A Simple Heart by Gustave Flaubert. - HTML preview
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Eight mahogany chairs stood in a row against the white wainscoting. An old piano, standing beneath a barometer, FOR HALF A CENTURY the housewives of Pont-l’Eveque had was covered with a pyramid of old books and boxes. On envied Madame Aubain her servant Felicite.
either side of the yellow marble mantelpiece, in Louis XV.
For a hundred francs a year, she cooked and did the house-style, stood a tapestry armchair. The clock represented a work, washed, ironed, mended, harnessed the horse, fat-temple of Vesta; and the whole room smelled musty, as it tened the poultry, made the butter and remained faithful to was on a lower level than the garden.
her mistress — although the latter was by no means an On the first floor was Madame’s bed-chamber, a large agreeable person.
room papered in a flowered design and containing the por-Madame Aubain had married a comely youth without 3
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert trait of Monsieur dressed in the costume of a dandy. It bread weighing twelve pounds which was baked especially communicated with a smaller room, in which there were two for her and lasted three weeks.
little cribs, without any mattresses. Next, came the parlour Summer and winter she wore a dimity kerchief fastened (always closed), filled with furniture covered with sheets. Then in the back with a pin, a cap which concealed her hair, a red a hall, which led to the study, where books and papers were skirt, grey stockings, and an apron with a bib like those piled on the shelves of a book-case that enclosed three quar-worn by hospital nurses.
ters of the big black desk. Two panels were entirely hidden Her face was thin and her voice shrill. When she was under pen-and-ink sketches, Gouache landscapes and Audran twenty-five, she looked forty. After she had passed fifty, engravings, relics of better times and vanished luxury. On nobody could tell her age; erect and silent always, she re-the second floor, a garret-window lighted Felicite’s room, sembled a wooden figure working automatically.
which looked out upon the meadows.
She arose at daybreak, in order to attend mass, and she CHAPTER II
worked without interruption until night; then, when dinner was over, the dishes cleared away and the door securely LIKE EVERY OTHER WOMAN, she had had an affair of the heart.
locked, she would bury the log under the ashes and fall Her father, who was a mason, was killed by falling from a asleep in front of the hearth with a rosary in her hand.
scaffolding. Then her mother died and her sisters went their Nobody could bargain with greater obstinacy, and as for different ways; a farmer took her in, and while she was quite cleanliness, the luster on her brass sauce-pans was the envy small, let her keep cows in the fields. She was clad in miser-and despair of other servants. She was most economical, able rags, beaten for the slightest offence and finally dis-and when she ate she would gather up crumbs with the tip missed for a theft of thirty sous which she did not commit.
of her finger, so that nothing should be wasted of the loaf of She took service on another farm where she tended the poul-4
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert try; and as she was well thought of by her master, her fel-She did not know what to reply and wished to run away.
low-workers soon grew jealous.
Presently he began to speak of the harvest and of the no-One evening in August (she was then eighteen years old), tables of the village; his father had left Colleville and bought they persuaded her to accompany them to the fair at the farm of Les Ecots, so that now they would be neighbours.
Colleville. She was immediately dazzled by the noise, the
“Ah!” she exclaimed. He then added that his parents were lights in the trees, the brightness of the dresses, the laces looking around for a wife for him, but that he, himself, was and gold crosses, and the crowd of people all hopping at the not so anxious and preferred to wait for a girl who suited same time. She was standing modestly at a distance, when him. She hung her head. He then asked her whether she presently a young man of well-to-do appearance, who had had ever thought of marrying. She replied, smilingly, that it been leaning on the pole of a wagon and smoking his pipe, was wrong of him to make fun of her. “Oh! no, I am in approached her, and asked her for a dance. He treated her earnest,” he said, and put his left arm around her waist while to cider and cake, bought her a silk shawl, and then, think-they sauntered along. The air was soft, the stars were bright, ing she had guessed his purpose, offered to see her home.
and the huge load of hay oscillated in front of them, drawn When they came to the end of a field he threw her down by four horses whose ponderous hoofs raised clouds of dust.
brutally. But she grew frightened and screamed, and he Without a word from their driver they turned to the right.
He kissed her again and she went home. The following week, One evening, on the road leading to Beaumont, she came Theodore obtained meetings.
upon a wagon loaded with hay, and when she overtook it, They met in yards, behind walls or under isolated trees.
she recognised Theodore. He greeted her calmly, and asked She was not ignorant, as girls of well-to-do families are —
her to forget what had happened between them, as it “was for the animals had instructed her; — but her reason and all the fault of the drink.”
her instinct of honour kept her from falling. Her resistance 5
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert exasperated Theodore’s love and so in order to satisfy it (or dered around desolately until sunrise. Then she went back perchance ingenuously), he offered to marry her. She would to the farm, declared her intention of leaving, and at the not believe him at first, so he made solemn promises. But, end of the month, after she had received her wages, she in a short time he mentioned a difficulty; the previous year, packed all her belongings in a handkerchief and started his parents had purchased a substitute for him; but any day for Pont-l’Eveque.
he might be drafted and the prospect of serving in the army In front of the inn, she met a woman wearing widow’s alarmed him greatly. To Felicite his cowardice appeared a weeds, and upon questioning her, learned that she was look-proof of his love for her, and her devotion to him grew ing for a cook. The girl did not know very much, but ap-stronger. When she met him, he would torture her with his peared so willing and so modest in her requirements, that fears and his entreaties. At last, he announced that he was Madame Aubain finally said:
going to the prefect himself for information, and would let
“Very well, I will give you a trial.” her know everything on the following Sunday, between And half an hour later Felicite was installed in her house.
eleven o’clock and midnight.
At first she lived in a constant anxiety that was caused by When the time grew near, she ran to meet her lover.
“the style of the household” and the memory of “Monsieur,” But instead of Theodore, one of his friends was at the that hovered over everything. Paul and Virginia, the one meeting-place.
aged seven, and the other barely four, seemed made of some He informed her that she would never see her sweetheart precious material; she carried them pig-a-back, and was again; for, in order to escape the conscription, he had mar-greatly mortified when Madame Aubain forbade her to kiss ried a rich old woman, Madame Lehoussais, of Toucques.
them every other minute.
