Part 2 out of 5
heat of the day.
"I am going to bed, too," he said, and went up with his wife.
Then Aunt Lison rose in her turn, and leaving on the arm of the chair
her canvas with the wool and the knitting needles, she went over and
leaned on the window sill and gazed out at the night.
The two lovers kept on walking back and forth between the house and
the wood. They squeezed each other's fingers without speaking, as
though they had left their bodies and formed part of this visible
poetry that exhaled from the earth.
All at once Jeanne perceived, framed in the window, the silhouette of
the aunt, outlined by the light of the lamp behind her.
"See," she said, "there is Aunt Lison looking at us."
The vicomte raised his head, and said in an indifferent tone without
"Yes, Aunt Lison is looking at us."
And they continued to dream, to walk slowly, and to love each other.
But the dew was falling fast, and the dampness made them shiver a
"Let us go in now," said Jeanne. And they went into the house.
When they entered the drawing-room, Aunt Lison had gone back to her
work. Her head was bent over her work, and her fingers were trembling
as if she were very tired.
"It is time to go to bed, aunt," said Jeanne, approaching her.
Her aunt turned her head, and her eyes were red as if she had been
crying. The young people did not notice it; but suddenly M. de Lamare
perceived that Jeanne's thin shoes were covered with dew. He was
worried, and asked tenderly:
"Are not your dear little feet cold?"
All at once the old lady's hands shook so violently that she let fall
her knitting, and hiding her face in her hands, she began to sob
The engaged couple looked at her in amazement, without moving.
Suddenly Jeanne fell on her knees, and taking her aunt's hands away
from her face, said in perplexity:
"Why, what is the matter, Aunt Lison?"
Then the poor woman, her voice full of tears, and her whole body
shaking with sorrow, replied:
"It was when he asked you--are not your--your--dear little feet
cold?--no one ever said such things to me--to me--never--never----"
Jeanne, surprised and compassionate, could still hardly help laughing
at the idea of an admirer showing tender solicitude for Lison; and the
vicomte had turned away to conceal his mirth.
But the aunt suddenly rose, laying her ball of wool on the floor and
her knitting in the chair, and fled to her room, feeling her way up
the dark staircase.
Left alone, the young people looked at one another, amused and
saddened. Jeanne murmured:
"Poor aunt!" Julien replied. "She must be a little crazy this
They held each other's hands and presently, gently, very gently, they
exchanged their first kiss, and by the following day had forgotten all
about Aunt Lison's tears.
The two weeks preceding the wedding found Jeanne very calm, as though
she were weary of tender emotions. She had no time for reflection on
the morning of the eventful day. She was only conscious of a feeling
as if her flesh, her bones and her blood had all melted beneath her
skin, and on taking hold of anything, she noticed that her fingers
She did not regain her self-possession until she was in the chancel of
the church during the marriage ceremony.
Married! So she was married! All that had occurred since daybreak
seemed to her a dream, a waking dream. There are such moments, when
all appears changed around us; even our motions seem to have a new
meaning; even the hours of the day, which seem to be out of their
usual time. She felt bewildered, above all else, bewildered. Last
evening nothing had as yet been changed in her life; the constant hope
of her life seemed only nearer, almost within reach. She had gone to
rest a young girl; she was now a married woman. She had crossed that
boundary that seems to conceal the future with all its joys, its
dreams of happiness. She felt as though a door had opened in front of
her; she was about to enter into the fulfillment of her expectations.
When they appeared on the threshold of the church after the ceremony,
a terrific noise caused the bride to start in terror, and the baroness
to scream; it was a rifle salute given by the peasants, and the firing
did not cease until they reached "The Poplars."
After a collation served for the family, the family chaplain, and the
priest from Yport, the mayor and the witnesses, who were some of the
large farmers of the district, they all walked in the garden. On the
other side of the château one could hear the boisterous mirth of the
peasants, who were drinking cider beneath the apple trees. The whole
countryside, dressed in their best, filled the courtyard.
Jeanne and Julien walked through the copse and then up the slope and,
without speaking, gazed out at the sea. The air was cool, although it
was the middle of August; the wind was from the north, and the sun
blazed down unpityingly from the blue sky. The young people sought a
more sheltered spot, and crossing the plain, they turned to the right,
toward the rolling and wooded valley that leads to Yport. As soon as
they reached the trees the air was still, and they left the road and
took a narrow path beneath the trees, where they could scarcely walk
Jeanne felt an arm passed gently round her waist. She said nothing,
her breath came quick, her heart beat fast. Some low branches caressed
their hair, as they bent to pass under them. She picked a leaf; two
ladybirds were concealed beneath it, like two delicate red shells.
"Look, a little family," she said innocently, and feeling a little
Julien placed his mouth to her ear, and whispered: "This evening you
will be my wife."
Although she had learned many things during her sojourn in the
country, she dreamed of nothing as yet but the poetry of love, and was
surprised. His wife? Was she not that already?
Then he began to kiss her temples and neck, little light kisses.
Startled each time afresh by these masculine kisses to which she was
not accustomed, she instinctively turned away her head to avoid them,
though they delighted her. But they had come to the edge of the wood.
She stopped, embarrassed at being so far from home. What would they
"Let us go home," she said.
He withdrew his arm from her waist, and as they turned round they
stood face to face, so close that they could feel each other's breath
on their faces. They gazed deep into one another's eyes with that gaze
in which two souls seem to blend. They sought the impenetrable unknown
of each other's being. They sought to fathom one another, mutely and
persistently. What would they be to one another? What would this life
be that they were about to begin together? What joys, what happiness,
or what disillusions were they preparing in this long, indissoluble
tête-à-tête of marriage? And it seemed to them as if they had never
yet seen each other.
Suddenly, Julien, placing his two hands on his wife's shoulders,
kissed her full on the lips as she had never before been kissed. The
kiss, penetrating as it did her very blood and marrow, gave her such a
mysterious shock that she pushed Julien wildly away with her two arms,
almost falling backward as she did so.
"Let us go away, let us go away," she faltered.
He did not reply, but took both her hands and held them in his. They
walked home in silence, and the rest of the afternoon seemed long. The
dinner was simple and did not last long, contrary to the usual Norman
custom. A sort of embarrassment seemed to paralyze the guests. The two
priests, the mayor, and the four farmers invited, alone betrayed a
little of that broad mirth that is supposed to accompany weddings.
They had apparently forgotten how to laugh, when a remark of the
mayor's woke them up. It was about nine o'clock; coffee was about to
be served. Outside, under the apple-trees of the first court, the bal
champêtre was beginning, and through the open window one could see all
that was going on. Lanterns, hung from the branches, gave the leaves a
grayish green tint. Rustics and their partners danced in a circle
shouting a wild dance tune to the feeble accompaniment of two violins
and a clarinet, the players seated on a large table as a platform. The
boisterous singing of the peasants at times completely drowned the
instruments, and the feeble strains torn to tatters by the
unrestrained voices seemed to fall from the air in shreds, in little
fragments of scattered notes.
Two large barrels surrounded by flaming torches were tapped, and two
servant maids were kept busy rinsing glasses and bowls in order to
refill them at the tap whence flowed the red wine, or at the tap of
the cider barrel. On the table were bread, sausages and cheese. Every
one swallowed a mouthful from time to time, and beneath the roof of
illuminated foliage this wholesome and boisterous fête made the
melancholy watchers in the dining-room long to dance also, and to
drink from one of those large barrels, while they munched a slice of
bread and butter and a raw onion.
The mayor, who was beating time with his knife, cried: "By Jove, that
is all right; it is like the wedding of Ganache."
A suppressed giggle was heard, but Abbé Picot, the natural enemy of
civil authority, cried: "You mean of Cana." The other did not accept
the correction. "No, monsieur le curé, I know what I am talking about;
when I say Ganache, I mean Ganache."
They rose from table and went into the drawing-room, and then outside
to mix with the merrymakers. The guests soon left.
They went into the house. They were surprised to see Madame Adelaide
sobbing on Julien's shoulder. Her tears, noisy tears, as if blown out
by a pair of bellows, seemed to come from her nose, her mouth and her
eyes at the same time; and the young man, dumfounded, awkward, was
supporting the heavy woman who had sunk into his arms to commend to
his care her darling, her little one, her adored daughter.
The baron rushed toward them, saying: "Oh, no scenes, no tears, I beg
of you," and, taking his wife to a chair, he made her sit down, while
she wiped away her tears. Then, turning to Jeanne: "Come, little one,
kiss your mother and go to bed."
What happened then? She could hardly have told, for she seemed to have
lost her head, but she felt a shower of little grateful kisses on her
Day dawned. Julien awoke, yawned, stretched, looked at his wife,
smiled and asked: "Did you sleep well, darling?"
She noticed that he now said "thou," and she replied, bewildered,
"Why, yes. And you?" "Oh, very well," he answered. And turning toward
her, he kissed her and then began to chat quietly. He set before her
plans of living, with the idea of economy, and this word occurring
several times, astonished Jeanne. She listened without grasping the
meaning of his words, looked at him, but was thinking of a thousand
things that passed rapidly through her mind hardly leaving a trace.
The clock struck eight. "Come, we must get up," he said. "It would
look ridiculous for us to be late." When he was dressed he assisted
his wife with all the little details of her toilet, not allowing her
to call Rosalie. As they left the room he stopped. "You know, when we
are alone, we can now use 'thou,' but before your parents it is better
to wait a while. It will be quite natural when we come back from our
She did not go down till luncheon was ready. The day passed like any
ordinary day, as if nothing new had occurred. There was one man more
in the house, that was all.
* * * * *
CORSICA AND A NEW LIFE
Four days later the travelling carriage arrived that was to take them
After the first night Jeanne had become accustomed to Julien's kisses
and caresses, although her repugnance to a closer intimacy had not
diminished. She thought him handsome, she loved him. She again felt
happy and cheerful.
