George Sand.

Fadette online

. (page 1 of 14)
Online LibraryGeorge SandFadette → online text (page 1 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

I T +ilJj&'' 4w


l)anUp Library €fcttion



I r i , \< f ' ' « t * r t..


' ^*»


,F A D E T T E





» »

Univ. of





I : J




Copyright, 1893, by
George H. Richmond & Co.

• • « • 1 . c

c ••.«_•••_••■■ • . • •

' t • a "e

«:<'' <•<"« • • <■

* • * • • «■ • • • ••■•••*••••

University Press:
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A.

>*> +"*•> Vji>1 l *^ 1 \i n i t -)


IT was after the terrible days of June, 1848, that,
troubled and overwhelmed to the bottom of my
soul by the storms from without, I tried to find
again in solitude, if not calm, at least faith. If I
professed to be a philosopher, I might believe or
pretend that belief in ideas brings peace of mind in
presence of the disastrous facts of contemporary his-
tory ; but it is not at all so with me, and I humbly
confess that the certainty of a future ordered by
Providence could not bar the way, in the soul of
an artist, to the grief of passing through a present
darkened and torniby-Civil'war. ..' ;

For men of action, who take, a personal part

. '.■'•'. '. . "•.

in politics, there- is. everywhere,' under all circum-
stances, a fever of hope or anguish, rage or joy,
the intoxication of triumph, or the wrath of defeat.
But for the poor poet and for the idle woman, who
watch events without having any direct and per-
sonal interest, be the issue of the struggle what it
may, there is a deep horror of the blood spilled on
either side, and a kind of despair at the sight of


o oaoa


the hatred, wrongs, threats, and calumnies which
mount toward heaven like an unclean holocaust in
the train of social convulsions.

At such a moment as this, a genius stormy and
strong as Dante, writes with his tears, his gall, his
nerves, a terrible poem, a drama all full of tor-
ments and of groans. We must be tempered like
that soul of iron and fire, to fix our imagination
upon the horrors of a symbolic hell, when we have
under our eyes the dolorous purgatory of desolation
upon earth. The artist of our times, more feeble
and sensitive, who is but the reflection and the echo
of a generation very like him, feels the imperative
need of looking away, and of diverting his imagina-
tion, by turning toward an ideal of peace, of inno-
cence, and of contemplation. It is his weakness
that makes him do so, but he has no cause to blush
for it, because it is also his duty. In times when
evil comes because men misunderstand and hate one
another, it is the mission of the artist to praise sweet-
ness, confidence, and friendship, and so to remind
men, hardened or discouraged, that pure morals,
tender sentiments, and primitive justice still exist,
or at least ca n exist^ in this world. Direct allusions

to present ills, the appeal to boiling passions, —




there is no road to safety there: a sweet song, the
sound of a rustic pipe, a story to put little chil-
dren to sleep without fear or pain, is better than
the spectacle of real evils deepened and darkened
still more by the colors of fiction.

Preaching unity to men who are cutting one an-
other's throats, is crying in the wilderness. There
are times when souls are so agitated that they are
deaf to every direct appeal. Since those June days
of which present events are the inevitable conse-
quence, the author of the story that you are going
to read has undertaken the task of being amiable
though he should die of chagrin. He has let his
pastorals be laughed at, as he had let everything
else be laughed at, without troubling himself at the
judgments of a certain kind of criticism. He knows
that he has given pleasure to those who love that
strain, and that to give pleasure to them that suffer
from the same ill as he, in knowing the horror of
hate and of revenge, is to do them all the good that
they can receive : very fleeting, a passing relief, it is
true, but more real than a passionate declamation,
and more impressive than a classical demonstration.

George Sand.

Nohant, the twenty-first of December, /Sji.