The poor girl’s sorrow was frightful. She threw herself But in spite of all this, she was happy. The comfort of her on the ground, she cried and called on the Lord, and wan-new surroundings had obliterated her sadness.
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert Every Thursday, friends of Madame Aubain dropped in ruined and lived at Falaise on the remainder of his estates.
for a game of cards, and it was Felicite’s duty to prepare the He always came at dinner-time and brought an ugly poodle table and heat the foot-warmers. They arrived at exactly with him, whose paws soiled their furniture. In spite of his eight o’clock and departed before eleven.
efforts to appear a man of breeding (he even went so far as Every Monday morning, the dealer in second-hand goods, to raise his hat every time he said “My deceased father”), who lived under the alley-way, spread out his wares on the his habits got the better of him, and he would fill his glass a sidewalk. Then the city would be filled with a buzzing of little too often and relate broad stories. Felicite would show voices in which the neighing of horses, the bleating of lambs, him out very politely and say: “You have had enough for the grunting of pigs, could be distinguished, mingled with this time, Monsieur de Gremanville! Hoping to see you the sharp sound of wheels on the cobble-stones. About twelve again!” and would close the door.
o’clock, when the market was in full swing, there appeared She opened it gladly for Monsieur Bourais, a retired law-at the front door a tall, middle- aged peasant, with a hooked yer. His bald head and white cravat, the ruffling of his shirt, nose and a cap on the back of his head; it was Robelin, the his flowing brown coat, the manner in which he took snuff, farmer of Geffosses. Shortly afterwards came Liebard, the his whole person, in fact, produced in her the kind of awe farmer of Toucques, short, rotund and ruddy, wearing a which we feel when we see extraordinary persons. As he grey jacket and spurred boots.
managed Madame’s estates, he spent hours with her in Both men brought their landlady either chickens or cheese.
Monsieur’s study; he was in constant fear of being compro-Felicite would invariably thwart their ruses and they held mised, had a great regard for the magistracy and some preher in great respect.
tensions to learning.
At various times, Madame Aubain received a visit from In order to facilitate the children’s studies, he presented the Marquis de Gremanville, one of her uncles, who was them with an engraved geography which represented vari-7
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert ous scenes of the world; cannibals with feather head-dresses, till they resounded like drums. Virginia would feed the rab-a gorilla kidnapping a young girl, Arabs in the desert, a bits and run to pick the wild flowers in the fields, and her whale being harpooned, etc.
flying legs would disclose her little embroidered pantalettes.
Paul explained the pictures to Felicite. And, in fact, this One autumn evening, they struck out for home through was her only literary education.
the meadows. The new moon illumined part of the sky and The children’s studies were under the direction of a poor a mist hovered like a veil over the sinuosities of the river.
devil employed at the town-hall, who sharpened his pocket-Oxen, lying in the pastures, gazed mildly at the passing per-knife on his boots and was famous for his penmanship.
sons. In the third field, however, several of them got up and When the weather was fine, they went to Geffosses. The surrounded them. “Don’t be afraid,” cried Felicite; and house was built in the centre of the sloping yard; and the murmuring a sort of lament she passed her hand over the sea looked like a grey spot in the distance. Felicite would back of the nearest ox; he turned away and the others fol-take slices of cold meat from the lunch basket and they lowed. But when they came to the next pasture, they heard would sit down and eat in a room next to the dairy. This frightful bellowing.
room was all that remained of a cottage that had been torn It was a bull which was hidden from them by the fog. He down. The dilapidated wall-paper trembled in the drafts.
advanced towards the two women, and Madame Aubain Madame Aubain, overwhelmed by recollections, would hang prepared to flee for her life. “No, no! not so fast,” warned her head, while the children were afraid to open their Felicite. Still they hurried on, for they could hear the noisy mouths. Then, “Why don’t you go and play?” their mother breathing of the bull behind them. His hoofs pounded the would say; and they would scamper off.
grass like hammers, and presently he began to gallop! Felicite Paul would go to the old barn, catch birds, throw stones turned around and threw patches of grass in his eyes. He into the pond, or pound the trunks of the trees with a stick hung his head, shook his horns and bellowed with fury.
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert Madame Aubain and the children, huddled at the end of The baggage was sent the day before on Liebard’s cart.
the field, were trying to jump over the ditch. Felicite con-On the following morning, he brought around two horses, tinued to back before the bull, blinding him with dirt, while one of which had a woman’s saddle with a velveteen back to she shouted to them to make haste.
it, while on the crupper of the other was a rolled shawl that Madame Aubain finally slid into the ditch, after shoving was to be used for a seat. Madame Aubain mounted the first Virginia and then Paul into it, and though she stumbled second horse, behind Liebard. Felicite took charge of the several times she managed, by dint of courage, to climb the little girl, and Paul rode M. Lechaptois’ donkey, which had other side of it.
been lent for the occasion on the condition that they should The bull had driven Felicite up against a fence; the foam be careful of it.
from his muzzle flew in her face and in another minute he The road was so bad that it took two hours to cover the would have disembowelled her. She had just time to slip eight miles. The two horses sank knee-deep into the mud between two bars and the huge animal, thwarted, paused.
and stumbled into ditches; sometimes they had to jump For years, this occurrence was a topic of conversation in over them. In certain places, Liebard’s mare stopped abruptly.
