, an intolerable weight, in her head, and she was always
unwell. Olivier often asked her about her health: he longed to see her
grow less pale: but he was intoxicated by the beauty of the country, and
instinctively avoided all melancholy thoughts: when she assured him that
she was really quite well, he tried to believe that it was true,--although
he knew perfectly well that it was not so. And she enjoyed to the full her
brother's exuberance and the fine air, and the all-pervading peace. How
good it was to rest at last after those terrible years!

Olivier tried to induce her to go for walks with him: she would have been
happy to join him: but on several occasions when she had bravely set out,
she had been forced to stop after twenty minutes, to regain her breath, and
rest her heart. So he went out alone,--climbing the safe peaks, though they
filled her with terror until he came home again. Or they would go for
little walks together: she would lean on his arm, and walk slowly, and they
would talk, and he would suddenly begin to chatter, and laugh, and discuss
his plans, and make quips and jests. From the road on the hillside above
the valley they would watch the white clouds reflected in the still lake,
and the boats moving like insects on the surface of a pond: they would
drink in the warm air and the music of the goat-bells, borne on the gusty
wind, and the smell of the new-mown hay and the warm resin. And they would
dream together of the past and the future, and the present which seemed to
them to be the most unreal and intoxicating of dreams. Sometimes Antoinette
would be infected with her brother's jolly childlike humor: they would
chase each other and roll about on the grass. And one day he saw her
laughing as she used to do when they were children, madly, carelessly,
laughter clear and bubbling as a spring, such as he had not heard for many

But, most often, Olivier could not resist the pleasure of going for long
walks. He would be sorry for it at once, and later he had bitterly to
regret that he had not made enough of those dear days with his sister. Even
in the hotel he would often leave her alone. There was a party of young
men and girls in the hotel, from whom they had at first kept apart. Then
Olivier was attracted by them, and shyly joined their circle. He had been
starved of friendship: outside his sister he had hardly known any one but
his rough schoolfellows and their girls, who repelled him. It was very
sweet to him to be among well-mannered, charming, merry boys and girls of
his own age. Although he was very shy, he was naively curious, sentimental,
and affectionate, and easily bewitched by the little burning, flickering
fires that shine in a woman's eyes. And in spite of his shyness, women
liked him. His frank longing to love and be loved gave him, unknown to
himself, a youthful charm, and made him find words and gestures and
affectionate little attentions, the very awkwardness of which made them all
the more attractive. He had the gift of sympathy. Although in his isolation
his intelligence had taken on an ironical tinge which made him see the
vulgarity of people and their defects which he often loathed,--yet in
their presence he saw nothing but their eyes, in which he would see the
expression of a living being, who one day would die, a being who had only
one life, even as he, and, even as he, would lose it all too soon, then of
that creature he would involuntarily be fond: in that moment nothing in the
world could make him do anything to hurt: whether he liked it or not, he
had to be kind and amiable. He was weak: and, in being so, he was sure to
please the "world" which pardons every vice, and even every virtue,--except
one: force, on which all the rest depend.

Antoinette did not join them. Her health, her tiredness, her apparently
causeless moral collapse, paralyzed her. Through the long years of anxiety
and ceaseless toil, exhausting body and soul, the positions of the brother
and sister had been inverted: now it was she who felt far removed from the
world, far from everything and everybody, so far!... She could not break
down the wall between them: all their chatter, their noise, their laughter,
their little interests, bored her, wearied her, almost hurt her. It hurt
her to be so: she would have loved to go with the other girls, to share
their interests and laugh with them ... But she could not!... Her heart
ached; she seemed to be as one dead. In the evening she would shut herself
up in her room; and often she would not even turn on the light: she would
sit there in the dark, while downstairs Olivier would be amusing himself,
surrendering to the current of one of those romantic little love affairs to
which he so easily succumbed. She would only shake off her torpor when she
heard him coming upstairs, laughing and talking to the girls, hanging about
saying good-night outside their rooms, being unable to tear himself away.
Then in the darkness Antoinette would smile, and get up to turn on the
light. The sound of her brother's laughter revived her.