FATHER BARBEAU, of Cosse, was certainly
comfortably off, for he was a member of the
municipal board of his township. His two fields
provided for the support of his family and yielded
him profit besides. He cut full cart-loads of hay
in his meadows, and except what came from the
borders of the brook and was somewhat injured by
the rushes, it was known as the best fodder in the

Father Barbeau's house was roofed with tiles, and
built high on a hillside where the air was good.
It had a fruitful garden, and a vineyard six acres in

Then, behind his barn, he had a fine orchard,
such as we call an ouche, where plums, cherries,



pears, and sorb-apples grew in equal profusion.
Even the nut-trees in his hedge-rows were the
oldest and largest for two leagues around.

Father Barbeau was a cheerful and a good-hu-
mored man, very fond of his family, without
neglecting the interests of his neighbors and

He had three children already, when Mother
Barbeau, who knew their means were enough for
five, and that her advancing years gave her little
time, determined to present him with two fine boys
at once. They looked so much like each other
that it was almost impossible to distinguish them,
and they were recognized as bessons, — that is to
say, twins exactly alike.

Mother Sagette, who received them in her apron
when they came into the world, did not forget to
make a little cross with her needle on the arm of
the first-born, because, as she used to say, "one
can make a mistake about a bit of ribbon or a neck-
lace, and the birthright may be lost."

11 When the child grows stronger," she went on,

"we must mark him with a sign that will never

rub off" ; and this they did not fail to do. The

elder was named Sylvain, which soon became Syl-



vinet, to distinguish him from his eldest brother,
who had acted as his godfather; and the younger
was called Landry, and kept the name as he had
received it in baptism, because his uncle, who
was his godfather, had always, from his youth up,
been called Landriche.

Father Barbeau was a little astonished, when he
came back from market, to see two tiny heads in
the cradle.

" Oh ! oh ! " cried he, "that cradle is too narrow.
To-morrow morning I must make it larger."

He was something of a carpenter, and though he
had never learned the trade, he had made half his
furniture himself. He showed no further surprise,
and went to look after his wife, who drank a large
glass of hot wine, and felt the better for it.

" You do so much, wife," he said to her, " that
I should take courage from you. Here are two
more children to feed, though we did not need
them at all. That means that I must keep on cul-
tivating our land and raising our cattle. Don't
worry, I shall work ; but don't give me three the
next time, for that would be too many."

Mother Barbeau began to cry, and Father Barbeau

was very sorry. "Come, come," said he, "you

1 1


must not fret, my good wife. I did not say that to
reproach you ; I only meant to thank you. Those
two are fine, well-made children ; there is not a
defect on their bodies, and I am very well pleased."

"Oh, dear me," said his wife; "I know, mas-
ter, very well that you are not finding fault with
me for the children ; but I am worried because I
have heard that nothing is more uncertain and dif-
ficult to bring up than twins. They interfere with
each other, and if one is to be healthy, the other
generally dies."

" Really," said the father; " is that so? As fai
as I know, these are the first twins that I have ever
seen. They do not come often. But here is Mother
Sagette, who knows and will tell us all about it."
So he called Mother Sagette, who answered :
" Trust me, those twins will get on perfectly
well, and will be just as healthy as other children.
I have been a nurse for fifty years, and have seen
all the children in the country round born, and
live or die ; so it is not the first time that I have
assisted at the birth of twins. In the first place,
they are none the worse for looking alike. Some-
times they have no more resemblance than you and

I, and yet one is strong and the other delicate ; so



one lives and the other dies. But look at yours !
Each one is as fine and well made as if he were an
only child. They cannot have done each other any
harm before their birth, and they have come into
the world without too much pain to their mother
or hurt to themselves. They are wonderfully pretty,
and mean to live. So take heart, Mother Barbeau ;
it will be a great pleasure for you to see them grow
up. If they live, you alone, and those who see
them every day, will be able to tell the difference
between them, for I never saw twins so much alike.
You might call them two little partridges hatching
from the same egg. They are so sweet and so
much like each other, that only the mother par-
tridge can distinguish them."

"Good!" exclaimed Father Barbeau, scratching
his head. " But I have heard that twins sometimes
grow so fond of each other, that when they are
separated they can live no longer, and one, at
least, lets himself pine away till he dies of grief."