Pont-l’Eveque. But Felicite took no credit to herself, and He waited patiently till she started again, and talked of the probably never knew that she had been heroic.
people whose estates bordered the road, adding his own Virginia occupied her thoughts solely, for the shock she had moral reflections to the outline of their histories. Thus, when sustained gave her a nervous affection, and the physician, M.
they were passing through Toucques, and came to some Poupart, prescribed the salt-water bathing at Trouville. In those windows draped with nasturtiums, he shrugged his shoul-days, Trouville was not greatly patronised. Madame Aubain ders and said: “There’s a woman, Madame Lehoussais, who, gathered information, consulted Bourais, and made prepara-instead of taking a young man —” Felicite could not catch tions as if they were going on an extended trip.
what followed; the horses began to trot, the donkey to gal-9
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert lop, and they turned into a lane; then a gate swung open, blown down, but they had started to grow in the middle two farm-hands appeared and they all dismounted at the and all were laden with quantities of apples. The thatched very threshold of the farm-house.
roofs, which were of unequal thickness, looked like brown Mother Liebard, when she caught sight of her mistress, velvet and could resist the fiercest gales. But the wagon-was lavish with joyful demonstrations. She got up a lunch shed was fast crumbling to ruins. Madame Aubain said that which comprised a leg of mutton, tripe, sausages, a chicken she would attend to it, and then gave orders to have the fricassee, sweet cider, a fruit tart and some preserved prunes; horses saddled.
then to all this the good woman added polite remarks about It took another thirty minutes to reach Trouville. The Madame, who appeared to be in better health, Mademoi-little caravan dismounted in order to pass Les Ecores, a cliff selle, who had grown to be “superb,” and Paul, who had that overhangs the bay, and a few minutes later, at the end become singularly sturdy; she spoke also of their deceased of the dock, they entered the yard of the Golden Lamb, an grandparents, whom the Liebards had known, for they had inn kept by Mother David.
been in the service of the family for several generations.
During the first few days, Virginia felt stronger, owing to Like its owners, the farm had an ancient appearance. The the change of air and the action of the sea-baths. She took beams of the ceiling were mouldy, the walls black with smoke them in her little chemise, as she had no bathing suit, and and the windows grey with dust. The oak sideboard was afterwards her nurse dressed her in the cabin of a customs filled with all sorts of utensils, plates, pitchers, tin bowls, officer, which was used for that purpose by other bathers.
wolf-traps. The children laughed when they saw a huge sy-In the afternoon, they would take the donkey and go to ringe. There was not a tree in the yard that did not have the Roches-Noires, near Hennequeville. The path led at first mushrooms growing around its foot, or a bunch of mistle-through undulating grounds, and thence to a plateau, where toe hanging in its branches. Several of the trees had been pastures and tilled fields alternated. At the edge of the road, 10
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert mingling with the brambles, grew holly bushes, and here below, grew larger and larger as they advanced, and, with and there stood large dead trees whose branches traced zig-all its houses of unequal height, seemed to spread out be-zags upon the blue sky.
fore them in a sort of giddy confusion.
Ordinarily, they rested in a field facing the ocean, with When the heat was too oppressive, they remained in Deauville on their left, and Havre on their right. The sea their rooms. The dazzling sunlight cast bars of light be-glittered brightly in the sun and was as smooth as a mirror, tween the shutters. Not a sound in the village, not a soul and so calm that they could scarcely distinguish its mur-on the sidewalk. This silence intensified the tranquility of mur; sparrows chirped joyfully and the immense canopy of everything. In the distance, the hammers of some calkers heaven spread over it all. Madame Aubain brought out her pounded the hull of a ship, and the sultry breeze brought sewing, and Virginia amused herself by braiding reeds; them an odour of tar.
Felicite wove lavender blossoms, while Paul was bored and The principal diversion consisted in watching the return wished to go home.
of the fishing-smacks. As soon as they passed the beacons, Sometimes they crossed the Toucques in a boat, and started they began to ply to windward. The sails were lowered to to hunt for sea-shells. The outgoing tide exposed star-fish one third of the masts, and with their fore-sails swelled up and sea-urchins, and the children tried to catch the flakes like balloons they glided over the waves and anchored in of foam which the wind blew away. The sleepy waves lap-the middle of the harbour. Then they crept up alongside of ping the sand unfurled themselves along the shore that ex-the dock and the sailors threw the quivering fish over the tended as far as the eye could see, but where land began, it side of the boat; a line of carts was waiting for them, and was limited by the downs which separated it from the women with white caps sprang forward to receive the bas-
“Swamp,” a large meadow shaped like a hippodrome. When kets and embrace their men—folk.
they went home that way, Trouville, on the slope of a hill One day, one of them spoke to Felicite, who, after a little 11
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert while, returned to the house gleefully. She had found one Madame Aubain resigned herself to the separation from of her sisters, and presently Nastasie Barette, wife of Leroux, her son because it was unavoidable. Virginia brooded less made her appearance, holding an infant in her arms, an-and less over it. Felicite regretted the noise he made, but other child by the hand, while on her left was a little cabin-soon a new occupation diverted her mind; beginning from boy with his hands in his pockets and his cap on his ear.
Christmas, she accompanied the little girl to her catechism At the end of fifteen minutes, Madame Aubain bade her lesson every day.
They always hung around the kitchen, or approached CHAPTER III
Felicite when she and the children were out walking. The husband, however, did not show himself.
AFTER SHE HAD MADE A CURTSEY at the threshold, she would Felicite developed a great fondness for them; she bought walk up the aisle between the double lines of chairs, open them a stove, some shirts and a blanket; it was evident that Madame Aubain’s pew, sit down and look around.
they exploited her. Her foolishness annoyed Madame Girls and boys, the former on the right, the latter on the Aubain, who, moreover did not like the nephew’s familiar-left-hand side of the church, filled the stalls of the choir; ity, for he called her son “thou”;— and, as Virginia began to the priest stood beside the reading-desk; on one stained cough and the season was over, she decided to return to window of the side-aisle the Holy Ghost hovered over the Pont-l’Eveque.
Virgin; on another one, Mary knelt before the Child Jesus, Monsieur Bourais assisted her in the choice of a college. The one and behind the alter, a wooden group represented Saint at Caen was considered the best. So Paul was sent away and bravely Michael felling the dragon.
said good-bye to them all, for he was glad to go to live in a house The priest first read a condensed lesson of sacred history.
where he would have boy companions.
