Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

PIERRE & JEAN by Guy de Maupassant

Part 2 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"Well, then, old man, off we go!"

They hoisted the foresail and weighed anchor; and the boat, feeling
herself free, glided slowly down towards the jetty on the still water
of the harbour. The breath of wind that came down the streets caught
the top of the sail so lightly as to be imperceptible, and the Pearl
seemed endowed with life--the life of a vessel driven on by a
mysterious latent power. Pierre took the tiller, and, holding his
cigar between his teeth, he stretched his legs on the bunk, and with
his eyes half-shut in the blinding sunshine, he watched the great
tarred timbers of the breakwater as they glided past.

When they reached the open sea, round the nose of the north pier which
had sheltered them, the fresher breeze puffed in the doctor's face and
on his hands, like a somewhat icy caress, filled his chest, which rose
with a long sigh to drink it in, and swelling the tawny sail, tilted
the Pearl on her beam and made her more lively. Jean Bart hastily
hauled up the jib, and the triangle of canvas, full of wind, looked
like a wing; then, with two strides to the stern, he let out the
spinnaker, which was close-reefed against his mast.

Then, along the hull of the boat, which suddenly heeled over and was
running at top speed, there was a soft, crisp sound of water hissing
and rushing past. The prow ripped up the sea like the share of a
plough gone mad, and the yielding water it turned up curled over and
fell white with foam, as the ploughed soil, heavy and brown, rolls and
falls in a ridge. At each wave they met--and there was a short,
chopping sea--the Pearl shivered from the point of the bowsprit to the
rudder, which trembled under Pierre's hand; when the wind blew harder
in gusts, the swell rose to the gunwale as if it would overflow into
the boat. A coal brig from Liverpool was lying at anchor, waiting for
the tide; they made a sweep round her stern and went to look at each
of the vessels in the roads one after another; then they put further
out to look at the unfolding line of coast.

For three hours Pierre, easy, calm, and happy, wandered to and fro
over the dancing waters, guiding the thing of wood and canvas, which
came and went at his will, under the pressure of his hand, as if it
were a swift and docile winged creature.

He was lost in day-dreams, the dreams one has on horseback or on the
deck of a boat; thinking of his future, which should be brilliant, and
the joys of living intelligently. On the morrow he would ask his
brother to lend him fifteen hundred francs for three months, that he
might settle at once in the pretty rooms on the Boulevard Francois.

Suddenly the sailor said: "The fog is coming up, M'sieu Pierre. We
must go in."

He looked up and saw to the northward a gray shade, filmy but dense,
blotting out the sky and covering the sea; it was sweeping down on
them like a cloud fallen from above. He tacked for land and made for
the pier, scudding before the wind and followed by the flying fog,
which gained upon them. When it reached the Pearl, wrapping her in its
intangible density, a cold shudder ran over Pierre's limbs, and a
smell of smoke and mould, the peculiar smell of a sea-fog, made him
close his mouth that he might not taste the cold, wet vapour. By the
time the boat was at her usual moorings in the harbour the whole town
was buried in this fine mist, which did not fall but yet wetted
everything like rain, and glided and rolled along the roofs and
streets like the flow of a river. Pierre, with his hands and feet
frozen, made haste home and threw himself on his bed to take a nap
till dinner-time. When he made his appearance in the dining-room his
mother was saying to Jean:

"The glass corridor will be lovely. We will fill it with flowers. You
will see. I will undertake to care for them and renew them. When you
give a party the effect will be quite fairy-like."

"What in the world are you talking about?" the doctor asked.

"Of a delightful apartment I have just taken for your brother. It is
quite a find; an entresol looking out on two streets. There are two
drawing-rooms, a glass passage, and a little circular dining-room,
perfectly charming for a bachelor's quarters."

Pierre turned pale. His anger seemed to press on his heart.

"Where is it?" he asked.

"Boulevard Francois."

There was no possibility for doubt. He took his seat in such a state
of exasperation that he longed to exclaim: "This is really too much!
Is there nothing for any one but him?"

His mother, beaming, went on talking: "And only fancy, I got it for
two thousand eight hundred francs a year. They asked three thousand,
but I got a reduction of two hundred francs on taking for three, six,
or nine years. Your brother will be delightfully housed there. An
elegant home is enough to make the fortune of a lawyer. It attracts
clients, charms them, holds them fast, commands respect, and shows
them that a man who lives in such good style expects a good price for
his words."

She was silent for a few seconds and then went on:

"We must look out for something suitable for you; much less
pretentious, since you have nothing, but nice and pretty all the same.
I assure you it will be to your advantage."

Pierre replied contemptuously:

"For me! Oh, I shall make my way by hard work and learning."

But his mother insisted: "Yes, but I assure you that to be well lodged
will be of use to you nevertheless."

About half-way through the meal he suddenly asked:

"How did you first come to know this man Marechal?"

Old Roland looked up and racked his memory:

"Wait a bit; I scarcely recollect. It is such an old story now. Ah,
yes, I remember. It was your mother who made the acquaintance with him
in the shop, was it not, Louise? He first came to order something, and
then he called frequently. We knew him as a customer before we knew
him as a friend."

Pierre, who was eating beans, sticking his fork into them one by one
as if he were spitting them, went on:

"And when was it that you made his acquaintance?"

Again Roland sat thinking, but he could remember no more and appealed
to his wife's better memory.

"In what year was it, Louise? You surely have not forgotten, you who
remember everything. Let me see--it was in--in--in fifty-five or
fifty-six? Try to remember. You ought to know better than I."

She did in fact think it over for some minutes, and then replied in a
steady voice and with calm decision:

"It was in fifty-eight, old man. Pierre was three years old. I am
quite sure that I am not mistaken, for it was in that year that the
child had scarlet fever, and Marechal, whom we knew then but very
little, was of the greatest service to us."

Roland exclaimed:

"To be sure--very true; he was really invaluable. When your mother was
half-dead with fatigue and I had to attend to the shop, he would go to
the chemist's to fetch your medicine. He really had the kindest heart!
And when you were well again, you cannot think how glad he was and how
he petted you. It was from that time that we became such great

And this thought rushed into Pierre's soul, as abrupt and violent as a
cannon-ball rending and piercing it: "Since he knew me first, since he
was so devoted to me, since he was so fond of me and petted me so
much, since I--/I/ was the cause of his great intimacy with my
parents, why did he leave all his money to my brother and nothing to

He asked no more questions and remained gloomy; absent-minded rather
than thoughtful, feeling in his soul a new anxiety as yet undefined,
the secret germ of a new pain.

He went out early, wandering about the streets once more. They were
shrouded in the fog which made the night heavy, opaque, and nauseous.
It was like a pestilential cloud dropped on the earth. It could be
seen swirling past the gas-lights, which it seemed to put out at
intervals. The pavement was as slippery as on a frosty night after
rain, and all sorts of evil smells seemed to come up from the bowels
of the houses--the stench of cellars, drains, sewers, squalid
kitchens--to mingle with the horrible savour of this wandering fog.

Pierre, with his shoulders up and his hands in his pockets, not caring
to remain out of doors in the cold, turned into Marowsko's. The
druggist was asleep as usual under the gas-light, which kept watch. On
recognising Pierre for whom he had the affection of a faithful dog, he
shook off his drowsiness, went for two glasses, and brought out the

"Well," said the doctor, "how is the liqueur getting on?"

The Pole explained that four of the chief cafes in the town had agreed
to have it on sale, and that two papers, the /Northcoast Pharos/ and
the /Havre Semaphore/, would advertise it, in return for certain
chemical preparations to be supplied to the editors.

After a long silence Marowsko asked whether Jean had come definitely
into possession of his fortune; and then he put two or three other
questions vaguely referring to the same subject. His jealous devotion
to Pierre rebelled against this preference. And Pierre felt as though
he could hear him thinking; he guessed and understood, read in his
averted eyes and in the hesitancy of his tone, the words which rose to
his lips but were not spoken--which the druggist was too timid or too
prudent and cautious to utter.

At this moment, he felt sure, the old man was thinking: "You ought not
to have suffered him to accept this inheritance which will make people
speak ill of your mother."

Perhaps, indeed, Marowsko believed that Jean was Marechal's son. Of
course he believed it! How could he help believing it when the thing
must seem so possible, so probable, self-evident? Why, he himself,
Pierre, her son--had not he been for these three days past fighting
with all the subtlety at his command to cheat his reason, fighting
against this hideous suspicion?

And suddenly the need to be alone, to reflect, to discuss the matter
with himself--to face boldly, without scruple or weakness, this
possible but monstrous thing--came upon him anew, and so imperative
that he rose without even drinking his glass of /Groseillette/, shook
hands with the astounded druggist, and plunged out into the foggy
streets again.

He asked himself: "What made this Marechal leave all his fortune to

It was not jealousy now which made him dwell on this question, not the
rather mean but natural envy which he knew lurked within him, and with
which he had been struggling these three days, but the dread of an
overpowering horror; the dread that he himself should believe that
Jean, his brother, was that man's son.

No. He did not believe it, he could not even ask himself the question
which was a crime! Meanwhile he must get rid of this faint suspicion,
improbable as it was, utterly and forever. He craved for light, for
certainty--he must win absolute security in his heart, for he loved no
one in the world but his mother. And as he wandered alone through the
darkness he would rack his memory and his reason with a minute search
that should bring out the blazing truth. Then there would be an end to
the matter; he would not think of it again--never. He would go and

He argued thus: "Let me see: first to examine the facts; then I will
recall all I know about him, his behaviour to my brother and to me. I
will seek out the causes which might have given rise to the
preference. He knew Jean from his birth? Yes, but he had known me
first. If he had loved my mother silently, unselfishly, he would
surely have chosen me, since it was through me, through my scarlet
fever, that he became so intimate with my parents. Logically, then, he
ought to have preferred me, to have had a keener affection for me--
unless it were that he felt an instinctive attraction and predilection
for my brother as he watched him grow up."

