Gustave Flaubert.

Sentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 online

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looked like flames. Coachmen, from the place where they sat high up,
gesticulated energetically, and then turned to go back. It was a case of
perpetual movement - one of the strangest sights that could be conceived.

"How all this," said Martinon, "would have amused Mademoiselle Cécile!"

"My wife, as you are aware, does not like my niece to come with us,"
returned M. Dambreuse with a smile.

One could scarcely recognise in him the same man. For the past three
months he had been crying, "Long live the Republic!" and he had even
voted in favour of the banishment of Orléans. But there should be an end
of concessions. He exhibited his rage so far as to carry a tomahawk in
his pocket.

Martinon had one, too. The magistracy not being any longer irremovable,
he had withdrawn from Parquet, so that he surpassed M. Dambreuse in his
display of violence.

The banker had a special antipathy to Lamartine (for having supported
Ledru-Rollin) and, at the same time, to Pierre Leroux, Proudhon,
Considérant, Lamennais, and all the cranks, all the Socialists.

"For, in fact, what is it they want? The duty on meat and arrest for
debt have been abolished. Now the project of a bank for mortgages is
under consideration; the other day it was a national bank; and here are
five millions in the Budget for the working-men! But luckily, it is
over, thanks to Monsieur de Falloux! Good-bye to them! let them go!"

In fact, not knowing how to maintain the three hundred thousand men in
the national workshops, the Minister of Public Works had that very day
signed an order inviting all citizens between the ages of eighteen and
twenty to take service as soldiers, or else to start for the provinces
to cultivate the ground there.

They were indignant at the alternative thus put before them, convinced
that the object was to destroy the Republic. They were aggrieved by the
thought of having to live at a distance from the capital, as if it were
a kind of exile. They saw themselves dying of fevers in desolate parts
of the country. To many of them, moreover, who had been accustomed to
work of a refined description, agriculture seemed a degradation; it was,
in short, a mockery, a decisive breach of all the promises which had
been made to them. If they offered any resistance, force would be
employed against them. They had no doubt of it, and made preparations to
anticipate it.

About nine o'clock the riotous assemblies which had formed at the
Bastille and at the Châtelet ebbed back towards the boulevard. From the
Porte Saint-Denis to the Porte Saint-Martin nothing could be seen save
an enormous swarm of people, a single mass of a dark blue shade, nearly
black. The men of whom one caught a glimpse all had glowing eyes, pale
complexions, faces emaciated with hunger and excited with a sense of
wrong.

Meanwhile, some clouds had gathered. The tempestuous sky roused the
electricity that was in the people, and they kept whirling about of
their own accord with the great swaying movements of a swelling sea, and
one felt that there was an incalculable force in the depths of this
excited throng, and as it were, the energy of an element. Then they all
began exclaiming: "Lamps! lamps!" Many windows had no illumination, and
stones were flung at the panes. M. Dambreuse deemed it prudent to
withdraw from the scene. The two young men accompanied him home. He
predicted great disasters. The people might once more invade the
Chamber, and on this point he told them how he should have been killed
on the fifteenth of May had it not been for the devotion of a National
Guard.

"But I had forgotten! he is a friend of yours - your friend the
earthenware manufacturer - Jacques Arnoux!" The rioters had been actually
throttling him, when that brave citizen caught him in his arms and put
him safely out of their reach.

So it was that, since then, there had been a kind of intimacy between
them.

"It would be necessary, one of these days, to dine together, and, since
you often see him, give him the assurance that I like him very much. He
is an excellent man, and has, in my opinion, been slandered; and he has
his wits about him in the morning. My compliments once more! A very good
evening!"

Frederick, after he had quitted M. Dambreuse, went back to the
Maréchale, and, in a very gloomy fashion, said that she should choose
between him and Arnoux. She replied that she did not understand "dumps
of this sort," that she did not care about Arnoux, and had no desire to
cling to him. Frederick was thirsting to fly from Paris. She did not
offer any opposition to this whim; and next morning they set out for
Fontainebleau.