Autumn was setting in. The sun was dying down. Nature was a-weary. Under
the thick mists and clouds of October the colors were fading fast; snow
fell on the mountains: mists descended upon the plains. The visitors went
away one by one, and then several at a time. And it was sad to see even the
friends of a little while going away, but sadder still to see the passing
of the summer, the time of peace and happiness which had been an oasis in
their lives. They went for a last walk together, on a cloudy autumn day,
through the forest on the mountain-side. They did not speak: they mused
sadly, as they walked along with the collars of their cloaks turned up,
clinging close together: their hands were locked. There was silence in the
wet woods, and in silence the trees wept. From the depths there came the
sweet plaintive cry of a solitary bird who felt the coming of winter.
Through the mist came the clear tinkling of the goat-bells, far away, so
faint they could hardly hear it, so faint it was as though it came up from
their inmost hearts....

They returned to Paris. They were both sad. Antoinette was no better.

* * * * *

They had to set to work to prepare Olivier's wardrobe for the _Ecole_.
Antoinette spent the last of her little store of money, and even sold some
of her jewels. What did it matter? He would repay her later on. And then,
she would need so little when he was gone from her!... She tried not to
think of what it would be like when he was gone: she worked away at his
clothes, and put into the work all the tenderness she had for her brother,
and she had a presentiment that it would be the last thing she would do for

During the last days together they were never apart: they were fearful of
wasting the tiniest moment. On their last evening they sat up very late by
the fireside, Antoinette occupying the only armchair, and Olivier a stool
at her feet, and she made a fuss of him like the spoiled child he was. He
was dreading--though he was curious about it, too--the new life upon which
he was to enter. Antoinette thought only that it was the end of their dear
life together, and wondered fearfully what would become of her. As though
he were trying to make the thought even more bitter for her, he was more
tender than ever he had been, with the innocent instinctive coquetry of
those who always wait until they are just going to show themselves at their
best and most charming. He went to the piano and played her their favorite
passages from Mozart and Gluck--those visions of tender happiness and
serene sorrow with which so much of their past life was bound up.

When the time came for them to part, Antoinette accompanied Olivier as far
as the gates of the _Ecole_. Then she returned. Once more she was alone.
But now it was not, as when she had gone away to Germany, a separation
which she could bring to an end at will when she could bear it no longer
How it was she who remained behind, he who went away: it was he who had
gone away, for a long, long time--perhaps for life. And yet her love for
him was so maternal that at first she thought less of herself than of him:
she thought only of how different the first few days would be for him, of
the strict rules of the _Ecole_, and was preoccupied with those harmless
little worries which so easily assume alarming proportions in the minds of
people who live alone and are always tormenting themselves about those whom
they love. Her anxiety did at least have this advantage, that it distracted
her thoughts from her own loneliness. She had already begun to think of the
half-hour when she would be able to see him next day in the visitors' room.
She arrived a quarter of an hour too soon. He was very nice to her, but he
was altogether taken up with all the new things he had seen. And during the
following days, when she went to see him, full of the most tender anxiety,
the contrast between what those meetings meant for her and what they meant
for him was more and more marked. For her they were her whole life. For
Olivier--no doubt he loved Antoinette dearly: but it was too much to expect
him to think only of her, as she thought of him. Once or twice he came down
late to the visitors' room. One day, when she asked him if he were at all
unhappy, he said that he was nothing of the kind. Such little things as
that stabbed Antoinette to the heart.--She was angry with herself for being
so sensitive, and accused herself of selfishness: she knew quite well that
it would be absurd, even wrong and unnatural, for him to be unable to do
without her, and for her to be unable to do without him, and to have no
other object in life. Yes: she knew all that. But what was the good of her
knowing it? She could not help it if for the past ten years her whole life
had been bound up in that one idea: her brother. Now that the one interest
of her life had been torn from her, she had nothing left.