Then, with desperate tension of brain and of all the powers of his
intellect, he strove to reconstitute from memory the image of this
Marechal, to see him, to know him, to penetrate the man whom he had
seen pass by him, indifferent to his heart during all those years in

But he perceived that the slight exertion of walking somewhat
disturbed his ideas, dislocated their continuity, weakened their
precision, clouded his recollection. To enable him to look at the past
and at unknown events with so keen an eye that nothing should escape
it, he must be motionless in a vast and empty space. And he made up
his mind to go and sit on the jetty as he had done that other night.
As he approached the harbour he heard, out at sea, a lugubrious and
sinister wail like the bellowing of a bull, but more long-drawn and
steady. It was the roar of a fog-horn, the cry of a ship lost in the
fog. A shiver ran through him, chilling his heart; so deeply did this
cry of distress thrill his soul and nerves that he felt as if he had
uttered it himself. Another and a similar voice answered with such
another moan, but farther away; then, close by, the fog-horn on the
pier gave out a fearful sound in answer. Pierre made for the jetty
with long steps, thinking no more of anything, content to walk on into
this ominous and bellowing darkness.

When he had seated himself at the end of the breakwater he closed his
eyes, that he might not see the two electric lights, now blurred by
the fog, which make the harbour accessible at night, and the red glare
of the light on the south pier, which was, however, scarcely visible.
Turning half-round, he rested his elbows on the granite and hid his
face in his hands.

Though he did not pronounce the words with his lips, his mind kept
repeating: "Marechal--Marechal," as if to raise and challenge the
shade. And on the black background of his closed eyelids, he suddenly
saw him as he had known him: a man of about sixty, with a white beard
cut in a point and very thick eyebrows, also white. He was neither
tall nor short, his manner was pleasant, his eyes gray and soft, his
movements gentle, his whole appearance that of a good fellow, simple
and kindly. He called Pierre and Jean "my dear children," and had
never seemed to prefer either, asking them both together to dine with
him. And then Pierre, with the pertinacity of a dog seeking a lost
scent, tried to recall the words, gestures, tones, looks, of this man
who had vanished from the world. By degrees he saw him quite clearly
in his rooms in the Rue Tronchet, where he received his brother and
himself at dinner.

He was waited on by two maids, both old women who had been in the
habit--a very old one, no doubt--of saying "Monsieur Pierre" and
"Monsieur Jean." Marechal would hold out both hands, the right hand to
one of the young men, the left to the other, as they happened to come

"How are you, my children?" he would say. "Have you any news of your
parents? As for me, they never write to me."

The talk was quiet and intimate, of commonplace matters. There was
nothing remarkable in the man's mind, but much that was winning,
charming, and gracious. He had certainly been a good friend to them,
one of those good friends of whom we think the less because we feel
sure of them.

Now, reminiscences came readily to Pierre's mind. Having seen him
anxious from time to time, and suspecting his student's
impecuniousness, Marechal had of his own accord offered and lent him
money, a few hundred francs perhaps, forgotten by both, and never
repaid. Then this man must always have been fond of him, always have
taken an interest in him, since he thought of his needs. Well then--
well then--why leave his whole fortune to Jean? No, he had never shown
more marked affection for the younger than for the elder, had never
been more interested in one than in the other, or seemed to care more
tenderly for this one or that one. Well then--well then--he must have
had some strong secret reason for leaving everything to Jean--
everything--and nothing to Pierre.

The more he thought, the more he recalled the past few years, the more
extraordinary, the more incredible was it that he should have made
such a difference between them. And an agonizing pang of unspeakable
anguish piercing his bosom made his heart beat like a fluttering rag.
Its springs seemed broken, and the blood rushed through in a flood,
unchecked, tossing it with wild surges.

Then in an undertone, as a man speaks in a nightmare, he muttered: "I
must know. My God! I must know."

He looked further back now, to an earlier time, when his parents had
lived in Paris. But the faces escaped him, and this confused his
recollections. He struggled above all to see Marechal, with light, or
brown, or black hair. But he could not; the later image, his face as
an old man, blotted out all others. However, he remembered that he had
been slighter, and had a soft hand, and that he often brought flowers.
Very often--for his father would constantly say: "What, another
bouquet! But this is madness, my dear fellow; you will ruin yourself
in roses." And Marechal would say: "No matter; I like it."

And suddenly his mother's voice and accent, his mother's as she smiled
and said: "Thank you, my kind friend," flashed on his brain, so
clearly that he could have believed he heard her. She must have spoken
those words very often that they should remain thus graven on her
son's memory.

So Marechal brought flowers; he, the gentleman, the rich man, the
customer, to the humble shop-keeper, the jeweller's wife. Had he loved
her? Why should he have made friends with these tradespeople if he had
not been in love with the wife? He was a man of education and fairly
refined tastes. How many a time had he discussed poets and poetry with
Pierre. He did not appreciate these writers from an artistic point of
view, but with sympathetic and responsive feeling. The doctor had
often smiled at his emotions which had struck him as rather silly, now
he plainly saw that this sentimental soul could never, never have been
the friend of his father, who was so matter-of-fact, so narrow, so
heavy, to whom the word "Poetry" meant idiocy.

This Marechal then, being young, free, rich, ready for any form of
tenderness, went by chance into the shop one day, having perhaps
observed its pretty mistress. He had bought something, had come again,
had chatted, more intimately each time, paying by frequent purchases
for the right of a seat in the family, of smiling at the young wife
and shaking hands with the husband.

And what next--what next--good God--what next?

He had loved and petted the first child, the jeweller's child, till
the second was born; then, till death, he had remained impenetrable;
and when his grave was closed, his flesh dust, his name erased from
the list of the living, when he himself was quiet and forever gone,
having nothing to scheme for, to dread or to hide, he had given his
whole fortune to the second child! Why?

The man had all his wits; he must have understood and foreseen that he
might, that he almost infallibly must, give grounds for the
supposition that the child was his. He was casting obloquy on a woman.
How could he have done this if Jean were not his son?

And suddenly a clear and fearful recollection shot through his brain.
Marechal was fair--fair like Jean. He now remembered a little
miniature portrait he had seen formerly in Paris, on the drawing-room
chimney-shelf, and which had since disappeared. Where was it? Lost, or
hidden away? Oh, if he could but have it in his hand for one minute!
His mother kept it perhaps in the unconfessed drawer where love-tokens
were treasured.

His misery in this thought was so intense that he uttered a groan, one
of those brief moans wrung from the breast by a too intolerable pang.
And immediately, as if it had heard him, as if it had understood and
answered him, the fog-horn on the pier bellowed out close to him. Its
voice, like that of a fiendish monster, more resonant than thunder--a
savage and appalling roar contrived to drown the clamour of the wind
and waves--spread through the darkness, across the sea, which was
invisible under its shroud of fog. And again, through the mist, far
and near, responsive cries went up to the night. They were terrifying,
these calls given forth by the great blind steam-ships.

Then all was silent once more.

Pierre had opened his eyes and was looking about him, startled to find
himself here, roused from his nightmare.

"I am mad," thought he, "I suspect my mother." And a surge of love and
emotion, of repentance, and prayer, and grief, welled up in his heart.
His mother! Knowing her as he knew her, how could he ever have
suspected her? Was not the soul, was not the life of this simple-
minded, chaste, and loyal woman clearer than water? Could any one who
had seen and known her ever think of her but as above suspicion? And
he, her son, had doubted her! Oh, if he could but have taken her in
his arms at that moment, how he would have kissed and caressed her,
and gone on his knees to crave pardon.

Would she have deceived his father--she?

His father!--A very worthy man, no doubt, upright and honest in
business, but with a mind which had never gone beyond the horizon of
his shop. How was it that this woman, who must have been very pretty--
as he knew, and it could still be seen--gifted, too, with a delicate,
tender emotional soul, could have accepted a man so unlike herself as
a suitor and a husband? Why inquire? She had married, as young French
girls do marry, the youth with a little fortune proposed to her by
their relations. They had settled at once in their shop in the Rue
Montmartre; and the young wife, ruling over the desk, inspired by the
feeling of a new home, and the subtle and sacred sense of interests in
common which fills the place of love, and even of regard, by the
domestic hearth of most of the commercial houses of Paris, had set to
work, with all her superior and active intelligence, to make the
fortune they hoped for. And so her life had flowed on, uniform,
peaceful and respectable, but loveless.

Loveless?--was it possible then that a woman should not love? That a
young and pretty woman, living in Paris, reading books, applauding
actresses for dying of passion on the stage, could live from youth to
old age without once feeling her heart touched? He would not believe
it of any one else; why should she be different from all others,
though she was his mother?

She had been young, with all the poetic weaknesses which agitate the
heart of a young creature. Shut up, imprisoned in the shop, by the
side of a vulgar husband who always talked of trade, she had dreamed
of moonlight nights, of voyages, of kisses exchanged in the shades of
evening. And then, one day a man had come in, as lovers do in books,
and had talked as they talk.

She had loved him. Why not? She was his mother. What then? Must a man
be blind and stupid to the point of rejecting evidence because it
concerns his mother? But did she give herself to him? Why yes, since
this man had had no other love, since he had remained faithful to her
when she was far away and growing old. Why yes, since he had left all
his fortune to his son--their son!