The farewells were short and without sadness. The baroness alone
seemed tearful. As the carriage was just starting she placed a purse,
heavy as lead, in her daughter's hand, saying, "That is for your
little expenses as a bride."
Jeanne thrust the purse in her pocket and the carriage started.
Toward evening Julien said: "How much money did your mother give you
in that purse?"
She had not given it a thought, and she poured out the contents on her
knees. A golden shower filled her lap: two thousand francs. She
clapped her hands. "I shall commit all kinds of extravagance," she
said as she replaced it in the purse.
After travelling eight days in terribly hot weather they reached
Marseilles. The following day the _Roi-Louis_, a little mail
steamer which went to Naples by way of Ajaccio, took them to Corsica.
Corsica! Its "maquis," its bandits, its mountains! The birthplace of
Napoleon! It seemed to Jeanne that she was leaving real life to enter
into a dream, although wide awake. Standing side by side on the bridge
of the steamer, they looked at the cliffs of Provence as they passed
swiftly by them. The calm sea of deep blue seemed petrified beneath
the ardent rays of the sun.
"Do you remember our excursion in Père Lastique's boat?" said Jeanne.
Instead of replying, he gave her a hasty kiss on the ear.
The paddle-wheels struck the water, disturbing its torpor, and a long
track of foam like the froth of champagne remained in the wake of the
boat, reaching as far as the eye could see. Jeanne drank in with
delight the odor of the salt mist that seemed to go to the very tips
of her fingers. Everywhere the sea. But ahead of them there was
something gray, not clearly defined in the early dawn; a sort of
massing of strange-looking clouds, pointed, jagged, seemed to rest on
Presently it became clearer, its outline more distinct on the
brightening sky; a large chain of mountains, peaked and weird,
appeared. It was Corsica, covered with a light veil of mist. The sun
rose behind it, outlining the jagged crests like black shadows. Then
all the summits were bathed in light, while the rest of the island
remained covered with mist.
The captain, a little sun-browned man, dried up, stunted, toughened
and shrivelled by the harsh salt winds, appeared on the bridge and in
a voice hoarse after twenty years of command and worn from shouting
amid the storms, said to Jeanne:
"Do you perceive it, that odor?"
She certainly noticed a strong and peculiar odor of plants, a wild
"That is Corsica that sends out that fragrance, madame," said the
captain. "It is her peculiar odor of a pretty woman. After being away
for twenty years, I should recognize it five miles out at sea. I
belong to it. He, down there, at Saint Helena, he speaks of it always,
it seems, of the odor of his native country. He belongs to my family."
And the captain, taking off his hat, saluted Corsica, saluted down
yonder, across the ocean, the great captive emperor who belonged to
Jeanne was so affected that she almost cried.
Then, pointing toward the horizon, the captain said: "Les
Julien was standing beside his wife, with his arm round her waist, and
they both looked out into the distance to see what he was alluding to.
They at length perceived some pyramidal rocks which the vessel rounded
presently to enter an immense peaceful gulf surrounded by lofty
summits, the base of which was covered with what looked like moss.
Pointing to this verdant growth, the captain said: "Le maquis."
As they proceeded on their course the circle of mountains appeared to
close in behind the steamer, which moved along slowly in such a lake
of transparent azure that one could sometimes see to the bottom.
The town suddenly appeared perfectly white at the end of the gulf, on
the edge of the water, at the base of the mountains. Some little
Italian boats were anchored in the dock. Four or five rowboats came up
beside the _Roi-Louis_ to get passengers.
Julien, who was collecting the baggage, asked his wife in a low tone:
"Twenty sous is enough, is it not, to give to the porter?" For a week
he had constantly asked the same question, which annoyed her each
time. She replied somewhat impatiently: "When one is not sure of
giving enough, one gives too much."
He was always disputing with the hotel proprietors, with the servants,
the drivers, the vendors of all kinds, and when, by dint of
bargaining, he had obtained a reduction in price, he would say to
Jeanne as he rubbed his hands: "I do not like to be cheated."
She trembled whenever a bill came in, certain beforehand of the
remarks that he would make about each item, humiliated at this
bargaining, blushing up to the roots of her hair beneath the
contemptuous glances of the servants as they looked after her husband,
while they held in their hand the meagre tip.
He had a dispute with the boatmen who landed him.
The first tree Jeanne saw was a palm. They went to a great, empty
hotel at the corner of an immense square and ordered breakfast.
After an hour's rest they arranged an itinerary for their trip, and at
the end of three days spent in this little town, hidden at the end of
the blue gulf, and hot as a furnace enclosed in its curtain of
mountains, which keep every breath of air from it, they decided to
hire some saddle horses, so as to be able to cross any difficult pass,
and selected two little Corsican stallions with fiery eyes, thin and
unwearying, and set out one morning at daybreak. A guide, mounted on a
mule, accompanied them and carried the provisions, for inns are
unknown in this wild country.
The road ran along the gulf and soon turned into a kind of valley, and
on toward the high mountains. They frequently crossed the dry beds of
torrents with only a tiny stream of water trickling under the stones,
gurgling faintly like a wild animal in hiding.
The uncultivated country seemed perfectly barren. The sides of the
hills were covered with tall weeds, yellow from the blazing sun.
Sometimes they met a mountaineer, either on foot or mounted on a
little horse, or astride a donkey about as big as a dog. They all
carried a loaded rifle slung across their backs, old rusty weapons,
but redoubtable in their hands.
The pungent odor of the aromatic herbs with which the island is
overgrown seemed to make the air heavy. The road ascended gradually
amid the long curves of the mountains. The red or blue granite peaks
gave an appearance of fairyland to the wild landscape, and on the
foothills immense forests of chestnut trees looked like green brush,
compared with the elevations above them.
Sometimes the guide, reaching out his hand toward some of these
heights, would repeat a name. Jeanne and Julien would look where he
pointed, but see nothing, until at last they discovered something
gray, like a mass of stones fallen from the summit. It was a little
village, a hamlet of granite hanging there, fastened on like a
veritable bird's nest and almost invisible on the huge mountain.
Walking their horses like this made Jeanne nervous. "Let us go
faster," she said. And she whipped up her horse. Then, as she did not
hear her husband following her, she turned round and laughed heartily
as she saw him coming along, pale, and holding on to his horse's mane
as it bounced him up and down. His very appearance of a "beau
cavalier" made his awkwardness and timidity all the more comical.
They trotted along quietly. The road now ran between two interminable
forests of brush, which covered the whole side of the mountain like a
garment. This was the "Maquis," composed of scrub oak, juniper,
arbutus, mastic, privet, gorse, laurel, myrtle and boxwood,
intertwined with clematis, huge ferns, honeysuckle, cytisus, rosemary,
lavender and brambles, which covered the sides of the mountain with an
They were hungry. The guide rejoined them and led them to one of those
charming springs so frequent in rocky countries, a tiny thread of iced
water issuing from a little hole in the rock and flowing into a
chestnut leaf that some passerby had placed there to guide the water
into one's mouth.
Jeanne felt so happy that she could hardly restrain herself from
screaming for joy.
They continued their journey and began to descend the slope winding
round the Bay of Sagone. Toward evening they passed through Cargese,
the Greek village founded by a colony of refugees who were driven from
their country. Tall, beautiful girls, with rounded hips, long hands
and slender waists, and singularly graceful, were grouped beside a
fountain. Julien called out, "Good evening," and they replied in
musical tones in the harmonious language of their own land.
When they reached Piana they had to beg for hospitality, as in ancient
times and in desert lands. Jeanne trembled with joy as they waited for
the door to be opened after Julien knocked. Oh, this was a journey
worth while, with all the unexpected of unexplored paths.
It happened to be the home of a young couple. They received the
travellers as the patriarchs must have received the guest sent by God.
They had to sleep on a corn husk mattress in an old moldy house. The
woodwork, all eaten by worms, overrun with long boring-worms, seemed
to emit sounds, to be alive and to sigh.
They set off again at daybreak, and presently stopped before a forest,
a veritable forest of purple granite. There were peaks, pillars,
bell-towers, wondrous forms molded by age, the ravaging wind and the
sea mist. As much as three hundred metres in height, slender, round,
twisted, hooked, deformed, unexpected and fantastic, these amazing
rocks looked like trees, plants, animals, monuments, men, monks in
their garb, horned devils, gigantic birds, a whole population of
monsters, a menagerie of nightmares petrified by the will of some
Jeanne had ceased talking, her heart was full. She took Julien's hand
and squeezed it, overcome with a longing for love in presence of the
beauty of nature.
Suddenly, as they emerged from this chaos, they saw before them
another gulf, encircled by a wall of blood-red granite. And these red
rocks were reflected in the blue waters.
"Oh, Julien!" faltered Jeanne, unable to speak for wonder and choking
with her emotion. Two tears fell from her eyes. Julien gazed at her in
astonishment and said:
"What is the matter, my pet?"
She wiped away her tears, smiled and replied in a rather shaky voice:
"Nothing--I am nervous--I do not know--it just came over me. I am so
happy that the least thing affects me."
He could not understand these feminine attacks of "nerves," the shocks
of these vibrant beings, excited at nothing, whom enthusiasm stirs as
might a catastrophe, whom an imperceptible sensation completely
upsets, driving them wild with joy or despair.
These tears seemed absurd to him, and thinking only of the bad road,
"You would do better to watch your horse."
They descended an almost impassable path to the shore of the gulf,
then turned to the right to ascend the gloomy Val d'Ota.
But the road was so bad that Julien proposed that they should go on
foot. Jeanne was delighted. She was enchanted at the idea of walking,
of being alone with him after her late emotion.
The guide went ahead with the mule and the horses and they walked
The mountain, cleft from top to bottom, spreads apart. The path lies
in this breach, between two gigantic walls. A roaring torrent flows
through the gorge. The air is icy, the granite looks black, and high
above one the glimpse of blue sky astonishes and bewilders one.
