Gustave Flaubert.

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

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In fact, a manifesto published in the newspapers had summoned to this
spot all who had subscribed to the banquet of the Reform Party. The
Ministry had, almost without a moment's delay, posted up a proclamation
prohibiting the meeting. The Parliamentary Opposition had, on the
previous evening, disclaimed any connection with it; but the patriots,
who were unaware of this resolution on the part of their leaders, had
come to the meeting-place, followed by a great crowd of spectators. A
deputation from the schools had made its way, a short time before, to
the house of Odillon Barrot. It was now at the residence of the Minister
for Foreign Affairs; and nobody could tell whether the banquet would
take place, whether the Government would carry out its threat, and
whether the National Guards would make their appearance. People were as
much enraged against the deputies as against Power. The crowd was
growing bigger and bigger, when suddenly the strains of the
"Marseillaise" rang through the air.

It was the students' column which had just arrived on the scene. They
marched along at an ordinary walking pace, in double file and in good
order, with angry faces, bare hands, and all exclaiming at intervals:

"Long live Reform! Down with Guizot!"

Frederick's friends were there, sure enough. They would have noticed him
and dragged him along with them. He quickly sought refuge in the Rue de
l'Arcade.

When the students had taken two turns round the Madeleine, they went
down in the direction of the Place de la Concorde. It was full of
people; and, at a distance, the crowd pressed close together, had the
appearance of a field of dark ears of corn swaying to and fro.

At the same moment, some soldiers of the line ranged themselves in
battle-array at the left-hand side of the church.

The groups remained standing there, however. In order to put an end to
this, some police-officers in civilian dress seized the most riotous of
them in a brutal fashion, and carried them off to the guard-house.
Frederick, in spite of his indignation, remained silent; he might have
been arrested along with the others, and he would have missed Madame
Arnoux.

A little while afterwards the helmets of the Municipal Guards appeared.
They kept striking about them with the flat side of their sabres. A
horse fell down. The people made a rush forward to save him, and as soon
as the rider was in the saddle, they all ran away.

Then there was a great silence. The thin rain, which had moistened the
asphalt, was no longer falling. Clouds floated past, gently swept on by
the west wind.

Frederick began running through the Rue Tronchet, looking before him and
behind him.

At length it struck two o'clock.

"Ha! now is the time!" said he to himself. "She is leaving her house;
she is approaching," and a minute after, "she would have had time to be
here."

Up to three he tried to keep quiet. "No, she is not going to be late - a
little patience!"

And for want of something to do he examined the most interesting shops
that he passed - a bookseller's, a saddler's and a mourning warehouse.
Soon he knew the names of the different books, the various kinds of
harness, and every sort of material. The persons who looked after these
establishments, from seeing him continually going backwards and
forwards, were at first surprised, and then alarmed, and they closed up
their shop-fronts.

No doubt she had met with some impediment, and for that reason she must
be enduring pain on account of it. But what delight would be afforded in
a very short time! For she would come - that was certain. "She has given
me her promise!" In the meantime an intolerable feeling of anxiety was
gradually seizing hold of him. Impelled by an absurd idea, he returned
to his hotel, as if he expected to find her there. At the same moment,
she might have reached the street in which their meeting was to take
place. He rushed out. Was there no one? And he resumed his tramp up and
down the footpath.

He stared at the gaps in the pavement, the mouths of the gutters, the
candelabra, and the numbers above the doors. The most trifling objects
became for him companions, or rather, ironical spectators, and the
regular fronts of the houses seemed to him to have a pitiless aspect. He
was suffering from cold feet. He felt as if he were about to succumb to
the dejection which was crushing him. The reverberation of his footsteps
vibrated through his brain.

When he saw by his watch that it was four o'clock, he experienced, as it
were, a sense of vertigo, a feeling of dismay. He tried to repeat some
verses to himself, to enter on a calculation, no matter of what sort, to
invent some kind of story. Impossible! He was beset by the image of
Madame Arnoux; he felt a longing to run in order to meet her. But what
road ought he to take so that they might not pass each other?