The hotel at which they stayed could be distinguished from others by a
fountain that rippled in the middle of the courtyard attached to it. The
doors of the various apartments opened out on a corridor, as in
monasteries. The room assigned to them was large, well-furnished, hung
with print, and noiseless, owing to the scarcity of tourists. Alongside
the houses, people who had nothing to do kept passing up and down; then,
under their windows, when the day was declining, children in the street
would engage in a game of base; and this tranquillity, following so soon
the tumult they had witnessed in Paris, filled them with astonishment
and exercised over them a soothing influence.

Every morning at an early hour, they went to pay a visit to the château.
As they passed in through the gate, they had a view of its entire front,
with the five pavilions covered with sharp-pointed roofs, and its
staircase of horseshoe-shape opening out to the end of the courtyard,
which is hemmed in, to right and left, by two main portions of the
building further down. On the paved ground lichens blended their colours
here and there with the tawny hue of bricks, and the entire appearance
of the palace, rust-coloured like old armour, had about it something of
the impassiveness of royalty - a sort of warlike, melancholy grandeur.

At last, a man-servant made his appearance with a bunch of keys in his
hand. He first showed them the apartments of the queens, the Pope's
oratory, the gallery of Francis I., the mahogany table on which the
Emperor signed his abdication, and in one of the rooms cut in two the
old Galerie des Cerfs, the place where Christine got Monaldeschi
assassinated. Rosanette listened to this narrative attentively, then,
turning towards Frederick:

"No doubt it was through jealousy? Mind yourself!" After this they
passed through the Council Chamber, the Guards' Room, the Throne Room,
and the drawing-room of Louis XIII. The uncurtained windows sent forth a
white light. The handles of the window-fastenings and the copper feet of
the pier-tables were slightly tarnished with dust. The armchairs were
everywhere hidden under coarse linen covers. Above the doors could be
seen reliquaries of Louis XIV., and here and there hangings representing
the gods of Olympus, Psyche, or the battles of Alexander.

As she was passing in front of the mirrors, Rosanette stopped for a
moment to smooth her head-bands.

After passing through the donjon-court and the Saint-Saturnin Chapel,
they reached the Festal Hall.

They were dazzled by the magnificence of the ceiling, which was divided
into octagonal apartments set off with gold and silver, more finely
chiselled than a jewel, and by the vast number of paintings covering the
walls, from the immense chimney-piece, where the arms of France were
surrounded by crescents and quivers, down to the musicians' gallery,
which had been erected at the other end along the entire width of the
hall. The ten arched windows were wide open; the sun threw its lustre on
the pictures, so that they glowed beneath its rays; the blue sky
continued in an endless curve the ultramarine of the arches; and from
the depths of the woods, where the lofty summits of the trees filled up
the horizon, there seemed to come an echo of flourishes blown by ivory
trumpets, and mythological ballets, gathering together under the foliage
princesses and nobles disguised as nymphs or fauns - an epoch of
ingenuous science, of violent passions, and sumptuous art, when the
ideal was to sweep away the world in a vision of the Hesperides, and
when the mistresses of kings mingled their glory with the stars. There
was a portrait of one of the most beautiful of these celebrated women in
the form of Diana the huntress, and even the Infernal Diana, no doubt in
order to indicate the power which she possessed even beyond the limits
of the tomb. All these symbols confirmed her glory, and there remained
about the spot something of her, an indistinct voice, a radiation that
stretched out indefinitely. A feeling of mysterious retrospective
voluptuousness took possession of Frederick.

In order to divert these passionate longings into another channel, he
began to gaze tenderly on Rosanette, and asked her would she not like to
have been this woman?

"What woman?"

"Diane de Poitiers!"

He repeated:

"Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of Henry II."

She gave utterance to a little "Ah!" that was all.

Her silence clearly demonstrated that she knew nothing about the matter,
and had failed to comprehend his meaning, so that out of complaisance he
said to her:

"Perhaps you are getting tired of this?"

"No, no - quite the reverse." And lifting up her chin, and casting around
her a glance of the vaguest description, Rosanette let these words
escape her lips:

"It recalls some memories to me!"

Meanwhile, it was easy to trace on her countenance a strained
expression, a certain sense of awe; and, as this air of gravity made her
look all the prettier, Frederick overlooked it.

The carps' pond amused her more. For a quarter of an hour she kept
flinging pieces of bread into the water in order to see the fishes
skipping about.