Felicite evoked Paradise, the Flood, the Tower of Babel, the 12
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert blazing cities, the dying nations, the shattered idols; and they were leaving the church and their wooden shoes clat-out of this she developed a great respect for the Almighty tered on the stone pavement.
and a great fear of His wrath. Then, when she had lis-In this way, she learned her catechism, her religious edu-tened to the Passion, she wept. Why had they crucified cation having been neglected in her youth; and thenceforth Him who loved little children, nourished the people, made she imitated all Virginia’s religious practices, fasted when the blind see, and who, out of humility, had wished to be she did, and went to confession with her. At the Corpus-born among the poor, in a stable? The sowings, the har-Christi Day they both decorated an altar.
vests, the wine-presses, all those familiar things which the She worried in advance over Virginia’s first communion.
Scriptures mention, formed a part of her life; the word of She fussed about the shoes, the rosary, the book and the God sanctified them; and she loved the lambs with in-gloves. With what nervousness she helped the mother dress creased tenderness for the sake of the Lamb, and the doves the child!
because of the Holy Ghost.
During the entire ceremony, she felt anguished. Mon-She found it hard, however, to think of the latter as a sieur Bourais hid part of the choir from view, but directly person, for was it not a bird, a flame, and sometimes only a in front of her, the flock of maidens, wearing white wreaths breath? Perhaps it is its light that at night hovers over swamps, over their lowered veils, formed a snow-white field, and she its breath that propels the clouds, its voice that renders recognised her darling by the slenderness of her neck and church-bells harmonious. And Felicite worshipped devoutly, her devout attitude. The bell tinkled. All the heads bent while enjoying the coolness and the stillness of the church.
and there was a silence. Then, at the peals of the organ the As for the dogma, she could not understand it and did singers and the worshippers struck up the Agnes Dei; the not even try. The priest discoursed, the children recited, boys’ procession began; behind them came the girls. With and she went to sleep, only to awaken with a start when clasped hands, they advanced step by step to the lighted 13
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert altar, knelt at the first step, received one by one the Host, instructions, and smuggled six jars of jam, a dozen pears and returned to their seats in the same order. When Virginia’s and a bunch of violets under the seat.
turn came, Felicite leaned forward to watch her, and through At the last minute, Virginia had a fit of sobbing; she em-that imagination which springs from true affection, she at braced her mother again and again, while the latter kissed once became the child, whose face and dress became hers, her on the forehead, and said: “Now, be brave, be brave!” whose heart beat in her bosom, and when Virginia opened The step was pulled up and the fiacre rumbled off.
her mouth and closed her lids, she did likewise and came Then Madame Aubain had a fainting spell, and that evening very near fainting.
all her friends, including the two Lormeaus, Madame The following day, she presented herself early at the church Lechaptois, the ladies Rochefeuille, Messieurs de Houppeville so as to receive communion from the cure. She took it with and Bourais, called on her and tendered their sympathy.
the proper feeling, but did not experience the same delight At first the separation proved very painful to her. But her as on the previous day.
daughter wrote her three times a week and the other days Madame Aubain wished to make an accomplished girl of she, herself, wrote to Virginia. Then she walked in the gar-her daughter; and as Guyot could not teach English or music, den, read a little, and in this way managed to fill out the she decided to send her to the Ursulines at Honfleur.
emptiness of the hours.
The child made no objection, but Felicite sighed and Each morning, out of habit, Felicite entered Virginia’s thought Madame was heartless. Then, she thought that room and gazed at the walls. She missed combing her hair, perhaps her mistress was right, as these things were beyond lacing her shoes, tucking her in her bed, and the bright face her sphere. Finally, one day, an old fiacre stopped in front and little hand when they used to go out for a walk. In of the door and a nun stepped out. Felicite put Virginia’s order to occupy herself she tried to make lace. But her luggage on top of the carriage, gave the coachman some clumsy fingers broke the threads; she had no heart for any-14
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert thing, lost her sleep and “wasted away,” as she put it.
to produce a sort of embarrassment in their relations.
In order to have some distraction, she asked leave to re-Victor went successively to Morlaix, to Dunkirk, and to ceive the visits of her nephew Victor.
Brighton; whenever he returned from a trip he would bring He would come on Sunday, after church, with ruddy her a present. The first time it was a box of shells; the sec-cheeks and bared chest, bringing with him the scent of the ond, a coffee-cup; the third, a big doll of ginger-bread. He country. She would set the table and they would sit down was growing handsome, had a good figure, a tiny mous-opposite each other, and eat their dinner; she ate as little as tache, kind eyes, and a little leather cap that sat jauntily on possible, herself, to avoid any extra expense, but would stuff the back of his head. He amused his aunt by telling her him so with food that he would finally go to sleep. At the stories mingled with nautical expressions.
first stroke of vespers, she would wake him up, brush his One Monday, the 14th of July, 1819 (she never forgot the trousers, tie his cravat and walk to church with him, lean-date), Victor announced that he had been engaged on a mer-ing on his arm with maternal pride.
chant-vessel and that in two days he would take the steamer His parents always told him to get something out of her, at Honfleur and join his sailer, which was going to start from either a package of brown sugar, or soap, or brandy, and Havre very soon. Perhaps he might be away two years.
sometimes even money. He brought her his clothes to mend, The prospect of his departure filled Felicite with despair, and she accepted the task gladly, because it meant another and in order to bid him farewell, on Wednesday night, after visit from him.
Madame’s dinner, she put on her pattens and trudged the In August, his father took him on a coasting-vessel.
four miles that separated Pont-l’Eveque from Honfleur.
It was vacation time and the arrival of the children con-When she reached the Calvary, instead of turning to the right, she soled Felicite. But Paul was capricious, and Virginia was turned to the left and lost herself in coal-yards; she had to retrace growing too old to be thee-and-thou’d, a fact which seemed her steps; some people she spoke to advised her to hasten. She walked 15
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert helplessly around the harbour filled with vessels, and knocked against for a long while she prayed, with uplifted eyes and a face hawsers. Presently the ground sloped abruptly, lights flitted to and wet with tears. The city was sleeping; some customs offi-fro, and she thought all at once that she had gone mad when she cials were taking the air; and the water kept pouring through saw some horses in the sky.
the holes of the dam with a deafening roar. The town clock Others, on the edge of the dock, neighed at the sight of struck two.
the ocean. A derrick pulled them up in the air, and dumped The parlour of the convent would not open until morn-them into a boat, where passengers were bustling about ing, and surely a delay would annoy Madame, so, in spite of among barrels of cider, baskets of cheese and bags of meal; her desire to see the other child, she went home. The maids chickens cackled, the captain swore and a cabin-boy rested of the inn were just arising when she reached Pont-l’Eveque.
on the railing, apparently indifferent to his surroundings.