A sudden noise made Jeanne start. She raised her eyes. An immense bird
flew away from a hollow; it was an eagle. His spread wings seemed to
brush the two walls of the gorge and he soared into the blue and
Farther on there was a double gorge and the path lay between the two
in abrupt zigzags. Jeanne, careless and happy, took the lead, the
pebbles rolling away beneath her feet, fearlessly leaning over the
abysses. Julien followed her, somewhat out of breath, his eyes on the
ground for fear of becoming dizzy.
All at once the sun shone down on them, and it seemed as if they were
leaving the infernal regions. They were thirsty, and following a track
of moisture, they crossed a wilderness of stones and found a little
spring conducted into a channel made of a piece of hollowed-out wood
for the benefit of the goatherds. A carpet of moss covered the ground
all round it, and Jeanne and Julien knelt down to drink.
As they were enjoying the fresh cold water, Julien tried to draw
Jeanne away to tease her. She resisted and their lips met and parted,
and the stream of cold water splashed their faces, their necks, their
clothes and their hands, and their kisses mingled in the stream.
They were a long time reaching the summit of the declivity, as the
road was so winding and uneven, and they did not reach Evisa until
evening and the house of Paoli Palabretti, a relative of their guide.
He was a tall man, somewhat bent, with the mournful air of a
consumptive. He took them to their room, a cheerless room of bare
stone, but handsome for this country, where all elegance is ignored.
He expressed in his language--the Corsican patois, a jumble of French
and Italian--his pleasure at welcoming them, when a shrill voice
interrupted him. A little swarthy woman, with large black eyes, a skin
warmed by the sun, a slender waist, teeth always showing in a
perpetual smile, darted forward, kissed Jeanne, shook Julien's hand
and said: "Good-day, madame; good-day, monsieur; I hope you are well."
She took their hats, shawls, carrying all on one arm, for the other
was in a sling, and then she made them all go outside, saying to her
husband: "Go and take them for a walk until dinner time."
M. Palabretti obeyed at once and walked between the two young people
as he showed them the village. He dragged his feet and his words,
coughing frequently, and repeating at each attack of coughing:
"It is the air of the Val, which is cool, and has struck my chest."
He led them on a by-path beneath enormous chestnut trees. Suddenly he
stopped and said in his monotonous voice: "It is here that my cousin,
Jean Rinaldi, was killed by Mathieu Lori. See, I was there, close to
Jean, when Mathieu appeared at ten paces from us. 'Jean,' he cried,
'do not go to Albertacce; do not go, Jean, or I will kill you. I warn
"I took Jean's arm: 'Do not go there, Jean; he will do it.'
"It was about a girl whom they were both after, Paulina Sinacoupi.
"But Jean cried out: 'I am going, Mathieu; you will not be the one to
"Then Mathieu unslung his gun, and before I could adjust mine, he
"Jean leaped two feet in the air, like a child skipping, yes,
monsieur, and he fell back full on me, so that my gun went off and
rolled as far as the big chestnut tree over yonder.
"Jean's mouth was wide open, but he did not utter a word; he was
The young people gazed in amazement at the calm witness of this crime.
"And what became of the assassin?"
Paoli Palabretti had a long fit of coughing and then said:
"He escaped to the mountain. It was my brother who killed him the
following year. You know, my brother, Philippi Palabretti, the
"Your brother a bandit?"
With a gleam of pride in his eye, the calm Corsican replied:
"Yes, madame. He was celebrated, that one. He laid low six gendarmes.
He died at the same time as Nicolas Morali, when they were trapped in
the Niolo, after six days of fighting, and were about to die of
"The country is worth it," he added with a resigned air in the same
tone in which he said: "It is the air of the Val, which is cool."
Then they went home to dinner, and the little Corsican woman behaved
as if she had known them for twenty years.
But Jeanne was worried. When Julien again held her in his arms, would
she experience the same strange and intense sensation that she had
felt on the moss beside the spring? And when they were alone together
that evening she trembled lest she should still be insensible to his
kisses. But she was reassured, and this was her first night of love.
The next day, as they were about to set out, she decided that she
would not leave this humble cottage, where it seemed as though a fresh
happiness had begun for her.
She called her host's little wife into her room and, while making
clear that she did not mean it as a present, she insisted, even with
some annoyance, on sending her from Paris, as soon as she arrived, a
remembrance, a remembrance to which she attached an almost
The little Corsican refused for some time, not wishing to accept it.
But at last she consented, saying:
"Well, then, send me a little pistol, a very small one."
Jeanne opened her eyes in astonishment. The other added in her ear, as
one confides a sweet and intimate secret: "It is to kill my
brother-in-law." And smiling, she hastily unwound the bandages around
the helpless arm, and showing her firm, white skin with the scratch of
a stiletto across it, now almost healed, she said: "If I had not been
almost as strong as he is, he would have killed me. My husband is not
jealous, he knows me; and, besides, he is ill, you know, and that
quiets your blood. And, besides, madame, I am an honest woman; but my
brother-in-law believes all that he hears. He is jealous for my
husband and he will surely try it again. Then I shall have my little
pistol; I shall be easy, and sure of my revenge."
Jeanne promised to send the weapon, kissed her new friend tenderly and
they set out on their journey.
The rest of the trip was nothing but a dream, a continual series of
embraces, an intoxication of caresses. She saw nothing, neither the
landscape, nor the people, nor the places where they stopped. She saw
nothing but Julien.
On arriving at Bastia, they had to pay the guide. Julien fumbled in
his pockets. Not finding what he wanted, he said to Jeanne: "As you
are not using your mother's two thousand francs, give them to me to
carry. They will be safer in my belt, and it will avoid my having to
She handed him her purse.
They went to Leghorn, visited Florence, Genoa and all the Cornici.
They reached Marseilles on a morning when the north wind was blowing.
Two months had elapsed since they left the "Poplars." It was now the
15th of October.
Jeanne, affected by the cold wind that seemed to come from yonder,
from far-off Normandy, felt sad. Julien had, for some time, appeared
changed, tired, indifferent, and she feared she knew not what.
They delayed their return home four days longer, not being able to
make up their minds to leave this pleasant land of the sun. It seemed
to her that she had come to an end of her happiness.
At length they left. They were to make all their purchases in Paris,
prior to settling down for good at the "Poplars," and Jeanne looked
forward to bringing back some treasures, thanks to her mother's
present. But the first thing she thought of was the pistol promised to
the little Corsican woman of Evisa.
The day after they arrived she said to Julien: "Dear, will you give me
that money of mamma's? I want to make my purchases."
He turned toward her with a look of annoyance.
"How much do you want?"
"Why--whatever you please."
"I will give you a hundred francs," he replied, "but do not squander
She did not know what to say, amazed and confused. At length she
faltered: "But--I--handed you the money to----"
He did not give her time to finish.
"Yes, of course. Whether it is in my pocket or yours makes no
difference from the moment that we have the same purse. I do not
refuse you, do I, since I am giving you a hundred francs?"
She took the five gold pieces without saying a word, but she did not
venture to ask for any more, and she bought nothing but the pistol.
Eight days later they set out for the "Poplars."
* * * * *
The family and servants were awaiting them outside the white gate with
brick supports. The post-chaise drew up and there were long and
affectionate greetings. Little mother wept; Jeanne, affected, wiped
away some tears; father nervously walked up and down.
Then, as the baggage was being unloaded, they told of their travels
beside the parlor fire. Jeanne's words flowed freely, and everything
was told, everything, in a half hour, except, perhaps, a few little
details forgotten in this rapid account.
The young wife then went to undo her parcels. Rosalie, also greatly
affected, assisted her. When this was finished and everything had been
put away, the little maid left her mistress, and Jeanne, somewhat
fatigued, sat down.
She asked herself what she was now going to do, seeking some
occupation for her mind, some work for her hands. She did not care to
go down again into the drawing-room, where her mother was asleep, and
she thought she would take a walk. But the country seemed so sad that
she felt a weight at her heart on only looking out of the window.
Then it came to her that she had no longer anything to do, never again
anything to do. All her young life at the convent had been preoccupied
with the future, busied with dreams. The constant excitement of hope
filled her hours at that time, so that she was not aware of their
flight. Then hardly had she left those austere walls, where her
illusions had unfolded, than her expectations of love were at once
realized. The longed-for lover, met, loved and married within a few
weeks, as one marries on these sudden resolves, had carried her off in
his arms, without giving her time for reflection.
But now the sweet reality of the first days was to become the everyday
reality, which closed the door on vague hopes, on the enchanting
worries of the unknown. Yes, there was nothing more to look forward
to. And there was nothing more to do, today, to-morrow, never. She
felt all this vaguely as a certain disillusion, a certain crumbling of
She rose and leaned her forehead against the cold window panes.
Then, after gazing for some time at the sky across which dark clouds
were passing, she decided to go out.
Was this the same country, the same grass, the same trees as in May?
What had become of the sunlit cheerfulness of the leaves and the
poetry of the green grass, where dandelions, poppies and moon daisies
bloomed and where yellow butterflies fluttered as though held by
invisible wires? And this intoxication of the air teeming with life,
with fragrance, with fertilizing pollen, existed no longer!
The avenues, soaked by the constant autumnal downpours, were covered
with a thick carpet of fallen leaves which extended beneath the
shivering bareness of the almost leafless poplars. She went as far as
the shrubbery. It was as sad as the chamber of a dying person. A green
hedge which separated the little winding walks was bare of leaves.
Little birds flew from place to place with a little chilly cry,
seeking a shelter.
The thick curtain of elm trees that formed a protection against the
sea wind, the lime tree and the plane tree with their crimson and
yellow tints seemed clothed, the one in red velvet and the other in
Jeanne walked slowly up and down petite mère's avenue, alongside the
Couillards' farm. Something weighed on her spirit like a presentiment
of the long boredom of the monotonous life about to begin.
