Gustave Flaubert.

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

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the side of their love and of eternal nature.

And they talked about whatever happened to come into their heads, things
that were perfectly familiar to them, persons in whom they took no
interest, a thousand trifles. She chatted with him about her chambermaid
and her hairdresser. One day she was so self-forgetful that she told him
her age - twenty-nine years. She was becoming quite an old woman.

Several times, without intending it, she gave him some particulars with
reference to her own life. She had been a "shop girl," had taken a trip
to England, and had begun studying for the stage; all this she told
without any explanation of how these changes had come about; and he
found it impossible to reconstruct her entire history.

She related to him more about herself one day when they were seated side
by side under a plane-tree at the back of a meadow. At the road-side,
further down, a little barefooted girl, standing amid a heap of dust,
was making a cow go to pasture. As soon as she caught sight of them she
came up to beg, and while with one hand she held up her tattered
petticoat, she kept scratching with the other her black hair, which,
like a wig of Louis XIV.'s time, curled round her dark face, lighted by
a magnificent pair of eyes.

"She will be very pretty by-and-by," said Frederick.

"How lucky she is, if she has no mother!" remarked Rosanette.

"Eh? How is that?"

"Certainly. I, if it were not for mine - - "

She sighed, and began to speak about her childhood. Her parents were
weavers in the Croix-Rousse. She acted as an apprentice to her father.
In vain did the poor man wear himself out with hard work; his wife was
continually abusing him, and sold everything for drink. Rosanette could
see, as if it were yesterday, the room they occupied with the looms
ranged lengthwise against the windows, the pot boiling on the stove, the
bed painted like mahogany, a cupboard facing it, and the obscure loft
where she used to sleep up to the time when she was fifteen years old.
At length a gentleman made his appearance on the scene - a fat man with a
face of the colour of boxwood, the manners of a devotee, and a suit of
black clothes. Her mother and this man had a conversation together, with
the result that three days afterwards - Rosanette stopped, and with a
look in which there was as much bitterness as shamelessness:

"It was done!"

Then, in response to a gesture of Frederick.

"As he was married (he would have been afraid of compromising himself in
his own house), I was brought to a private room in a restaurant, and
told that I would be happy, that I would get a handsome present.

"At the door, the first thing that struck me was a candelabrum of
vermilion on a table, on which there were two covers. A mirror on the
ceiling showed their reflections, and the blue silk hangings on the
walls made the entire apartment resemble an alcove; I was seized with
astonishment. You understand - a poor creature who had never seen
anything before. In spite of my dazed condition of mind, I got
frightened. I wanted to go away. However, I remained.

"The only seat in the room was a sofa close beside the table. It was so
soft that it gave way under me. The mouth of the hot-air stove in the
middle of the carpet sent out towards me a warm breath, and there I sat
without taking anything. The waiter, who was standing near me, urged me
to eat. He poured out for me immediately a large glass of wine. My head
began to swim, I wanted to open the window. He said to me:

"'No, Mademoiselle! that is forbidden.'"

"And he left me.

"The table was covered with a heap of things that I had no knowledge of.
Nothing there seemed to me good. Then I fell back on a pot of jam, and
patiently waited. I did not know what prevented him from coming. It was
very late - midnight at last - I couldn't bear the fatigue any longer.
While pushing aside one of the pillows, in order to hear better, I found
under my hand a kind of album - a book of engravings, they were vulgar
pictures. I was sleeping on top of it when he entered the room."

She hung down her head and remained pensive.

The leaves rustled around them. Amid the tangled grass a great foxglove
was swaying to and fro. The sunlight flowed like a wave over the green
expanse, and the silence was interrupted at intervals by the browsing of
the cow, which they could no longer see.

Rosanette kept her eyes fixed on a particular spot, three paces away
from her, her nostrils heaving, and her mind absorbed in thought.
Frederick caught hold of her hand.

"How you suffered, poor darling!"

"Yes," said she, "more than you imagine! So much so that I wanted to
make an end of it - they had to fish me up!"

"What?"

"Ah! think no more about it! I love you, I am happy! kiss me!"

And she picked off, one by one, the sprigs of the thistles which clung
to the hem of her gown.