She tried bravely to keep herself occupied and to take up her music and
read her beloved books ... But alas! how empty were Shakespeare and
Beethoven without Olivier!

...--Yes: no doubt they were beautiful.... But Olivier was not there. What
is the good of beautiful things if the eyes of the beloved are not there to
see them? What is the use of beauty, what is the use even of joy, if they
cannot be won through the heart of the beloved?

If she had been stronger she would have tried to build up her life anew,
and give it another object. But she was at the end of her tether. Now that
there was nothing to force her to hold on, at all costs, the effort of will
to which she had subjected herself snapped: she collapsed. The illness,
which had been gaining grip on her for over a year, during which she had
fought it down by force of will, was now left to take its course.

She spent her evenings alone in her room, by the spent fire, a prey to her
thoughts: she had neither the courage to light the fire again, nor the
strength to go to bed: she would sit there far into the night, dozing,
dreaming, shivering. She would live through her life again, and summon up
the beloved dead and her lost illusions: and she would be terribly sad at
the thought of her lost youth, without love or hope of love. A dumb, aching
sorrow, obscure, unconfessed ... A child laughed in the street: its little
feet pattered up to the floor below ... Its little feet trampled on her
heart ... She would be beset with doubts and evil thoughts; her soul in
its weakness would be contaminated by the soul of that city of selfish
pleasure.--She would fight down her regrets, and burn with shame at certain
longings which she thought, evil and wicked: she could not understand what
it was that hurt her so, and attributed it to her evil instincts. Poor
little Ophelia, devoured by a mysterious evil, she felt with horror dark
and uneasy desires mounting from the depths of her being, from the very pit
of life. She could not work, and she had given up most of her pupils: she,
who was so plucky, and had always risen so early, now lay in bed sometimes
until the afternoon: she had no more reason for getting up than for going
to bed: she ate little or nothing. Only on her brother's holidays--Thursday
afternoons and Sundays--she would make an effort to be her old self with

He saw nothing. He was too much taken up with his new life to notice his
sister much. He was at that period of boyhood when it was difficult for
him to be communicative, and he always seemed to be indifferent to things
outside himself which would only be his concern in later days.--People of
riper years sometimes seem to be more open to impressions, and to take a
simpler delight in life and Nature, than young people between twenty and
thirty. And so it is often said that young people are not so young in
heart as they were, and have lost all sense of enjoyment. That is often a
mistaken idea. It is not because they have no sense of enjoyment that they
seem less sensitive. It is because their whole being is often absorbed by
passion, ambition, desire, some fixed idea. When the body is worn and has
no more to expect from life, then the emotions become disinterested and
fall into their place; and then once more the source of childish tears is
reopened.--Olivier was preoccupied with a thousand little things, the most
outstanding of which was an absurd little passion,--(he was always a victim
to them),--which so obsessed him as to make him blind and indifferent
to everything else.--Antoinette did not know what was happening to her
brother: she only saw that he was drawing away from her. That was not
altogether Olivier's fault. Sometimes when he came he would be glad to see
her and start talking. He would come in. Then all of a sudden he would dry
up. Her affectionate anxiety, the eagerness with which she clung to him,
and drank in his words, and overwhelmed him with little attentions,--all
her excess of tenderness and querulous devotion would deprive him utterly
of any desire to be warm and open with her. He might have seen that
Antoinette was not in a normal condition. Nothing could be farther from her
usual tact and discretion. But he never gave a thought to it. He would
reply to her questions with a curt "Yes" or "No." He would grow more stiff
and surly, the more she tried to win him over: sometimes even he would hurt
her by some brusque reply. Then she would be crushed and silent. Their day
together would slip by, wasted. But hardly had he set foot outside the
house on his way back to the _Ecole_ than he would be heartily ashamed of
his treatment of her. He would torture himself all night as he lay awake
thinking of the pain he had caused her. Sometimes even, as soon as he
reached the _Ecole_, he would write an effusive letter to his sister.--But
next morning, when he read it through, he would tear it up. And Antoinette
would know nothing at all about it. She would go on thinking that he had
ceased to love her.