Frederick had seated himself by her side under the linden-trees. He saw
in imagination all the personages who had haunted these walls - Charles
V., the Valois Kings, Henry IV., Peter the Great, Jean Jacques Rousseau,
and "the fair mourners of the stage-boxes," Voltaire, Napoléon, Pius
VII., and Louis Philippe; and he felt himself environed, elbowed, by
these tumultuous dead people. He was stunned by such a confusion of
historic figures, even though he found a certain fascination in
contemplating them, nevertheless.

At length they descended into the flower-garden.

It is a vast rectangle, which presents to the spectator, at the first
glance, its wide yellow walks, its square grass-plots, its ribbons of
box-wood, its yew-trees shaped like pyramids, its low-lying green
swards, and its narrow borders, in which thinly-sown flowers make spots
on the grey soil. At the end of the garden may be seen a park through
whose entire length a canal makes its way.

Royal residences have attached to them a peculiar kind of melancholy,
due, no doubt, to their dimensions being much too large for the limited
number of guests entertained within them, to the silence which one feels
astonished to find in them after so many flourishes of trumpets, to the
immobility of their luxurious furniture, which attests by the aspect of
age and decay it gradually assumes the transitory character of
dynasties, the eternal wretchedness of all things; and this exhalation
of the centuries, enervating and funereal, like the perfume of a mummy,
makes itself felt even in untutored brains. Rosanette yawned
immoderately. They went back to the hotel.

After their breakfast an open carriage came round for them. They started
from Fontainebleau at a point where several roads diverged, then went up
at a walking pace a gravelly road leading towards a little pine-wood.
The trees became larger, and, from time to time, the driver would say,
"This is the Frères Siamois, the Pharamond, the Bouquet de Roi," not
forgetting a single one of these notable sites, sometimes even drawing
up to enable them to admire the scene.

They entered the forest of Franchard. The carriage glided over the grass
like a sledge; pigeons which they could not see began cooing. Suddenly,
the waiter of a café made his appearance, and they alighted before the
railing of a garden in which a number of round tables were placed. Then,
passing on the left by the walls of a ruined abbey, they made their way
over big boulders of stone, and soon reached the lower part of the
gorge.

It is covered on one side with sandstones and juniper-trees tangled
together, while on the other side the ground, almost quite bare, slopes
towards the hollow of the valley, where a foot-track makes a pale line
through the brown heather; and far above could be traced a flat
cone-shaped summit with a telegraph-tower behind it.

Half-an-hour later they stepped out of the vehicle once more, in order
to climb the heights of Aspremont.

The roads form zigzags between the thick-set pine-trees under rocks with
angular faces. All this corner of the forest has a sort of choked-up
look - a rather wild and solitary aspect. One thinks of hermits in
connection with it - companions of huge stags with fiery crosses between
their horns, who were wont to welcome with paternal smiles the good
kings of France when they knelt before their grottoes. The warm air was
filled with a resinous odour, and roots of trees crossed one another
like veins close to the soil. Rosanette slipped over them, grew
dejected, and felt inclined to shed tears.

But, at the very top, she became joyous once more on finding, under a
roof made of branches, a sort of tavern where carved wood was sold. She
drank a bottle of lemonade, and bought a holly-stick; and, without one
glance towards the landscape which disclosed itself from the plateau,
she entered the Brigands' Cave, with a waiter carrying a torch in front
of her. Their carriage was awaiting them in the Bas Breau.

A painter in a blue blouse was working at the foot of an oak-tree with
his box of colours on his knees. He raised his head and watched them as
they passed.

In the middle of the hill of Chailly, the sudden breaking of a cloud
caused them to turn up the hoods of their cloaks. Almost immediately the
rain stopped, and the paving-stones of the street glistened under the
sun when they were re-entering the town.

Some travellers, who had recently arrived, informed them that a terrible
battle had stained Paris with blood. Rosanette and her lover were not
surprised. Then everybody left; the hotel became quiet, the gas was put
out, and they were lulled to sleep by the murmur of the fountain in the
courtyard.

On the following day they went to see the Wolf's Gorge, the Fairies'
Pool, the Long Rock, and the _Marlotte_.[G] Two days later, they began
again at random, just as their coachman thought fit to drive them,
without asking where they were, and often even neglecting the famous
sites.