Frederick was thinking more than all on what she had not told him. What
were the means by which she had gradually emerged from wretchedness? To
what lover did she owe her education? What had occurred in her life down
to the day when he first came to her house? Her latest avowal was a bar
to these questions. All he asked her was how she had made Arnoux's
acquaintance.

"Through the Vatnaz."

"Wasn't it you that I once saw with both of them at the Palais-Royal?"

He referred to the exact date. Rosanette made a movement which showed a
sense of deep pain.

"Yes, it is true! I was not gay at that time!"

But Arnoux had proved himself a very good fellow. Frederick had no doubt
of it. However, their friend was a queer character, full of faults. He
took care to recall them. She quite agreed with him on this point.

"Never mind! One likes him, all the same, this camel!"

"Still - even now?" said Frederick.

She began to redden, half smiling, half angry.

"Oh, no! that's an old story. I don't keep anything hidden from you.
Even though it might be so, with him it is different. Besides, I don't
think you are nice towards your victim!"

"My victim!"

Rosanette caught hold of his chin.

"No doubt!"

And in the lisping fashion in which nurses talk to babies:

"Have always been so good! Never went a-by-by with his wife?"

"I! never at any time!"

Rosanette smiled. He felt hurt by this smile of hers, which seemed to
him a proof of indifference.

But she went on gently, and with one of those looks which seem to appeal
for a denial of the truth:

"Are you perfectly certain?"

"Not a doubt of it!"

Frederick solemnly declared on his word of honour that he had never
bestowed a thought on Madame Arnoux, as he was too much in love with
another woman.

"Why, with you, my beautiful one!"

"Ah! don't laugh at me! You only annoy me!"

He thought it a prudent course to invent a story - to pretend that he was
swayed by a passion. He manufactured some circumstantial details. This
woman, however, had rendered him very unhappy.

"Decidedly, you have not been lucky," said Rosanette.

"Oh! oh! I may have been!" wishing to convey in this way that he had
been often fortunate in his love-affairs, so that she might have a
better opinion of him, just as Rosanette did not avow how many lovers
she had had, in order that he might have more respect for her - for there
will always be found in the midst of the most intimate confidences
restrictions, false shame, delicacy, and pity. You divine either in the
other or in yourself precipices or miry paths which prevent you from
penetrating any farther; moreover, you feel that you will not be
understood. It is hard to express accurately the thing you mean,
whatever it may be; and this is the reason why perfect unions are rare.

The poor Maréchale had never known one better than this. Often, when she
gazed at Frederick, tears came into her eyes; then she would raise them
or cast a glance towards the horizon, as if she saw there some bright
dawn, perspectives of boundless felicity. At last, she confessed one day
to him that she wished to have a mass said, "so that it might bring a
blessing on our love."

How was it, then, that she had resisted him so long? She could not tell
herself. He repeated his question a great many times; and she replied,
as she clasped him in her arms:

"It was because I was afraid, my darling, of loving you too well!"

On Sunday morning, Frederick read, amongst the list of the wounded given
in a newspaper, the name of Dussardier. He uttered a cry, and showing
the paper to Rosanette, declared that he was going to start at once for
Paris.

"For what purpose?"

"In order to see him, to nurse him!"

"You are not going, I'm sure, to leave me by myself?"

"Come with me!"

"Ha! to poke my nose in a squabble of that sort? Oh, no, thanks!"

"However, I cannot - - "

"Ta! ta! ta! as if they had need of nurses in the hospitals! And then,
what concern is he of yours any longer? Everyone for himself!"

He was roused to indignation by this egoism on her part, and he
reproached himself for not being in the capital with the others. Such
indifference to the misfortunes of the nation had in it something
shabby, and only worthy of a small shopkeeper. And now, all of a sudden,
his intrigue with Rosanette weighed on his mind as if it were a crime.
For an hour they were quite cool towards each other.

Then she appealed to him to wait, and not expose himself to danger.

"Suppose you happen to be killed?"

"Well, I should only have done my duty!"

Rosanette gave a jump. His first duty was to love her; but, no doubt, he
did not care about her any longer. There was no common sense in what he
was going to do. Good heavens! what an idea!