She seated herself on the bank where Julien had first told her of his
love and remained there, dreaming, scarcely thinking, depressed to the
very soul, longing to lie down, to sleep, in order to escape the
dreariness of the day.
All at once she perceived a gull crossing the sky, carried away in a
gust of wind, and she recalled the eagle she had seen down there in
Corsica, in the gloomy vale of Ota. She felt a spasm at her heart as
at the remembrance of something pleasant that is gone by, and she had
a sudden vision of the beautiful island with its wild perfume, its sun
that ripens oranges and lemons, its mountains with their rosy summits,
its azure gulfs and its ravines through which the torrents flowed.
And the moist, severe landscape that surrounded her, with the falling
leaves and the gray clouds blown along by the wind, enfolded her in
such a heavy mantle of misery that she went back to the house to keep
Her mother was dozing in a torpid condition in front of the fire,
accustomed to the melancholy of the long days, and not noticing it any
longer. Her father and Julien had gone for a walk to talk about
business matters. Night was coming on, filling the large drawing-room
with gloom lighted by reflections of light from the fire.
The baron presently appeared, followed by Julien. As soon as the
vicomte entered the room he rang the bell, saying: "Quick, quick, let
us have some light! It is gloomy in here."
And he sat down before the fire. While his wet shoes were steaming in
the warmth and the mud was drying on his soles, he rubbed his hands
cheerfully as he said: "I think it is going to freeze; the sky is
clearing in the north, and it is full moon to-night; we shall have a
Then turning to his daughter: "Well, little one, are you glad to be
back again in your own country, in your own home, with the old folks?"
This simple question upset Jeanne. She threw herself into her father's
arms, her eyes full of tears, and kissed him nervously, as though
asking pardon, for in spite of her honest attempt to be cheerful, she
felt sad enough to give up altogether. She recalled the joy she had
promised herself at seeing her parents again, and she was surprised at
the coldness that seemed to numb her affection, just as if, after
constantly thinking of those one loves, when at a distance and unable
to see them at any moment, one should feel, on seeing them again, a
sort of check of affection, until the bonds of their life in common
had been renewed.
Dinner lasted a long time. No one spoke much. Julien appeared to have
forgotten his wife.
In the drawing-room Jeanne sat before the fire in a drowsy condition,
opposite little mother, who was sound asleep. Aroused by the voices of
the men, Jeanne asked herself, as she tried to rouse herself, if she,
too, was going to become a slave to this dreary lethargy of habit that
The baron approached the fire, and holding out his hands to the
glowing flame, he said, smiling: "Ah, that burns finely this evening.
It is freezing, children; it is freezing." Then, placing his hand on
Jeanne's shoulder and pointing to the fire, he said: "See here, little
daughter, that is the best thing in life, the hearth, the hearth, with
one's own around one. Nothing else counts. But supposing we retire.
You children must be tired out."
When she was in her room, Jeanne asked herself how she could feel so
differently on returning a second time to the place that she thought
she loved. Why did she feel as though she were wounded? Why did this
house, this beloved country, all that hitherto had thrilled her with
happiness, now appear so distressing?
Her eyes suddenly fell on her clock. The little bee was still swinging
from left to right and from right to left with the same quick,
continuous motion above the scarlet blossoms. All at once an impulse
of tenderness moved her to tears at sight of this little piece of
mechanism that seemed to be alive. She had not been so affected on
kissing her father and mother. The heart has mysteries that no
arguments can solve.
For the first time since her marriage she was alone, Julien, under
pretext of fatigue, having taken another room.
She lay awake a long time, unaccustomed to being alone and disturbed
by the bleak north wind which beat against the roof.
She was awakened the next morning by a bright light that flooded her
room. She put on a dressing gown and ran to the window and opened it.
An icy breeze, sharp and bracing, streamed into the room, making her
skin tingle and her eyes water. The sun appeared behind the trees on a
crimson sky, and the earth, covered with frost and dry and hard, rang
out beneath one's footsteps. In one night all the leaves had blown off
the trees, and in the distance beyond the level ground was seen the
long green line of water, covered with trails of white foam.
Jeanne dressed herself and went out, and for the sake of an object she
went to call on the farmers.
The Martins held up their hands in surprise, and Mrs. Martin kissed
her on both cheeks, and then they made her drink a glass of noyau. She
then went to the other farm. The Couillards also were surprised. Mrs.
Couillard pecked her on the ears and she had to drink a glass of
cassis. Then she went home to breakfast.
The day went by like the previous day, cold instead of damp. And the
other days of the week resembled these two days, and all the weeks of
the month were like the first week.
Little by little, however, she ceased to regret far-off lands. The
force of habit was covering her life with a layer of resignation
similar to the lime-stone formation deposited on objects by certain
springs. And a kind of interest for the thousand-and-one little
insignificant things of daily life, a care for the simple, ordinary
everyday occupations, awakened in her heart. A sort of pensive
melancholy, a vague disenchantment with life was growing up in her
mind. What did she lack? What did she want? She did not know. She had
no worldly desires, no thirst for amusement, no longing for
permissible pleasures. What then? Just as old furniture tarnishes in
time, so everything was slowly becoming faded to her eyes, everything
seemed to be fading, to be taking on pale, dreary shades.
Her relations with Julien had completely changed. He seemed to be
quite different since they came back from their honeymoon, like an
actor who has played his part and resumes his ordinary manner. He
scarcely paid any attention to her or even spoke to her. All trace of
love had suddenly disappeared, and he seldom came into her room at
He had taken charge of the money and of the house, changed the leases,
worried the peasants, cut down expenses, and having adopted the
costume of a gentleman farmer, he had lost his polish and elegance as
He always wore the same suit, although it was covered with spots. It
was an old velveteen shooting jacket with brass buttons, that he had
found among his former wardrobe, and with the carelessness that is
frequent with those who no longer seek to please, he had given up
shaving, and his long beard, badly cut, made an incredible change for
the worse in his appearance. His hands were never cared for, and after
each meal he drank four or five glasses of brandy.
Jeanne tried to remonstrate with him gently, but he had answered her
so abruptly: "Won't you let me alone!" that she never ventured to give
him any more advice.
She had adapted herself to these changes in a manner that surprised
herself. He had become a stranger to her, a stranger whose mind and
heart were closed to her. She constantly thought about it, asking
herself how it was that after having met, loved, married in an impulse
of affection, they should all at once find themselves almost as much
strangers as though they had never shared the same room.
And how was it that she did not feel this neglect more deeply? Was
this life? Had they deceived themselves? Did the future hold nothing
further for her?
If Julien had remained handsome, carefully dressed, elegant, she might
possibly have suffered more deeply.
It had been agreed that after the new year the young couple should
remain alone and that the father and mother should go back to spend a
few months at their house in Rouen. The young people were not to leave
the "Poplars" that winter, so as to get thoroughly settled and to
become accustomed to each other and to the place where all their life
would be passed. They had a few neighbors to whom Julien would
introduce his wife. These were the Brisevilles, the Colteliers and the
But the young people could not begin to pay calls because they had not
as yet been able to get a painter to alter the armorial bearings on
The old family coach had been given up to his son-in-law by the baron,
and nothing would have induced him to show himself at the neighboring
châteaux if the coat-of-arms of the De Lamares were not quartered with
those of the Le Perthuis des Vauds.
There was only one man in the district who made a specialty of
heraldic designs, a painter of Bolbec, called Bataille, who was in
demand at all the Norman castles in turn to make these precious
designs on the doors of carriages.
At length one morning in December, just as they were finishing
breakfast, they saw an individual open the gate and walk toward the
house. He was carrying a box on his back. This was Bataille.
They offered him some breakfast, and, while he was eating, the baron
and Julien made sketches of quarterings. The baroness, all upset as
soon as these things were discussed, gave her opinion. And even Jeanne
took part in the discussion, as though some mysterious interest had
suddenly awakened in her.
Bataille, while eating, gave his ideas, at times taking the pencil and
tracing a design, citing examples, describing all the aristocratic
carriages in the countryside, and seemed to have brought with him in
his ideas, even in his voice, a sort of atmosphere of aristocracy.
As soon as he had finished his coffee, they all went to the coach
house. They took off the cover of the carriage and Bataille examined
it. He then gravely gave his views as to the size he considered
suitable for the design, and after an exchange of ideas, he set to
Notwithstanding the cold, the baroness had her chair brought out so as
to watch him working, and then her foot-stove, for her feet were
freezing. She then began to chat with the painter, on all the recent
births, deaths and marriages of which she had not heard, thus adding
to the genealogical tree which she carried in her memory.
Julien sat beside her, astride on a chair. He was smoking, spitting on
the ground, listening and following with his glances the emblazoning
of his rank.
Presently old Simon, who was on his way to the vegetable garden, his
spade on his shoulder, stopped to look at the work; and as Bataille's
arrival had become known at the two farms, the farmers' wives soon put
in an appearance. They went into raptures, standing one at either side
of the baroness, exclaiming: "My! it requires some cleverness all the
same to fix up those things."
The two doors could not be finished before the next day about eleven
o'clock. Every one was on hand; and they dragged the carriage outside
so as to get a better view of it.
It was perfect. Bataille was complimented, and went off with his box
on his back. They all agreed that the painter had great ability, and
if circumstances had been favorable would doubtless have been a great
Julien, by way of economy, had introduced great reforms which
necessitated making some changes. The old coachman had been made
gardener, Julien undertaking to drive himself, having sold the
carriage horses to avoid buying feed for them. But as it was necessary
to have some one to hold the horses when he and his wife got out of
the carriage, he had made a little cow tender named Marius into a
groom. Then in order to get some horses, he introduced a special
clause into the Couillards' and Martins' leases, by which they were
bound to supply a horse each, on a certain day every month, the date
to be fixed by him; and this would exempt them from their tribute of
So the Couillards brought a big yellow horse, and the Martins a small
white animal with long, unclipped coat, and the two were harnessed up
together. Marius, buried in an old livery belonging to old Simon, led
the carriage up to the front door.