So the poor boy would be on the ocean for months! His Felicite, who did not recognise him, kept shouting: “Vic-previous trips had not alarmed her. One can come back tor!” He suddenly raised his eyes, but while she was prepar-from England and Brittany; but America, the colonies, the ing to rush up to him, they withdrew the gangplank.
islands, were all lost in an uncertain region at the very end The packet, towed by singing women, glided out of the of the world.
harbour. Her hull squeaked and the heavy waves beat up From that time on, Felicite thought solely of her nephew.
against her sides. The sail had turned and nobody was vis-On warm days she feared he would suffer from thirst, and ible;—and on the ocean, silvered by the light of the moon, when it stormed, she was afraid he would be struck by light-the vessel formed a black spot that grew dimmer and dim-ning. When she harkened to the wind that rattled in the mer, and finally disappeared.
chimney and dislodged the tiles on the roof, she imagined When Felicite passed the Calvary again, she felt as if she that he was being buffeted by the same storm, perched on must entrust that which was dearest to her to the Lord; and top of a shattered mast, with his whole body bend back-16
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert ward and covered with sea-foam; or,— these were recollec-did not think of it.— Besides, I do not care, a cabin-boy, a tions of the engraved geography — he was being devoured pauper!— but my daughter — what a difference! just think by savages, or captured in a forest by apes, or dying on some of it!—”
lonely coast. She never mentioned her anxieties, however.
Felicite, although she had been reared roughly, was very Madame Aubain worried about her daughter.
indignant. Then she forgot about it.
The sisters thought that Virginia was affectionate but deli-It appeared quite natural to her that one should lose one’s cate. The slightest emotion enervated her. She had to give head about Virginia.
up her piano lessons. Her mother insisted upon regular let-The two children were of equal importance; they were ters from the convent. One morning, when the postman united in her heart and their fate was to be the same.
failed to come, she grew impatient and began to pace to The chemist informed her that Victor’s vessel had reached and fro, from her chair to the window. It was really extraor-Havana. He had read the information in a newspaper.
dinary! No news since four days!
Felicite imagined that Havana was a place where people In order to console her mistress by her own example, did nothing but smoke, and that Victor walked around Felicite said:
among negroes in a cloud of tobacco. Could a person, in
“Why, Madame, I haven’t had any news since six case of need, return by land? How far was it from Pont-months!—”
l’Eveque? In order to learn these things, she questioned
Monsieur Bourais. He reached for his map and began some The servant replied gently:
explanations concerning longitudes, and smiled with supe-
“Why—from my nephew.”
riority at Felicite’s bewilderment. At last, he took a pencil
“Oh, yes, your nephew!” And shrugging her shoulders, and pointed out an imperceptible black point in the scal-Madame Aubain continued to pace the floor as if to say: “I lops of an oval blotch, adding: “There it is.” She bent over 17
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert the map; the maze of coloured lines hurt her eyes without
“Poor little chap! poor little chap!” enlightening her; and when Bourais asked her what puzzled Liebard watched her and sighed. Madame Aubain was her, she requested him to show her the house Victor lived trembling.
in. Bourais threw up his hands, sneezed, and then laughed She proposed to the girl to go to see her sister in Trouville.
uproariously; such ignorance delighted his soul; but Felicite With a single motion, Felicite replied that it was not nec-failed to understand the cause of his mirth, she whose in-essary.
telligence was so limited that she perhaps expected to see There was a silence. Old Liebard thought it about time even the picture of her nephew!
for him to take leave.
It was two weeks later that Liebard came into the kitchen Then Felicite uttered:
at market-time, and handed her a letter from her brother-
“They have no sympathy, they do not care!” in-law. As neither of them could read, she called upon her Her head fell forward again, and from time to time, me-mistress.
chanically, she toyed with the long knitting-needles on the Madame Aubain, who was counting the stitches of her work-table.
knitting, laid her work down beside her, opened the letter, Some women passed through the yard with a basket of started, and in a low tone and with a searching look said: wet clothes.
“They tell you of a — misfortune. Your nephew —” When she saw them through the window, she suddenly He had died. The letter told nothing more.
remembered her own wash; as she had soaked it the day Felicite dropped on a chair, leaned her head against the before, she must go and rinse it now. So she arose and left back, and closed her lids; presently they grew pink. Then, the room.
with drooping head, inert hands and staring eyes she reHer tub and her board were on the bank of the Toucques.
peated at intervals:
She threw a heap of clothes on the ground, rolled up her 18
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert sleeves and grasped her bat; and her loud pounding could decided that they would go, and she would have had her be heard in the neighbouring gardens. The meadows were daughter come home at once, had it not been for the cli-empty, the breeze wrinkled the stream, at the bottom of mate of Pont-l’Eveque.
which were long grasses that looked like the hair of corpses She made an arrangement with a livery-stable man who floating in the water. She restrained her sorrow and was drove her over to the convent every Tuesday. In the garden very brave until night; but, when she had gone to her own there was a terrace, from which the view extends to the room, she gave way to it, burying her face in the pillow and Seine. Virginia walked in it, leaning on her mother’s arm pressing her two fists against her temples.
and treading the dead vine leaves. Sometimes the sun, shin-A long while afterward, she learned through Victor’s cap-ing through the clouds, made her blink her lids, when she tain, the circumstances which surrounded his death. At the gazed at the sails in the distance, and let her eyes roam over hospital they had bled him too much, treating him for yel-the horizon from the chateau of Tancarville to the light-low fever. Four doctors held him at one time. He died al-houses of Havre. Then they rested on the arbour. Her mother most instantly, and the chief surgeon had said: had bought a little cask of fine Malaga wine, and Virginia,
“Here goes another one!”
laughing at the idea of becoming intoxicated, would drink His parents had always treated him barbarously; she prea few drops of it, but never more.
ferred not to see them again, and they made no advances, Her strength returned. Autumn passed. Felicite began to either from forgetfulness or out of innate hardness.
reassure Madame Aubain. But, one evening, when she re-Virginia was growing weaker.
turned home after an errand, she met M. Boupart’s coach A cough, continual fever, oppressive breathing and spots in front of the door; M. Boupart himself was standing in on her cheeks indicated some serious trouble. Monsieur the vestibule and Madame Aubain was tying the strings of Popart had advised a sojourn in Provence. Madame Aubain her bonnet. “Give me my foot-warmer, my purse and my 19
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert gloves; and be quick about it,” she said.
sister, with an air of compunction, told her that “she had Virginia had congestion of the lungs; perhaps it was des-just passed away.” And at the same time the tolling of Saint-perate.