Frederick rang for his bill. But to get back to Pans was not an easy
matter. The Leloir stagecoach had just left; the Lecomte berlins would
not be starting; the diligence from Bourbonnais would not be passing
till a late hour that night, and perhaps it might be full, one could
never tell. When he had lost a great deal of time in making enquiries
about the various modes of conveyance, the idea occurred to him to
travel post. The master of the post-house refused to supply him with
horses, as Frederick had no passport. Finally, he hired an open
carriage - the same one in which they had driven about the country - and
at about five o'clock they arrived in front of the Hôtel du Commerce at
Melun.

The market-place was covered with piles of arms. The prefect had
forbidden the National Guards to proceed towards Paris. Those who did
not belong to his department wished to go on. There was a great deal of
shouting, and the inn was packed with a noisy crowd.

Rosanette, seized with terror, said she would not go a step further, and
once more begged of him to stay. The innkeeper and his wife joined in
her entreaties. A decent sort of man who happened to be dining there
interposed, and observed that the fighting would be over in a very short
time. Besides, one ought to do his duty. Thereupon the Maréchale
redoubled her sobs. Frederick got exasperated. He handed her his purse,
kissed her quickly, and disappeared.

On reaching Corbeil, he learned at the station that the insurgents had
cut the rails at regular distances, and the coachman refused to drive
him any farther; he said that his horses were "overspent."

Through his influence, however, Frederick managed to procure an
indifferent cabriolet, which, for the sum of sixty francs, without
taking into account the price of a drink for the driver, was to convey
him as far as the Italian barrier. But at a hundred paces from the
barrier his coachman made him descend and turn back. Frederick was
walking along the pathway, when suddenly a sentinel thrust out his
bayonet. Four men seized him, exclaiming:

"This is one of them! Look out! Search him! Brigand! scoundrel!"

And he was so thoroughly stupefied that he let himself be dragged to the
guard-house of the barrier, at the very point where the Boulevards des
Gobelins and de l'Hôpital and Rues Godefroy and Mauffetard converge.

Four barricades formed at the ends of four different ways enormous
sloping ramparts of paving-stones. Torches were glimmering here and
there. In spite of the rising clouds of dust he could distinguish
foot-soldiers of the Line and National Guards, all with their faces
blackened, their chests uncovered, and an aspect of wild excitement.
They had just captured the square, and had shot down a number of men.
Their rage had not yet cooled. Frederick said he had come from
Fontainebleau to the relief of a wounded comrade who lodged in the Rue
Bellefond. Not one of them would believe him at first. They examined his
hands; they even put their noses to his ear to make sure that he did not
smell of powder.

However, by dint of repeating the same thing, he finally satisfied a
captain, who directed two fusiliers to conduct him to the guard-house of
the Jardin des Plantes. They descended the Boulevard de l'Hôpital. A
strong breeze was blowing. It restored him to animation.

After this they turned up the Rue du Marché aux Chevaux. The Jardin des
Plantes at the right formed a long black mass, whilst at the left the
entire front of the Pitié, illuminated at every window, blazed like a
conflagration, and shadows passed rapidly over the window-panes.

The two men in charge of Frederick went away. Another accompanied him to
the Polytechnic School. The Rue Saint-Victor was quite dark, without a
gas-lamp or a light at any window to relieve the gloom. Every ten
minutes could be heard the words:

"Sentinels! mind yourselves!"

And this exclamation, cast into the midst of the silence, was prolonged
like the repeated striking of a stone against the side of a chasm as it
falls through space.

Every now and then the stamp of heavy footsteps could be heard drawing
nearer. This was nothing less than a patrol consisting of about a
hundred men. From this confused mass escaped whisperings and the dull
clanking of iron; and, moving away with a rhythmic swing, it melted into
the darkness.

In the middle of the crossing, where several streets met, a dragoon sat
motionless on his horse. From time to time an express rider passed at a
rapid gallop; then the silence was renewed. Cannons, which were being
drawn along the streets, made, on the pavement, a heavy rolling sound
that seemed full of menace - a sound different from every ordinary
sound - which oppressed the heart. The sounds was profound, unlimited - a
black silence. Men in white blouses accosted the soldiers, spoke one or
two words to them, and then vanished like phantoms.