Julien, looking clean and brushed up, looked a little like his former
self; but his long beard gave him a common look in spite of all. He
looked over the horses, the carriage, and the little groom, and seemed
satisfied, the only really important thing to him being the newly
The baroness came down leaning on her husband's arm and got into the
carriage. Then Jeanne appeared. She began to laugh at the horses,
saying that the white one was the son of the yellow horse; then,
perceiving Marius, his face buried under his hat with its cockade, his
nose alone preventing it from covering his face altogether, his hands
hidden in his long sleeves, and the tail of his coat forming a skirt
round his legs, his feet encased in immense shoes showing in a comical
manner beneath it, and then when he threw his head back so as to see,
and lifted up his leg to walk as if he were crossing a river, she
burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.
The baron turned round, glanced at the little bewildered groom and he,
too, burst out laughing, calling to his wife: "Look at Ma-Ma-Marius!
Is he not comical? Heavens, how funny he looks!"
The baroness, looking out of the carriage window, was also convulsed,
so that the carriage shook on its springs.
But Julien, pale with anger, asked: "What makes you laugh like that?
Are you crazy?"
Jeanne, quite convulsed and unable to stop laughing, sat down on the
doorstep; the baron did the same, while, in the carriage, spasmodic
sneezes, a sort of constant chuckling, told that the baroness was
choking. Presently there was a motion beneath Marius' livery. He had,
doubtless, understood the joke, for he was shaking with laughter
beneath his hat.
Julien darted forward in exasperation. With a box on the ear he sent
the boy's hat flying across the lawn; then, turning toward his
father-in-law, he stammered in a voice trembling with rage: "It seems
to me that you should be the last to laugh. We should not be where we
are now if you had not wasted your money and ruined your property.
Whose fault is it if you are ruined?"
The laughter ceased at once, and no one spoke. Jeanne, now ready to
cry, got into the carriage and sat beside her mother. The baron,
silent and astonished, took his place opposite the two ladies, and
Julien sat on the box after lifting to the seat beside him the weeping
boy, whose face was beginning to swell.
The road was dreary and appeared long. The occupants of the carriage
were silent. All three sad and embarrassed, they would not acknowledge
to one another what was occupying their thoughts. They felt that they
could not talk on indifferent subjects while these thoughts had
possession of them, and preferred to remain silent than to allude to
this painful subject.
They drove past farmyards, the carriage jogging along unevenly with
the ill-matched animals, putting to flight terrified black hens who
plunged into the bushes and disappeared, occasionally followed by a
At length they entered a wide avenue of pine trees, at the end of
which was a white, closed gate. Marius ran to open it, and they drove
in round an immense grass plot, and drew up before a high, spacious,
sad-looking building with closed shutters.
The hall door opened abruptly, and an old, paralyzed servant wearing a
black waistcoat with red stripes partially covered by his working
apron slowly descended the slanting steps. He took the visitors' names
and led them into an immense reception room, and opened with
difficulty the Venetian blinds which were always kept closed. The
furniture had covers on it, and the clock and candelabra were wrapped
in white muslin. An atmosphere of mildew, an atmosphere of former
days, damp and icy, seemed to permeate one's lungs, heart and skin
They all sat down and waited. They heard steps in the hall above them
that betokened unaccustomed haste. The hosts were hurriedly dressing.
The baroness, who was chilled, sneezed constantly. Julien paced up and
down. Jeanne, despondent, sat beside her mother. The baron leaned
against the marble mantelpiece with his head bent down.
Finally, one of the tall doors opened, and the Vicomte and Vicomtesse
de Briseville appeared. They were both small, thin, vivacious, of no
age in particular, ceremonious and embarrassed.
After the first greetings, there seemed to be nothing to say. So they
began to congratulate each other for no special reason, and hoped that
these friendly relations would be kept up. It was a treat to see
people when one lived in the country the year round.
The icy atmosphere pierced to their bones and made their voices
hoarse. The baroness was coughing now and had stopped sneezing. The
baron thought it was time to leave. The Brisevilles said: "What, so
soon? Stay a little longer." But Jeanne had risen in spite of Julien's
signals, for he thought the visit too short.
They attempted to ring for the servant to order the carriage to the
door, but the bell would not ring. The host started out himself to
attend to it, but found that the horses had been put in the stable.
They had to wait. Every one tried to think of something to say.
Jeanne, involuntarily shivering with cold, inquired what their hosts
did to occupy themselves all the year round. The Brisevilles were much
astonished; for they were always busy, either writing letters to their
aristocratic relations, of whom they had a number scattered all over
France, or attending to microscopic duties, as ceremonious to one
another as though they were strangers, and talking grandiloquently of
the most insignificant matters.
At last the carriage passed the windows with its ill-matched team. But
Marius had disappeared. Thinking he was off duty until evening, he had
doubtless gone for a walk.
Julien, perfectly furious, begged them to send him home on foot, and
after a great many farewells on both sides, they set out for the
As soon as they were inside the carriage, Jeanne and her father, in
spite of Julien's brutal behavior of the morning which still weighed
on their minds, began to laugh at the gestures and intonations of the
Brisevilles. The baron imitated the husband, and Jeanne the wife. But
the baroness, a little touchy in these particulars, said: "You are
wrong to ridicule them thus; they are people of excellent family."
They were silent out of respect for little mother, but nevertheless,
from time to time, Jeanne and her father began again. The baroness
could not forbear smiling in her turn, but she repeated: "It is not
nice to laugh at people who belong to our class."
Suddenly the carriage stopped, and Julien called out to someone behind
it. Then Jeanne and the baron, leaning out, saw a singular creature
that appeared to be rolling along toward them. His legs entangled in
his flowing coattails, and blinded by his hat which kept falling over
his face, shaking his sleeves like the sails of a windmill, and
splashing into puddles of water, and stumbling against stones in the
road, running and bounding, Marius was following the carriage as fast
as his legs could carry him.
As soon as he caught up with it, Julien, leaning over, seized him by
the collar of his coat, sat him down beside him, and letting go the
reins, began to shower blows on the boy's hat, which sank down to his
shoulders with the reverberations of a drum. The boy screamed, tried
to get away, to jump from the carriage, while his master, holding him
with one hand, continued beating him with the other.
Jeanne, dumfounded, stammered: "Father--oh, father!" And the baroness,
wild with indignation, squeezed her husband's arm. "Stop him, Jack!"
she exclaimed. The baron quickly lowered the front window, and seizing
hold of his son-in-law's sleeve, he sputtered out in a voice trembling
with rage: "Have you almost finished beating that child?"
Julien turned round in astonishment: "Don't you see what a condition
his livery is in?"
But the baron, placing his head between them, said: "Well, what do I
care? There is no need to be brutal like that!"
Julien got angry again: "Let me alone, please; this is not your
affair!" And he was raising his hand again when his father-in-law
caught hold of it and dragged it down so roughly that he knocked it
against the wood of the seat, and he roared at him so loud: "If you do
not stop, I shall get out, and I will see that you stop it, myself,"
that Julien calmed down at once, and shrugging his shoulders without
replying, he whipped up the horses, who set out at a quick trot.
The two women, pale as death, did not stir, and one could hear
distinctly the thumping of the baroness' heart.
At dinner Julien was more charming than usual, as though nothing had
occurred. Jeanne, her father, and Madame Adelaide, pleased to see him
so amiable, fell in with his mood, and when Jeanne mentioned the
Brisevilles, he laughed at them himself, adding, however: "All the
same, they have the grand air."
They made no more visits, each one fearing to revive the Marius
episode. They decided, to send New Year's cards, and to wait until the
first warm days of spring before paying any more calls.
At Christmas they invited the curé, the mayor and his wife to dinner,
and again on New Year's Day. These were the only events that varied
the monotony of their life. The baron and his wife were to leave "The
Poplars" on the ninth of January. Jeanne wanted to keep them, but
Julien did not acquiesce, and the baron sent for a post-chaise from
Rouen, seeing his son-in-law's coolness.
The day before their departure, as it was a clear frost, Jeanne and
her father decided to go to Yport, which they had not visited since
her return from Corsica. They crossed the wood where she had strolled
on her wedding-day, all wrapped up in the one whose lifelong companion
she had become; the wood where she had received her first kiss,
trembled at the first breath of love, had a presentiment of that
sensual love of which she did not become aware until she was in the
wild vale of Ota beside the spring where they mingled their kisses as
they drank of its waters. The trees were now leafless, the climbing
They entered the little village. The empty, silent streets smelled of
the sea, of wrack, of fish. Huge brown nets were still hanging up to
dry outside the houses, or stretched out on the shingle. The gray,
cold sea, with its eternal roaring foam, was going out, uncovering the
green rocks at the foot of the cliff toward Fécamp.
Jeanne and her father, motionless, watched the fishermen setting out
in their boats in the dusk, as they did every night, risking their
lives to keep from starving, and so poor, nevertheless, that they
never tasted meat.
The baron, inspired at the sight of the ocean, murmured: "It is
terrible, but it is beautiful. How magnificent this sea is on which
the darkness is falling, and on which so many lives are in peril, is
it not, Jeannette?"
She replied with a cold smile: "It is nothing to the Mediterranean."
Her father, indignant, exclaimed: "The Mediterranean! It is oil, sugar
water, bluing water in a washtub. Look at this sea, how terrible it is
with its crests of foam! And think of all those men who have set out
on it, and who are already out of sight."
Jeanne assented with a sigh: "Yes, if you think so." But this name,
"Mediterranean," had wrung her heart afresh, sending her thoughts back
to those distant lands where her dreams lay buried.