He went up to a messenger, put five francs into his hand, and ordered
him to go to the Rue de Paradis to Jacques Arnoux's residence to enquire
"if Madame were at home." Then he took up his post at the corner of the
Rue de la Ferme and of the Rue Tronchet, so as to be able to look down
both of them at the same time. On the boulevard, in the background of
the scene in front of him, confused masses of people were gliding past.
He could distinguish, every now and then, the aigrette of a dragoon or a
woman's hat; and he strained his eyes in the effort to recognise the
wearer. A child in rags, exhibiting a jack-in-the-box, asked him, with a
smile, for alms.

The man with the velvet vest reappeared. "The porter had not seen her
going out." What had kept her in? If she were ill he would have been
told about it. Was it a visitor? Nothing was easier than to say that she
was not at home. He struck his forehead.

"Ah! I am stupid! Of course, 'tis this political outbreak that prevented
her from coming!"

He was relieved by this apparently natural explanation. Then, suddenly:
"But her quarter of the city is quiet." And a horrible doubt seized hold
of his mind: "Suppose she was not coming at all, and merely gave me a
promise in order to get rid of me? No, no!" What had prevented her from
coming was, no doubt, some extraordinary mischance, one of those
occurrences that baffled all one's anticipations. In that case she would
have written to him.

And he sent the hotel errand-boy to his residence in the Rue Rumfort to
find out whether there happened to be a letter waiting for him there.

No letter had been brought. This absence of news reassured him.

He drew omens from the number of coins which he took up in his hand out
of his pocket by chance, from the physiognomies of the passers-by, and
from the colour of different horses; and when the augury was
unfavourable, he forced himself to disbelieve in it. In his sudden
outbursts of rage against Madame Arnoux, he abused her in muttering
tones. Then came fits of weakness that nearly made him swoon, followed,
all of a sudden, by fresh rebounds of hopefulness. She would make her
appearance presently! She was there, behind his back! He turned
round - there was nobody there! Once he perceived, about thirty paces
away, a woman of the same height, with a dress of the same kind. He came
up to her - it was not she. It struck five - half-past five - six. The
gas-lamps were lighted, Madame Arnoux had not come.

The night before, she had dreamed that she had been, for some time, on
the footpath in the Rue Tronchet. She was waiting there for something
the nature of which she was not quite clear about, but which,
nevertheless, was of great importance; and, without knowing why, she was
afraid of being seen. But a pestiferous little dog kept barking at her
furiously and biting at the hem of her dress. Every time she shook him
off he returned stubbornly to the attack, always barking more violently
than before. Madame Arnoux woke up. The dog's barking continued. She
strained her ears to listen. It came from her son's room. She rushed to
the spot in her bare feet. It was the child himself who was coughing.
His hands were burning, his face flushed, and his voice singularly
hoarse. Every minute he found it more difficult to breathe freely. She
waited there till daybreak, bent over the coverlet watching him.

At eight o'clock the drum of the National Guard gave warning to M.
Arnoux that his comrades were expecting his arrival. He dressed himself
quickly and went away, promising that he would immediately be passing
the house of their doctor, M. Colot.

At ten o'clock, when M. Colot did not make his appearance, Madame Arnoux
despatched her chambermaid for him. The doctor was away in the country;
and the young man who was taking his place had gone out on some
business.

Eugène kept his head on one side on the bolster with contracted eyebrows
and dilated nostrils. His pale little face had become whiter than the
sheets; and there escaped from his larynx a wheezing caused by his
oppressed breathing, which became gradually shorter, dryer, and more
metallic. His cough resembled the noise made by those barbarous
mechanical inventions by which toy-dogs are enabled to bark.

Madame Arnoux was seized with terror. She rang the bell violently,
calling out for help, and exclaiming:

"A doctor! a doctor!"

Ten minutes later came an elderly gentleman in a white tie, and with
grey whiskers well trimmed. He put several questions as to the habits,
the age, and the constitution of the young patient, and studied the
case with his head thrown back. He next wrote out a prescription.

The calm manner of this old man was intolerable. He smelt of aromatics.
She would have liked to beat him. He said he would come back in the
evening.