The guard-house of the Polytechnic School overflowed with people. The
threshold was blocked up with women, who had come to see their sons or
their husbands. They were sent on to the Panthéon, which had been
transformed into a dead-house; and no attention was paid to Frederick.
He pressed forward resolutely, solemnly declaring that his friend
Dussardier was waiting for him, that he was at death's door. At last
they sent a corporal to accompany him to the top of the Rue
Saint-Jacques, to the Mayor's office in the twelfth arrondissement.

The Place du Panthéon was filled with soldiers lying asleep on straw.
The day was breaking; the bivouac-fires were extinguished.

The insurrection had left terrible traces in this quarter. The soil of
the streets, from one end to the other, was covered with risings of
various sizes. On the wrecked barricades had been piled up omnibuses,
gas-pipes, and cart-wheels. In certain places there were little dark
pools, which must have been blood. The houses were riddled with
projectiles, and their framework could be seen under the plaster that
was peeled off. Window-blinds, each attached only by a single nail, hung
like rags. The staircases having fallen in, doors opened on vacancy. The
interiors of rooms could be perceived with their papers in strips. In
some instances dainty objects had remained in them quite intact.
Frederick noticed a timepiece, a parrot-stick, and some engravings.

When he entered the Mayor's office, the National Guards were chattering
without a moment's pause about the deaths of Bréa and Négrier, about
the deputy Charbonnel, and about the Archbishop of Paris. He heard them
saying that the Duc d'Aumale had landed at Boulogne, that Barbès had
fled from Vincennes, that the artillery were coming up from Bourges, and
that abundant aid was arriving from the provinces. About three o'clock
some one brought good news.

Truce-bearers from the insurgents were in conference with the President
of the Assembly.

Thereupon they all made merry; and as he had a dozen francs left,
Frederick sent for a dozen bottles of wine, hoping by this means to
hasten his deliverance. Suddenly a discharge of musketry was heard. The
drinking stopped. They peered with distrustful eyes into the unknown - it
might be Henry V.

In order to get rid of responsibility, they took Frederick to the
Mayor's office in the eleventh arrondissement, which he was not
permitted to leave till nine o'clock in the morning.

He started at a running pace from the Quai Voltaire. At an open window
an old man in his shirt-sleeves was crying, with his eyes raised. The
Seine glided peacefully along. The sky was of a clear blue; and in the
trees round the Tuileries birds were singing.

Frederick was just crossing the Place du Carrousel when a litter
happened to be passing by. The soldiers at the guard-house immediately
presented arms; and the officer, putting his hand to his shako, said:
"Honour to unfortunate bravery!" This phrase seemed to have almost
become a matter of duty. He who pronounced it appeared to be, on each
occasion, filled with profound emotion. A group of people in a state of
fierce excitement followed the litter, exclaiming:

"We will avenge you! we will avenge you!"

The vehicles kept moving about on the boulevard, and women were making
lint before the doors. Meanwhile, the outbreak had been quelled, or very
nearly so. A proclamation from Cavaignac, just posted up, announced the
fact. At the top of the Rue Vivienne, a company of the Garde Mobile
appeared. Then the citizens uttered cries of enthusiasm. They raised
their hats, applauded, danced, wished to embrace them, and to invite
them to drink; and flowers, flung by ladies, fell from the balconies.

At last, at ten o'clock, at the moment when the cannon was booming as an
attack was being made on the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, Frederick reached
the abode of Dussardier. He found the bookkeeper in his garret, lying
asleep on his back. From the adjoining apartment a woman came forth with
silent tread - Mademoiselle Vatnaz.

She led Frederick aside and explained to him how Dussardier had got
wounded.

On Saturday, on the top of a barricade in the Rue Lafayette, a young
fellow wrapped in a tricoloured flag cried out to the National Guards:
"Are you going to shoot your brothers?" As they advanced, Dussardier
threw down his gun, pushed away the others, sprang over the barricade,
and, with a blow of an old shoe, knocked down the insurgent, from whom
he tore the flag. He had afterwards been found under a heap of rubbish
with a slug of copper in his thigh. It was found necessary to make an
incision in order to extract the projectile. Mademoiselle Vatnaz
arrived the same evening, and since then had not quitted his side.

She intelligently prepared everything that was needed for the dressings,
assisted him in taking his medicine or other liquids, attended to his
slightest wishes, left and returned again with footsteps more light than
those of a fly, and gazed at him with eyes full of tenderness.