Instead of returning home by the woods, they walked along the road,
mounting the ascent slowly. They were silent, sad at the thought of
the approaching separation. As they passed along beside the farmyards
an odor of crushed apples, that smell of new cider which seems to
pervade the atmosphere in this season all through Normandy, rose to
their nostrils, or else a strong smell of the cow stables. A small
lighted window at the end of the yard indicated the farmhouse.
It seemed to Jeanne that her mind was expanding, was beginning to
understand the psychic meaning of things; and these little scattered
gleams in the landscape gave her, all at once, a keen sense of the
isolation of all human lives, a feeling that everything detaches,
separates, draws one far away from the things they love.
She said, in a resigned tone: "Life is not always cheerful."
The baron sighed: "How can it be helped, daughter? We can do nothing."
The following day the baron and his wife went away, and Jeanne and
Julien were left alone.
* * * * *
Cards now became a distraction in the life of the young people. Every
morning after breakfast, Julien would play several games of bezique
with his wife, smoking and sipping brandy as he played. She would then
go up to her room and sit down beside the window, and as the rain beat
against the panes, or the wind shook the windows, she would embroider
away steadily. Occasionally she would raise her eyes and look out at
the gray sea which had white-caps on it. Then, after gazing listlessly
for some time, she would resume her work.
She had nothing else to do, Julien having taken the entire management
of the house, to satisfy his craving for authority and his craze for
economy. He was parsimonious in the extreme, never gave any tips, cut
down the food to the merest necessaries; and as Jeanne since her
return had ordered the baker to make her a little Norman "galette" for
breakfast, he had cut down this extra expense, and condemned her to
She said nothing in order to avoid recriminations, arguments and
quarrels; but she suffered keenly at each fresh manifestation of
avarice on the part of her husband. It appeared to her low and odious,
brought up as she had been in a family where money was never
considered. How often had she not heard her mother say: "Why, money is
made to be spent." Julien would now say: "Will you never become
accustomed to not throwing money away?" And each time he deducted a
few sous from some one's salary or on a note, he would say with a
smile, as he slipped the change into his pocket: "Little streams make
On certain days Jeanne would sit and dream. She would gradually cease
sewing and, with her hands idle, and forgetting her surroundings, she
would weave one of those romances of her girlhood and be lost in some
enchanting adventure. But suddenly Julien's voice giving some orders
to old Simon would snatch her abruptly from her dreams, and she would
take up her work again, saying: "That is all over," and a tear would
fall on her hands as she plied the needle.
Rosalie, formerly so cheerful and always singing, had changed. Her
rounded cheeks had lost their color, and were now almost hollow, and
sometimes had an earthy hue. Jeanne would frequently ask her: "Are you
ill, my girl?" The little maid would reply: "No, madame," while her
cheeks would redden slightly and she would retire hastily.
At the end of January the snow came. In one night the whole plain was
covered and the trees next morning were white with icy foam.
On one of these mornings, Jeanne was sitting warming her feet before
the fire in her room, while Rosalie, who had changed from day to day,
was making the bed. Suddenly hearing behind her a kind of moan, Jeanne
asked, without turning her head: "What is the matter?"
The maid replied as usual: "Nothing, madame"; but her voice was weak
Jeanne's thoughts were on something else, when she noticed that the
girl was not moving about the room. She called: "Rosalie!" Still no
sound. Then, thinking she might have left the room, she cried in a
louder tone: "Rosalie!" and she was reaching out her arm to ring the
bell, when a deep moan close beside her made her start up with a
The little servant, her face livid, her eyes haggard, was seated on
the floor, her legs stretched out, and her back leaning against the
bed. Jeanne sprang toward her. "What is the matter with you--what is
the matter?" she asked.
The girl did not reply, did not move. She stared vacantly at her
mistress and gasped as though she were in terrible pain. Then,
suddenly, she slid down on her back at full length, clenching her
teeth to smother a cry of anguish.
Jeanne suddenly understood, and almost distracted, she ran to the head
of the stairs, crying: "Julien, Julien!"
"What do you want?" he replied from below.
She hardly knew how to tell him. "It is Rosalie, who----"
Julien rushed upstairs two steps at a time, and going abruptly into
the room, he found the poor girl had just been delivered of a child.
He looked round with a wicked look on his face, and pushing his
terrified wife out of the room, exclaimed: "This is none of your
affair. Go away. Send me Ludivine and old Simon."
Jeanne, trembling, descended to the kitchen, and then, not daring to
go upstairs again, she went into the drawing-room, in which there had
been no fire since her parents left, and anxiously awaited news.
She presently saw the man-servant running out of the house. Five
minutes later he returned with Widow Dentu, the nurse of the district.
Then there was a great commotion on the stairs as though they were
carrying a wounded person, and Julien came in and told Jeanne that she
might go back to her room.
She trembled as if she had witnessed some terrible accident. She sat
down again before the fire, and asked: "How is she?"
Julien, preoccupied and nervous, was pacing up and down the room. He
seemed to be getting angry, and did not reply at first. Then he
stopped and said: "What do you intend to do with this girl?"
She did not understand, and looked at her husband. "Why, what do you
mean? I do not know."
Then suddenly flying into a rage, he exclaimed: "We cannot keep a
bastard in the house."
Jeanne was very much bewildered, and said at the end of a long
silence: "But, my friend, perhaps we could put it out to nurse?"
He cut her short: "And who will pay the bill? You will, no doubt."
She reflected for some time, trying to find some way out of the
difficulty; at length she said: "Why, the father will take care of it,
of the child; and if he marries Rosalie, there will be no more
Julien, as though his patience were exhausted, replied furiously: "The
father!--the father!--do you know him--the father? No, is it not so?
Jeanne, much affected, became excited: "But you certainly would not
let the girl go away like that. It would be cowardly! We will inquire
the name of the man, and we will go and find him, and he will have to
Julien had calmed down and resumed his pacing up and down. "My dear,"
he said, "she will not tell the name of the man; she will not tell you
any more than she will tell me--and, if he does not want her? ... We
cannot, however, keep a woman and her illegitimate child under our
roof, don't you understand?"
Jeanne, persistent, replied: "Then he must be a wretch, this man. But
we must certainly find out who it is, and then he will have us to deal
Julien colored, became annoyed again, and said: "But--meanwhile----?"
She did not know what course to take, and asked: "What do you
"Oh, I? That's very simple. I would give her some money and send her
to the devil with her brat."
The young wife, indignant, was disgusted with him. "That shall never
be," she said. "She is my foster-sister, that girl; we grew up
together. She has made a mistake, so much the worse; but I will not
cast her out of doors on that account; and, if it is necessary, I will
bring up the child."
Then Julien's wrath exploded: "And we should earn a fine reputation,
we, with our name and our position! And they would say of us
everywhere that we were protecting vice, harboring beggars; and decent
people would never set their foot inside our doors. What are you
thinking of? You must be crazy!"
She had remained quite calm. "I shall never cast off Rosalie; and if
you do not wish her to stay, my mother will take her; and we shall
surely succeed in finding out the name of the father of the child."
He left the room in exasperation, banging the door after him and
exclaiming: "What stupid ideas women have!"
In the afternoon Jeanne went up to see the patient. The little maid,
watched over by Widow Dentu, was lying still in her bed, her eyes wide
open, while the nurse held the new-born babe in her arms.
As soon as Rosalie perceived her mistress, she began to sob, hiding
her face in the covers and shaking with her sorrow. Jeanne wanted to
kiss her, but she avoided it by keeping her face covered. But the
nurse interfered, and drawing away the sheet, uncovered her face, and
she let Jeanne kiss her, weeping still, but more quietly.
A meagre fire was burning in the grate; the room was cold; the child
was crying. Jeanne did not dare to speak of the little one, for fear
of another attack, and she took her maid's hand as she said
mechanically: "It will not matter, it will not matter." The poor girl
glanced furtively at the nurse, and trembled as the infant cried, and
the remembrance of her sorrow came to her mind occasionally in a
convulsive sob, while suppressed tears choked her.
Jeanne kissed her again, and murmured softly in her ear: "We will take
good care of it, never fear, my girl." Then as she was beginning to
cry again, Jeanne made her escape.
She came to see her every day, and each time Rosalie burst into tears
at the sight of her mistress.
The child was put out to nurse at a neighbor's.
Julien, however, hardly spoke to his wife, as though he had nourished
anger against her ever since she refused to send away the maid. He
referred to the subject one day, but Jeanne took from her pocket a
letter from the baroness asking them to send the girl to them at once
if they would not keep her at the "Poplars." Julien, furious, cried:
"Your mother is as foolish as you are!" but he did not insist any
Two weeks later the patient was able to get up and take up her work
One morning, Jeanne made her sit down and, taking her hands and
looking steadfastly at her, she said:
"See here, my girl, tell me everything."
Rosalie began to tremble, and faltered:
"Whose is it, this child?"
The little maid was overcome with confusion, and she sought wildly to
withdraw her hands so as to hide her face. But Jeanne kissed her in
spite of herself, and consoled her, saying: "It is a misfortune, but
cannot be helped, my girl. You were weak, but that happens to many
others. If the father marries you, no one will think of it again."
Rosalie sighed as if she were suffering, and from time to time made an
effort to disengage herself and run away.
Jeanne resumed: "I understand perfectly that you are ashamed; but you
see that I am not angry, that I speak kindly to you. If I ask you the
name of the man it is for your own good, for I feel from your grief
that he has deserted you, and because I wish to prevent that. Julien
will go and look for him, you see, and we will oblige him to marry
you; and as we will employ you both, we will oblige him also to make
This time Rosalie gave such a jerk that she snatched her hands away
from her mistress and ran off as if she were mad.