“Not yet,” said the physician, and both got into the car-Felicite reached the second floor. Already at the thresh-riage, while the snow fell in thick flakes. It was almost night old, she caught sight of Virginia lying on her back, with and very cold.
clasped hands, her mouth open and her head thrown back, Felicite rushed to the church to light a candle. Then she beneath a black crucifix inclined toward her, and stiff cur-ran after the coach which she overtook after an hour’s chase, tains which were less white than her face. Madame Aubain sprang up behind and held on to the straps. But suddenly a lay at the foot of the couch, clasping it with her arms and thought crossed her mind: “The yard had been left open; uttering groans of agony. The Mother Superior was stand-supposing that burglars got in!” And down she jumped.
ing on the right side of the bed. The three candles on the The next morning, at daybreak, she called at the doctor’s.
bureau made red blurs, and the windows were dimmed by He had been home, but had left again. Then she waited at the fog outside. The nuns carried Madame Aubain from the inn, thinking that strangers might bring her a letter. At the room.
last, at daylight she took the diligence for Lisieux.
For two nights, Felicite never left the corpse. She would The convent was at the end of a steep and narrow street.
repeat the same prayers, sprinkle holy water over the sheets, When she arrived about at the middle of it, she heard strange get up, come back to the bed and contemplate the body. At noises, a funeral knell. “It must be for some one else,” the end of the first vigil, she noticed that the face had taken thought she; and she pulled the knocker violently.
on a yellow tinge, the lips grew blue, the nose grew pinched, After several minutes had elapsed, she heard footsteps, the eyes were sunken. She kissed them several times and the door was half opened and a nun appeared. The good would not have been greatly astonished had Virginia opened 20
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert them; to souls like this the supernatural is always quite to have taken her South. Other doctors would have saved simple. She washed her, wrapped her in a shroud, put her her. She accused herself, prayed to be able to join her child, into the casket, laid a wreath of flowers on her head and and cried in the midst of her dreams. Of the latter, one arranged her curls. They were blond and of an extraordi-more especially haunted her. Her husband, dressed like a nary length for her age. Felicite cut off a big lock and put sailor, had come back from a long voyage, and with tears in half of it into her bosom, resolving never to part with it.
his eyes told her that he had received the order to take Vir-The body was taken to Pont-l’Eveque, according to Ma-ginia away. Then they both consulted about a hiding-place.
dame Aubain’s wishes; she followed the hearse in a closed Once she came in from the garden, all upset. A moment carriage.
before (and she showed the place), the father and daughter After the ceremony it took three quarters of an hour to had appeared to her, one after the other; they did nothing reach the cemetery. Paul, sobbing, headed the procession; but look at her.
Monsieur Bourais followed, and then came the principle During several months she remained inert in her room.
inhabitants of the town, the women covered with black Felicite scolded her gently; she must keep up for her son capes, and Felicite. The memory of her nephew, and the and also for the other one, for “her memory.” thought that she had not been able to render him these
“Her memory!” replied Madame Aubain, as if she were honours, made her doubly unhappy, and she felt as if he just awakening, “Oh! yes, yes, you do not forget her!” This were being buried with Virginia.
was an allusion to the cemetery where she had been ex-Madame Aubain’s grief was uncontrollable. At first she pressly forbidden to go
rebelled against God, thinking that he was unjust to have But Felicite went there every day. At four o’clock exactly, taken away her child — she who had never done anything she would go through the town, climb the hill, open the wrong, and whose conscience was so pure! But no! she ought gate and arrive at Virginia’s tomb. It was a small column of 21
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert pink marble with a flat stone at its base, and it was sur-ters with him. They were often seen on their lawn, dressed rounded by a little plot enclosed by chains. The flower-beds in loose blouses, and they had a parrot and a negro servant.
were bright with blossoms. Felicite watered their leaves, re-Madame Aubain received a call, which she returned newed the gravel, and knelt on the ground in order to till promptly. As soon as she caught sight of them, Felicite would the earth properly. When Madame Aubain was able to visit run and notify her mistress. But only one thing was capable the cemetery she felt very much relieved and consoled.
of arousing her: a letter from her son.
Years passed, all alike and marked by no other events than He could not follow any profession as he was absorbed the return of the great church holidays: Easter, Assump-in drinking. His mother paid his debts and he made fresh tion, All Saints’ Day. Household happenings constituted the ones; and the sighs that she heaved while she knitted at only data to which in later years they often referred. Thus, the window reached the ears of Felicite who was spinning in 1825, workmen painted the vestibule; in 1827, a por-in the kitchen.
tion of the roof almost killed a man by falling into the yard.
They walked in the garden together, always speaking of In the summer of 1828, it was Madame’s turn to offer the Virginia, and asking each other if such and such a thing hallowed bread; at that time, Bourais disappeared mysteri-would have pleased her, and what she would probably have ously; and the old acquaintances, Guyot, Liebard, Madame said on this or that occasion.