The horrible coughing soon began again. Sometimes the child arose
suddenly. Convulsive movements shook the muscles of his breast; and in
his efforts to breathe his stomach shrank in as if he were suffocating
after running too hard. Then he sank down, with his head thrown back and
his mouth wide open. With infinite pains, Madame Arnoux tried to make
him swallow the contents of the phials, hippo wine, and a potion
containing trisulphate of antimony. But he pushed away the spoon,
groaning in a feeble voice. He seemed to be blowing out his words.

From time to time she re-read the prescription. The observations of the
formulary frightened her. Perhaps the apothecary had made some mistake.
Her powerlessness filled her with despair. M. Colot's pupil arrived.

He was a young man of modest demeanour, new to medical work, and he made
no attempt to disguise his opinion about the case. He was at first
undecided as to what he should do, for fear of compromising himself, and
finally he ordered pieces of ice to be applied to the sick child. It
took a long time to get ice. The bladder containing the ice burst. It
was necessary to change the little boy's shirt. This disturbance brought
on an attack of even a more dreadful character than any of the previous
ones.

The child began tearing off the linen round his neck, as if he wanted to
remove the obstacle that was choking him; and he scratched the walls and
seized the curtains of his bedstead, trying to get a point of support to
assist him in breathing.

His face was now of a bluish hue, and his entire body, steeped in a cold
perspiration, appeared to be growing lean. His haggard eyes were fixed
with terror on his mother. He threw his arms round her neck, and hung
there in a desperate fashion; and, repressing her rising sobs, she gave
utterance in a broken voice to loving words:

"Yes, my pet, my angel, my treasure!"

Then came intervals of calm.

She went to look for playthings - a punchinello, a collection of images,
and spread them out on the bed in order to amuse him. She even made an
attempt to sing.

She began to sing a little ballad which she used to sing years before,
when she was nursing him wrapped up in swaddling-clothes in this same
little upholstered chair. But a shiver ran all over his frame, just as
when a wave is agitated by the wind. The balls of his eyes protruded.
She thought he was going to die, and turned away her eyes to avoid
seeing him.

The next moment she felt strength enough in her to look at him. He was
still living. The hours succeeded each other - dull, mournful,
interminable, hopeless, and she no longer counted the minutes, save by
the progress of this mental anguish. The shakings of his chest threw him
forward as if to shatter his body. Finally, he vomited something
strange, which was like a parchment tube. What was this? She fancied
that he had evacuated one end of his entrails. But he now began to
breathe freely and regularly. This appearance of well-being frightened
her more than anything else that had happened. She was sitting like one
petrified, her arms hanging by her sides, her eyes fixed, when M. Colot
suddenly made his appearance. The child, in his opinion, was saved.

She did not realise what he meant at first, and made him repeat the
words. Was not this one of those consoling phrases which were customary
with medical men? The doctor went away with an air of tranquillity. Then
it seemed as if the cords that pressed round her heart were loosened.

"Saved! Is this possible?"

Suddenly the thought of Frederick presented itself to her mind in a
clear and inexorable fashion. It was a warning sent to her by
Providence. But the Lord in His mercy had not wished to complete her
chastisement. What expiation could she offer hereafter if she were to
persevere in this love-affair? No doubt insults would be flung at her
son's head on her account; and Madame Arnoux saw him a young man,
wounded in a combat, carried off on a litter, dying. At one spring she
threw herself on the little chair, and, letting her soul escape towards
the heights of heaven, she vowed to God that she would sacrifice, as a
holocaust, her first real passion, her only weakness as a woman.

Frederick had returned home. He remained in his armchair, without even
possessing enough of energy to curse her. A sort of slumber fell upon
him, and, in the midst of his nightmare, he could hear the rain falling,
still under the impression that he was there outside on the footpath.

Next morning, yielding to an incapacity to resist the temptation which
clung to him, he again sent a messenger to Madame Arnoux's house.

Whether the true explanation happened to be that the fellow did not
deliver his message, or that she had too many things to say to explain
herself in a word or two, the same answer was brought back. This
insolence was too great! A feeling of angry pride took possession of
him. He swore in his own mind that he would never again cherish even a
desire; and, like a group of leaves carried away by a hurricane, his
love disappeared. He experienced a sense of relief, a feeling of stoical
joy, then a need of violent action; and he walked on at random through
the streets.