"That is perfectly true," said Mother Sagette;
11 but listen to what an experienced woman is go-
ing to tell you. Do not forget it, for when your
children are old enough to leave you, perhaps I
shall not be in the world to advise you. As soon



as the twins begin to know each other, be careful
not to leave them always together. Take one out
to work, while the other is looking after the house.
When one goes fishing, send the other hunting ;
when one is tending sheep, let the other one take
care of the cows in pasture ; when you give one
wine to drink, give the other a glass of water ; and
so on. Don't scold them or correct them at the
same time. Don't dress them alike : when one has
a hat, let the other have a cap ; and above all,
don't let their blouses be the same blue. In short,
in every way that you can think of, prevent them
from becoming too much alike, and teach them to
learn to do without each other. I am very much
afraid that you will turn a deaf ear to what I am
saying to you ; but if you do, you will be very
sorry for it some day."

Mother Sagette's words were gold, and they be-
lieved her. They promised to do as she said, and
they made her a handsome present before they let
her go. Then, as she had strongly advised that
the twins should not be fed with the same milk,
they set about looking up a nurse at once.

But there was not one to be found in the place.
Mother Barbeau, who had not counted upon two



children, and who had nursed all the others her-
self, had taken no precautions beforehand. Father
Barbeau was obliged to go off in search of a nurse
in the neighborhood. While he was gone, the
mother could not allow her children to suffer, and
so she fed both from her own breast.

Our country people do not decide in a hurry,
and no matter how rich they may be, they must
always do a little bargaining. It was known that
the Barbeau family could afford to pay, and peo-
ple thought that as the mother was no longer in
her first youth, she could not nurse two babies
without injury to her health. So all the nurses
whom Father Barbeau could find, asked him eigh-
teen francs a month, — neither more nor less than
they would have asked a bourgeois.

Father Barbeau did not care to give more than
twelve or fifteen francs, thinking that a great deal
for a peasant. He tried everywhere, and haggled
a little, without concluding a bargain. The matter
was not very pressing ; for two such young chil-
dren could not exhaust their mother, and they
were both so healthy, so quiet, and cried so little,
that they made scarcely more disturbance in the
house than a single child. When one slept, the



other slept too. Their father had arranged the
cradle, and when they both cried at once, they
were both rocked and soothed at the same time.

Finally Father Barbeau struck a bargain with a
nurse for fifteen francs, and the only difficulty lay
in the gratuity of a hundred sous, when his wife
said to him :

11 Nonsense, master! I see no reason for spending
a hundred and eighty to two hundred francs a year,
as if we were gentlemen and ladies, and as if I were
too old to nurse my own children. I have more
milk than they need. Our boys are a month old
already, and just see how they thrive ! The nurse
Merlaude, whom you want for one of them, is not
half so strong or healthy as I am ; her milk is al-
ready eighteen months old, and will not do for
such a young child. Mother Sagette told us not to
give our twins the same milk, so as to prevent
them from becoming too fond of each other. It is
true she said so, but did she not say too that we
must take the same care of both ; for, after all, twins
are not quite so strong as other children ? I should
rather have ours love each other too much, than
sacrifice one to the other. And then, which should

we put out to nurse? I confess that I should be



quite as sorry to part with one as the other. I may
say that I have loved all my children very much ;
but, somehow or other, these seem to me the dearest
and prettiest that I have ever carried in my arms.
I have a peculiar love for them that always makes
me afraid of losing them. Please, husband, do not
think of this nurse any more ; we shall do every-
thing else that Mother Sagette recommended.
How can you expect children at the breast to love
each other too much, when they can hardly tell
their hands from their feet when they are weaned?"

" What you say is quite right," answered Father
Barbeau, looking at his wife, who was still fresher
and stronger than most women; "but suppose
that, as the children grow bigger, your health
begins to fail? "

" Do not worry," said Mother Barbeau ; " I know
I have as good an appetite as if I were fifteen ; and
besides, in case I feel worn out, I promise not to
hide it from you, and there will always be time
enough to send away one of these poor children."