Frederick, during the two following weeks, did not fail to come back
every morning. One day, while he was speaking about the devotion of the
Vatnaz, Dussardier shrugged his shoulders:

"Oh! no! she does this through interested motives."

"Do you think so?"

He replied: "I am sure of it!" without seeming disposed to give any
further explanation.

She had loaded him with kindnesses, carrying her attentions so far as to
bring him the newspapers in which his gallant action was extolled. He
even confessed to Frederick that he felt uneasy in his conscience.

Perhaps he ought to have put himself on the other side with the men in
blouses; for, indeed, a heap of promises had been made to them which had
not been carried out. Those who had vanquished them hated the Republic;
and, in the next place, they had treated them very harshly. No doubt
they were in the wrong - not quite, however; and the honest fellow was
tormented by the thought that he might have fought against the righteous
cause. Sénécal, who was immured in the Tuileries, under the terrace at
the water's edge, had none of this mental anguish.

There were nine hundred men in the place, huddled together in the midst
of filth, without the slightest order, their faces blackened with powder
and clotted blood, shivering with ague and breaking out into cries of
rage, and those who were brought there to die were not separated from
the rest. Sometimes, on hearing the sound of a detonation, they believed
that they were all going to be shot. Then they dashed themselves against
the walls, and after that fell back again into their places, so much
stupefied by suffering that it seemed to them that they were living in a
nightmare, a mournful hallucination. The lamp, which hung from the
arched roof, looked like a stain of blood, and little green and yellow
flames fluttered about, caused by the emanations from the vault. Through
fear of epidemics, a commission was appointed. When he had advanced a
few steps, the President recoiled, frightened by the stench from the
excrements and from the corpses.

As soon as the prisoners drew near a vent-hole, the National Guards who
were on sentry, in order to prevent them from shaking the bars of the
grating, prodded them indiscriminately with their bayonets.

As a rule they showed no pity. Those who were not beaten wished to
signalise themselves. There was a regular outbreak of fear. They avenged
themselves at the same time on newspapers, clubs, mobs,
speech-making - everything that had exasperated them during the last
three months, and in spite of the victory that had been gained, equality
(as if for the punishment of its defenders and the exposure of its
enemies to ridicule) manifested itself in a triumphal fashion - an
equality of brute beasts, a dead level of sanguinary vileness; for the
fanaticism of self-interest balanced the madness of want, aristocracy
had the same fits of fury as low debauchery, and the cotton cap did not
show itself less hideous than the red cap. The public mind was agitated
just as it would be after great convulsions of nature. Sensible men were
rendered imbeciles for the rest of their lives on account of it.

Père Roque had become very courageous, almost foolhardy. Having arrived
on the 26th at Paris with some of the inhabitants of Nogent, instead of
going back at the same time with them, he had gone to give his
assistance to the National Guard encamped at the Tuileries; and he was
quite satisfied to be placed on sentry in front of the terrace at the
water's side. There, at any rate, he had these brigands under his feet!
He was delighted to find that they were beaten and humiliated, and he
could not refrain from uttering invectives against them.

One of them, a young lad with long fair hair, put his face to the bars,
and asked for bread. M. Roque ordered him to hold his tongue. But the
young man repeated in a mournful tone:

"Bread!"

"Have I any to give you?"

Other prisoners presented themselves at the vent-hole, with their
bristling beards, their burning eyeballs, all pushing forward, and
yelling:

"Bread!"

Père Roque was indignant at seeing his authority slighted. In order to
frighten them he took aim at them; and, borne onward into the vault by
the crush that nearly smothered him, the young man, with his head thrown
backward, once more exclaimed:

"Bread!"

"Hold on! here it is!" said Père Roque, firing a shot from his gun.
There was a fearful howl - then, silence. At the side of the trough
something white could be seen lying.

After this, M. Roque returned to his abode, for he had a house in the
Rue Saint-Martin, which he used as a temporary residence; and the injury
done to the front of the building during the riots had in no slight
degree contributed to excite his rage. It seemed to him, when he next
saw it, that he had exaggerated the amount of damage done to it. His
recent act had a soothing effect on him, as if it indemnified him for
his loss.

It was his daughter herself who opened the door for him. She immediately


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Online LibraryGustave FlaubertSentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 → online text (page 12 of 21)