* * * * *

She had--if not one last joy--one last flutter of tenderness and youth,
when her heart beat strongly once more; one last awakening of love in her,
and hope of happiness, hope of life. It was quite ridiculous, so utterly
unlike her tranquil nature! It could never have been but for her abnormal
condition, the state of fear and over-excitement which was the precursor of

She went to a concert at the _Chatelet_ with her brother. As he had just
been appointed musical critic to a little Review, they were in better
places than those they occupied in old days, but the people among whom they
sat were much more apathetic. They had stalls near the stage. Christophe
Krafft was to play. Neither of them had ever heard of the German musician.
When she saw him come on, the blood rushed to her heart. Although her tired
eyes could only see him through a mist, she had no doubt when he appeared:
he was the unknown young man of her unhappy days in Germany. She had
never mentioned him to her brother: and she had hardly even admitted his
existence to her thoughts: she had been entirely absorbed by the anxieties
of her life since then. Besides, she was a reasonable little Frenchwoman,
and refused to admit the existence of an obscure feeling which she could
not trace to its source, while it seemed to lead nowhere. There was in her
a whole region of the soul, of unsuspected depths, wherein there slept many
other feelings which she would have been ashamed to behold: she knew that
they were there: but she looked away from them in a sort of religious
terror of that Being within herself which lies beyond the mind's control.

When she had recovered a little, she borrowed her brothers glasses to look
at Christophe: she saw him in profile at the conductor's stand, and she
recognized his expression of forceful concentration. He was wearing a
shabby old coat which fitted him very badly.--Antoinette sat in silent
agony through the vagaries of that lamentable concert when Christophe
joined issue with the unconcealed hostility of his audience, who were
at the time ill-disposed towards German artists, and actively bored
by his music. And when he appeared, after a symphony which had seemed
unconscionably long, to play some piano music, he was received with
cat-calls which left no room for doubt as to their displeasure at having to
put up with him again. However, he began to play in the face of the bored
resignation of his audience: but the uncomplimentary remarks exchanged in a
loud voice by two men in the gallery went on, to the great delight of the
rest of the audience. Then he broke off: and in a childish fit of temper
he played _Malbrouck s'en va t'en guerre_ with one finger, got up from the
piano, faced the audience, and said:

"That is all you are fit for."

The audience were for a moment so taken aback that they did not quite take
in what the musician meant. Then there was an outburst of angry protests.
Followed a terrible uproar. They hissed and shouted:

"Apologize! Make him apologize!"

They were all red in the face with anger, and they blew out their
fury--tried to persuade themselves that they were really enraged: as
perhaps they were, but the chief thing was that they were delighted to
have a chance of making a row, and letting themselves go: they were like
schoolboys after a few hours in school.

Antoinette could not move: she was petrified: she sat still tugging at
one of her gloves. Ever since the last bars of the symphony she had had a
growing presentiment of what would happen: she felt the blind hostility
of the audience, felt it growing: she read Christophe's thoughts, and she
was sure he would not go through to the end without an explosion: she sat
waiting for the explosion while agony grew in her: she stretched every
nerve to try to prevent it; and when at last it came, it was so exactly
what she had foreseen that she was overwhelmed by it, as by some fatal
catastrophe against which there was nothing to be done. And as she gazed
at Christophe, who was staring insolently at the howling audience, their
eyes met. Christophe's eyes recognized her, greeted her, for the space of
perhaps a second: but he was in such a state of excitement that his mind
did not recognize her (he had not thought of her for long enough). He
disappeared while the audience yelled and hissed.