And Pierre started to his feet, quivering with such rage that he
longed to kill some one. With his arm outstretched, his hand wide
open, he wanted to hit, to bruise, to smash, to strangle! Whom? Every
one; his father, his brother, the dead man, his mother!

He hurried off homeward. What was he going to do?

As he passed a turret close to the signal mast the strident howl of
the fog-horn went off in his very face. He was so startled that he
nearly fell and shrank back as far as the granite parapet. He sat down
half-stunned by the sudden shock. The steamer which was the first to
reply seemed to be quite near and was already at the entrance, the
tide having risen.

Pierre turned round and could discern its red eye dim through the fog.
Then, in the broad light of the electric lanterns, a huge black shadow
crept up between the piers. Behind him the voice of the look-out man,
the hoarse voice of an old retired sea-captain, shouted:

"What ship?" And out of the fog the voice of the pilot standing on
deck--not less hoarse--replied:

"The Santa Lucia."

"Where from?"


"What port?"


And before Pierre's bewildered eyes rose, as he fancied, the fiery
pennon of Vesuvius, while, at the foot of the volcano, fire-flies
danced in the orange-groves of Sorrento or Castellamare. How often had
he dreamed of these familiar names as if he knew the scenery. Oh, if
he might but go away, now at once, never mind whither, and never come
back, never write, never let any one know what had become of him! But
no, he must go home--home to his father's house, and go to bed.

He would not. Come what might he would not go in; he would stay there
till daybreak. He liked the roar of the fog-horns. He pulled himself
together and began to walk up and down like an officer on watch.

Another vessel was coming in behind the other, huge and mysterious. An
English India-man, homeward bound.

He saw several more come in, one after another, out of the
impenetrable vapour. Then, as the damp became quite intolerable,
Pierre set out towards the town. He was so cold that he went into a
sailors' tavern to drink a glass of grog, and when the hot and pungent
liquor had scorched his mouth and throat he felt a hope revive within

Perhaps he was mistaken. He knew his own vagabond unreason so well! No
doubt he was mistaken. He had piled up the evidence as a charge is
drawn up against an innocent person, whom it is always so easy to
convict when we wish to think him guilty. When he should have slept he
would think differently.

Then he went in and to bed, and by sheer force of will he at last
dropped asleep.


But the doctor's frame lay scarcely more than an hour or two in the
torpor of troubled slumbers. When he awoke in the darkness of his
warm, closed room he was aware, even before thought was awake in him,
of the painful oppression, the sickness of heart which the sorrow we
have slept on leaves behind it. It is as though the disaster of which
the shock merely jarred us at first, had, during sleep, stolen into
our very flesh, bruising and exhausting it like a fever. Memory
returned to him like a blow, and he sat up in bed. Then slowly, one by
one, he again went through all the arguments which had wrung his heart
on the jetty while the fog-horns were bellowing. The more he thought
the less he doubted. He felt himself dragged along by his logic to the
inevitable certainty, as by a clutching, strangling hand.

He was thirsty and hot, his heart beat wildly. He got up to open his
window and breathe the fresh air, and as he stood there a low sound
fell on his ear through the wall. Jean was sleeping peacefully, and
gently snoring. He could sleep! He had no presentiment, no suspicions!
A man who had known their mother had left him all his fortune; he took
the money and thought it quite fair and natural! He was sleeping, rich
and contented, not knowing that his brother was gasping with anguish
and distress. And rage boiled up in him against this heedless and
happy sleeper.

Only yesterday he would have knocked at his door, have gone in, and
sitting by the bed, would have said to Jean, scared by the sudden

"Jean you must not keep this legacy which by to-morrow may have
brought suspicion and dishonour on our mother."

But to-day he could say nothing; he could not tell Jean that he did
not believe him to be their father's son. Now he must guard, must bury
the shame he had discovered, hide from every eye the stain which he
had detected and which no one must perceive, not even his brother--
especially not his brother.

He no longer thought about the vain respect of public opinion. He
would have been glad that all the world should accuse his mother if
only he, he alone, knew her to be innocent! How could he bear to live
with her every day, believing as he looked at her that his brother was
the child of a stranger's love?

And how calm and serene she was, nevertheless, how sure of herself she
always seemed! Was it possible that such a woman as she, pure of soul
and upright in heart, should fall, dragged astray by passion, and yet
nothing ever appear afterward of her remorse and the stings of a
troubled conscience? Ah, but remorse must have tortured her, long ago
in the earlier days, and then have faded out, as everything fades. She
had surely bewailed her sin, and then, little by little, had almost
forgotten it. Have not all women, all, this fault of prodigious
forgetfulness which enables them, after a few years, hardly to
recognise the man to whose kisses they have given their lips? The kiss
strikes like a thunderbolt, the love passes away like a storm, and
then life, like the sky, is calm once more, and begins again as it was
before. Do we ever remember a cloud?

Pierre could no longer endure to stay in the room! This house, his
father's house, crushed him. He felt the roof weigh on his head, and
the walls suffocate him. And as he was very thirsty he lighted his
candle to go to drink a glass of fresh water from the filter in the

He went down the two flights of stairs; then, as he was coming up
again with the water-bottle filled, he sat down, in his night-shirt,
on a step of the stairs where there was a draught, and drank, without
a tumbler, in long pulls like a runner who is out of breath. When he
ceased to move the silence of the house touched his feelings; then,
one by one, he could distinguish the faintest sounds. First there was
the ticking of the clock in the dining-room which seemed to grow
louder every second. Then he heard another snore, an old man's snore,
short, laboured, and hard, his father beyond doubt; and he writhed at
the idea, as if it had but this moment sprung upon him, that these two
men, sleeping under the same room--father and son--were nothing to
each other! Not a tie, not the very slightest, bound them together,
and they did not know it! They spoke to each other affectionately,
they embraced each other, they rejoiced and lamented together over the
same things, just as if the same blood flowed in their veins. And two
men born at opposite ends of the earth could not be more alien to each
other than this father and son. They believed they loved each other,
because a lie had grown up between them. This paternal love, this
filial love, were the outcome of a lie--a lie which could not be
unmasked, and which no one would ever know but he, the true son.

But yet, but yet--if he were mistaken? How could he make sure? Oh, if
only some likeness, however slight, could be traced between his father
and Jean, one of those mysterious resemblances which run from an
ancestor to the great-great-grandson, showing that the whole race are
the offspring of the same embrace. To him, a medical man, so little
would suffice to enable him to discern this--the curve of a nostril,
the space between the eyes, the character of the teeth or hair; nay
less--a gesture, a trick, a habit, an inherited taste, any mark or
token which a practised eye might recognise as characteristic.

He thought long, but could remember nothing; no, nothing. But he had
looked carelessly, observed badly, having no reason for spying such
imperceptible indications.

He got up to go back to his room and mounted the stairs with a slow
step, still lost in thought. As he passed the door of his brother's
room he stood stock still, his hand put out to open it. An imperative
need had just come over him to see Jean at once, to look at him at his
leisure, to surprise him in his sleep, while the calm countenance and
relaxed features were at rest and all the grimace of life put off.
Thus he might catch the dormant secret of his physiognomy, and if any
appreciable likeness existed it would not escape him.

But supposing Jean were to wake, what could he say? How could he
explain this intrusion?

He stood still, his fingers clinched on the door-handle, trying to
devise a reason, an excuse. Then he remembered that a week ago he had
lent his brother a phial of laudanum to relieve a fit of toothache. He
might himself have been in pain this night and have come to find the
drug. So he went in with a stealthy step, like a robber. Jean, his
mouth open, was sunk in deep, animal slumbers. His beard and fair hair
made a golden patch on the white linen; he did not wake, but he ceased

Pierre, leaning over him, gazed at him with hungry eagerness. No, this
youngster was not in the least like Roland; and for the second time
the recollection of the little portrait of Marechal, which had
vanished, recurred to his mind. He must find it! When he should see it
perhaps he should cease to doubt!

His brother stirred, conscious no doubt of a presence, or disturbed by
the light of the taper on his eyelids. The doctor retired on tip-toe
to the door which he noiselessly closed; then he went back to his
room, but not to bed again.

Day was long in coming. The hours struck one after another on the
dining-room clock, and its tone was a deep and solemn one, as though
the little piece of clockwork had swallowed a cathedral-bell. The
sound rose through the empty staircase, penetrating through walls and
doors, and dying away in the rooms where it fell on the torpid ears of
the sleeping household. Pierre had taken to walking to and fro between
his bed and the window. What was he going to do? He was too much upset
to spend this day at home. He wanted still to be alone, at any rate
till the next day, to reflect, to compose himself, to strengthen
himself for the common every-day life which he must take up again.

Well, he would go over to Trouville to see the swarming crowd on the
sands. That would amuse him, change the air of his thoughts, and give
him time to inure himself to the horrible thing he had discovered. As
soon as morning dawned he made his toilet and dressed. The fog had
vanished and it was fine, very fine. As the boat for Trouville did not
start till nine, it struck the doctor that he must greet his mother
before starting.

He waited till the hour at which she was accustomed to get up, and
then went downstairs. His heart beat so violently as he touched her
door that he paused for breath. His hand as it lay on the lock was
limp and tremulous, almost incapable of the slight effort of turning
the handle to open it. He knocked. His mother's voice inquired:

"Who is there?"


"What do you want?"

"Only to say good-morning, because I am going to spend the day at
Trouville with some friends."

"But I am still in bed."

"Very well, do not disturb yourself. I shall see you this evening,
when I come in."

He hoped to get off without seeing her, without pressing on her cheek
the false kiss which it made his heart sick to think of. But she

"No. Wait a moment. I will let you in. Wait till I get into bed

He heard her bare feet on the floor and the sound of the bolt drawn
back. Then she called out:

"Come in."

