Gustave Flaubert.

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

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and down the room, puffing at his cigarette. Neither of them could think
of anything further to say to the other. There is a moment at the hour
of parting when the person that we love is with us no longer.

At last, when the hands of the clock got past the twenty-five minutes,
she slowly took up her bonnet, holding it by the strings.

"Good-bye, my friend - my dear friend! I shall never see you again! This
is the closing page in my life as a woman. My soul shall remain with you
even when you see me no more. May all the blessings of Heaven be yours!"

And she kissed him on the forehead, like a mother.

But she appeared to be looking for something, and then she asked him for
a pair of scissors.

She unfastened her comb, and all her white hair fell down.

With an abrupt movement of the scissors, she cut off a long lock from
the roots.

"Keep it! Good-bye!"

When she was gone, Frederick rushed to the window and threw it open.
There on the footpath he saw Madame Arnoux beckoning towards a passing
cab. She stepped into it. The vehicle disappeared.

And this was all.




CHAPTER XX.

"WAIT TILL YOU COME TO FORTY YEAR."


About the beginning of this winter, Frederick and Deslauriers were
chatting by the fireside, once more reconciled by the fatality of their
nature, which made them always reunite and be friends again.

Frederick briefly explained his quarrel with Madame Dambreuse, who had
married again, her second husband being an Englishman.

Deslauriers, without telling how he had come to marry Mademoiselle
Roque, related to his friend how his wife had one day eloped with a
singer. In order to wipe away to some extent the ridicule that this
brought upon him, he had compromised himself by an excess of
governmental zeal in the exercise of his functions as prefect. He had
been dismissed. After that, he had been an agent for colonisation in
Algeria, secretary to a pasha, editor of a newspaper, and canvasser for
advertisements, his latest employment being the office of settling
disputed cases for a manufacturing company.

As for Frederick, having squandered two thirds of his means, he was now
living like a citizen of comparatively humble rank.

Then they questioned each other about their friends.

Martinon was now a member of the Senate.

Hussonnet occupied a high position, in which he was fortunate enough to
have all the theatres and entire press dependent upon him.

Cisy, given up to religion, and the father of eight children, was living
in the château of his ancestors.

Pellerin, after turning his hand to Fourrièrism, homoeopathy,
table-turning, Gothic art, and humanitarian painting, had become a
photographer; and he was to be seen on every dead wall in Paris, where
he was represented in a black coat with a very small body and a big
head.

"And what about your chum Sénécal?" asked Frederick.

"Disappeared - I can't tell you where! And yourself - what about the woman
you were so passionately attached to, Madame Arnoux?"

"She is probably at Rome with her son, a lieutenant of chasseurs."

"And her husband?"

"He died a year ago."

"You don't say so?" exclaimed the advocate. Then, striking his forehead:

"Now that I think of it, the other day in a shop I met that worthy
Maréchale, holding by the hand a little boy whom she has adopted. She is
the widow of a certain M. Oudry, and is now enormously stout. What a
change for the worse! - she who formerly had such a slender waist!"

Deslauriers did not deny that he had taken advantage of the other's
despair to assure himself of that fact by personal experience.

"As you gave me permission, however."

This avowal was a compensation for the silence he had maintained with
reference to his attempt with Madame Arnoux.

Frederick would have forgiven him, inasmuch as he had not succeeded in
the attempt.

Although a little annoyed at the discovery, he pretended to laugh at it;
and the allusion to the Maréchale brought back the Vatnaz to his
recollection.

Deslauriers had never seen her any more than the others who used to come
to the Arnoux's house; but he remembered Regimbart perfectly.

"Is he still living?"

"He is barely alive. Every evening regularly he drags himself from the
Rue de Grammont to the Rue Montmartre, to the cafés, enfeebled, bent in
two, emaciated, a spectre!"

"Well, and what about Compain?"

Frederick uttered a cry of joy, and begged of the ex-delegate of the
provisional government to explain to him the mystery of the calf's head.