Father Barbeau gave in, the more easily because
he did not care about any useless expense. Mother
Barbeau nursed her twins without complaint or
injury to her health, and her constitution was so



strong that two years after the twins were weaned
she gave birth to a pretty little girl, whom they
named Nanette, and whom she also nursed herself.
But it was a little too much for her, and she would
have found it hard to finish her task if her eldest
daughter, who happened then to have her first
child, had not relieved her from time to time by
nursing her little sister.

Thus the whole family soon grew and flourished
in the sun : the little uncles and the little aunts,
with the little nephews and the little nieces, none
of whom could be accused of being more noisy or
more quiet than the rest.



THE twins grew apace, with no more ill health
than other children ; and their dispositions
were so good and sweet that they seemed to suffer
less in teething and growing than the rest of the
little family.

They were blond, and remained blond all their
lives. They were very good-looking, with their
great blue eyes, their well-set shoulders, and their
straight and firmly knit bodies. They were taller
and stronger than boys of their age, and all the
people of the country-side who passed through the
town of Cosse stopped to look at them, wondering
at their resemblance to each other ; and everybody
went off saying, " All the same, that is a pretty
pair of boys."

It was for this reason that the twins early became
accustomed to stares and questions, and they learned
not to be shamefaced and foolish as they grew



older. They were at their ease with everybody,
and instead of hiding behind the bushes, as chil-
dren do with us whenever they see a stranger,
they confronted the first who came, although
always very politely, and answered all questions
without hanging their heads or waiting to be asked
twice. At first sight, no one could tell the dif-
ference between them, but thought them as much
alike as two peas. After a few minutes' observation,
however, it became apparent that Landry was a
hairbreadth taller and stronger, that his hair was
a little thicker, his nose somewhat more decided,
and his eye brighter. His forehead, too, was broader,
and his manner more determined, and also a mark
which his brother bore on his right cheek he had
intensified on his left cheek. The people of
the district, therefore, distinguished them easily;
but even they needed a moment for recognition,
and at twilight, or at a little distance, they
were almost always deceived, especially as the
voices of the twins were just alike, and because, as
the boys knew that they might be taken for each
other, they answered to each other's names without
taking the trouble to correct the mistake. Occa-
sionally Father Barbeau himself was confused. As



Mother Sagette had prophesied, their mother alone
never mistook them, whether they were in the
dark or at so great a distance that she could just
see them coming or hear their voices.

In fact, one was as good as the other; and if
Landry were a trifle more light-hearted and high-
spirited than his elder brother, Sylvinet was so
affectionate and so quick-witted that it was im-
possible not to like him as well as Landry. For
three months the parents tried to prevent them
from becoming too intimate. Three months in
the country are considered a long time for any-
thing to last in the face of discouragement. But
precautions seemed to be of no use ; and, moreover,
the parish priest said that Mother Sagette was in
her dotage, and that what God had put into the
laws of nature could not be undone by man.
Thus, little by little, every promise was forgotten.
The first time the children left off their frocks to
go to mass in trousers, they were dressed in the
same cloth, because both suits were made from
their mother's petticoat, and the cut was the same,
for the village tailor knew no other.

When they grew older they were observed to
like the same colors, and when their Aunt Rosette

2* 21


wished to make each of them a present of a cravat
on New-Year's day, they both chose a cravat of the
same lilac of the peddler who hawked his wares
from door to door, on the back of his Norman
horse. This aunt asked them if it were because
they wanted always to be dressed alike. The twins
did not look so far ahead ; Sylvinet answered that
the cravat was prettier in color and pattern than
all those in the peddler's pack, and Landry im-
mediately declared that all the other cravats were

" How do you like the color of my horse?"
asked the peddler, smiling.

" I think it is hideous," cried Landry. " It looks
just like an old magpie."

"As hideous as it can be," said Sylvinet. "It
looks exactly like an ill-plucked magpie."