He went in. She was sitting up in bed, while, by her side, Roland,
with a silk handkerchief by way of night-cap and his face to the wall,
still lay sleeping. Nothing ever woke him but a shaking hard enough to
pull his arm off. On the days when he went fishing it was Josephine,
rung up by Papagris at the hour fixed, who roused her master from his
stubborn slumbers.

Pierre, as he went towards his mother, looked at her with a sudden
sense of never having seen her before. She held up her face, he kissed
each cheek, and then sat down in a low chair.

"It was last evening that you decided on this excursion?" she asked.

"Yes, last evening."

"Will you return to dinner?"

"I do not know. At any rate do not wait for me."

He looked at her with stupefied curiosity. This woman was his mother!
All those features, seen daily from childhood, from the time when his
eye could first distinguish things, that smile, that voice--so well
known, so familiar--abruptly struck him as new, different from what
they had always been to him hitherto. He understood now that, loving
her, he had never looked at her. All the same it was very really she,
and he knew every little detail of her face; still, it was the first
time he clearly identified them all. His anxious attention,
scrutinizing her face which he loved, recalled a difference, a
physiognomy he had never before discerned.

He rose to go; then, suddenly yielding to the invincible longing to
know which had been gnawing at him since yesterday, he said:

"By the way, I fancy I remember that you used to have, in Paris, a
little portrait of Marechal, in the drawing-room."

She hesitated for a second or two, or at least he fancied she
hesitated; then she said:

"To be sure."

"What has become of the portrait?"

She might have replied more readily:

"That portrait--stay; I don't exactly know--perhaps it is in my desk."

"It would be kind of you to find it."

"Yes, I will look for it. What do you want it for?"

"Oh, it is not for myself. I thought it would be a natural thing to
give it to Jean, and that he would be pleased to have it."

"Yes, you are right; that is a good idea. I will look for it, as soon
as I am up."

And he went out.

It was a blue day without a breath of wind. The folks in the streets
seemed in good spirits, the merchants going to business, the clerks
going to their office, the girls going to their shop. Some sang as
they went, exhilarated by the bright weather.

The passengers were already going on board the Trouville boat; Pierre
took a seat aft on a wooden bench.

He asked himself:

"Now was she uneasy at my asking for the portrait or only surprised?
Has she mislaid it, or has she hidden it? Does she know where it is,
or does she not? If she had hidden it--why?"

And his mind, still following up the same line of thought from one
deduction to another, came to this conclusion:

That portrait--of a friend, of a lover, had remained in the drawing-
room in a conspicuous place, till one day when the wife and mother
perceived, first of all and before any one else, that it bore a
likeness to her son. Without doubt she had for a long time been on the
watch for this resemblance; then, having detected it, having noticed
its beginnings, and understanding that any one might, any day, observe
it too, she had one evening removed the perilous little picture and
had hidden it, not daring to destroy it.

Pierre recollected quite clearly now that it was long, long before
they left Paris that the miniature had vanished. It had disappeared,
he thought, about the time that Jean's beard was beginning to grow,
which had made him suddenly and wonderfully like the fair young man
who smiled from the picture-frame.

The motion of the boat as it put off disturbed and dissipated his
meditations. He stood up and looked at the sea. The little steamer,
once outside the piers, turned to the left, and puffing and snorting
and quivering, made for a distant point visible through the morning
haze. The red sail of a heavy fishing-bark, lying motionless on the
level waters, looked like a large rock standing up out of the sea. And
the Seine, rolling down from Rouen, seemed a wide inlet dividing two
neighbouring lands. They reached the harbour of Trouville in less than
an hour, and as it was the time of day when the world was bathing,
Pierre went to the shore.

From a distance it looked like a garden full of gaudy flowers. All
along the stretch of yellow sand, from the pier as far as the Roches
Noires, sun-shades of every hue, hats of every shape, dresses of every
colour, in groups outside the bathing huts, in long rows by the margin
of the waves, or scattered here and there, really looked like immense
bouquets on a vast meadow. And the Babel of sounds--voices near and
far ringing thin in the light atmosphere, shouts and cries of children
being bathed, clear laughter of women--all made a pleasant, continuous
din, mingling with the unheeding breeze, and breathed with the air

Pierre walked among all this throng, more lost, more remote from them,
more isolated, more drowned in his torturing thoughts, than if he had
been flung overboard from the deck of a ship a hundred miles from
shore. He passed by them and heard a few sentences without listening;
and he saw, without looking, how the men spoke to the women, and the
women smiled at the men. Then, suddenly, as if he had awoke, he
perceived them all; and hatred of them all surged up in his soul, for
they seemed happy and content.

Now, as he went, he studied the groups, wandering round them full of a
fresh set of ideas. All these many-hued dresses which covered the
sands like nosegays, these pretty stuffs, those showy parasols, the
fictitious grace of tightened waists, all the ingenious devices of
fashion from the smart little shoe to the extravagant hat, the
seductive charm of gesture, voice, and smile, all the coquettish airs
in short displayed on this seashore, suddenly struck him as stupendous
efflorescences of female depravity. All these bedizened women aimed at
pleasing, bewitching, and deluding some man. They had dressed
themselves out for men--for all men--all excepting the husband whom
they no longer needed to conquer. They had dressed themselves out for
the lover of yesterday and the lover of to-morrow, for the stranger
they might meet and notice or were perhaps on the lookout for.

And these men sitting close to them, eye to eye and mouth to mouth,
invited them, desired them, hunted them like game, coy and elusive
notwithstanding that it seemed so near and so easy to capture. This
wide shore was, then, no more than a love-market where some sold,
others gave themselves--some drove a hard bargain for their kisses
while others promised them for love. All these women thought only of
one thing, to make their bodies desirable--bodies already given, sold,
or promised to other men. And he reflected that it was everywhere the
same, all the world over.

His mother had done what others did--that was all. Others? These women
he saw about him, rich, giddy, love-seeking, belonged on the whole to
the class of fashionable and showy women of the world, some indeed to
the less respectable sisterhood, for on these sands, trampled by the
legion of idlers, the tribe of virtuous, home-keeping women were not
to be seen.

The tide was rising, driving the foremost rank of visitors gradually
landward. He saw the various groups jump up and fly, carrying their
chairs with them, before the yellow waves as they rolled up edged with
a lace-like frill of foam. The bathing-machines too were being pulled
up by horses, and along the planked way which formed the promenade
running along the shore from end to end, there was now an increasing
flow, slow and dense, of well-dressed people in two opposite streams
elbowing and mingling. Pierre, made nervous and exasperated by this
bustle, made his escape into the town, and went to get his breakfast
at a modest tavern on the skirts of the fields.

When he had finished with coffee, he stretched his legs on a couple of
chairs under a lime-tree in front of the house, and as he had hardly
slept the night before, he presently fell into a doze. After resting
for some hours he shook himself, and finding that it was time to go on
board again he set out, tormented by a sudden stiffness which had come
upon him during his long nap. Now he was eager to be at home again; to
know whether his mother had found the portrait of Marechal. Would she
be the first to speak of it, or would he be obliged to ask for it
again? If she waited to be questioned further it must be because she
had some secret reason for not showing the miniature.

But when he was at home again, and in his room, he hesitated about
going down to dinner. He was too wretched. His revolted soul had not
yet time to calm down. However, he made up his mind to it, and
appeared in the dining-room just as they were sitting down.

All their faces were beaming.

"Well," said Roland, "are you getting on with your purchases? I do not
want to see anything till it is all in its place."

And his wife replied: "Oh, yes. We are getting on. But it takes much
consideration to avoid buying things that do not match. The furniture
question is an absorbing one."

She had spent the day in going with Jean to cabinet-makers and
upholsterers. Her fancy was for rich materials, rather splendid to
strike the eye at once. Her son, on the contrary, wished for something
simple and elegant. So in front of everything put before them they had
each repeated their arguments. She declared that a client, a
defendant, must be impressed; that as soon as he is shown into his
counsel's waiting-room he should have a sense of wealth.

Jean, on the other hand, wishing to attract only an elegant and
opulent class, was anxious to captivate persons of refinement by his
quiet and perfect taste.

And this discussion, which had gone on all day, began again with the

Roland had no opinion. He repeated: "I do not want to hear anything
about it. I will go and see it when it is all finished."

Mme. Roland appealed to the judgment of her elder son.

"And you, Pierre, what do you think of the matter?"

His nerves were in a state of such intense excitement that he would
have liked to reply with an oath. However, he only answered in a dry
tone quivering with annoyance.

"Oh, I am quite of Jean's mind. I like nothing so well as simplicity,
which, in matters of taste, is equivalent to rectitude in matters of

His mother went on:

"You must remember that we live in a city of commercial men, where
good taste is not to be met with at every turn."

Pierre replied:

"What does that matter? Is that a reason for living as fools do? If my
fellow-townsmen are stupid and ill-bred, need I follow their example?
A woman does not misconduct herself because her neighbour has a

Jean began to laugh.

"You argue by comparisons which seem to have been borrowed from the
maxims of a moralist."

Pierre made no reply. His mother and his brother reverted to the
question of stuffs and arm-chairs.

He sat looking at them as he had looked at his mother in the morning
before starting for Trouville; looking at them as a stranger who would
study them, and he felt as though he had really suddenly come into a
family of which he knew nothing.

His father, above all, amazed his eyes and his mind. That flabby,
burly man, happy and besotted, was his own father! No, no; Jean was
not in the least like him.

His family!