Lechaptois, Robelin, old Gremanville, paralysed since a long All her little belongings were put away in a closet of the time, passed away one by one. One night, the driver of the room which held the two little beds. But Madame Aubain mail in Pont-l’Eveque announced the Revolution of July. A looked them over as little as possible. One summer day, few days afterward a new sub-prefect was nominated, the however, she resigned herself to the task and when she Baron de Larsonniere, ex-consul in America, who, besides opened the closet the moths flew out.
his wife, had his sister-in-law and her three grown daugh-Virginia’s frocks were hung under a shelf where there were 22
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert three dolls, some hoops, a doll- house, and a basic which she would stand in the doorway with a jug of cider and give she had used. Felicite and Madame Aubain also took out the soldiers a drink. She nursed cholera victims. She pro-the skirts, the handkerchiefs, and the stockings and spread tected Polish refugees, and one of them even declared that them on the beds, before putting them away again. The sun he wished to marry her. But they quarrelled, for one morn-fell on the piteous things, disclosing their spots and the ing when she returned from the Angelus she found him in creases formed by the motions of the body. The atmosphere the kitchen coolly eating a dish which he had prepared for was warm and blue, and a blackbird trilled in the garden; himself during her absence.
everything seemed to live in happiness. They found a little After the Polish refugees, came Colmiche, an old man hat of soft brown plush, but it was entirely moth-eaten.
who was credited with having committed frightful misdeeds Felicite asked for it. Their eyes met and filled with tears; at in ’93. He lived near the river in the ruins of a pig-sty. The last the mistress opened her arms and the servant threw urchins peeped at him through the cracks in the walls and herself against her breast and they hugged each other and threw stones that fell on his miserable bed, where he lay giving vent to their grief in a kiss which equalised them for gasping with catarrh, with long hair, inflamed eyelids, and a moment.
a tumour as big as his head on one arm.
It was the first time that this had ever happened, for Ma-She got him some linen, tried to clean his hovel and dame Aubain was not of an expansive nature. Felicite was dreamed of installing him in the bake- house without his as grateful for it as if it had been some favour, and thence-being in Madame’s way. When the cancer broke, she dressed forth loved her with animal-like devotion and a religious it every day; sometimes she brought him some cake and veneration.
placed him in the sun on a bundle of hay; and the poor old Her kind-heartedness developed. When she heard the creature, trembling and drooling, would thank her in his drums of a marching regiment passing through the street, broken voice, and put out his hands whenever she left him.
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert Finally he died; and she had a mass said for the repose of his CHAPTER IV
That day a great joy came to her: at dinner-time, Ma-HE WAS CALLED LOULOU. His body was green, his head blue, dame de Larsonniere’s servant called with the parrot, the the tips of his wings were pink and his breast was golden.
cage, and the perch and chain and lock. A note from the But he had the tiresome tricks of biting his perch, pulling baroness told Madame Aubain that as her husband had been his feathers out, scattering refuse and spilling the water of promoted to a prefecture, they were leaving that night, and his bath. Madame Aubain grew tired of him and gave him she begged her to accept the bird as a remembrance and a to Felicite for good.
token of her esteem.
She undertook his education, and soon he was able to Since a long time the parrot had been on Felicite’s mind, repeat: “Pretty boy! Your servant, sir! I salute you, Marie!” because he came from America, which reminded her of His perch was placed near the door and several persons were Victor, and she had approached the negro on the subject.
astonished that he did not answer to the name of “Jacquot,” Once even, she had said:
for every parrot is called Jacquot. They called him a goose
“How glad Madame would be to have him!” and a log, and these taunts were like so many dagger thrusts The man had repeated this remark to his mistress who, to Felicite. Strange stubbornness of the bird which would not being able to keep the bird, took this means of getting not talk when people watched him!
rid of it.
Nevertheless, he sought society; for on Sunday, when the ladies Rochefeuille, Monsieur de Houppeville and the new habitues, Onfroy, the chemist, Monsieur Varin and Captain Mathieu, dropped in for their game of cards, he struck the window-panes with his wings and made such a racket 24
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert that it was impossible to talk.
his tongue like those chickens are sometimes afflicted with.
Bourais’ face must have appeared very funny to Loulou.
Felicite pulled it off with her nails and cured him. One day, As soon as he saw him he would begin to roar. His voice re-Paul was imprudent enough to blow the smoke of his cigar echoed in the yard, and the neighbours would come to the in his face; another time, Madame Lormeau was teasing windows and begin to laugh, too; and in order that the him with the tip of her umbrella and he swallowed the tip.
parrot might not see him, Monsieur Bourais edged along Finally he got lost.
the wall, pushed his hat over his eyes to hide his profile, She had put him on the grass to cool him and went away and entered by the garden door, and the looks he gave the only for a second; when she returned, she found no parrot!
bird lacked affection. Loulou, having thrust his head into She hunted among the bushes, on the bank of the river, the butcher-boy’s basket, received a slap, and from that time and on the roofs, without paying any attention to Madame he always tried to nip his enemy. Fabu threatened to ring Aubain who screamed at her: “Take care! you must be in-his neck, although he was not cruelly inclined, notwith-sane!” Then she searched every garden in Pont-l’Eveque and standing his big whiskers and tattooings. On the contrary, stopped the passers-by to inquire of them: “Haven’t you he rather liked the bird, and, out of devilry, tried to teach perhaps seen my parrot?” To those who had never seen the him oaths. Felicite, whom his manner alarmed, put Loulou parrot, she described him minutely. Suddenly she thought in the kitchen, took off his chain and let him walk all over she saw something green fluttering behind the mills at the the house.
foot of the hill. But when she was at the top of the hill she When he went downstairs, he rested his beak on the steps, could not see it. A hod-carrier told her that he had just seen lifted his right foot and then his left one; but his mistress the bird in Saint—Melaine, in Mother Simon’s store. She feared that such feats would give him vertigo. He became rushed to the place. The people did not know what she was ill and was unable to eat. There was a small growth under talking about. At last she came home, exhausted, with her 25
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert slippers worn to shreds, and despair in her heart. She sat parrot’s voice.
down on the bench near Madame and was telling of her As if to divert her mind, he reproduced for her the tick-search when presently a light weight dropped on her shoul-tack of the spit in the kitchen, the shrill cry of the fish-der — Loulou! What the deuce had he been doing? Perhaps vendors, the saw of the carpenter who had a shop opposite, he had just taken a little walk around the town!