" You see," said the peddler to the aunt, with a
shrewd look, " those children see things in the
same light. If one takes yellow for red, the other
will as quickly take red for yellow, and you must
not thwart them, because they say that when peo-
ple prevent twins from thinking themselves two
prints from the same plate, they become idiots, and
no longer know what they are talking about."


The peddler said this because his lilac cravats
were badly dyed, and he wished to sell two at

All this continued as time went on, and the
twins were dressed so much alike that they were
still more often mistaken for each other ; and either
by childish mischief, or by the force of that law
of nature which the priest thought it impossible to
undo, when one had broken the toe of his sabot,
the other soon made a hole in his own on the cor-
responding foot; when one tore his jacket or his
cap, without a moment's delay the other imitated
the tear so perfectly that one mishap seemed to
have befallen both ; and then our twins began to
laugh and look slyly innocent when they were
asked to explain what had happened.

For good or ill, their love for each other in-
creased continually as they grew older, and as soon
as they were able to think for themselves, they
made up their minds that neither could enjoy him-
self with other children in the other's absence.
Once, when their father tried to keep one of them
all day with him while the other stayed with the
mother, both were so sad, so pale, and so down-
hearted at their work, that they seemed ill. When



they met in the evening, they went along the

paths together, holding hands, and did not want

to go into the house, so delighted were they to be

together again, and because they were a little sulky

with their parents for having pained them. This

attempt was not repeated, for it must be admitted

that father and mother, as well as uncles and

aunts and brothers and sisters, loved the twins to

the point of weakness. They were proud of them

on account of the many compliments paid them,

and because they could certainly not be called ugly

or stupid or naughty. From time to time Father

Barbeau worried a little over what this habit of

being always together might result in when they

should be men, and remembering the words of

Mother Sagette, he tried to tease them so as to

make them jealous of each other. For example, if

they got into mischief, he pulled Sylvinet's ears,

saying to Landry: " This time I forgive you, for

you are generally the best behaved." But seeing

that his brother escaped, Sylvinet was consoled for

the tingling of his ears, and Landry cried as if it

were he who had received the punishment. He

tried also giving something which both wished for

to one alone ; but if it were anything good to eat,



they divided it immediately, or if it were a play-
thing or a tool, they would use it together, or give
it back and forth without distinction of ownership.
If anybody complimented one on his conduct with-
out seeming to do justice to the other, the latter
was proud and happy to see his twin petted and
encouraged, and began to flatter and caress him
himself. In short, it was labor lost to try to sepa-
rate them in mind or body ; and as it is hard to vex
the children we love, even for their good, things
were soon allowed to go as it pleased Heaven ; or
else this slight teasing became a game which did
not impose upon the children. They were very
sly, and sometimes in order to be left alone they
pretended to quarrel and fight ; but it was only in
fun, and while rolling about, they were careful
not to do each other any harm. If some idle fel-
low were astonished to see them fighting, they
would hide to laugh at him, and soon they could
be heard humming and chattering like two black-
birds on a branch.

In spite of this great resemblance and this great
affection, God, who has made no two things ex-
actly alike in heaven or earth, decreed that they
should have a very different fate ; and so it was

2 5


seen that they were two creatures separate in the
mind of God and distinct in their own natures.

This was seen only when it came to the test,
and this happened after they had made their first
communion together. Father Barbeau's family
was increasing, thanks to his two eldest daughters,
who had given birth to many fine children. His
eldest son, a fine handsome fellow, was in the
army; his sons-in-law were good workmen, but
labor was sometimes scarce. We have had in our
country a series of bad years, resulting from se-
vere storms as well as from business troubles,
which emptied the pockets of the country people
of more crowns than they brought back to them.
So Father Barbeau was not rich enough to keep
all his family at home, and he had to consider the
question of putting his twins out to work. Father
Caillaud, of the Priche, offered to let one drive his
oxen, as he had a large farm to cultivate, and his
boys were too old or too young for that kind of
work. Mother Barbeau was much disturbed and
grieved when her husband broached the subject to
her. It was just as if she had never foreseen that

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryGeorge SandFadette → online text (page 1 of 14)