That evening at dinner Jeanne said to Julien: "I tried to persuade
Rosalie to tell me the name of her betrayer. I did not succeed. You
try to find out so that we can compel this miserable man to marry
But Julien became angry: "Oh! you know I do not wish to hear anything
about it. You wish to keep this girl. Keep her, but do not bother me
Since the girl's illness he appeared to be more irritable than ever;
and he had got into the way of never speaking to his wife without
shouting as if he were in a rage, while she, on the contrary, would
lower her voice, be gentle and conciliating, to avoid all argument;
but she often wept at night after she went to bed.
In spite of his constant irritability, her husband had become more
affectionate than customary since their return.
Rosalie was soon quite well and less sad, although she appeared
terrified, pursued by some unknown fear, and she ran away twice when
Jeanne tried to question her again.
Julien all at once became more amiable, and the young wife, clinging
to vain hopes, also became more cheerful. The thaw had not yet set in
and a hard, smooth, glittering covering of snow extended over the
landscape. Neither men nor animals were to be seen; only the chimneys
of the cottages gave evidence of life in the smoke that ascended from
them into the icy air.
One evening the thermometer fell still lower, and Julien, shivering as
he left the table--for the dining-room was never properly heated, he
was so economical with the wood--rubbed his hands, murmuring: "It will
be warmer to-night, won't it, my dear?" He laughed with his jolly
laugh of former days, and Jeanne threw her arms around his neck: "I do
not feel well, dear; perhaps I shall be better to-morrow."
"As you wish, my dear. If you are ill you must take care of yourself."
And they began to talk of other things.
She retired early. Julien, for a wonder, had a fire lighted in her
room. As soon as he saw that it was burning brightly, he kissed his
wife on the forehead and left the room.
The whole house seemed to be penetrated by the cold; the very walls
seemed to be shivering, and Jeanne shivered in her bed. Twice she got
up to put fresh logs on the fire and to look for dresses, skirts, and
other garments which she piled on the bed. Nothing seemed to warm her;
her feet were numbed and her lower limbs seemed to tingle, making her
excessively nervous and restless.
Then her teeth began to chatter, her hands shook, there was a
tightness in her chest, her heart began to beat with hard, dull
pulsations, and at times seemed to stop beating, and she gasped for
breath. A terrible apprehension seized her, while the cold seemed to
penetrate to her marrow. She never had felt such a sensation, she had
never seemed to lose her hold on life like this before, never been so
near her last breath.
"I am going to die," she thought, "I am dying----"
And filled with terror, she jumped out of bed, rang for Rosalie,
waited, rang again, waited again, shivering and frozen.
The little maid did not come. She was doubtless asleep, that first,
sound sleep that nothing can disturb. Jeanne, in despair, darted
toward the stairs in her bare feet, and groping her way, she ascended
the staircase quietly, found the door, opened it, and called,
"Rosalie!" She went forward, stumbled against the bed, felt all over
it with her hands and found that it was empty. It was empty and cold,
and as if no one had slept there. Much surprised, she said: "What! Has
she gone out in weather like this?"
But as her heart began to beat tumultuously till she seemed to be
suffocating, she went downstairs again with trembling limbs in order
to wake Julien. She rushed into his room filled with the idea that she
was going to die, and longing to see him before she lost
By the light of the dying embers she perceived Rosalie's head leaning
on her husband's shoulder.
At the cry she gave they both started to their feet; she stood
motionless for a second, horrified at this discovery, and then fled to
her room; and when Julien, at his wit's end, called "Jeanne!" she was
seized with an overmastering terror of seeing him, of hearing his
voice, of listening to him explaining, lying, of meeting his gaze; and
she darted toward the stairs again and went down.
She now ran along in the darkness, at the risk of falling downstairs,
at the risk of breaking her neck on the stone floor of the hall. She
rushed along, impelled by an imperious desire to flee, to know nothing
about it, to see no one.
When she was at the bottom of the stairs she sat down on one of the
steps, still in her nightdress, and in bare feet, and remained in a
dazed condition. She heard Julien moving and walking about. She
started to her feet in order to escape him. He was starting to come
downstairs and called: "Listen, Jeanne!"
No, she would not listen nor let him touch her with the tips of his
fingers; and she darted into the dining-room as if she were fleeing
from an assassin. She looked for a door of escape, a hiding place, a
dark corner, some way of avoiding him. She hid under the table. But he
was already at the door, a candle in his hand, still calling:
"Jeanne!" She started off again like a hare, darted into the kitchen,
ran round it twice like a trapped animal, and as he came near her, she
suddenly opened the door into the garden and darted out into the
The contact with the snow, into which she occasionally sank up to her
knees, seemed to give her the energy of despair. She did not feel
cold, although she had little on. She felt nothing, her body was so
numbed from the emotion of her mind, and she ran along as white as the
She followed the large avenue, crossed the wood, crossed the ditch,
and started off across the plain.
There was no moon, the stars were shining like sparks of fire in the
black sky; but the plain was light with a dull whiteness, and lay in
Jeanne walked quickly, hardly breathing, not knowing, not thinking of
anything. She suddenly stopped on the edge of the cliff. She stopped
short, instinctively, and crouched down, bereft of thought and of will
In the abyss before her the silent, invisible sea exhaled the salt
odor of its wrack at low tide.
She remained thus some time, her mind as inert as her body; then, all
at once, she began to tremble, to tremble violently, like a sail
shaken by the wind. Her arms, her hands, her feet, impelled by an
invisible force, throbbed, pulsated wildly, and her consciousness
awakened abruptly, sharp and poignant.
Old memories passed before her mental vision: the sail with him in
Père Lastique's boat, their conversation, his nascent love, the
christening of the boat; then she went back, further back, to that
night of dreams when she first came to the "Poplars." And now! _And
now!_ Oh, her life was shipwrecked, all joy was ended, all
expectation at an end; and the frightful future full of torture, of
deception, and of despair appeared before her. Better to die, it would
all be over at once.
But a voice cried in the distance: "Here it is, here are her steps;
quick, quick, this way!" It was Julien who was looking for her.
Oh! she did not wish to see him again. In the abyss down yonder before
her she now heard a slight sound, the indistinct ripple of the waves
over the rocks. She rose to her feet with the idea of throwing herself
over the cliff and bidding life farewell. Like one in despair, she
uttered the last word of the dying, the last word of the young soldier
slain in battle: "Mother!"
All at once the thought of little mother came to her mind, she saw her
sobbing, she saw her father on his knees before her mangled remains,
and in a second she felt all the pain of their sorrow.
She sank down again into the snow; and when Julien and old Simon,
followed by Marius, carrying a lantern, seized her arm to pull her
back as she was so close to the brink, she made no attempt to escape.
She let them do as they would, for she could not stir. She felt that
they were carrying her, and then that she was being put to bed and
rubbed with hot cloths; then she became unconscious.
Then she had a nightmare, or was it a nightmare? She was in bed. It
was broad daylight, but she could not get up. Why? She did not know.
Then she heard a little noise on the floor, a sort of scratching, a
rustling, and suddenly a mouse, a little gray mouse, ran quickly
across the sheet. Another followed it, then a third, who ran toward
her chest with his little, quick scamper. Jeanne was not afraid, and
she reached out her hand to catch the animal, but could not catch it.
Then other mice, ten, twenty, hundreds, thousands, rose up on all
sides of her. They climbed the bedposts, ran up the tapestries,
covered the bed completely. And soon they got beneath the covers;
Jeanne felt them gliding over her skin, tickling her limbs, running up
and down her body. She saw them running from the bottom of the bed to
get into her neck under the sheets; and she tried to fight them off,
throwing her hands out to try and catch them, but always finding them
She was frantic, wanted to escape, screamed, and it seemed as if she
were being held down, as if strong arms enfolded her and rendered her
helpless; but she saw no one.
She had no idea of time. It must have been long, a very long time.
Then she awoke, weary, aching, but quiet. She felt weak, very weak.
She opened her eyes and was not surprised to see little mother seated
in her room with a man whom she did not know.
How old was she? She did not know, and thought she was a very little
girl. She had no recollection of anything.
The big man said: "Why, she has regained consciousness." Little mother
began to weep. Then the big man resumed: "Come, be calm, baroness; I
can ensure her recovery now. But do not talk to her at all. Let her
sleep, let her sleep."
Then it seemed to Jeanne that she remained in a state of exhaustion
for a long time, overcome by a heavy sleep as soon as she tried to
think; and she tried not to remember anything whatever, as though she
had a vague fear that the reality might come back to her.
Once when she awoke she saw Julien, alone, standing beside her; and
suddenly it all came back to her, as if the curtain which hid her past
life had been raised.
She felt a horrible pain in her heart, and wanted to escape once more.
She threw back the coverlets, jumped to the floor and fell down, her
limbs being too weak to support her.
Julien sprang toward her, and she began to scream for him not to touch
her. She writhed and rolled on the floor. The door opened. Aunt Lison
came running in with Widow Dentu, then the baron, and finally little
mother, puffing and distracted.
They put her back into bed, and she immediately closed her eyes, so as
to escape talking and be able to think quietly.
Her mother and aunt watched over her anxiously, saying: "Do you hear
us now, Jeanne, my little Jeanne?"
She pretended to be deaf, not to hear them, and did not answer. Night
came on and the nurse took up her position beside the bed. She did not
sleep; she kept trying to think of things that had escaped her memory
as though there were holes in it, great white empty places where
events had not been noted down.
Little by little she began to recall the facts, and she pondered over
Little mother, Aunt Lison, the baron had come, so she must have been
very ill. But Julien? What had he said? Did her parents know? And
Rosalie, where was she? And what should she do? What should she do? An
idea came to her--she would return to Rouen and live with father and
little mother as in old days. She would be a widow; that's all.
Then she waited, listening to what was being said around her,
understanding everything without letting them see it, rejoiced at her
returning reason, patient and crafty.
That evening, at last, she found herself alone with the baroness and
called to her in a low tone: "Little Mother!" Her own voice astonished
her, it seemed strange. The baroness seized her hands: "My daughter,
my darling Jeanne! My child, do you recognize me?"
"Yes, little mother, but you must not weep; we have a great deal to
talk about. Did Julien tell you why I ran away in the snow?"
"Yes, my darling, you had a very dangerous fever."
"It was not that, mamma. I had the fever afterward; but did he tell
you what gave me the fever and why I ran away?"
"No, my dearie."
"It was because I found Rosalie in his room."
Her mother thought she was delirious again and soothed her, saying:
"Go to sleep, darling, calm yourself, try to sleep."
But Jeanne, persistent, continued: "I am quite sensible now, little
mother. I am not talking wildly as I must have done these last days. I
felt ill one night and I went to look for Julien. Rosalie was with him
in his room. I did not know what I was doing, for sorrow, and I ran
out into the snow to throw myself off the cliff."
But the baroness reiterated, "Yes, darling, you have been very ill,
"It is not that, mamma. I found Rosalie in with Julien, and I will not
live with him any longer. You will take me back with you to Rouen to
live as we used to do."
The baroness, whom the doctor had warned not to thwart Jeanne in any
way, replied: "Yes, my darling."
But the invalid grew impatient: "I see that you do not believe me. Go
and fetch little father, he will soon understand."
The baroness left the room and presently returned, leaning on her
husband's arm. They sat down beside the bed and Jeanne began to talk.
She told them all, quietly, in a weak voice, but clearly; all about
Julien's peculiar character, his harshness, his avarice, and, finally,
When she had finished, the baron saw that she was not delirious, but
he did not know what to think, what to determine, or what to answer.
He took her hand, tenderly, as he used to do when he put her to sleep
with stories, and said: "Listen, dearie, we must act with prudence. We
must do nothing rash. Try to put up with your husband until we can
come to some decision--promise me this?"
"I will try, but I will not stay here after I get well," she replied.
Then she added in a lower tone: "Where is Rosalie now?"
"You will not see her any more," replied the baron. But she persisted:
"Where is she? I wish to know." Then he confessed that she had not
left the house, but declared that she was going to leave.
On leaving the room the baron, filled with indignation and wounded in
his feelings as a father, went to look for Julien, and said to him
abruptly: "Sir, I have come to ask you for an explanation of your
conduct toward my daughter. You have been unfaithful to her with your
maid, which is a double insult."
Julien pretended to be innocent, denied everything positively, swore,
took God as his witness. What proof had they? he asked. Was not Jeanne
delirious? Had she not had brain fever? Had she not run out in the
snow, in an attack of delirium, at the very beginning of her illness?
And it was just at this time, when she was running about the house
almost naked, that she pretends that she saw her maid in her husband's
And he grew angry, threatened a lawsuit, became furious. The baron,
bewildered, made excuses, begged his pardon, and held out his loyal
hand to Julien, who refused to take it.
When Jeanne heard what her husband had said, she did not show any
annoyance, but replied: "He is lying, papa, but we shall end by
For some days she remained taciturn and reserved, thinking over
matters. The third morning she asked to see Rosalie. The baron refused
to send her up, saying she had left. Jeanne persisted, saying: "Well,
let some one go and fetch her."
She was beginning to get excited when the doctor came. They told him
everything, so that he could form an opinion. But Jeanne suddenly
burst into tears, her nerves all unstrung, and almost screamed: "I
want Rosalie; I wish to see her!"
The doctor took hold of her hand and said in a low tone: "Calm
yourself, madame; any emotion may lead to serious consequences, for
you are enceinte."
She was dumfounded, as though she had received a blow; and it seemed
to her that she felt the first stirrings of life within her. Then she
was silent, not even listening to what was being said, absorbed in her
own thoughts. She could not sleep that night for thinking of the new
life that was developing in her, and was sad at the thought that it
was Julien's child, and might resemble him. The following morning she
sent for the baron. "Little father," she said, "my resolution is
formed; I wish to know everything, and especially just now; you
understand, I insist, and you know that you must not thwart me in my
present condition. Listen! You must go and get M. le Curé. I need him
here to keep Rosalie from telling a lie. Then, as soon as he comes,
send him up to me, and you stay downstairs with little mother. And,
above all things, see that Julien does not suspect anything."
An hour later the priest came, looking fatter than ever, and puffing
like the baroness. He sat down in an arm-chair and began to joke,
wiping his forehead as usual with his plaid handkerchief. "Well,
baroness, I do not think we grow any thinner; I think we make a good
pair." Then, turning toward the patient, he said: "Eh, what is this I
hear, young lady, that we are soon to have a fresh baptism? Aha, it
will not be a boat this time." And in a graver tone he added: "It will
be a defender of the country; unless"--after a moment's reflection--"it
should be the prospective mother of a family, like you, madame,"
bowing to the baroness.
The door at the end of the room opened and Rosalie appeared, beside
herself, weeping, refusing to enter the room, clinging to the door
frame, and being pushed forward by the baron. Quite out of patience,
he thrust her into the room. She covered her face with her hands and
remained standing there, sobbing.
Jeanne, as soon as she saw her, rose to a sitting posture, whiter than
the sheets, and with her heart beating wildly. She could not speak,
could hardly breathe. At length she said, in a voice broken with
emotion: "I--I--will not--need--to question you. It--it is enough for
me to see you thus--to--to see your--your shame in my presence."
After a pause, for she was out of breath, she continued: "I had M. le
Curé come, so that it might be like a confession, you understand."
Rosalie, motionless, uttered little cries that were almost screams
behind her hands.
The baron, whose anger was gaining ground, seized her arms, and
snatching her hands from her face, he threw her on her knees beside
the bed, saying: "Speak! Answer!"
She remained on the ground, in the position assigned to Magdalens, her
cap awry, her apron on the floor, and her face again covered by her
Then the priest said: "Come, my girl, listen to what is said to you,
and reply. We do not want to harm you, but we want to know what
Jeanne, leaning over, looked at her and said: "Is it true that you
were with Julien when I surprised you?"
Rosalie moaned through her fingers, "Yes, madame."
Then the baroness suddenly began to cry in a choking fashion, and her
convulsive sobs accompanied those of Rosalie.
Jeanne, with her eyes fixed on the maid, said: "How long had this been
"Ever since he came here," faltered Rosalie.
Jeanne could not understand. "Ever since he came--then--ever
since--ever since the spring?"
"Ever since he came into this house?"
And Jeanne, as if overflowing with questions, asked, speaking
"But how did it happen? How did he approach you? How did he persuade
you? What did he say? When, how did you ever yield to him? How could
you ever have done it?"
Rosalie, removing her hands from her face, and overwhelmed also with a
feverish desire to speak, said:
"How do I know, myself? It was the day he dined here for the first
time, and he came up to my room. He had hidden himself in the loft. I
did not dare to scream for fear of making a scandal. I no longer knew
what I was doing. Then I said nothing because I liked him."
Then Jeanne exclaimed with almost a scream:
"But--your--your child--is his child?"
Then they were both silent. The only sound to be heard was the sobs of
Rosalie and of the baroness.
Jeanne, quite overcome, felt her tears also beginning to flow; and
they fell silently down her cheeks.
The maid's child had the same father, as her child! Her anger was at
an end; she now was filled with a dreary, slow, profound and infinite
despair. She presently resumed in a changed, tearful voice, the voice
of a woman who has been crying:
"When we returned from--from down there--from our journey--when did he
The little maid, who had sunk down on the floor, faltered: "The first
Each word wrung Jeanne's heart. So on the very first night of their
return to the "Poplars" he left her for this girl. That was why he
wanted to sleep alone!
She now knew all she wanted to know, and exclaimed: "Go away, go
away!" And as Rosalie, perfectly crushed, did not stir, Jeanne called
to her father: "Take her away, carry her away!" The priest, who had
said nothing as yet, thought that the moment had arrived for him to
preach a little sermon.
"What you have done is very wrong, my daughter, very wrong, and God
will not pardon you so easily. Consider the hell that awaits you if
you do not always act right. Now that you have a child you must behave
yourself. No doubt madame la baronne will do something for you, and we
will find you a husband."
He would have continued speaking, but the baron, having again seized
Rosalie by the shoulders, raised her from the floor and dragged her to
the door, and threw her like a package into the corridor. As he turned
back into the room, looking paler than his daughter, the priest
resumed: "What can one do? They are all like that in the district. It
is shocking, but cannot be helped, and then one must be a little
indulgent toward the weaknesses of our nature. They never get married
until they have become enceinte, never, madame." He added, smiling:
"One might call it a local custom. So, you see, monsieur, your maid
did as all the rest do."
But the baron, who was trembling with nervousness, interrupted him,
saying, "She! what do I care about her! It is Julien with whom I am
indignant. It is infamous, the way he has behaved, and I shall take my
He walked up and down excitedly, becoming more and more exasperated:
"It is infamous to have betrayed my child, infamous! He is a wretch,
this man, a cad, a wretch! and I will tell him so. I will slap his
face. I will give him a horsewhipping!"
The priest, who was slowly taking a pinch of snuff, seated beside the
baroness still in tears, and endeavoring to fulfill his office of a
peacemaker, said: "Come, monsieur le baron, between ourselves, he has
done what every one else does. Do you know many husbands who are
faithful?" And he added with a sly good humor: "Come now, I wager that
you have had your turn. Your hand on your heart, am I right?" The
baron had stopped in astonishment before the priest, who continued:
"Why, yes, you did just as others did. Who knows if you did not make
love to a little sugar plum like that? I tell you that every one does.
Your wife was none the less happy, or less loved; am I not right?"
The baron had not stirred, he was much disturbed. What the priest said
was true, and he had sinned as much as any one and had not hesitated
when his wife's maids were in question. Was he a wretch on that