Within these two days an unknown and malignant hand, the hand of a
dead man, had torn asunder and broken, one by one, all the ties which
had held these four human beings together. It was all over, all
ruined. He had now no mother--for he could no longer love her now that
he could not revere her with that perfect, tender, and pious respect
which a son's love demands; no brother--since his brother was the
child of a stranger; nothing was left him but his father, that coarse
man whom he could not love in spite of himself.

And he suddenly broke out:

"I say, mother, have you found that portrait?"

She opened her eyes in surprise.

"What portrait?"

"The portrait of Marechal."

"No--that is to say--yes--I have not found it, but I think I know
where it is."

"What is that?" asked Roland. And Pierre answered:

"A little likeness of Marechal which used to be in the dining-room in
Paris. I thought that Jean might be glad to have it."

Roland exclaimed:

"Why, yes, to be sure; I remember it perfectly. I saw it again last
week. Your mother found it in her desk when she was tidying the
papers. It was on Thursday or Friday. Do you remember, Louise? I was
shaving myself when you took it out and laid in on a chair by your
side with a pile of letters of which you burned half. Strange, isn't
it, that you should have come across the portrait only two or three
days before Jean heard of his legacy? If I believed in presentiments I
should think that this was one."

Mme. Roland calmly replied:

"Yes, I know where it is. I will fetch it presently."

Then she had lied! When she had said that very morning to her son who
had asked her what had become of the miniature: "I don't exactly know
--perhaps it is in my desk"--it was a lie! She had seen it, touched
it, handled it, gazed at it but a few days since; and then she had
hidden it away again in the secret drawer with those letters--his

Pierre looked at the mother who had lied to him; looked at her with
the concentrated fury of a son who had been cheated, robbed of his
most sacred affection, and with the jealous wrath of a man who, after
long being blind, at last discovers a disgraceful betrayal. If he had
been that woman's husband--and not her child--he would have gripped
her by the wrists, seized her by the shoulders or the hair, have flung
her on the ground, have hit her, hurt her, crushed her! And he might
say nothing, do nothing, show nothing, reveal nothing. He was her son;
he had no vengeance to take. And he had not been deceived.

Nay, but she had deceived his tenderness, his pious respect. She owed
to him to be without reproach, as all mothers owe it to their
children. If the fury that boiled within him verged on hatred it was
that he felt her to be even more guilty towards him than toward his

The love of man and wife is a voluntary compact in which the one who
proves weak is guilty only of perfidy; but when the wife is a mother
her duty is a higher one, since nature has intrusted her with a race.
If she fails, then she is cowardly, worthless, infamous.

"I do not care," said Roland suddenly, stretching out his legs under
the table, as he did every evening while he sipped his glass of black-
currant brandy. "You may do worse than live idle when you have a snug
little income. I hope Jean will have us to dinner in style now. Hang
it all! If I have indigestion now and then I cannot help it."

Then turning to his wife he added:

"Go and fetch that portrait, little woman, as you have done your
dinner. I should like to see it again myself."

She rose, took a taper, and went. Then, after an absence which Pierre
thought long, though she was not away more than three minutes, Mme.
Roland returned smiling, and holding an old-fashioned gilt frame by
the ring.

"Here it is," said she, "I found it at once."

The doctor was the first to put forth his hand; he took the picture,
and holding it a little away from him, he examined it. Then, fully
aware that his mother was looking at him, he slowly raised his eyes
and fixed them on his brother to compare the faces. He could hardly
refrain, in his violence, from saying: "Dear me! How like Jean!" And
though he dared not utter the terrible words, he betrayed his thought
by his manner of comparing the living face with the painted one.

They had, no doubt, details in common; the same beard, the same brow;
but nothing sufficiently marked to justify the assertion: "This is the
father and that the son." It was rather a family likeness, a
relationship of physiognomies in which the same blood courses. But
what to Pierre was far more decisive than the common aspect of the
faces, was that his mother had risen, had turned her back, and was
pretending, too deliberately, to be putting the sugar basin and the
liqueur bottle away in a cupboard. She understood that he knew, or at
any rate had his suspicions.

"Hand it on to me," said Roland.

Pierre held out the miniature and his father drew the candle towards
him to see it better; then, he murmured in a pathetic tone:

"Poor fellow! To think that he was like that when we first knew him!
Cristi! How time flies! He was a good-looking man, too, in those days,
and with such a pleasant manner--was not he, Louise?"

As his wife made no answer he went on:

"And what an even temper! I never saw him put out. And now it is all
at an end--nothing left of him--but what he bequeathed to Jean. Well,
at any rate you may take your oath that that man was a good and
faithful friend to the last. Even on his death-bed he did not forget

Jean, in his turn, held out his hand for the picture. He gazed at it
for a few minutes and then said regretfully:

"I do not recognise it at all. I only remember him with white hair."

He returned the miniature to his mother. She cast a hasty glance at
it, looking away as if she were frightened; then in her usual voice
she said:

"It belongs to you now, my little Jean, as you are his heir. We will
take it to your new rooms." And when they went into the drawing-room
she placed the picture on the chimney-shelf by the clock, where it had
formerly stood.

Roland filled his pipe; Pierre and Jean lighted cigarettes. They
commonly smoked them, Pierre while he paced the room, Jean, sunk in a
deep arm-chair, with his legs crossed. Their father always sat astride
a chair and spat from afar into the fire-place.

Mme. Roland, on a low seat by a little table on which the lamp stood,
embroidered, or knitted, or marked linen.

This evening she was beginning a piece of worsted work, intended for
Jean's lodgings. It was a difficult and complicated pattern, and
required all her attention. Still, now and again, her eye, which was
counting the stitches, glanced up swiftly and furtively at the little
portrait of the dead as it leaned against the clock. And the doctor,
who was striding to and fro across the little room in four or five
steps, met his mother's look at each turn.

It was as though they were spying on each other; and acute uneasiness,
intolerable to be borne, clutched at Pierre's heart. He was saying to
himself--at once tortured and glad:

"She must be in misery at this moment if she knows that I guess!" And
each time he reached the fire-place he stopped for a few seconds to
look at Marechal's fair hair, and show quite plainly that he was
haunted by a fixed idea. So that this little portrait, smaller than an
opened palm, was like a living being, malignant and threatening,
suddenly brought into this house and this family.

Presently the street-door bell rang. Mme. Roland, always so self-
possessed, started violently, betraying to her doctor son the anguish
of her nerves. Then she said: "It must be Mme. Rosemilly;" and her eye
again anxiously turned to the mantel-shelf.

Pierre understood, or thought he understood, her fears and misery. A
woman's eye is keen, a woman's wit is nimble, and her instincts
suspicious. When this woman who was coming in should see the miniature
of a man she did not know, she might perhaps at the first glance
discover the likeness between this face and Jean. Then she would know
and understand everything.

He was seized with dread, a sudden and horrible dread of this shame
being unveiled, and, turning about just as the door opened, he took
the little painting and slipped it under the clock without being seen
by his father and brother.

When he met his mother's eyes again they seemed to him altered, dim,
and haggard.

"Good evening," said Mme. Rosemilly. "I have come to ask you for a cup
of tea."

But while they were bustling about her and asking after her health,
Pierre made off, the door having been left open.

When his absence was perceived they were all surprised. Jean, annoyed
for the young widow, who, he thought, would be hurt, muttered: "What a

Mme. Roland replied: "You must not be vexed with him; he is not very
well to-day and tired with his excursion to Trouville."

"Never mind," said Roland, "that is no reason for taking himself off
like a savage."

Mme. Rosemilly tried to smooth matters by saying: "Not at all, not at
all. He has gone away in the English fashion; people always disappear
in that way in fashionable circles if they want to leave early."

"Oh, in fashionable circles, I dare say," replied Jean. "But a man
does not treat his family /a l'Anglaise/, and my brother has done
nothing else for some time past."


For a week or two nothing occurred. The father went fishing; Jean,
with his mother's help, was furnishing and settling himself; Pierre,
very gloomy, never was seen excepting at meal-times.

His father having asked him one evening: "Why the deuce do you always
com in with a face as cheerful as a funeral? This is not the first
time I have remarked it."

The doctor replied: "The fact is I am terribly conscious of the burden
of life."

The old man did not have a notion what he meant, and with an aggrieved
look he went on: "It really is too bad. Ever since we had the good
luck to come into this legacy, every one seems unhappy. It is as
though some accident had befallen us, as if we were in mourning for
some one."

"I am in mourning for some one," said Pierre.

"You are? For whom?"

"For some one you never knew, and of whom I was too fond."

Roland imagined that his son alluded to some girl with whom he had had
some love passages, and he said:

"A woman, I suppose."

"Yes, a woman."


"No. Worse. Ruined!"


Though he was startled by this unexpected confidence, in his wife's
presence too, and by his son's strange tone about it, the old man made
no further inquiries, for in his opinion such affairs did not concern
a third person.

Mme. Roland affected not to hear; she seemed ill and was very pale.
Several times already her husband, surprised to see her sit down as if
she were dropping into her chair, and to hear her gasp as if she could
not draw her breath, had said:

"Really, Louise, you look very ill; you tire yourself too much with
helping Jean. Give yourself a little rest. Sacristi! The rascal is in
no hurry, as he is a rich man."

She shook her head without a word.

But to-day her pallor was so great that Roland remarked on it again.

"Come, come," said he, "this will not do at all, my dear old woman.
You must take care of yourself." Then, addressing his son, "You surely
must see that your mother is ill. Have you questioned her, at any

Pierre replied: "No; I had not noticed that there was anything the
matter with her."

At this Roland was angry.