"'Tis an English importation. In order to parody the ceremony which the
Royalists celebrated on the thirtieth of January, some Independents
founded an annual banquet, at which they have been accustomed to eat
calves' heads, and at which they make it their business to drink red
wine out of calves' skulls while giving toasts in favour of the
extermination of the Stuarts. After Thermidor, the Terrorists organised
a brotherhood of a similar description, which proves how prolific folly
is."

"You seem to me very dispassionate about politics?"

"Effect of age," said the advocate.

And then they each proceeded to summarise their lives.

They had both failed in their objects - the one who dreamed only of love,
and the other of power.

What was the reason of this?

"'Tis perhaps from not having taken up the proper line," said Frederick.

"In your case that may be so. I, on the contrary, have sinned through
excess of rectitude, without taking into account a thousand secondary
things more important than any. I had too much logic, and you too much
sentiment."

Then they blamed luck, circumstances, the epoch at which they were born.

Frederick went on:

"We have never done what we thought of doing long ago at Sens, when you
wished to write a critical history of Philosophy and I a great mediæval
romance about Nogent, the subject of which I had found in Froissart:
'How Messire Brokars de Fenestranges and the Archbishop of Troyes
attacked Messire Eustache d'Ambrecicourt.' Do you remember?"

And, exhuming their youth with every sentence, they said to each other:

"Do you remember?"

They saw once more the college playground, the chapel, the parlour, the
fencing-school at the bottom of the staircase, the faces of the ushers
and of the pupils - one named Angelmare, from Versailles, who used to cut
off trousers-straps from old boots, M. Mirbal and his red whiskers, the
two professors of linear drawing and large drawing, who were always
wrangling, and the Pole, the fellow-countryman of Copernicus, with his
planetary system on pasteboard, an itinerant astronomer whose lecture
had been paid for by a dinner in the refectory, then a terrible debauch
while they were out on a walking excursion, the first pipes they had
smoked, the distribution of prizes, and the delightful sensation of
going home for the holidays.

It was during the vacation of 1837 that they had called at the house of
the Turkish woman.

This was the phrase used to designate a woman whose real name was
Zoraide Turc; and many persons believed her to be a Mohammedan, a Turk,
which added to the poetic character of her establishment, situated at
the water's edge behind the rampart. Even in the middle of summer there
was a shadow around her house, which could be recognised by a glass bowl
of goldfish near a pot of mignonette at a window. Young ladies in white
nightdresses, with painted cheeks and long earrings, used to tap at the
panes as the students passed; and as it grew dark, their custom was to
hum softly in their hoarse voices at the doorsteps.

This home of perdition spread its fantastic notoriety over all the
arrondissement. Allusions were made to it in a circumlocutory style:
"The place you know - a certain street - at the bottom of the Bridges." It
made the farmers' wives of the district tremble for their husbands, and
the ladies grow apprehensive as to their servants' virtue, inasmuch as
the sub-prefect's cook had been caught there; and, to be sure, it
exercised a fascination over the minds of all the young lads of the
place.

Now, one Sunday, during vesper-time, Frederick and Deslauriers, having
previously curled their hair, gathered some flowers in Madame Moreau's
garden, then made their way out through the gate leading into the
fields, and, after taking a wide sweep round the vineyards, came back
through the Fishery, and stole into the Turkish woman's house with their
big bouquets still in their hands.

Frederick presented his as a lover does to his betrothed. But the great
heat, the fear of the unknown, and even the very pleasure of seeing at
one glance so many women placed at his disposal, excited him so
strangely that he turned exceedingly pale, and remained there without
advancing a single step or uttering a single word. All the girls burst
out laughing, amused at his embarrassment. Fancying that they were
turning him into ridicule, he ran away; and, as Frederick had the money,
Deslauriers was obliged to follow him.

They were seen leaving the house; and the episode furnished material for
a bit of local gossip which was not forgotten three years later.

They related the story to each other in a prolix fashion, each
supplementing the narrative where the other's memory failed; and, when
they had finished the recital:

"That was the best time we ever had!" said Frederick.

"Yes, perhaps so, indeed! It was the best time we ever had," said
Deslauriers.



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