Men from the faubourgs were marching past armed with guns and old
swords, some of them wearing red caps, and all singing the
"Marseillaise" or the "Girondins." Here and there a National Guard was
hurrying to join his mayoral department. Drums could be heard rolling in
the distance. A conflict was going on at Porte Saint-Martin. There was
something lively and warlike in the air. Frederick kept walking on
without stopping. The excitement of the great city made him gay.

On the Frascati hill he got a glimpse of the Maréchale's windows: a wild
idea occurred to him, a reaction of youthfulness. He crossed the
boulevard.

The yard-gate was just being closed; and Delphine, who was in the act of
writing on it with a piece of charcoal, "Arms given," said to him in an
eager tone:

"Ah! Madame is in a nice state! She dismissed a groom who insulted her
this morning. She thinks there's going to be pillage everywhere. She is
frightened to death! and the more so as Monsieur has gone!"

"What Monsieur?"

"The Prince!"

Frederick entered the boudoir. The Maréchale appeared in her petticoat,
and her hair hanging down her back in disorder.

"Ah! thanks! You are going to save me! 'tis the second time! You are one
of those who never count the cost!"

"A thousand pardons!" said Frederick, catching her round the waist with
both hands.

"How now? What are you doing?" stammered the Maréchale, at the same
time, surprised and cheered up by his manner.

He replied:

"I am the fashion! I'm reformed!"

She let herself fall back on the divan, and continued laughing under his
kisses.

They spent the afternoon looking out through the window at the people in
the street. Then he brought her to dine at the Trois Frères Provençaux.
The meal was a long and dainty one. They came back on foot for want of a
vehicle.

At the announcement of a change of Ministry, Paris had changed. Everyone
was in a state of delight. People kept promenading about the streets,
and every floor was illuminated with lamps, so that it seemed as if it
were broad daylight. The soldiers made their way back to their barracks,
worn out and looking quite depressed. The people saluted them with
exclamations of "Long live the Line!"

They went on without making any response. Among the National Guard, on
the contrary, the officers, flushed with enthusiasm, brandished their
sabres, vociferating:

"Long live Reform!"

And every time the two lovers heard this word they laughed.

Frederick told droll stories, and was quite gay.

Making their way through the Rue Duphot, they reached the boulevards.
Venetian lanterns hanging from the houses formed wreaths of flame.
Underneath, a confused swarm of people kept in constant motion. In the
midst of those moving shadows could be seen, here and there, the steely
glitter of bayonets. There was a great uproar. The crowd was too
compact, and it was impossible to make one's way back in a straight
line. They were entering the Rue Caumartin, when suddenly there burst
forth behind them a noise like the crackling made by an immense piece of
silk in the act of being torn across. It was the discharge of musketry
on the Boulevard des Capucines.

"Ha! a few of the citizens are getting a crack," said Frederick calmly;
for there are situations in which a man of the least cruel disposition
is so much detached from his fellow-men that he would see the entire
human race perishing without a single throb of the heart.

The Maréchale was clinging to his arm with her teeth chattering. She
declared that she would not be able to walk twenty steps further. Then,
by a refinement of hatred, in order the better to offer an outrage in
his own soul to Madame Arnoux, he led Rosanette to the hotel in the Rue
Tronchet, and brought her up to the room which he had got ready for the
other.

The flowers were not withered. The guipure was spread out on the bed. He
drew forth from the cupboard the little slippers. Rosanette considered
this forethought on his part a great proof of his delicacy of sentiment.
About one o'clock she was awakened by distant rolling sounds, and she
saw that he was sobbing with his head buried in the pillow.

"What's the matter with you now, my own darling?"

"'Tis the excess of happiness," said Frederick. "I have been too long
yearning after you!"




CHAPTER XIV.

THE BARRICADE.


He was abruptly roused from sleep by the noise of a discharge of
musketry; and, in spite of Rosanette's entreaties, Frederick was fully
determined to go and see what was happening. He hurried down to the
Champs-Elysées, from which shots were being fired. At the corner of the
Rue Saint-Honoré some men in blouses ran past him, exclaiming:

"No! not that way! to the Palais-Royal!"