"But it stares you in the face, confound you! What on earth is the
good of your being a doctor if you cannot even see that your mother is
out of sorts? Why, look at her, just look at her. Really, a man might
die under his very eyes and this doctor would never think there was
anything the matter!"

Mme. Roland was panting for breath, and so white that her husband

"She is going to faint."

"No, no, it is nothing--I shall get better directly--it is nothing."

Pierre had gone up to her and was looking at her steadily.

"What ails you?" he said. And she repeated in an undertone:

"Nothing, nothing--I assure you, nothing."

Roland had gone to fetch some vinegar; he now returned, and handing
the bottle to his son he said:

"Here--do something to ease her. Have you felt her heart?"

As Pierre bent over her to feel her pulse she pulled away her hand so
vehemently that she struck it against a chair which was standing by.

"Come," said he in icy tones, "let me see what I can do for you, as
you are ill."

Then she raised her arm and held it out to him. Her skin was burning,
the blood throbbing in short irregular leaps.

"You are certainly ill," he murmured. "You must take something to
quiet you. I will write you a prescription." And as he wrote, stooping
over the paper, a low sound of choked sighs, smothered, quick
breathing and suppressed sobs made him suddenly look round at her. She
was weeping, her hands covering her face.

Roland, quite distracted, asked her:

"Louise, Louise, what is the mater with you? What on earth ails you?"

She did not answer, but seemed racked by some deep and dreadful grief.
Her husband tried to take her hands from her face, but she resisted
him, repeating:

"No, no, no."

He appealed to his son.

"But what is the matter with her? I never saw her like this."

"It is nothing," said Pierre, "she is a little hysterical."

And he felt as if it were a comfort to him to see her suffering thus,
as if this anguish mitigated his resentment and diminished his
mother's load of opprobrium. He looked at her as a judge satisfied
with his day's work.

Suddenly she rose, rushed to the door with such a swift impulse that
it was impossible to forestall or to stop her, and ran off to lock
herself into her room.

Roland and the doctor were left face to face.

"Can you make head or tail of it?" said the father.

"Oh, yes," said the other. "It is a little nervous disturbance, not
alarming or surprising; such attacks may very likely recur from time
to time."

They did in fact recur, almost every day; and Pierre seemed to bring
them on with a word, as if he had the clew to her strange and new
disorder. He would discern in her face a lucid interval of peace and
with the willingness of a torturer would, with a word, revive the
anguish that had been lulled for a moment.

But he, too, was suffering as cruelly as she. It was dreadful pain to
him that he could no longer love her nor respect her, that he must put
her on the rack. When he had laid bare the bleeding wound which he had
opened in her woman's, her mother's heart, when he felt how wretched
and desperate she was, he would go out alone, wander about the town,
so torn by remorse, so broken by pity, so grieved to have thus
hammered her with his scorn as her son, that he longed to fling
himself into the sea and put an end to it all by drowning himself.

Ah! How gladly now would he have forgiven her. But he could not, for
he was incapable of forgetting. If only he could have desisted from
making her suffer; but this again he could not, suffering as he did
himself. He went home to his meals, full of relenting resolutions;
then, as soon as he saw her, as soon as he met her eye--formerly so
clear and frank, now so evasive, frightened, and bewildered--he struck
at her in spite of himself, unable to suppress the treacherous words
which would rise to his lips.

This disgraceful secret, known to them alone, goaded him up against
her. It was as a poison flowing in his veins and giving him an impulse
to bite like a mad dog.

And there was no one in the way now to hinder his reading her; Jean
lived almost entirely in his new apartments, and only came home to
dinner and to sleep every night at his father's.

He frequently observed his brother's bitterness and violence, and
attributed them to jealousy. He promised himself that some day he
would teach him his place and give him a lesson, for life at home was
becoming very painful as a result of these constant scenes. But as he
now lived apart he suffered less from this brutal conduct, and his
love of peace prompted him to patience. His good fortune, too, had
turned his head, and he scarcely paused to think of anything which had
no direct interest for himself. He would come in full of fresh little
anxieties, full of the cut of a morning-coat, of the shape of a felt
hat, of the proper size for his visiting-cards. And he talked
incessantly of all the details of his house--the shelves fixed in his
bed-room cupboard to keep linen on, the pegs to be put up in the
entrance hall, the electric bells contrived to prevent illicit
visitors to his lodgings.

It had been settled that on the day when he should take up his abode
there they should make an excursion to Saint Jouin, and return after
dining there, to drink tea in his rooms. Roland wanted to go by water,
but the distance and the uncertainty of reaching it in a sailing boat
if there should be a head-wind, made them reject his plan, and a break
was hired for the day.

They set out at ten to get there to breakfast. The dusty high road lay
across the plain of Normandy, which, by its gentle undulations, dotted
with farms embowered in trees, wears the aspect of an endless park. In
the vehicle, as it jogged on at the slow trot of a pair of heavy
horses, sat the four Rolands, Mme. Rosemilly, and Captain Beausire,
all silent, deafened by the rumble of the wheels, and with their eyes
shut to keep out the clouds of dust.

It was harvest-time. Alternating with the dark hue of clover and the
raw green of beet-root, the yellow corn lighted up the landscape with
gleams of pale gold; the fields looked as if they had drunk in the
sunshine which poured down on them. Here and there the reapers were at
work, and in the plots where the scythe had been put in the men might
be seen see-sawing as they swept the level soil with the broad, wing-
shaped blade.

After a two-hours' drive the break turned off to the left, past a
windmill at work--a melancholy, gray wreck, half rotten and doomed,
the last survivor of its ancient race; then it went into a pretty inn
yard, and drew up at the door of a smart little house, a hostelry
famous in those parts.

The mistress, well known as "La belle Alphonsine," came smiling to the
threshold, and held out her hand to the two ladies who hesitated to
take the high step.

Some strangers were already at breakfast under a tent by a grass-plot
shaded by apple trees--Parisians, who had come from Etretat; and from
the house came sounds of voices, laughter, and the clatter of plates
and pans.

They were to eat in a room, as the outer dining-halls were all full.
Roland suddenly caught sight of some shrimping nets hanging against
the wall.

"Ah! ha!" cried he, "you catch prawns here?"

"Yes," replied Beausire. "Indeed it is the place on all the coast
where most are taken."

"First-rate! Suppose we try to catch some after breakfast."

As it happened it would be low tide at three o'clock, so it was
settled that they should all spend the afternoon among the rocks,
hunting prawns.

They made a light breakfast, as a precaution against the tendency of
blood to the head when they should have their feet in the water. They
also wished to reserve an appetite for dinner, which had been ordered
on a grand scale and to be ready at six o'clock when they came in.

Roland could not sit still for impatience. He wanted to buy the nets
specially constructed for fishing prawns, not unlike those used for
catching butterflies in the country. Their name on the French coast is
/lanets/; they are netted bags on a circular wooden frame, at the end
of a long pole. Alphonsine, still smiling, was happy to lend them.
Then she helped the two ladies to make an impromptu change of toilet,
so as not to spoil their dresses. She offered them skirts, coarse
worsted stockings and hemp shoes. The men took off their socks and
went to the shoemaker's to buy wooden shoes instead.

Then they set out, the nets over their shoulders and creels on their
backs. Mme. Rosemilly was very sweet in this costume, with an
unexpected charm of countrified audacity. The skirt which Alphonsine
had lent her, coquettishly tucked up and firmly stitched so as to
allow of her running and jumping fearlessly on the rocks, displayed
her ankle and lower calf--the firm calf of a strong and agile little
woman. Her dress was loose to give freedom to her movements, and to
cover her head she had found an enormous garden hat of coarse yellow
straw with an extravagantly broad brim; and to this, a bunch of
tamarisk pinned in to cock it on one side, gave a very dashing and
military effect.

Jean, since he had come into his fortune, had asked himself every day
whether or no he should marry her. Each time he saw her he made up his
mind to ask her to be his wife, and then, as soon as he was alone
again, he considered that by waiting he would have time to reflect.
She was now less rich than he, for she had but twelve thousand francs
a year; but it was in real estate, in farms and lands near the docks
in Havre; and this by-and-bye might be worth a great deal. Their
fortunes were thus approximately equal, and certainly the young widow
attracted him greatly.

As he watched her walking in front of him that day he said to himself:

"I must really decide; I cannot do better, I am sure."

They went down a little ravine, sloping from the village to the cliff,
and the cliff, at the end of this comb, rose about eighty metres above
the sea. Framed between the green slopes to the right and left, a
great triangle of silvery blue water could be seen in the distance,
and a sail, scarcely visible, looked like an insect out there. The
sky, pale with light, was so merged into one with the water that it
was impossible to see where one ended and the other began; and the two
women, walking in front of the men, stood out against the bright
background, their shapes clearly defined in their closely-fitting

Jean, with a sparkle in his eye, watched the smart ankle, the neat
leg, the supple waist, and the coquettish broad hat of Mme. Rosemilly
as they fled away from him. And this flight fired his ardour, urging
him on to the sudden determination which comes to hesitating and timid
natures. The warm air, fragrant with sea-coast odours--gorse, clover,
and thyme, mingling with the salt smell of the rocks at low tide--
excited him still more, mounting to his brain; and every moment he
felt a little more determined, at every step, at every glance he cast
at the alert figure; he made up his mind to delay no longer, to tell
her that he loved her and hoped to marry her. The prawn-fishing would
favour him by affording him an opportunity; and it would be a pretty
scene too, a pretty spot for love-making--their feet in a pool of
limpid water while they watched the long feelers of the shrimps
lurking under the wrack.