She longed to cry out: to say or do something: but she was bound hand and
foot, and could not stir; it was like a nightmare. It was some comfort to
her to hear her brother at her side, and to know that, without having any
idea of what was happening to her, he had shared her agony and indignation.
Olivier was a thorough musician, and he had an independence of taste
which nothing could encroach upon: when he liked a thing, he would have
maintained his liking in the face of the whole world. With the very first
bars of the symphony, he had felt that he was in the presence of something
big, something the like of which he had never in his life come across. He
went on muttering to himself with heartfelt enthusiasm:

"That's fine! That's beautiful! Beautiful!" while his sister instinctively
pressed close to him, gratefully. After the symphony he applauded loudly by
way of protest against the ironic indifference of the rest of the audience.
When it came to the great fiasco, he was beside himself: he stood up,
shouted that Christophe was right, abused the booers, and offered to fight
them: it was impossible to recognize the timid Olivier. His voice was
drowned in the uproar: he was told to shut up: he was called a "snotty
little kid," and told to go to bed. Antoinette saw the futility of standing
up to them, and took his arm and said:

"Stop! Stop! I implore you! Stop!"

He sat down in despair, and went on muttering:

"It's shameful! Shameful! The swine!..."

She said nothing and bore her suffering in silence: he thought she was
insensible to the music, and said:

"Antoinette, don't _you_ think it beautiful?"

She nodded. She was frozen, and could not recover herself. But when the
orchestra began another piece, she suddenly got up, and whispered to her
brother in a tone of savage hatred:

"Come, come! I can't bear the sight of these people!"

They hurried out. They walked along arm-in-arm, and Olivier went on talking
excitedly. Antoinette said nothing.

* * * * *

All that day and the days following she sat alone in her room, and a
feeling crept over her which at first she refused to face: but then it went
on and took possession of her thoughts, like the furious throbbing of the
blood in her aching temples.

Some time afterwards Olivier brought her Christophe's collection of songs,
which he had just found at a publisher's. She opened it at random. On
the first page on which her eyes fell she read in front of a song this
dedication in German:

"_To my poor dear little victim_," together with a date.

She knew the date well.--She was so upset that she could read no farther.
She put the book down and asked her brother to play, and went and shut
herself up in her room. Olivier, full of his delight in the new music,
began to play without remarking his sister's emotion. Antoinette sat in the
adjoining room, striving to repress the beating of her heart. Suddenly she
got up and looked through a cupboard for a little account-book in which was
written the date of her departure from Germany, and the mysterious date.
She knew it already: yes, it was the evening of the performance at the
theater to which she had been with Christophe. She lay down on her bed and
closed her eyes, blushing, with her hands folded on her breast, while she
listened to the dear music. Her heart was overflowing with gratitude ...
Ah! Why did her head hurt her so?

When Olivier saw that his sister had not come back, he went into her room
after he had done playing, and found her lying there. He asked her if she
were ill. She said she was rather tired, and got up to keep him company.
They talked: but she did not answer his questions at once: her thoughts
seemed to be far away: she smiled, and blushed, and said, by way of excuse,
that her headache was making her stupid. At last Olivier went away. She had
asked him to leave the book of songs. She sat up late reading them at the
piano, without playing, just lightly touching a note here and there, for
fear of annoying her neighbors. But for the most part she did not even
read: she sat dreaming: she was carried away by a feeling of tenderness and
gratitude towards the man who had pitied her, and had read her mind and
soul with the mysterious intuition of true kindness. She could not fix her
thoughts. She was happy and sad--sad!... Ah! How her head ached!