They felt so comfortable in their old landau, low as a sofa, and covered
with a rug made of a striped material which was quite faded. The moats,
filled with brushwood, stretched out under their eyes with a gentle,
continuous movement. White rays passed like arrows through the tall
ferns. Sometimes a road that was no longer used presented itself before
them, in a straight line, and here and there might be seen a feeble
growth of weeds. In the centre between four cross-roads, a crucifix
extended its four arms. In other places, stakes were bending down like
dead trees, and little curved paths, which were lost under the leaves,
made them feel a longing to pursue them. At the same moment the horse
turned round; they entered there; they plunged into the mire. Further
down moss had sprouted out at the sides of the deep ruts.


[G] The "Overall." The word _Marlotte_ means a loose wrapper worn by
ladies in the sixteenth century. - TRANSLATOR.


They believed that they were far away from all other people, quite
alone. But suddenly a game-keeper with his gun, or a band of women in
rags with big bundles of fagots on their backs, would hurry past them.

When the carriage stopped, there was a universal silence. The only
sounds that reached them were the blowing of the horse in the shafts
with the faint cry of a bird more than once repeated.

The light at certain points illuminating the outskirts of the wood, left
the interior in deep shadow, or else, attenuated in the foreground by a
sort of twilight, it exhibited in the background violet vapours, a white
radiance. The midday sun, falling directly on wide tracts of greenery,
made splashes of light over them, hung gleaming drops of silver from the
ends of the branches, streaked the grass with long lines of emeralds,
and flung gold spots on the beds of dead leaves. When they let their
heads fall back, they could distinguish the sky through the tops of the
trees. Some of them, which were enormously high, looked like patriarchs
or emperors, or, touching one another at their extremities formed with
their long shafts, as it were, triumphal arches; others, sprouting forth
obliquely from below, seemed like falling columns. This heap of big
vertical lines gaped open. Then, enormous green billows unrolled
themselves in unequal embossments as far as the surface of the valleys,
towards which advanced the brows of other hills looking down on white
plains, which ended by losing themselves in an undefined pale tinge.

Standing side by side, on some rising ground, they felt, as they drank
in the air, the pride of a life more free penetrating into the depths of
their souls, with a superabundance of energy, a joy which they could not
explain.

The variety of trees furnished a spectacle of the most diversified
character. The beeches with their smooth white bark twisted their tops
together. Ash trees softly curved their bluish branches. In the tufts of
the hornbeams rose up holly stiff as bronze. Then came a row of thin
birches, bent into elegiac attitudes; and the pine-trees, symmetrical as
organ pipes, seemed to be singing a song as they swayed to and fro.
There were gigantic oaks with knotted forms, which had been violently
shaken, stretched themselves out from the soil and pressed close against
each other, and with firm trunks resembling torsos, launched forth to
heaven despairing appeals with their bare arms and furious threats, like
a group of Titans struck motionless in the midst of their rage. An
atmosphere of gloom, a feverish languor, brooded over the pools, whose
sheets of water were cut into flakes by the overshadowing thorn-trees.
The lichens on their banks, where the wolves come to drink, are of the
colour of sulphur, burnt, as it were, by the footprints of witches, and
the incessant croaking of the frogs responds to the cawing of the crows
as they wheel through the air. After this they passed through the
monotonous glades, planted here and there with a staddle. The sound of
iron falling with a succession of rapid blows could be heard. On the
side of the hill a group of quarrymen were breaking the rocks. These
rocks became more and more numerous and finally filled up the entire
landscape, cube-shaped like houses, flat like flagstones, propping up,
overhanging, and became intermingled with each other, as if they were
the ruins, unrecognisable and monstrous, of some vanished city. But the
wild chaos they exhibited made one rather dream of volcanoes, of
deluges, of great unknown cataclysms. Frederick said they had been there
since the beginning of the world, and would remain so till the end.
Rosanette turned aside her head, declaring that this would drive her out
of her mind, and went off to collect sweet heather. The little violet
blossoms, heaped up near one another, formed unequal plates, and the
soil, which was giving way underneath, placed soft dark fringes on the
sand spangled with mica.