When they had reached the end of the comb and the edge of the cliff,
they saw a little footpath slanting down the face of it; and below
them, about half-way between the sea and the foot of the precipice, an
amazing chaos of enormous boulders tumbled over and piled one above
the other on a sort of grassy and undulating plain which extended as
far as they could see to the southward, formed by an ancient landslip.
On this long shelf of brushwood and grass, disrupted, as it seemed, by
the shocks of a volcano, the fallen rocks seemed the wreck of a great
ruined city which had once looked out on the ocean, sheltered by the
long white wall of the overhanging cliff.

"That is fine!" exclaimed Mme. Rosemilly, standing still. Jean had
come up with her, and with a beating heart offered his hand to help
her down the narrow steps cut in the rock.

They went on in front, while Beausire, squaring himself on his little
legs, gave his arm to Mme. Roland, who felt giddy at the gulf before

Roland and Pierre came last, and the doctor had to drag his father
down, for his brain reeled so that he could only slip down sitting,
from step to step.

The two young people who led the way went fast till on a sudden they
saw, by the side of a wooden bench which afforded a resting-place
about half-way down the slope, a thread of clear water, springing from
a crevice in the cliff. It fell into a hollow as large as a washing
basin which it had worn in the stone; then, falling in a cascade,
hardly two feet high, it trickled across the footpath which it had
carpeted with cresses, and was lost among the briers and grass on the
raised shelf where the boulders were piled.

"Oh, I am so thirsty!" cried Mme. Rosemilly.

But how could she drink? She tried to catch the water in her hand, but
it slipped away between her fingers. Jean had an idea; he placed a
stone on the path and on this she knelt down to put her lips to the
spring itself, which was thus on the same level.

When she raised her head, covered with myriads of tiny drops,
sprinkled all over her face, her hair, her eye-lashes, and her dress,
Jean bent over her and murmured: "How pretty you look!"

She answered in the tone in which she might have scolded a child:

"Will you be quiet?"

These were the first words of flirtation they had ever exchanged.

"Come," said Jean, much agitated. "Let us go on before they come up
with us."

For in fact they could see quite near them now Captain Beausire as he
came down, backward, so as to give both hands to Mme. Roland; and
further up, further off, Roland still letting himself slip, lowering
himself on his hams and clinging on with his hands and elbows at the
speed of a tortoise, Pierre keeping in front of him to watch his

The path, now less steep, was here almost a road, zigzagging between
the huge rocks which had at some former time rolled from the hill-top.
Mme. Rosemilly and Jean set off at a run and they were soon on the
beach. They crossed it and reached the rocks, which stretched in a
long and flat expanse covered with sea-weed, and broken by endless
gleaming pools. The ebbed waters lay beyond, very far away, across
this plain of slimy weed, of a black and shining olive green.

Jean rolled up his trousers above his calf, and his sleeves to his
elbows, that he might get wet without caring; then saying: "Forward!"
he leaped boldly into the first tide-pool they came to.

The lady, more cautious, though fully intending to go in too,
presently, made her way round the little pond, stepping timidly, for
she slipped on the grassy weed.

"Do you see anything?" she asked.

"Yes, I see your face reflected in the water."

"If that is all you see, you will not have good fishing."

He murmured tenderly in reply:

"Of all fishing it is that I should like best to succeed in."

She laughed: "Try; you will see how it will slip through your net."

"But yet--if you will?"

"I will see you catch prawns--and nothing else--for the moment."

"You are cruel--let us go a little farther, there are none here."

He gave her his hand to steady her on the slippery rocks. She leaned
on him rather timidly, and he suddenly felt himself overpowered by
love and insurgent with passion, as if the fever that had been
incubating in him had waited till to-day to declare its presence.

They soon came to a deeper rift, in which long slender weeds,
fantastically tinted, like floating green and rose-coloured hair, were
swaying under the quivering water as it trickled off to the distant
sea through some invisible crevice.

Mme. Rosemilly cried out: "Look, look, I see one, a big one. A very
big one, just there!" He saw it too, and stepped boldly into the pool,
though he got wet up to the waist. But the creature, waving its long
whiskers, gently retired in front of the net. Jean drove it towards
the sea-weed, making sure of his prey. When it found itself blockaded
it rose with a dart over the net, shot across the mere, and was gone.
The young woman, who was watching the chase in great excitement, could
not help exclaiming: "Oh! Clumsy!"

He was vexed, and without a moment's thought dragged his net over a
hole full of weed. As he brought it to the surface again he saw in it
three large transparent prawns, caught blindfold in their hiding-

He offered them in triumph to Mme. Rosemilly, who was afraid to touch
them, for fear of the sharp, serrated crest which arms their heads.
However, she made up her mind to it, and taking them up by the tip of
their long whiskers she dropped them one by one into her creel, with a
little seaweed to keep them alive. Then, having found a shallower pool
of water, she stepped in with some hesitation, for the cold plunge of
her feet took her breath away, and began to fish on her own account.
She was dextrous and artful, with the light hand and the hunter's
instinct which are indispensable. At almost every dip she brought up
some prawns, beguiled and surprised by her ingeniously gentle pursuit.

Jean now caught nothing; but he followed her, step by step, touched
her now and again, bent over her, pretended great distress at his own
awkwardness, and besought her to teach him.

"Show me," he kept saying. "Show me how."

And then, as their two faces were reflected side by side in water so
clear that the black weeds at the bottom made a mirror, Jean smiled at
the face which looked up at him from the depth, and now and then from
his finger-tips blew it a kiss which seemed to light upon it.

"Oh! how tiresome you are!" she exclaimed. "My dear fellow, you should
never do two things at once."

He replied: "I am only doing one--loving you."

She drew herself up and said gravely:

"What has come over you these ten minutes; have you lost your wits?"

"No, I have not lost my wits. I love you, and at last I dare to tell
you so."

They were at this moment both standing in the salt pool wet half-way
up to their knees and with dripping hands, holding their nets. They
looked into each other's eyes.

She went on in a tone of amused annoyance.

"How very ill-advised to tell me here and now! Could you not wait till
another day instead of spoiling my fishing?"

"Forgive me," he murmured, "but I could not longer hold my peace. I
have loved you a long time. To-day you have intoxicated me and I lost
my reason."

Then suddenly she seemed to have resigned herself to talk business and
think no more of pleasure.

"Let us sit down on that stone," said she, "we can talk more
comfortably." They scrambled up a rather high boulder, and when they
had settled themselves side by side in the bright sunshine, she began

"My good friend, you are no longer a child, and I am not a young girl.
we both know perfectly well what we are about and we can weigh the
consequences of our actions. If you have made up your mind to make
love to me to-day I must naturally infer that you wish to marry me."

He was not prepared for this matter-of-fact statement of the case, and
he answered blandly:

"Why, yes."

"Have you mentioned it to your father and mother?"

"No, I wanted to know first whether you would accept me."

She held out her hand, which was still wet, and as he eagerly clasped

"I am ready and willing," she said. "I believe you to be kind and
true-hearted. But remember, I should not like to displease your

"Oh, do you think that my mother has never foreseen it, or that she
would not be as fond of you as she is if she did not hope that you and
I should marry?"

"That is true. I am a little disturbed."

They said no more. He, for his part, was amazed at her being so little
disturbed, so rational. He had expected pretty little flirting ways,
refusals which meant yes, a whole coquettish comedy of love chequered
by prawn-fishing in the splashing water. And it was all over; he was
pledged, married with twenty words. They had no more to say about it
since they were agreed, and they now sat, both somewhat embarrassed by
what had so swiftly passed between them; a little perplexed, indeed,
not daring to speak, not daring to fish, not knowing what to do.

Roland's voice rescued them.

"This way, this way, children. Come and watch Beausire. The fellow is
positively clearing out the sea!"

The captain had, in fact, had a wonderful haul. Wet above his hips he
waded from pool to pool, recognizing the likeliest spots at a glance,
and searching all the hollows hidden under sea-weed, with a steady
slow sweep of his net. And the beautiful transparent, sandy-gray
prawns skipped in his palm as he picked them out of the net with a dry
jerk and put them into his creel. Mme. Rosemilly, surprised and
delighted, remained at his side, almost forgetful of her promise to
Jean, who followed them in a dream, giving herself up entirely to the
childish enjoyment of pulling the creatures out from among the waving

Roland suddenly exclaimed:

"Ah, here comes Mme. Roland to join us."

She had remained at first on the beach with Pierre, for they had
neither of them any wish to play at running about among the rocks and
paddling in the tide-pools; and yet they had felt doubtful about
staying together. She was afraid of him, and her son was afraid of her
and of himself; afraid of his own cruelty which he could not control.
But they sat down side by side on the stones. And both of them, under
the heat of the sun, mitigated by the sea-breeze, gazing at the wide,
fair horizon of blue water streaked and shot with silver, thought as
if in unison: "How delightful this would have been--once."

She did not venture to speak to Pierre, knowing that he would return
some hard answer; and he dared not address his mother, knowing that in
spite of himself he should speak violently. He sat twitching the
water-worn pebbles with the end of his cane, switching them and
turning them over. She, with a vague look in her eyes, had picked up
three or four little stones and was slowly and mechanically dropping
them from one hand into the other. Then her unsettled gaze, wandering
over the scene before her, discerned, among the weedy rocks, her son
Jean fishing with Mme. Rosemilly. She looked at them, watching their
movements, dimly understanding, with motherly instinct, that they were
talking as they did not talk every day. She saw them leaning over side
by side when they looked into the water, standing face to face when
they questioned their hearts, then scrambled up the rock and seated
themselves to come to an understanding. Their figures stood out very
sharply, looking as if they were alone in the middle of the wide
horizon, and assuming a sort of symbolic dignity in that vast expanse
of sky and sea and cliff.