She spent the night in sweet and painful dreams, a crushing melancholy.
During the day she tried to go out for a little to shake off her
drowsiness. Although her head was still aching, to give herself something
to do, she went and made a few purchases at a great shop. She hardly gave
a thought to what she was doing. Her thoughts were always with Christophe,
though she did not admit it to herself. As she came out, worried and
mortally sad, through the crowd of people she saw Christophe go by on
the other side of the street. He saw her, too, at the same moment. At
once,--(suddenly and without thinking), she held out her hands towards
him. Christophe stopped: this time he recognized her. He sprang forward
to cross the road to Antoinette: and Antoinette tried to go to meet him.
But the insensate current of the passing throng carried her along like
a windlestraw, while the horse of an omnibus, falling on the slippery
asphalt, made a sort of dyke in front of Christophe, by which the opposing
streams of carriages were dammed, so that for a few moments there was an
impassable barrier. Christophe tried to force his way through in spite of
everything: but he was trapped in the middle of the traffic, and could not
move either way. When at last he did extricate himself and managed to reach
the place where he had seen Antoinette, she was gone: she had struggled
vainly against the human torrent that carried her along: then she yielded
to it--gave up the struggle. She felt that she was dogged by some fatality
which forbade the possibility of her ever meeting Christophe: against Fate
there was nothing to be done. And when she did succeed in escaping from the
crowd, she made no attempt to go back: she was suddenly ashamed: what could
she dare to say to him? What had she done? What must he have thought of
her? She fled away home.

She did not regain assurance until she reached her room. Then she sat by
the table in the dark, and had not even the strength to take off her hat or
her gloves. She was miserable at having been unable to speak to him: and at
the same time there glowed a new light in her heart: she was unconscious of
the darkness, and unconscious of the illness that was upon her. She went on
and on turning over and over every detail of the scene in the street: and
she changed it about and imagined what would have happened if certain
things had turned out differently. She saw herself holding out her arms to
Christophe, and Christophe's expression of joy as he recognized her, and
she laughed and blushed. She blushed: and then in the darkness of her room,
where there was no one to see her, and she could hardly see herself, once
more she held out her arms to him. Her need was too strong for her: she
felt that she was losing ground, and instinctively she sought to clutch at
the strong vivid life that passed so near her, and gazed so kindly at her.
Her heart was full of tenderness and anguish, and through the night she

"Help me! Save me!"

All in a fever she got up and lit the lamp, and took pen and paper. She
wrote to Christophe. Her illness was full upon her, or she would never even
have thought of writing to him, so proud she was and timid. She did not
know what she wrote. She was no longer mistress of herself. She called to
him, and told him that she loved him ... In the middle of her letter she
stopped, appalled. She tried to write it all over again: but her impulse
was gone: her mind was a blank, and her head was aching: she had a horrible
difficulty in finding words: she was utterly worn out. She was ashamed ...
What was the good of it all? She knew perfectly well that she was trying to
trick herself, and that she would never send the letter ... Even if she had
wished to do so, how could she? She did not know Christophe's address ...
Poor Christophe! And what could he do for her? Even if he knew all and were
kind to her, what could he do?... It was too late! No, no: it was all in
vain, the last dying struggle of a bird, blindly, desperately beating its
wings. She must be resigned to it....

So for a long time she sat there by the table, lost in thought, unable
to move hand or foot. It was past midnight when she struggled to her
feet--bravely. Mechanically she placed the loose sheets of her letter in
one of her few books, for she had the strength neither to put them in order
nor to tear them up. Then she went to bed, shivering and shaking with
fever. The key to the riddle lay near at hand: she felt that the will of
God was to be fulfilled.--And a great peace came upon her.

On Sunday morning when Olivier came he found Antoinette in bed, delirious.
A doctor was called in. He said it was acute consumption.

Antoinette had known how serious her condition was: she had discovered the
cause of the moral turmoil in herself which had so alarmed her. She had
been dreadfully ashamed, and it was some consolation to her to think that
not she herself but her illness was the cause of it. She had managed to
take a few precautions and to burn her papers and to write a letter to
Madame Nathan: she appealed to her kindness to look after her brother
during the first few weeks after her "death"--(she dared not write the

The doctor could do nothing: the disease was too far gone, and Antoinette's
constitution had been wrecked by the years of hardship and unceasing toil.

Antoinette was quite calm. Since she had known that there was no hope her
agony and torment had left her. She lay turning over in her mind all the
trials and tribulations through which she had passed: she saw that her work
was done and her dear Olivier saved: and she was filled with unutterable
joy. She said to herself:

"I have achieved that."

And then she turned in shame from her pride and said:

"I could have done nothing alone. God has given me His aid."

And she thanked God that He had granted her life until she had accomplished
her task. There was a catch at her heart as she thought that now she had to
lay down her life: but she dared not complain: that would have been to feel
ingratitude towards God, who might have called her away sooner. And what
would have happened if she had passed away a year sooner?--She sighed, and
humbled herself in gratitude.

In spite of her weakness and oppression she did not complain,--except when
she was sleeping heavily, when every now and then she moaned like a little
child. She watched things and people with a calm smile of resignation. It
was always a joy to her to see Olivier. She would move her lips to call
him, though she made no sound: she would want to hold his hand in hers: she
would bid him lay his head on the pillow near hers, and then, gazing into
his eyes, she would go on looking at him in silence. At last she would
raise herself up and hold his face in her hands and say:

"Ah! Olivier!... Olivier!..."

She took the medal that she wore round her neck, and hung it on her
brother's. She commended her beloved Olivier to the care of her confessor,
her doctor, everybody. It seemed as though she was to live henceforth in
him, that, on the point of death, she was taking refuge in his life, as
upon some island in uncharted seas. Sometimes she seemed to be uplifted by
a mystic exaltation of tenderness and faith, and she forgot her illness,
and sadness changed to joy in her,--a joy divine indeed that shone upon her
lips and in her eyes. Over and over again she said:

"I am happy...."

Her senses grew dim. In her last moments of consciousness her lips moved
and it seemed that she was repeating something to herself. Olivier went to
her bedside and bent down over her. She recognized him once more and smiled
feebly up at him: her lips went on moving and her eyes were filled with
tears. They could not make out what she was trying to say.... But faintly
Olivier heard her breathe the words of the dear old song they used to love
so much, the song she was always singing:

"_I will come again, my sweet and bonny, I will come again._"

Then she relapsed into unconsciousness. So she passed away.

* * * * *

Unconsciously she had aroused a profound sympathy in many people whom she
did not even know: in the house in which she lived she did not even know
the names of the other tenants. Olivier received expressions of sympathy
from people who were strangers to him. Antoinette was not taken to her
grave unattended as her mother had been. Her body was followed to the
cemetery by friends and schoolfellows of her brother, and members of the
families whose children she had taught, and people whom she had met without
saying a word of her own life or hearing a word from them, though they
admired her secretly, knowing her devotion, and many of the poor, and the
housekeeper who had helped her, and even many of the small tradesmen of the
neighborhood. Madame Nathan had taken Olivier under her wing on the day of
his sister's death, and she had carried him off in spite of himself, and
done her best to turn his thoughts away from his grief.

If it had come later in his life he could never have borne up against such
a catastrophe,--but now it was impossible for him to succumb absolutely to
his despair. He had just begun a new life; he was living in a community,
and had to live the common life whatever he might be feeling. The full busy
life of the _Ecole_, the intellectual pressure, the examinations, the
struggle for life, all kept him from withdrawing into himself: he could not
be alone. He suffered, but it proved his salvation. A year earlier, or a
few years earlier, he must have succumbed.

And yet he did as far as possible retire into isolation in the memory of
his sister. It was a great sorrow to him that he could not keep the rooms
where they had lived together: but he had no money. He hoped that the
people who seemed to be interested in him would understand his distress at
not being able to keep the things that had been hers. But nobody seemed

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