Frederick followed them. The grating of the Convent of the Assumption
had been torn away. A little further on he noticed three paving-stones
in the middle of the street, the beginning of a barricade, no doubt;
then fragments of bottles and bundles of iron-wire, to obstruct the
cavalry; and, at the same moment, there rushed suddenly out of a lane a
tall young man of pale complexion, with his black hair flowing over his
shoulders, and with a sort of pea-coloured swaddling-cloth thrown round
him. In his hand he held a long military musket, and he dashed along on
the tips of his slippers with the air of a somnambulist and with the
nimbleness of a tiger. At intervals a detonation could be heard.

On the evening of the day before, the spectacle of the wagon containing
five corpses picked up from amongst those that were lying on the
Boulevard des Capucines had charged the disposition of the people; and,
while at the Tuileries the aides-de-camp succeeded each other, and M.
Molé, having set about the composition of a new Cabinet, did not come
back, and M. Thiers was making efforts to constitute another, and while
the King was cavilling and hesitating, and finally assigned the post of
commander-in-chief to Bugeaud in order to prevent him from making use of
it, the insurrection was organising itself in a formidable manner, as if
it were directed by a single arm.

Men endowed with a kind of frantic eloquence were engaged in haranguing
the populace at the street-corners, others were in the churches ringing
the tocsin as loudly as ever they could. Lead was cast for bullets,
cartridges were rolled about. The trees on the boulevards, the urinals,
the benches, the gratings, the gas-burners, everything was torn off and
thrown down. Paris, that morning, was covered with barricades. The
resistance which was offered was of short duration, so that at eight
o'clock the people, by voluntary surrender or by force, had got
possession of five barracks, nearly all the municipal buildings, the
most favourable strategic points. Of its own accord, without any effort,
the Monarchy was melting away in rapid dissolution, and now an attack
was made on the guard-house of the Château d'Eau, in order to liberate
fifty prisoners, who were not there.

Frederick was forced to stop at the entrance to the square. It was
filled with groups of armed men. The Rue Saint-Thomas and the Rue
Fromanteau were occupied by companies of the Line. The Rue de Valois
was choked up by an enormous barricade. The smoke which fluttered about
at the top of it partly opened. Men kept running overhead, making
violent gestures; they vanished from sight; then the firing was again
renewed. It was answered from the guard-house without anyone being seen
inside. Its windows, protected by oaken window-shutters, were pierced
with loop-holes; and the monument with its two storys, its two wings,
its fountain on the first floor and its little door in the centre, was
beginning to be speckled with white spots under the shock of the
bullets. The three steps in front of it remained unoccupied.

At Frederick's side a man in a Greek cap, with a cartridge-box over his
knitted vest, was holding a dispute with a woman with a Madras
neckerchief round her shoulders. She said to him:

"Come back now! Come back!"

"Leave me alone!" replied the husband. "You can easily mind the porter's
lodge by yourself. I ask, citizen, is this fair? I have on every
occasion done my duty - in 1830, in '32, in '34, and in '39! To-day
they're fighting again. I must fight! Go away!"

And the porter's wife ended by yielding to his remonstrances and to
those of a National Guard near them - a man of forty, whose simple face
was adorned with a circle of white beard. He loaded his gun and fired
while talking to Frederick, as cool in the midst of the outbreak as a
horticulturist in his garden. A young lad with a packing-cloth thrown
over him was trying to coax this man to give him a few caps, so that he
might make use of a gun he had, a fine fowling-piece which a "gentleman"
had made him a present of.

"Catch on behind my back," said the good man, "and keep yourself from
being seen, or you'll get yourself killed!"

The drums beat for the charge. Sharp cries, hurrahs of triumph burst
forth. A continual ebbing to and fro made the multitude sway backward
and forward. Frederick, caught between two thick masses of people, did
not move an inch, all the time fascinated and exceedingly amused by the
scene around him. The wounded who sank to the ground, the dead lying at
his feet, did not seem like persons really wounded or really dead. The
impression left on his mind was that he was looking on at a show.

In the midst of the surging throng, above the sea of heads, could be
seen an old man in a black coat, mounted on a white horse with a velvet
saddle. He held in one hand a green bough, in the other a paper, and he
kept shaking them persistently; but at length, giving up all hope of
obtaining a hearing, he withdrew from the scene.


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Online LibraryGustave FlaubertSentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 → online text (page 7 of 21)