Pierre, too, was looking at them, and a harsh laugh suddenly broke
form his lips. Without turning to him Mme. Roland said:

"What is it?"

He spoke with a sneer.

"I am learning. Learning how a man lays himself out to be cozened by
his wife."

She flushed with rage, exasperated by the insinuation she believed was

"In whose name do you say that?"

"In Jean's, by Heaven! It is immensely funny to see those two."

She murmured in a low voice, tremulous with feeling: "O Pierre, how
cruel you are! That woman is honesty itself. Your brother could not
find a better."

He laughed aloud, a hard, satirical laugh:

"Ha! hah! Hah! Honesty itself! All wives are honesty itself--and all
husbands are--betrayed." And he shouted with laughter.

She made no reply, but rose, hastily went down the sloping beach, and
at the risk of tumbling into one of the rifts hidden by the sea-weed,
of breaking a leg or an arm, she hastened, almost running, plunging
through the pools without looking, straight to her other son.

Seeing her approach, Jean called out:

"Well, mother? So you have made the effort?"

Without a word she seized him by the arm, as if to say: "Save me,
protect me!"

He saw her agitation, and greatly surprised he said:

"How pale you are! What is the matter?"

She stammered out:

"I was nearly falling; I was frightened at the rocks."

So then Jean guided her, supported her, explained the sport to her
that she might take an interest in it. But as she scarcely heeded him,
and as he was bursting with the desire to confide in some one, he led
her away and in a low voice said to her:

"Guess what I have done!"

"But--what--I don't know."


"I cannot. I don't know."

"Well, I have told Mme. Rosemilly that I wish to marry her."

She did not answer, for her brain was buzzing, her mind in such
distress that she could scarcely take it in. She echoed: "Marry her?"

"Yes. Have I done well? She is charming, do not you think?"

"Yes, charming. You have done very well."

"Then you approve?"

"Yes, I approve."

"But how strangely you say so! I could fancy that--that you were not

"Yes, indeed, I am--very glad."

"Really and truly?"

"Really and truly."

And to prove it she threw her arms round him and kissed him heartily,
with warm motherly kisses. Then, when she had wiped her eyes, which
were full of tears, she observed upon the beach a man lying flat at
full length like a dead body, his face hidden against the stones; it
was the other one, Pierre, sunk in thought and desperation.

At this she led her little Jean farther away, quite to the edge of the
waves, and there they talked for a long time of this marriage on which
he had set his heart.

The rising tide drove them back to rejoin the fishers, and then they
all made their way to the shore. They roused Pierre, who pretended to
be sleeping; and then came a long dinner washed down with many kinds
of wine.


In the break, on their way home, all the men dozed excepting Jean.
Beausire and Roland dropped every five minutes on to a neighbour's
shoulder which repelled them with a shove. Then they sat up, ceased to
snore, opened their eyes, muttered, "A lovely evening!" and almost
immediately fell over on the other side.

By the time they reached Havre their drowsiness was so heavy that they
had great difficulty in shaking it off, and Beausire even refused to
go to Jean's rooms where tea was waiting for them. He had to be set
down at his own door.

The young lawyer was to sleep in his new abode for the first time; and
he was full of rather puerile glee which had suddenly come over him,
at being able, that very evening, to show his betrothed the rooms she
was so soon to inhabit.

The maid had gone to bed, Mme. Roland having declared that she herself
would boil the water and make the tea, for she did not like the
servants to be kept up for fear of fire.

No one had yet been into the lodgings but herself, Jean, and the
workmen, that the surprise might be the greater at their being so

Jean begged them all to wait a moment in the ante-room. He wanted to
light the lamps and candles, and he left Mme. Rosemilly in the dark
with his father and brother; then he cried: "Come in!" opening the
double door to its full width.

The glass gallery, lighted by a chandelier and little coloured lamps
hidden among palms, india-rubber plants, and flowers, was first seen
like a scene on the stage. There was a spasm of surprise. Roland,
dazzled by such luxury, muttered an oath, and felt inclined to clap
his hands as if it were a pantomime scene. They then went into the
first drawing-room, a small room hung with dead gold and furnished to
match. The larger drawing-room--the lawyer's consulting-room, very
simple, hung with light salmon-colour--was dignified in style.

Jean sat down in his arm-chair in front of his writing-table loaded
with books, and in a solemn, rather stilted tone, he began:

"Yes, madame, the letter of the law is explicit, and, assuming the
consent I promised you, it affords me absolute certainty that the
matter we discussed will come to a happy conclusion within three

He looked at Mme. Rosemilly, who began to smile and glanced at Mme.
Roland. Mme. Roland took her hand and pressed it. Jean, in high
spirits, cut a caper like a school-boy, exclaiming: "Hah! How well the
voice carries in this room; it would be capital for speaking in."

And he declaimed:

"If humanity alone, if the instinct of natural benevolence which we
feel towards all who suffer, were the motive of the acquittal we
expect of you, I should appeal to your compassion, gentlemen of the
jury, to your hearts as fathers and as men; but we have law on our
side, and it is the point of law only which we shall submit to your

Pierre was looking at this home which might have been his, and he was
restive under his brother's frolics, thinking him really too silly and

Mme. Roland opened a door on the right.

"This is the bed-room," said she.

She had devoted herself to its decoration with all her mother's love.
The hangings were of Rouen cretonne imitating old Normandy chintz, and
the Louis XV. design--a shepherdess, in a medallion held in the beaks
of a pair of doves--gave the walls, curtains, bed, and arm-chairs a
festive, rustic style that was extremely pretty!

"Oh, how charming!" Mme. Rosemilly exclaimed, becoming a little
serious as they entered the room.

"Do you like it?" asked Jean.


"You cannot imagine how glad I am."

They looked at each other for a second, with confiding tenderness in
the depths of their eyes.

She had felt a little awkward, however, a little abashed, in this room
which was to be hers. She noticed as she went in that the bed was a
large one, quite a family bed, chosen by Mme. Roland, who had no doubt
foreseen and hoped that her son should soon marry; and this motherly
foresight pleased her, for it seemed to tell her that she was expected
in the family.

When they had returned to the drawing-room Jean abruptly threw open
the door to the left, showing the circular dining-room with three
windows, and decorated to imitate a Chinese lantern. Mother and son
had here lavished all the fancy of which they were capable, and the
room, with its bamboo furniture, its mandarins, jars, silk hangings
glistening with gold, transparent blinds threaded with beads looking
like drops of water, fans nailed to the wall to drape the hangings on,
screens, swords, masks, cranes made of real feathers, and a myriad
trifles in china, wood, paper, ivory, mother-of-pearl, and bronze, had
the pretentious and extravagant aspect which unpractised hands and
uneducated eyes inevitably stamp on things which need the utmost tact,
taste, and artistic education. Nevertheless it was the most admired;
only Pierre made some observations with rather bitter irony which hurt
his brother's feelings.

Pyramids of fruit stood on the table and monuments of cakes. No one
was hungry; they picked at the fruit and nibbled at the cakes rather
than ate them. Then, at the end of about an hour, Mme. Rosemilly
begged to take leave. It was decided that old Roland should accompany
her home and set out with her forthwith; while Mme. Roland, in the
maid's absence, should cast a maternal eye over the house and see that
her son had all he needed.

"Shall I come back for you?" asked Roland.

She hesitated a moment and then said: "No, dear old man; go to bed.
Pierre will see me home."

As soon as they were gone she blew out the candles, locked up the
cakes, the sugar, and liqueurs in a cupboard of which she gave the key
to Jean; then she went into the bed-room, turned down the bed, saw
that there was fresh water in the water-bottle, and that the window
was properly closed.

Pierre and Jean had remained in the little outer drawing-room; the
younger still sore under the criticism passed on his taste, and the
elder chafing more and more at seeing his brother in this abode. They
both sat smoking without a word. Pierre suddenly started to his feet.

"Cristi!" he exclaimed. "The widow looked very jaded this evening.
Long excursions do not improve her."

Jean felt his spirit rising with one of those sudden and furious rages
which boil up in easy-going natures when they are wounded to the
quick. He could hardly find breath to speak, so fierce was his
excitement, and he stammered out:

"I forbid you ever again to say 'the widow' when you speak of Mme.

Pierre turned on him haughtily:

"You are giving me an order, I believe. Are you gone mad by any

Jean had pulled himself up.

"I am not gone mad, but I have had enough of your manners to me."

Pierre sneered: "To you? And are you any part of Mme. Rosemilly?"

"You are to know that Mme. Rosemilly is about to become my wife."

Pierre laughed the louder.

"Ah! ha! very good. I understand now why I should no longer speak of
her as 'the widow.' But you have taken a strange way of announcing
your engagement."

"I forbid any jesting about it. Do you hear? I forbid it."

Jean had come close up to him, pale, and his voice quivering with
exasperation at this irony levelled at the woman he loved and had

But on a sudden Pierre turned equally furious. All the accumulation of
impotent rage, of suppressed malignity, of rebellion choked down for
so long past, all his unspoken despair mounted to his brain,
bewildering it like a fit.

"How dare you? How dare you? I order you to hold your tongue--do you
hear? I order you."

Jean, startled by his violence, was silent for a few seconds, trying
in the confusion of mind which comes of rage to hit on the thing, the
phrase, the word, which might stab his brother to the heart. He went
on, with an effort to control himself that he might aim true, and to
speak slowly that the words might hit more keenly:

"I have known for a long time that you were jealous of me, ever since
the day when you first began to talk of 'the widow' because you knew
it annoyed me."

Pierre broke into one of those strident and scornful laughs which were

Book of the day: