What does finite evocation mean?

Author page

 << zurück weiter >> 

Chapter Four.

When Luise, who was supposed to stay with the Chanteaus for two months, landed on her terrace that Saturday, she found the family gathered there. The day, a very hot August day, refreshed by the sea breeze, was drawing to a close. Abbé Horteur was already there and absorbed in the queen's game with Chanteau, while Mrs. Chanteau was embroidering a handkerchief by her side. A few steps away from them, Pauline was standing in front of a stone bench on which she had seated four street bellows, two girls and two little boys.

"How! Exclaimed Mrs. Chanteau. "I just put my work together to meet you at the fork in the road."

Luise explained clearly that Father Malivoire had brought her here like the wind. She was fine and didn't even want to change her dress. While her godmother went to supervise her accommodation, she contented herself with hanging her hat on the iron bolt of a window sash. She had hugged them all, then went back to Pauline, who smiled and flattered her around the waist.

“But just look at me! ... we are big now, huh? ... At nineteen, I'm already an old maid ... "

She broke off and added briskly:

"By the way, I wish you luck ... Just don't pretend to be stupid, I am told it will be next month."

Pauline had returned Luisen's caresses with the worried, tender expression of an older sister, even though she was eighteen months younger. A slight blush rose in her cheeks, it was about her wedding to Lazare.

"No, you were deceived, I assure you," she replied. "Nothing has been determined, we are only talking about this autumn."

Indeed, Madam Chanteau, urged to fulfill her promise, had spoken of autumn in spite of the reluctance the young people were beginning to notice in her. She had come back to her first pretext and said she would rather wait until her son had a job.

“Good,” said Luise, “you are a secretive. Of course I'll be there too, won't I? And Lazare isn't here? "

Chanteau, whom the Abbé had beaten, undertook to answer.

“So you didn't meet him, Luisette? We just talked about the fact that you would arrive together. Yes, he's in Bayeux to come to our sub-prefect. He'll be back this evening, though, maybe a little late. "

Then they resumed the game.

“I have to begin, Abbé. You must know that we will now receive the much talked about protection, because the district cannot refuse to support us in this matter. "

This was a new thing that Lazare got excited about. On occasion of the last high tide, the sea had torn two more houses from Bonneville. Gradually eaten up on the narrow layer of beach stone, the village was in serious danger of being flattened on the rocky slopes if one did not decide to protect it by serious work. The place, however, with its thirty dilapidated huts, was of so negligible importance that Chanteau, in his capacity as mayor, had drawn the sub-prefect's attention to the desperate situation of the residents for ten years in vain. At last Lazare, urged by Pauline, whose desire was to see him again at work, had devised a whole system of dams and pile works to muzzle the sea.

The only thing missing was the means, at least twelve thousand francs.

"I'll blow it for you, my friend," said the priest, and took a stone.

Then he kindly gave more information about the former Bonneville.

“The ancients tell that there was a lease below the church itself, a kilometer from the current beach. The sea has been devouring them for more than five hundred years ... It is incomprehensible that they have to atone for their atrocities from sex to sex. "

Meanwhile Pauline had returned to the bench where her four filthy, ragged brats were waiting with their mouths open.

"What does that mean?" Asked Luise, without venturing too close.

"These are my little friends," she replied.

Her active compassion was already spreading across the region. Involuntarily she loved the poor and wretched, did not feel repulsed by their depravity, and drove this taste so far that she bandaged the chickens' broken feet and put out bowls of soup for the lost cats at night. In her there was constant concern for those who suffered, the need for and joy in their consolation. The poor came to their outstretched hands like the mischievous sparrows flutter in to the open windows of the barns. The whole of Bonneville, that handful of fishermen, miserably withering under the plague of the floods, climbed up to see the young lady, as she was called. But she especially raved about the children, the little ones, through whose torn panties the rosy flesh peeked; for the little pale beaks who couldn't eat their fill and therefore devoured the slices of bread distributed among them with their eyes. The devious parents reckoned with this tender feeling and sent Pauline their brood, the ragged and poorest, to awaken their mercy even more.

“You see,” she began again, “I have my reception day, Saturday, like a distinguished lady. People come to visit me ... You, little Gonin, don't you want to pinch that big Houtelard sheep! I'll get angry if you're not good ... Let's try to work in sequence. "

Now the distribution began. She taught, she pushed them this way and that like a mother. The first to be called was Houtelard's son, a boy of ten, with a yellow complexion and a gloomy, emaciated expression. He showed his leg, there was a long scratch on his knee, and his father sent it to the young lady to do something for him. She supplied the whole village with arnica and boric acid. Her passion for being a doctor had gradually led her to purchase a complete pharmacy of which she was very proud. When she had bandaged the child, she lowered her voice and gave Luisen some information.

“Rich people, these Houtelards, my dear, the only wealthy fishermen in Bonneville. The big boat is theirs ... But of terrible avarice, a dog's life in the midst of unspeakable filth. And the worst thing is that the father, after beating his wife to death, married his maid, a horrible prostitute and even rougher than him. Now they're both mistreating this poor creature. "

Without paying attention to her friend's fearful reluctance, she spoke out loud again.

"Now to you, little one ... Have you finished the bottle of Chinese wine?"

It was the daughter of Prouane, the sexton. She could have been called St. Therese as a child, for she was covered with scrofula, with a terrible thinness, with large protruding eyes in which hysteria was already blazing. She was eleven years old and seemed barely seven.

"Yes, Fraulein," she stammered, "I've been drinking."

"Liar," the clergyman called without looking up from the board. "Your father smelled of wine again last night."

Pauline suddenly got angry. The Prouan had no barge, picked up spider crabs and shellfish and lived from catching crabs. But thanks to his position as sexton, they could have eaten their bread every day if it hadn't been for their drunkenness. Father and mother were found stunned by calvados, the terrible Norman brandy, lying across the door while the little one stepped over them to drip off her glasses. When there was a lack of calvados, Prouane drank his daughter's Chinese wine! "

"And I'm still bothering to prepare it!" Said Pauline. "Listen, I'll keep the bottle with me, you come here every afternoon at five o'clock and drink it here ... I'll give you some raw meat, too, the doctor has prescribed it."

Then it was the turn of a tall boy of twelve, Cuche's son, a skinny kid who had been emaciated by premature vice. She handed him bread, a meat pot and a five-franc piece. It was a shameful story, too. After the demolition of his house, Cuche had left his wife to lodge with a cousin, and the woman, who currently lived inside a ruined customs house, slept with the whole village in spite of her repulsive ugliness. They were paid for with natural products, sometimes with three sous. The boy who saw everything almost died of hunger. But he slipped away like a wild goat whenever there was talk of forcibly removing him from this sewer.

Luise turned away, embarrassed, while Pauline told her this story without embarrassment. Raised freely, she showed the calm courage of mercy towards the shamefulness of men, knew everything and spoke of everything with the boldness of her innocence. The other, on the other hand, enlightened by the ten years of her pension life, blushed at the ideas which the words awakened in her head, devastated by the dreams of the shared dormitory. Those were things you thought about but didn't need to talk about.

“Stop!” Said Pauline, “the last little one, this nine-year-old blonde, so nice and rosy, is just the daughter of Gonin, with whom this good-for-nothing from Cuche has taken up residence. The Gonin, who lived quite contentedly, owned a boat, but the father got it on his legs, a paralysis very common in our villages, and Cuche, a simple seaman, soon became master of the barque and the woman. Now the house belongs to him, he beats the sick man, a tall, old person who lies day and night in an old coal box, while the sailor and the cousin lie in bed in the same room ... Since then I have given myself up from the child. The unfortunate thing is that she too is occasionally blown; apart from that, she's already too clever and sees things ... "

She stopped and asked the little girl.

"How is it going for you?"

She had followed the half-loud story with her eyes. Her cute face of a vicious little prostitute laughed mischievously at the details she had guessed.

"You beat him again," she said without pausing in her laugh. "Tonight mother got up and took a big log ... Oh, Fraulein, you are so good and give him a little wine, because you put a jug in front of his box and yelled to die."

Luise made a movement of indignation. What a hideous people! And her friend had sympathy for such disgraceful people! Was it possible that close to a city as large as Caen there were still holes in which the inhabitants dwelt like real savages? After all, only savages could violate all divine and human laws in such a way!

“No, my dear,” she murmured, and sat down next to Chanteau, “I've had enough of your little friends. The sea may eradicate them, I would not complain! "

The Abbé was just making a lady. He called:

“Sodom and Gomorrah! ... I have been prophesying it to them for twenty years! The worse for them! "

"I fell for a school," said Chanteau, sadly seeing the game lost. “But they are not numerous enough; their children are supposed to go to school in Verchemont, but they don't go to school, they roam along the country road. "

Pauline looked at her in amazement. If the wretched were clean people, there was no need to wash them. Evil and misery went together: she had no disgust for suffering, even if it seemed to her the result of vice. With one sweeping motion she contented herself with persuading herself of the tolerance of her mercy. She was just promising little Gonin to visit her father when Veronika came and pushed another girl in front of her.

“There you have, miss. Here's another one! "

The last woman who came, a very young girl of five, went completely in rags, her face was black, her hair disheveled. With the extraordinary certainty of a little paragon already familiar with begging on the streets, she immediately began to wail.

"Have pity ... my poor father broke his leg ..."

"That's Tourmal's daughter, isn't it?" Pauline asked the maid.

But the priest flared up.

“Ah, that liar! Don't listen to them; her father crushed his foot twenty-five years ago ... A family of thieves who live on robbery ... The father helps smuggle, the mother steals the fields of Verchemont, the grandfather gathers oysters at night in the state enclosure at Roqueboise. And you can see for yourself what they do with their daughter, a beggar, a rascal who they send to the people to clamp everything that's lying around ... Just look how she glances at my tobacco box! "

The child's lively eyes, which first searched every corner of the terrace, had indeed flashed a lightning-like flame at the sight of the priest's old tobacco-jar. But she did not lose her security, she repeated, as if the clergyman had not told her story:

"Broken leg ... give me something, dear lady."

This time Luise began to laugh, this five-year-old mockery seemed so funny to her, already depraved as father and mother. Pauline had remained serious, she reached out her wallet and took a new five-franc coin from it.

"Listen," she said, "you should have so much every Saturday when I find out that you haven't been walking the streets all week."

"Hide the table settings!" Shouted Abbé Horteur again. "She will steal from you!"

But Pauline said goodbye to the children without answering. They trudged away, dragging their pines, with a "thank you very much" and "God bless you". Meanwhile, Frau Chanteau, who had just returned from inspecting the room intended for Luise, switched softly to Veronika. It was unbearable, even the maid began to introduce the beggars. As if the young lady wasn't dragging enough into the house already! A bunch of breeds that they eat up and make fun of them afterwards. The money, of course, is hers, and she can throw it out of the window at her discretion, but this favoring vice really becomes immorality. Mrs. Chanteau had heard the young girl promise the little tourmal a hundred sous for every Saturday. Another twenty francs a month. The fortune of a satrap would not suffice here.

"You know I don't want to see this thief again," she said to Pauline. “If you are now the mistress of your fortune, I cannot admit your foolish ruin. I have a moral responsibility ... Yes, you will ruin yourself, my love and faster than you think! "

Veronika, who had returned to the kitchen angry about the reprimand she had received from the woman, now reappeared with the harsh message:

“The butcher is here ... He wants to be paid; forty-six francs ten centimes. "

A great dismay cut Mrs. Chanteau off. She rummaged in her pockets and made a move of amazement. Then she asked softly:

“Tell me, Pauline, do you have so much with you? I don't have little money on hand, I would have to go upstairs first. We'll settle up later. "

Pauline followed the girl to pay the butcher. Since she had the money in the dresser, this comedy started over every time a bill was presented. This was a regular exploitation in the form of small amounts that seemed quite natural. The aunt did not even bother to take from the pile: she demanded and had the young girl plundered with her own hands. At first they had settled the accounts; they gave her ten and fifteen francs back; Over time, however, the accounts had become so complicated that one spoke only of later arguments at the time of the marriage; but that in no way prevented her from paying her pension punctually on the first day of each month, which they had raised to ninety francs.

"Your money again, which dances along," growled Veronika in the hallway. "If I were you, I would have had your wallet fetched! ... God cannot admit that this is how the wool is eaten off your back."

When Pauline came back with the receipted bill and handed it to her aunt, the clergyman triumphed loudly. Chanteau was defeated; he really shouldn't win a single game.The sun was setting, the oblique rays bathed the sea in purple, which was slowly rising. Luise smiled with dreamy eyes at this joy of the immeasurable horizon.

"Look, Luisette on the journey to the clouds," said Mrs. Chanteau. “You, Luisette, I had your suitcase brought up. We are neighbors once again! "

Lazare did not come home until the following day. After visiting the sub-prefect, he decided to go to Caen to see the prefect. Even if he did not have the state subsidy in his pocket, he was convinced, as he said, that the General Council would approve at least the amount of twelve thousand francs. The prefect had accompanied him to the door and bound himself with formal promises: Bonneville could not be left in the lurch, the administration was ready to support the zeal of the residents of the community. Lazare despaired only because he foresaw delays of all kinds, and the slightest delay in fulfilling his wishes became a real torture for him.

“On my word of honor,” he cried, “if I had the twelve thousand francs, I would like to advance it myself... You don't even need this sum to make a first attempt. You should only see the annoyances when they have approved their contribution! We'll have all the engineers in the district on our backs. If, on the other hand, we start without them, they will have to bow down to success ... I am sure of my design. The prefect, to whom I briefly discussed it, was surprised at the cheapness and simplicity of the execution. "

The hope of conquering the sea excited him feverishly. He had held a grudge against the sea ever since he secretly accused it of ruin on the algae affair. Even if he did not scold her out loud, he nourished the idea that one day he would be able to take revenge on her. Was there a better hope than to put a stop to her blind destructive rage to be able to call out to her as a master: "You shouldn't go any further!" Besides the magnificence of the fight itself, a trait of philanthropy was also decisive for this undertaking enthusiastic. When his mother saw him carving pieces of wood with her nose bent over a manual of the mechanics, she hesitantly recalled his grandfather, the enterprising and shower-headed carpenter whose useless masterpiece rested in a glass case. Did the old man want to rise again in this young man to complete the ruin of the family? Then she was convinced by the adored son. If he succeeded, and if he had to succeed naturally, that would finally be the first step; a beautiful deed, a disinterested work that was bound to bring him fame; from here he could easily step forward as far as he pleased, as much as he felt the ambition to do so. From that day on the whole house only dreamed of the humiliation of the sea, of its bondage at the feet of the terrace, that it should obey like a beaten dog.

Incidentally, as Lazare said, the design was very simple. He assumed heavy wooden stakes, covered with planks, to be lowered into the sand: in front of them, the pebbles brought on by the tide had to pile up to form a kind of imperturbable wall, on which the waves would break: so the sea itself became commissioned with the construction of the ski jump, which should put a stop to him. Protective dams, long support beams lifted on roof pillars and used as sea breakers from a great distance, were to be placed in front of the pebble wall to complete the system. If one had the necessary means, one could also erect two or three large pile works, mighty panels set on beams, the dense masses of which would break the pressure of the rising floods. Lazare had found the first idea in the "Handbook of the Consummate Carpenter," a book of simple copperplate engravings that had undoubtedly been bought by his grandfather. But he completed this idea, made considerable investigations, studied the theory of forces, the resistance of materials: he was above all proud of a new arrangement and inclination of the piles, which in his opinion made it a success.

Pauline had once again warmed herself to these studies. Like the young man, she, too, stimulated a curiosity, kept constantly active through experimentation, which incited her to the struggle with the unknown. However, with a cool mind, she was no longer mistaken about the possible failures. Whenever she saw the sea rise, the solid ground sweeping away with its hollow corridor, she turned her gaze of doubt on the toy Lazare had built, on the rows of stakes, dams and pile works in the small. The large room was now filled with it.

One evening the girl stayed at the window for a long time. Her cousin had been talking about burning everything for two days; one evening at table he had called out that he wanted to go to Australia because there was no more room for him in France. She thought of these things as the tide lashed Bonneville at its full height in the lap of darkness. Every impact shook her, she thought she heard the howling of those eaten by the sea at regular intervals. The struggle which the love of money once again offered her kindness was now unbearable. She closed the window, didn't want to hear anything more. But the distant blows shook her in her bed. Why not try the impossible? What was the money thrown in the water worth if one exchanged only one way of saving the village for it? She only fell asleep towards morning with the thought of the joy of her cousin, who was torn out of a gloomy sadness, at last perhaps put on his real path, happily through her because he owed her everything.

The next morning she called him to her before going downstairs.

'Do you already know? I dreamed that I would lend you twelve thousand francs? "

He became angry and violently refused.

"So you want me to leave and not come back to the front ... No, it may be enough at the factory. I'll die of shame from it without telling you. "

Two hours later he accepted her offer; he squeezed her hands in a passionate outburst. It was just an advance, your money was in no danger, because there was no doubt that the General Council would approve the grant, especially in view of the start of execution. Arromanches' master carpenter was appointed that same evening. There were endless meetings, walks along the coast, a heated argument about the estimate. The whole house lost its head over it.

Mrs. Chanteau, on the other hand, was furious when she heard about the loan of twelve thousand francs. Lazare was amazed and did not understand. His mother showered him with strange arguments. Pauline undoubtedly advances them small amounts from time to time, but she can believe that she is indispensable, so it was better to approach Luisen's father about opening a loan. Luise herself, who received a dowry of two hundred thousand francs, did not cause so many embarrassments with her fortune. That figure of two hundred thousand francs kept returning to Frau Chanteau's lips, and she seemed to feel an irritated disdain for the wreckage of that other fortune which had begun to melt away in the secretary and was now continuing in the dresser.

At the instigation of his wife, Chanteau also feigned disaffection with the matter. It gave Pauline great sorrow; in spite of the fact that she gave her money, she still felt less loved than before; she thought she was surrounded by a secret resentment, the cause of which she could not explain, and which was growing day by day. Doctor Cazenove grumbled too when she consulted him on form; but for better or for worse he had been compelled to say yes to all borrowed amounts, both large and small. His office as curator remained illusory, he found himself disarmed in this house, where he was received as an old friend. On the day of the twelve thousand francs, he declined any responsibility.

“My child,” he said, taking Pauline aside, “I no longer want to be her accomplice. Stop asking my advice, ruin yourself as it inspires your heart. You know very well that I would never withstand your requests, and I really suffer from it afterwards, because my conscience feels very depressed. I'd rather not know anything about what I disapprove of. "

She looked at him deeply moved. But after a pause she said:

“A thousand thanks, my good doctor ... But isn't that more sensible? What does it do when I'm happy? "

He had taken her hands, he was hugging them in a fatherly way.

“Yes, if you are happy? ... Even misfortune is sometimes bought very dearly. "

In the heat of this sea-to-sea battle, Lazare had, of course, given up music entirely. A fine dust settled on the piano, the score of his great symphony had returned to the drawer thanks to Paulinen, who had picked up the individual sheets from under the furniture herself. Individual sentences no longer satisfied him; the heavenly sweetness of annihilation at the end, expressed in an everyday manner by a waltz rhythm, would probably be better represented by the pace of a very slowed march. One evening he had announced that he would start everything over as soon as he had time. His covetous desire, his discomfort, which arose from constant contact with the young girl, seemed to have vanished with the fever of his genius. It was a masterpiece, postponed until a better time, a great passion, the hour of which he believed he could advance and slow down at will, also put on hold. He treated his cousin again like an old friend, like the wife who would give herself to him on the day on which he opened his arms. They had not lived in close confinement since April, the wind carried away the glow of their cheeks. The great room remained empty, both walking along the rocky beach beyond Bonneville, examining the points where the palissades and dams were to be built. Often they would return with their feet in the fresh water, relaxed and pure as in the distant days of childhood. When Pauline played the famous death march to tease him, Lazare exclaimed:

“So be silent! ... These are stupid things! "

On the evening of the master carpenter's visit, Chanteau had an attack of gout. The attacks now returned almost every month; after salicylic first appeased her, it now seemed to double her severity. Pauline found herself tied to her uncle's bed for a fortnight. Lazare, who was continuing his studies on the beach, now took Luise with him to keep her away from the patient whose attacks terrified her. Since she lived in the guest room just above the chanteau, in order to be able to sleep she had to plug her ears and put her head in the pillow. Outside she smiled amiably again, she was delighted with the walk and forgot the poor, howling man.

The days were lovely. The young person had looked at his new companion in surprise at first. She was so different from them; she screamed when a spider crab brushed her shoe, she was afraid of the big water and thought she had already drowned when she had to jump over a puddle. The pebbles wounded her little feet, she never closed the parasol, and her hands were gloved up to her elbows, in constant fear of leaving a corner of her delicate hand to the sun. After the initial astonishment, he had let himself be seduced by this fearful grace, this helplessness that was always ready to seek refuge in him. She didn't smell of the open air; rather, it intoxicated him with its mild heliotrope scent. After all, it wasn't a boy galloping along at his side, it was a woman whose stockings, when he saw her in a gust of wind, made the blood throb more rapidly in his veins. But she wasn't as beautiful as the other, older and already faded; however, she possessed an ingratiating charm, her small, supple limbs let go, her whole coquettish personality promised happiness. It was as if he suddenly discovered her, he did not recognize the gaunt girl from before. Was it possible that the long years of boarding school had created this troubling young girl who was so full of man in her virginity and who bore the lie of her upbringing at the bottom of her clear eyes? Little by little he allowed himself to be captured by a special taste for her, by an inherited passion in which his childhood friendship was refined into sensual desires.

When Pauline was able to leave her uncle's room and began to accompany Lazare again, she immediately felt that a new air was blowing between him and Luise; looks and laughter were exchanged in which she had no part. She wanted to be explained to her what amused them and hardly smiled at it. During the first few days she played herself on the maternal side and treated her like young fools who can joke about nothing. But she soon became gloomy, every walk seemed a burden to her. But no complaint escaped her; she spoke of incessant migraines; when her cousin advised her not to go out, she was annoyed and no longer left him alone in the house. When he was awake at two o'clock one night trying to complete a plan, he opened the door when, to his surprise, he heard footsteps. His astonishment grew when he saw her in her petticoat, without a light, bent over the railing to listen for noises in the lower rooms. She said that she thought she heard complaints herself. This lie, however, colored her cheeks; he blushed, also beset by doubt. Since then, they have grumbled at each other without further discussion. He turned his head and found her ridiculous to grumble about such childish things; while she grew gloomy and did not leave him alone for a moment with Luise, who observed the slightest movements and fought agony in her room in the evening when she had seen those whispering to one another on their return home from the beach.

The work went forward. A band of carpenters were now building a first bulwark, having previously nailed strong planks to a row of pointed posts. Incidentally, this was a simple attempt; they hurried in anticipation of a high tide; if the pieces of wood resisted, they wanted to complete the defense system. Unfortunately, the weather was hideous. Clouds fell ceaselessly, and the whole of Bonneville let itself be soaked to watch the stakes drive into the ground with the aid of a pestle. Finally, on the morning of the day on which the great tide was expected, an ink-colored sky darkened the sea; for eight days the rain had doubled, and drowned the horizon in an icy mist. It was desperate, because they had planned an excursion with all the kids to see the victory of the planks and support beams when the flood attacked.

Mrs. Chanteau decided to stay with the still very suffering husband. Everything was done to hold Pauline back, too, who had had a sore throat for a week: she was a little hoarse and every evening she got a slight fever. However, she rejected all advice on caution and wanted to go to the beach because Lazare and Luise were going there. This Luise, with her frail behavior and always near fainting, was basically of a surprising, nervous strength when a pleasure kept her upright.

All three left after breakfast. A gust of wind was just sweeping away the clouds; triumphant laughter greeted this unexpected joy. The sky showed fields so broad, blue, still with a few black scraps, that the girls only wanted to take their parasols with them. Lazare alone carried an umbrella. Besides, he vouched for her health, he wanted to put her somewhere in case the downpours started again.

Pauline and Luise stepped ahead. At the beginning of the steep slope down to Bonneville, however, the latter appeared to have made a misstep on the slippery ground, and Lazare, who came to her side, offered her support. Pauline had to follow them. The cheerfulness she had shown when she left was gone, her suspicious eyes noticed that her cousin's elbow was rubbing Luise's hip with a constant caress.Soon she only saw this touch, everything else disappeared, both the shore on which the local fishermen waited for things with mockingly amused expressions, as well as the already rising sea and the protective weir, already white from the spray. A gloomy bar grew on the horizon, a cloud rising at the speed of an arrow.

"Hell," muttered the young man, looking around, we'll have another soup in a minute ... The rain will give us time to see, however, and we can escape to the Houtelard across the street.

The tide, which had the wind against it, rose with an annoying slowness. The wind undoubtedly prevented them from becoming as strong as had been predicted. But nobody left the beach. The half-covered weir did its duty, cut the waves, the falling water of which then boiled up to the feet of the audience. The triumph, however, was the victorious resistance of the stakes. After every wave that covered them and scooped up the pebbles of the sea, these stones could be heard pounding down and piled up on the other side of the planks like the sudden unloading of a truckload of stones; this wall thus formed was the success, the realization of the promised wall.

"I told you right away!" Lazare shouted. "Now you can all make fun of him."

Prouane, who had not sobered for three days, shook his head next to him and stuttered.

"Only see when the wind whistles from outside."

The other fishermen were silent. But one could tell from the twisted mouths of Cuche and Houtelard that they had only a moderate degree of confidence in all of these tricks. Nor did they wish to see this sea, which was crushing them, beaten by this buffoon of bourgeoisie. You would laugh the day it rolls these bars away like straws. It could devastate the whole village, but it was still fun.

The downpour suddenly broke out. Thick drops fell from the pale cloud that covered three-quarters of the sky.

"That's nothing, let's wait a moment," repeated Lazare enthusiastically. "Look, look, not a single pole moves."

He had opened his umbrella over Luisen's head. She pressed closer to him with the demeanor of a shivering turtledove. Pauline, left to her own devices, kept glaring at her; she thought she felt the warmth of their huddle rise in her own face. The rain was pouring down now. Lazare turned suddenly.

"What is it?" He shouted. 'Are you great? ... at least open the parasol. "

She stood upright, rigid under this deluge that she did not seem to feel. In a hoarse voice she replied:

"Leave me alone, I am perfectly fine."

"Oh! Lazare, I beg you, make her come to us, 'said Luise desperately... All three of us will stand firmly under each other.

But Pauline, in her wild obstinacy, no longer even honored her for a refusal. She was doing just fine, why bothered her? When at the end he started with his requests:

“But that's too stupid; let us hurry to the Houtelards! "she replied dismissively:

"Run wherever you want ... We're here to see something, that's how I want to see."

The fishermen had fled. But she stood motionless under the cloudburst, her gaze turned towards the beams, which completely covered the waves. This spectacle seemed to occupy her completely, in spite of the water dust in which everything was now blurred, a gray cloud which, sifted by the rain, rose from the sea. Her dripping robe showed on her shoulders and arms with wide, black spots. She could not be persuaded to leave the place until the west wind had blown the cloud away.

All three returned home in silence. Neither the aunt nor the uncle was told a word about the adventure. Pauline had immediately gone up to change her underwear, while Lazare told of the complete success of his attempt. In the evening at table Pauline was struck by another attack of fever; but she claimed not to suffer, in spite of the apparent agony of swallowing every bite caused her. In the end she gave rough answers to Luisen, who worried about her with tender concern and kept asking her how she was.

"She's really obnoxious because of her vicious character," Mrs. Chanteau had grumbled after her. "After all, you can't even talk to her anymore."

That same night Lazare was awakened at the first hour of the morning by the sound of a dry cough so terrible that he sat up to listen. His first thought was of his mother; While he was still listening, the sudden fall of a body, which made the floorboards tremble, drove him out of bed and hastily into his clothes. It could only be Pauline, the body seemed to have opened behind the partition. He tried to light the matches with his trembling fingers. He was finally able to go out with his wax stick and, to his surprise, saw the door opposite open. On the threshold he saw the young girl in the shirt, lying with bare feet and arms.

"What happened?" He called. "Did you fall?"

The thought that she was hanging around spying on him crossed his mind. But she did not answer, she did not move; and he saw her lying before him with closed eyes, as if slain. No doubt, the moment she went to seek help, a faint had sprawled her on the tiles.

"Pauline, answer me, I implore you ... Where are you suffering?"

He had bent down and shone it in her face. Reddened, she seemed to be glowing with a violent fever. The involuntary embarrassment that held him back from trying to carry her back to her bed in the face of this virgin nudity gave way to fraternal concern. He no longer noticed her nakedness, he grabbed her thighs and under the cross, without even being aware of the delicate woman's skin on his man's breast. When he had made her bed again, he questioned her again without even thinking of pulling up the covers.

“My God, speak up! Are you perhaps wounded? "

The shock opened her eyes. But she still didn't speak, she stared at him; when he pushed further into her, she finally put his hand to her throat.

"Do you have a neck problem?"

In a different, laboriously whistling voice, she just whispered very softly:

"Don't make me speak, please ... It hurts me too!"

Another fit of coughing hit her, the same whooping cough he'd heard in his room. Her face turned bluish, the pain was so excruciating that her eyes filled with heavy tears. She put both hands on her poor, shaken head, in which the pounding of a terrible headache was working.

"You got that today," he stuttered, stunned. "Was that sensible, sick as you were before?"

He paused, however, when he saw her pleading glances directed at him again. With a groping hand, she searched for the duvet. He covered her up to her chin.

"Do you want to open your mouth to let me look inside?"

She could barely get her jaw apart. He approached the flame of the wax light, it was only with difficulty that he recognized the dry, lively red shimmering back of the neck. That was undoubtedly a tan. That terrible fever, that terrible headache, only frightened him as to the nature of that tan. The patient's face expressed such a fearful feeling of strangulation that he was terrified of seeing her suffocate in front of his eyes. She no longer swallowed, every swallowing movement shook her completely. Another coughing fit made her lose consciousness again. Then he fell into utter consternation and thundered with fist blows on the maid's door.

“Veronica! Veronica! Stand up! ... Pauline dies! "

When Veronika entered the young lady, dismayed and half-dressed, she found him cursing and gesticulating with hands and feet in the middle of the room. What a miserable nest! You could die like a dog here ... More than two miles you have to send for help! "

He came towards her.

"Find someone who can run to the doctor and bring him over here."

She had approached the bed and was looking at the patient. It moved her deeply to see her so red, and she felt utterly terrified in her growing affection for the child so loathed at first.

"I'll run myself," she said without further ado, "then it'll be faster ... the woman can make a fire downstairs in an emergency!"

Hardly woke up properly when she put her feet in large boots and wrapped herself in a shawl. After notifying Mrs. Chanteau of what had happened as she went down, she ran away on the sodden street with sweeping strides. The church struck two o'clock, the night was so black that it ran against the heaps of stones.

"What is it?" Asked Mrs. Chanteau when she came up.

Lazare hardly answered. He had just searched the closet with great haste for his old medical books; Leaning over the chest of drawers, he flipped through the pages with trembling fingers and tried to recall the previous studies. But everything was confused, everything was confused, he kept going back to the table of contents and found nothing.

"In any case, it is a severe migraine," repeated Mrs. Chanteau, who had sat down; "The best thing is to let her sleep."

“A migraine! A migraine! ... Listen, mom, you irritate me when you can stay calm about it. Go down and make the water hot. "

"Isn't it necessary to disturb Luise?" She asked.

“Completely superfluous ... I don't need anyone. I will call. "

When he was alone again, he took Paulinen's hand to feel her pulse. He counted a hundred and fifteen. He felt that burning hand clenching his own incessantly. The girl, whose heavy eyelids remained closed, put a thank you and a plea for forgiveness in this print. If she could no longer smile, she still wanted to make it clear that she had heard everything and was touched to know that he was with her, alone with her without thoughts of another. Usually he had a deep disgust for all ailments; he fled from the slightest malaise of his own as a bad nurse, as little of his nerves as he said that he threatened to break out into a sob. She felt a surprise mixed with gratitude when she saw him so devoted. He himself could not have said what kind of sympathy aroused him, what need to rely entirely on himself for relief. The pressure of that little hand made him confused, he wanted to encourage her.

“It doesn't mean anything, love. I expect Cazenove ... First of all, do not be afraid. "

She lay there with her eyes closed and laboriously whispered:

"I'm not afraid ... I'm just sorry to bother you." In an even quieter voice that sounded fleeting like a breath:

"You forgive me? ... I was ugly today."

He leaned over her to kiss her on the forehead as if she were his wife. Then he turned away because tears choked him. It occurred to him, at least, to prepare a sedative until the doctor came. The young girl's small pharmacy was in a narrow wall paneling. He was only afraid of making a mistake, asked her about all the bottles, and finally poured a few drops of morphine into a glass of sugar water. Whenever she swallowed a spoonful of it, the pain became so severe that he always hesitated to give her another dose. That was all, he didn't feel able to try anymore. The wait became unbearable. When he could no longer see her suffer and threatened to break his legs by standing by the bed, he opened the books again in good faith that he would finally find the case and the remedy. Was it a blood tan? In the meantime he had not noticed any false membranes on the ligaments of the soft tissue of the palate; he was absorbed in reading the description and treatment of the blood tan, lost himself in the series of long sentences, the meaning of which he had lost, and clung to useless details like one Child who memorizes a task that is incomprehensible to him. Then a sigh led him back to the bed; he was trembling and his head was buzzing with scientific terms whose jumbled syllables doubled his fearfulness.

"Well?" Asked Mrs. Chanteau: who had come up very gently.

"Same thing," he replied. He added excitedly:

"Unbearable, this doctor ... By then you can be dead twenty times."

The doors were left open; Mathieu, who was sleeping under the kitchen table, just came up the stairs in his urge to follow people through every room in the house. His thick paws made the sound of old woolen shoes on the floor. He was most delighted with this nocturnal adventure, wanted to jump up to Pauline and snapped at his tail as an animal that did not know the grief of its masters. Enraged by this inconvenient happiness, Lazare kicked the animal.

“Walk away or I'll strangle you! ... Don't you see, stupid! "

The dog, surprised to be beaten, sniffed and then humbly crawled under the bed, as if it had suddenly understood everything. But this brutality had upset Mrs. Chanteau. Without waiting any longer, she went back down into the kitchen and said dryly beforehand:

"If you want ... the water will be hot in a minute."

Lazare heard her growl on the stairs that it was outrageous to hit an animal like that; in the end he would beat her if she stayed there. He, who was usually on his knees in front of his mother, looked irritated after her. Minute after minute, he came back to take a look at Pauline. Consumed by the fever, she seemed completely unconscious, and in the shuddering silence of the room there was nothing more of her than the rattle of her breath that seemed to give way to a rattle of agony. He was gripped again by the foolish, nonsensical fear that it would surely suffocate if no help came. He wandered from one corner of the room to the other, constantly questioning the clock on the wall. It was almost three o'clock, so Veronika hadn't even got to the doctor. He followed her on the road to Arromanches through the black night: she had passed the oak forest, then reached the bridge, and could win five minutes if she ran down the bank. A fierce need to hear something made him open the window, despite the fact that in this abyss he could not distinguish anything from darkness. A single light shimmered up from Bonneville, probably the lantern of a ship going out to sea. A dreadful darkness, an infinite abandonment spread outside; he thought he could feel how all life flowed and died in her. He closed the window, then opened it again, only to close it again soon. He finally lost his understanding of time and hour, and was amazed when it struck three o'clock. At that moment the doctor had already tensed, and the car was already rolling along the country road, piercing the shadows with the yellow eye of his lantern. Lazare was already so dull with impatience at the sick people's growing choke that he started as if from sleep when someone came up the stairs at four o'clock.

"You are at last!" He shouted.

Doctor Cazenove immediately switched on a second light to examine Pauline. Lazare held one, while Veronica, ruffled by the wind and soiled with excrement, approached the other at the head of the bed. Mrs. Chanteau watched. The drowsy patient could not open her mouth without expressing the pain. When the doctor, who was most concerned when he entered, put her down gently again and stepped back into the middle of the room, he showed a calmer expression.

"Veronica gave me a good scare," he muttered. "According to your exaggerated story, I believed I was poisoned ... As you can see, I stuffed my pockets with drugs."

"It's a tan, isn't it?" Asked Lazare.

"Yes, a simple tan ... There is no imminent danger."

Mrs. Chanteau looked triumphant to show that she had known beforehand.

"No imminent danger," repeated Lazare, again haunted by concern: "are you afraid of complications?"

"No," replied the doctor after some hesitation, "but with these cursed sore throats you never know where you are!"

He confessed that there was nothing to be done and wanted to wait for the next morning to let the sick woman bleed. When the young man asked that she be at least given some relief, he wanted to try mustard plaster compresses. Veronika prepared a kettle of hot water, the doctor himself put the soaked leaves on and let them slide down her legs, from her knees to her ankles. However, this was only one more ailment, the fever remained constant, the headache became unbearable. Softening gargles were also indicated, and Mrs. Chanteau prepared an infusion of blackberry leaves, which, however, had to be set aside after the first attempt because the pain made it impossible to move the gargle. It was almost six o'clock and day dawned when the doctor withdrew.

"I'll be back around noon," he said to Lazare in the hall. "Calm down ... She will have to suffer, but there is no danger."

"So suffering is nothing!" Cried the young man who was aroused by the evil. "One shouldn't suffer."

The doctor looked at him, then raised his arms to the sky in the face of such extraordinary arrogance.

When Lazare returned to the room, he told his mother and Veronica to rest a little: he would not have been able to sleep anyway. He saw the daylight break in the disordered room, that sad dawn of the nights spent in agony. His forehead pressed against a pane of glass, he gazed desperately at the lead-colored sky when a noise forced him to turn his head. He thought Pauline was getting up. Meanwhile, it was Mathieu, forgotten by all, who at last had left the place under the bed and approached the young girl, whose one hand hung over the blanket. The dog licked this hand with such delicacy that Lazare, completely moved, took his neck and said:

“You see, my poor fat man, your mistress is sick ... But it's nothing, go! All three of us gallop around merrily again. "

Pauline had opened her eyes and was smiling despite the painful twitch of her face.

Now began a life full of fear, the nightmare that befell us in a sick person's room. Lazare, in a feeling of wild passion, drove everyone out; he scarcely allowed his mother or Luise to come in the morning to inquire; he only admitted Veronica, in whom he felt a true tenderness. During the first few days Mrs. Chanteau had tried to make him understand the inappropriateness of a man taking care of a young girl; but he was puffed up; is he not her husband? In addition, doctors did care for women. Indeed, there was no shameful coercion between them. Suffering, perhaps even impending death, drove away sensuality. He did her all the little services, lifting and laying her down like a compassionate brother who saw in this desirable body only the fever that shivered through him. It was like an extension of their healthy childhood, they returned to the chaste nudity of their first baths when he was still treating them like an immature child. The world disappeared, there was nothing left but the medicine to be drunk, the improvement awaited in vain from hour to hour, the lower details of animal life, suddenly assuming great importance, which were decisive for the serenity or sadness of the day. The nights followed the days; Lazare's existence floated up and down, as it were, over the void, with the danger of falling into the darkness that threatened from minute to minute.

Doctor Cazenove visited Pauline every morning, he himself often called in at dinner in the evening. On his second visit he had made up his mind to have a profuse bloodletting. But the fever, which had been banished for a moment, had reappeared. Two days passed and he was visibly affected because he did not understand the tenacity of the evil. Because the girl found it increasingly difficult to open her mouth, he could not examine the throat, which appeared to be swollen and pale red. At last Pauline complained of a growing tension that was threatening to burst her throat, and one morning the doctor said to Lazare:

"I suspect a boil."

The young man led him to his room. The evening before, while leafing through an old pathology manual, he had read the pages about retro-pharyngitic boils, which can result in death by asphyxiation by compressing the windpipe. He asked very pale:

"Then is she lost?"

"I hope not," replied the doctor. "We will see."

But he did not hide his concern himself. He admitted his almost complete impotence in the present case. How was one going to find a boil at the bottom of that contracted mouth? Opening it too early could also have serious consequences. The best thing was to let nature rule, but it would take a long time and be very painful.

"I am not the good Lord!" He cried when Lazare pointed out the uselessness of science.

The tenderness which Doctor Cazenove felt for Pauline was transformed in him into a doubled boastful harshness. This stately old man, thin as a wild rose stem, was struck in the heart. He had traveled the world for thirty years, wandering from ship to ship, doing hospital service in all the French colonies. He had treated the epidemics on board, the monstrous diseases of the tropics, the elephantiasis in Cayenne, the snakebites in India; he had killed people of all colors, studied the effects of poisons on the Chinese, and sacrificed negroes in delicate attempts at vivisection. And today this little girl with her little sore throat made him lose all sleep; his iron hands trembled, his familiarity with death abandoned him for fear of a fateful outcome. In order to hide this strange emotion, he even tried to feign contempt for suffering. One was born to suffer, so why get upset about it?

Every morning Lazare said to him:

"Try something, Doctor, I implore you ... It is terrible, she cannot slumber for a moment. She screamed all night. "

"But damn it, it's not my fault," the doctor would reply angrily. “I can't cut her neck off; that would, of course, be the easiest way to cure them. "

The young man was also angry.

"Then the medicine is not good for anything?"

“Nothing at all if the machine gets out of hand. The quinine lifts the fever, a laxative works on the intestines, you have to let your blood flow in the event of a stroke ... Everything else is a matter of luck. You have to surrender to nature. "

These were outbursts of anger at the impotence of his ability. Usually he did not dare so flatly deny medicine, although he had practiced enough to be doubtful and humble. He lost entire hours in bed studying the sick and walked off with his hands tied, without leaving a prescription himself, because he could do nothing but witness the full development of the purulent ulcer, life or death by a line more or less Had to mean death.

Lazare dragged himself in terrible fear for eight full days. From one moment to the next he, too, awaited the judgment of nature. With every laborious breath he thought it was all over. The boil embodied itself in a living image; he saw it monstrous to block the windpipe; a slight increase in the swelling and the air would no longer find a passage. His poorly digested two years of medicine doubled his fear. The pain in particular made him beside himself, made him nervous, gave him a passionate rebellion against existence. Why this abomination of pain? Wasn't it terribly superfluous, this pinching of the flesh, this burning and twisting of the muscles, when the evil took hold on a girl's body so pale as white? ”A spell of evil kept bringing him back to the bed. At the risk of tiring her, he asked her whether she was still suffering? where is it now? Often she took his hand and put it on her neck: there it was like an unbearable weight, like a ball of glowing lead that pulsed to suffocate. The migraine never left her, she did not know how to rest her head, tortured by drowsiness; in the ten days since the fever shook her, she had slept less than two hours. One evening, to make up for the misery, there was also severe earache; in these attacks she completely lost consciousness; it was as if her cheekbones were being crushed. But she did not confess all this ordeal to Lazare, she showed a firm courage, for she felt that he was almost as sick as she was, his blood glowing from her finger, his throat choked by her lump. Often she even lied; she managed to smile at the moment of the most violent anxiety: it was settling down, she said, and compelled him to take a short rest. The bad thing was that she couldn't swallow the saliva without uttering a scream, her larynx was already swollen so terribly. Lazare suddenly woke up: did the story begin again? He questioned her again, wanting to know the seat of the problem, while she struggled, her face pained and eyes closed, to deceive him, and stammered that it was nothing, anything, that had made her tickle.

"Sleep and don't worry ... I want to sleep too."

She played this sleep comedy in the evening to send him to bed. But he insisted stubbornly on watching her in an armchair. The nights were so bad that he did not see the day go by without a superstitious horror. Will the sun ever rise again?

One night Lazare, leaning against the bed, held Paulinen's hand in his, as he often did to tell her that he was with her and was not leaving her. Doctor Cazenove had left at ten o'clock, angry, no longer vouching for anything. By then the young man had found consolation in the belief that she did not see herself in danger. In her presence there was talk of a simple, very painful sore throat, but it would pass as easily as a runny nose. She herself seemed calm with her brave face, always cheerful despite her suffering. When people talked about her healing and made plans for it, she smiled. That night, too, she heard Lazare discuss the plan for a walk to the beach on the occasion of her first outing. Then there was silence; she seemed to be asleep when suddenly at the end of a long, long quarter of an hour she whispered in a clear voice:

"My poor friend, I think you will marry another woman."

He was struck on the head, an icy shiver crept down his neck.

"What do you mean?" He asked.

She had opened her eyes and looked at him with her expressions of courageous renunciation.

“Go! I know very well what I am missing ... I prefer to know everything so that I can at least kiss you again. "

Lazare got angry; it is great to think about such things; another week and she'll be back on her feet. He let go of her hand and fled to his room under an excuse, because the sobs stifled him. There in the dark he surrendered to his pain, sunk across the bed, in which he had not slept for a long time. A terrible certainty had suddenly tightened his heart. Pauline was approaching death, maybe she didn't survive this night any more. The thought that she knew that the silence she had hitherto had been a heroic deed by the woman who spared the feelings of others even in death drove him completely to despair. She knew it, she saw the agony coming, and it would pass out. He thought he had heard the last farewell, saw the scene with its sad details unfold in the middle of the darkness of the room. It was the end of everything; he took the pillow between his convulsively twitching arms and pushed his head into it to stifle his sobs.

The night passed without a catastrophe. Likewise two more days. But now they tied a new bond: the constant presence of death. She was no longer deceived about the precariousness of her condition and still found the strength to smile; he himself succeeded in feigning complete serenity, the hope of seeing her rise from one hour to the next, yet everything said itself, with her as with him a constant farewell amid the persistent tenderness of meeting glances. During the night, especially while he was watching her, they finally heard their mutual thoughts for themselves; the threat of eternal separation deeply touched even their silence. Nothing was so cruelly sweet; they had never felt their beings so completely merged into one another.

One morning at sunrise, Lazare was amazed at his calm at the thought of death. He tried to recall the data: since the day Pauline fell ill, he had not once felt the cold horror of no longer being from head to toe. If he trembled at the loss of his comrade, it was another horror that had nothing to do with the destruction of his self. His heart was bleeding, but it seemed to him as if this battle delivered to death made him as strong as death, inspired him to look that face in the face. Or perhaps there was only weariness and numbness in the sleep that numbed his fear. He closed his eyes so as not to see the sun rise; he wanted to find the shiver of fear again by getting excited to the point of fear, by repeating that one day he too would die: nothing answered it, he had become indifferent , things had taken on their own ease. Even his pessimism failed because of this camp of pain; instead of drowning him in hatred of the world, his outrage against pain was only an ardent desire for health, the love of life driven to the extreme. He no longer spoke of wanting to blow up the earth like an old uninhabitable building; the only idea that haunted him was the healthy Pauline on his arm under the rays of a serene sun; and his only desire was to be able to lead them once more with their vigorous steps happily along the paths they had walked together.

That day Lazare believed death was coming. The patient had been plagued by nausea since eight o'clock, and every exertion ended in a very disturbing attack of suffocation. Showers soon made themselves felt; she was shaking with such a tremor that one could hear her teeth chattering. Lazare shouted from the window, startled, that a boy should be sent to Arromanches at once, although, as usual, he expected the doctor at eleven o'clock. The house had sunk into a gloomy silence, an emptiness established itself since Pauline no longer filled it with her liveliness. Chanteau passed his days in silence below, his eyes fixed on his legs, afraid of a seizure; no one was there to look after him; Frau Chanteau forced Luise to go out; they had both joined together and now lived outside in the most intimate community; only the heavy step of Veronica, who was constantly climbing up and down, disturbed the peace of the stairs and the empty room. Lazare had leaned over the parapet three times; he was consumed with impatience whether the maid had persuaded anyone to go to Arromanches. He was just returning to the room and was looking at the patient, who had become somewhat calmer, when the half-open door cracked softly.

"Well, Veronica?"

It was his mother, however. That morning she was going to accompany Luise to friends in Verchemont.

"Little Cuche got up straight away," she replied. "He has good legs."

After a pause she asked:

"So there is no better way?"

With a gesture of despair, Lazare pointed without a word to Pauline, lying there motionless as if dead, her face bathed in a cold sweat.

"Then we won't go to Verchemont," she went on. “Aren't these unintelligible diseases terribly persistent? ... The poor child has been tried hard. "

She sat down and said her sentences in the same deep and monotonous voice.

“We wanted to be on our way at seven o'clock! It is lucky that Luise did not get up early enough ... Which all comes together this morning! You'd think it was done on purpose.The Arromanches spice dealer came with the bill; I had to pay it. Now the baker is downstairs ... again for forty francs of bread a month! I can't imagine where it's all going.

Lazare did not hear; the fear of seeing the shiver return occupied him completely. But the dull sound of this flow of words irritated him. He tried to send her out.

"Give Veronika two mouth towels and send them up to me through her."

"Of course the baker has to be paid," she went on, as if she hadn't heard. “He talked to me, so you can't tell him that I've gone out ... Oh, I've had enough with this house! The burden is getting too heavy, after all I leave everything where it is ... If it weren't for that bad thing for Pauline, she could advance us the ninety francs for her pension. Today is the twentieth, so only ten days anyway ... The poor little one seems so weak ...

Lazare turned to her with a violent movement.

"What do you want?"

"You don't know where she put her money?"


"It has to be in the chest of drawers, maybe you'll have a look."

He refused with a bitter expression. His hands were shaking.

"I beg you, Mama ... leave me alone!"

Those few sentences had been hissed hastily in the back of the room. There was an awkward silence when a low voice rose from the bed.

"Take the key under my pillow, Lazare, and give the aunt what she wants."

Both stood there affected. He struggled, didn't want to rummage around in the dresser. But one had to give in so as not to torment Pauline. When he had given his mother a hundred-franc note and put the key back under the pillow, he found the patient in another shower that shook her like a young tree almost to the point of bend. Two heavy tears ran down her cheeks from her poor, closed eyes.

Doctor Cazenove did not appear until the usual hour. He hadn't seen little Cuche, who was probably playing in the ditch. As soon as he listened to Lazare and had a look at Pauline, he exclaimed:

"She is saved!"

Those nausea, those terrible showers, were simply the signs that the ulcer was finally opening. There was no longer any fear of suffocation as soon as the evil began to resolve on its own. The joy was great, Lazare accompanied the doctor, and since Martin, who was drinking a glass of wine in the kitchen with his wooden legs in the service of the latter, everyone wanted to toast his recovery. Frau Chanteau and Luise took a nut schnapps.

"I've never been seriously worried," said the former. "I immediately felt that it meant nothing."

"That doesn't prevent the dear child from seeing difficult days," replied Veronica. “Truly; if someone gave me a hundred sous, I wouldn't be so satisfied. "

At that moment Abbé Horteur stepped into the kitchen. He wanted to inquire and accepted a drop of liqueur to follow everyone's example. He had come every day as a good neighbor to keep up demand. On the first visit Lazare had indicated to him that he would not let him see the sick woman so as not to frighten her, and the priest had replied that he understood perfectly. He contented himself with reading masses for the poor lady. While Chanteau toasted him, he praised him for his tolerance.

"You can see that she pulled herself out of history even without the" oremus "."

"Everyone saves himself as he understands it," declared the clergyman in a doctrinal tone, and drank his glass completely.

When the doctor was gone, Luise wanted to go up to hug Pauline. She was still in great pain, but the suffering no longer seemed to matter. Lazare cheered cheerfully to her; he gave up hypocrisy and exaggerated even the danger he had overcome by telling her that he had believed he was holding her dead in his arms three times. She, on the other hand, did not speak so loudly of her joy at being saved, but felt permeated with the sweetness of life after she had the courage to get used to death. Tender sensations flashed over her face, she had pressed his hand and whispered with a smile:

“Now, dear friend, you cannot slip away; I'll be your wife. "

Recovery began with periods of long sleep. She slept very quietly, breathing gently, for days in a convalescent unconsciousness. Minouche, chased out of the room in the bitterest hours of illness, used this peace to sneak in again; she slipped very quietly onto the bed and curled up on her mistress's side and spent the whole day enjoying the warm warmth of the bed; often she brushed herself endlessly, treating the fur with strokes of the tongue; but her movements were so smooth that the patient did not even feel them move. Meanwhile, Mathieu, who was also admitted into the room, snored like a man, lying across the foot of the bed.

One of Pauline's first whims was to invite her little friends from the village over to him on the following Saturday. She began to be allowed soft-boiled eggs after following the strict diet observed for three weeks. She was still very weak and could only receive the children while sitting. Lazare had to look again in her dresser to give her five-franc coins. But when she questioned her poor people and stubbornly settled what she called her backward bills, she was overcome with such weakness that she had to be put down unconsciously. She also took part in the dam and the pledges and asked daily whether they were holding up well. Some beams were already loose; but her cousin lied and spoke only of two or three boards which had lost their nails. When she was left alone one morning, she had slipped out of the blankets to watch the high tide beating against the beams from afar; this time too they had abandoned the returning forces; she would have fallen if Veronica hadn't come into the room in time to catch her in her arms.

“Don't trust yourself too much! I'll tie you up if you're not sensible, ”Lazare teased repeatedly.

He still insisted on watching her; but overpowered by tiredness, he fell asleep in the armchair. At first he had felt the most vivid joy when he saw her drink the first cups of meat broth. This health returning to the youthful body was a delicious thing, a renewal of existence in which he felt himself revived. Then, when the habit of recovery took over and the pain was gone, he ceased to rejoice in her like an unexpected benefit. All that remained in him was a dullness, a nervous lack of irritation after the fight, the confused thought that the emptiness would begin again.

Lazare was fast asleep one night when Pauline heard him start up with a sigh of alarm. In the weak light of the night lamp she saw his expression extremely dismayed, his eyes open in terror, his hands intertwined as if in an incantation. He stuttered broken words.

"My God! ... My God!"

Concerned, she had leaned briskly towards him.

“What is it, Lazare? Are you suffering? "

That voice made him shiver. So you saw him? He sat there, embarrassed, and could only bring together one awkward lie.

"But I don't care ... You just complained."

The fear of death began to reappear in his sleep, a baseless fear that appeared to have arisen out of nowhere, a fear whose icy breath had roused him from his sleep with a violent shiver. My God! One day one would still have to die! This thought rose in him and suffocated him while Pauline, who had put her head back on the pillow, looked at him with her expression of maternal pity.

 << zurück weiter >>