One day they reached a point half-way up a hill, where the soil was full
of sand. Its surface, untrodden till now, was streaked so as to resemble
symmetrical waves. Here and there, like promontories on the dry bed of
an ocean, rose up rocks with the vague outlines of animals, tortoises
thrusting forward their heads, crawling seals, hippopotami, and bears.
Not a soul around them. Not a single sound. The shingle glowed under the
dazzling rays of the sun, and all at once in this vibration of light the
specimens of the brute creation that met their gaze began to move about.
They returned home quickly, flying from the dizziness that had seized
hold of them, almost dismayed.

The gravity of the forest exercised an influence over them, and hours
passed in silence, during which, allowing themselves to yield to the
lulling effects of springs, they remained as it were sunk in the torpor
of a calm intoxication. With his arm around her waist, he listened to
her talking while the birds were warbling, noticed with the same glance
the black grapes on her bonnet and the juniper-berries, the draperies of
her veil, and the spiral forms assumed by the clouds, and when he bent
towards her the freshness of her skin mingled with the strong perfume of
the woods. They found amusement in everything. They showed one another,
as a curiosity, gossamer threads of the Virgin hanging from bushes,
holes full of water in the middle of stones, a squirrel on the branches,
the way in which two butterflies kept flying after them; or else, at
twenty paces from them, under the trees, a hind strode on peacefully,
with an air of nobility and gentleness, its doe walking by its side.

Rosanette would have liked to run after it to embrace it.

She got very much alarmed once, when a man suddenly presenting himself,
showed her three vipers in a box. She wildly flung herself on
Frederick's breast. He felt happy at the thought that she was weak and
that he was strong enough to defend her.

That evening they dined at an inn on the banks of the Seine. The table
was near the window, Rosanette sitting opposite him, and he contemplated
her little well-shaped white nose, her turned-up lips, her bright eyes,
the swelling bands of her nut-brown hair, and her pretty oval face. Her
dress of raw silk clung to her somewhat drooping shoulders, and her two
hands, emerging from their sleeves, joined close together as if they
were one - carved, poured out wine, moved over the table-cloth. The
waiters placed before them a chicken with its four limbs stretched out,
a stew of eels in a dish of pipe-clay, wine that had got spoiled, bread
that was too hard, and knives with notches in them. All these things
made the repast more enjoyable and strengthened the illusion. They
fancied that they were in the middle of a journey in Italy on their
honeymoon. Before starting again they went for a walk along the bank of
the river.

The soft blue sky, rounded like a dome, leaned at the horizon on the
indentations of the woods. On the opposite side, at the end of the
meadow, there was a village steeple; and further away, to the left, the
roof of a house made a red spot on the river, which wound its way
without any apparent motion. Some rushes bent over it, however, and the
water lightly shook some poles fixed at its edge in order to hold nets.
An osier bow-net and two or three old fishing-boats might be seen there.
Near the inn a girl in a straw hat was drawing buckets out of a well.
Every time they came up again, Frederick heard the grating sound of the
chain with a feeling of inexpressible delight.

He had no doubt that he would be happy till the end of his days, so
natural did his felicity appear to him, so much a part of his life, and
so intimately associated with this woman's being. He was irresistibly
impelled to address her with words of endearment. She answered with
pretty little speeches, light taps on the shoulder, displays of
tenderness that charmed him by their unexpectedness. He discovered in
her quite a new sort of beauty, in fact, which was perhaps only the
reflection of surrounding things, unless it happened to bud forth from
their hidden potentialities.

When they were lying down in the middle of the field, he would stretch
himself out with his head on her lap, under the shelter of her parasol;
or else with their faces turned towards the green sward, in the centre
of which they rested, they kept gazing towards one another so that their
pupils seemed to intermingle, thirsting for one another and ever
satiating their thirst, and then with half-closed eyelids they lay side
by side without uttering a single word.

Now and then the distant rolling of a drum reached their ears. It was
the signal-drum which was being beaten in the different villages calling
on people to go and defend Paris.

"Oh! look here! 'tis the rising!" said Frederick, with a disdainful
pity, all this excitement now presenting to his mind a pitiful aspect by


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Online LibraryGustave FlaubertSentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 → online text (page 11 of 21)