and when the door-bell rang, he would imitate Madame She did not easily forget her scare; in fact, she never got Aubain: “Felicite! go to the front door.” over it. In consequence of a cold, she caught a sore throat; They held conversations together, Loulou repeating the and some time later she had an earache. Three years later three phrases of his repertory over and over, Felicite reply-she was stone deaf, and spoke in a very loud voice even in ing by words that had no greater meaning, but in which she church. Although her sins might have been proclaimed poured out her feelings. In her isolation, the parrot was throughout the diocese without any shame to herself, or ill almost a son, a love. He climbed upon her fingers, pecked effects to the community, the cure thought it advisable to at her lips, clung to her shawl, and when she rocked her receive her confession in the vestry-room.
head to and fro like a nurse, the big wings of her cap and Imaginary buzzings also added to her bewilderment. Her the wings of the bird flapped in unison. When clouds gath-mistress often said to her: “My goodness, how stupid you ered on the horizon and the thunder rumbled, Loulou would are!” and she would answer: “Yes, Madame,” and look for scream, perhaps because he remembered the storms in his something.
native forests. The dripping of the rain would excite him to The narrow circle of her ideas grew more restricted than frenzy; he flapped around, struck the ceiling with his wings, it already was; the bellowing of the oxen, the chime of the upset everything, and would finally fly into the garden to bells no longer reached her intelligence. All things moved play. Then he would come back into the room, light on one silently, like ghosts. Only one noise penetrated her ears; the of the andirons, and hop around in order to get dry.
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert One morning during the terrible winter of 1837, when Behind her, in a cloud of dust and impelled by the steep she had put him in front of the fire- place on account of incline, a mail-coach drawn by galloping horses advanced the cold, she found him dead in his cage, hanging to the like a whirlwind. When he saw a woman in the middle of wire bars with his head down. He had probably died of the road, who did not get out of the way, the driver stood congestion. But she believed that he had been poisoned, up in his seat and shouted to her and so did the postilion, and although she had no proofs whatever, her suspicion while the four horses, which he could not hold back, accel-rested on Fabu.
erated their pace; the two leaders were almost upon her; She wept so sorely that her mistress said: “Why don’t you with a jerk of the reins he threw them to one side, but, have him stuffed?”
furious at the incident, he lifted his big whip and lashed her She asked the advice of the chemist, who had always been from her head to her feet with such violence that she fell to kind to the bird.
the ground unconscious.
He wrote to Havre for her. A certain man named Fellacher Her first thought, when she recovered her senses, was to consented to do the work. But, as the diligence driver often open the basket. Loulou was unharmed. She felt a sting on lost parcels entrusted to him, Felicite resolved to take her her right cheek; when she took her hand away it was red, pet to Honfleur herself.
for the blood was flowing.
Leafless apple-trees lined the edges of the road. The ditches She sat down on a pile of stones, and sopped her cheek were covered with ice. The dogs on the neighbouring farms with her handkerchief; then she ate a crust of bread she had barked; and Felicite, with her hands beneath her cape, her put in her basket, and consoled herself by looking at the bird.
little black sabots and her basket, trotted along nimbly in Arriving at the top of Ecquemanville, she saw the lights the middle of the sidewalk. She crossed the forest, passed of Honfleur shining in the distance like so many stars; fur-by the Haut-Chene, and reached Saint-Gatien.
ther on, the ocean spread out in a confused mass. Then a 27
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert weakness came over her; the misery of her childhood, the not be opened easily on account of the presence of a large disappointment of her first love, the departure of her wardrobe. Opposite the window that looked out into the nephew, the death of Virginia; all these things came back to garden, a bull’s-eye opened on the yard; a table was placed her at once, and, rising like a swelling tide in her throat, by the cot and held a wash-basin, two combs, and a piece of almost choked her.
blue soap in a broken saucer. On the walls were rosaries, Then she wished to speak to the captain of the vessel, and medals, a number of Holy Virgins, and a holy-water basin without stating what she was sending, she gave him some made out of a cocoanut; on the bureau, which was covered instructions.
with a napkin like an altar, stood the box of shells that Vic-Fellacher kept the parrot a long time. He always promised tor had given her; also a watering-can and a balloon, writ-that it would be ready for the following week; after six months ing-books, the engraved geography and a pair of shoes; on he announced the shipment of a case, and that was the end of the nail which held the mirror, hung Virginia’s little plush it. Really, it seemed as if Loulou would never come back to hat! Felicite carried this sort of respect so far that she even his home. “They have stolen him,” thought Felicite.
kept one of Monsieur’s old coats. All the things which Ma-Finally he arrived, sitting bold upright on a branch which dame Aubain discarded, Felicite begged for her own room.
could be screwed into a mahogany pedestal, with his foot in Thus, she had artificial flowers on the edge of the bureau, the air, his head on one side, and in his beak a nut which and the picture of the Comte d’Artois in the recess of the the naturalist, from love of the sumptuous, had gilded. She window. By means of a board, Loulou was set on a portion put him in her room.
of the chimney which advanced into the room. Every morn-This place, to which only a chosen few were admitted, ing when she awoke, she saw him in the dim light of dawn looked like a chapel and a second- hand shop, so filled was and recalled bygone days and the smallest details of insig-it with devotional and heterogeneous things. The door could nificant actions, without any sense of bitterness or grief.
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert As she was unable to communicate with people, she lived She desired very much to enter in the ranks of the “Daughters in a sort of somnambulistic torpor. The processions of Cor-of the Virgin.” But Madame Aubain dissuaded her from it.
pus-Christi Day seemed to wake her up. She visited the A most important event occurred: Paul’s marriage.
neighbours to beg for candlesticks and mats so as to adorn After being first a notary’s clerk, then in business, then in the temporary altars in the street.
the customs, and a tax collector, and having even applied In church, she always gazed at the Holy Ghost, and no-for a position in the administration of woods and forests, ticed that there was something about it that resembled a he had at last, when he was thirty-six years old, by a divine parrot. The likenesses appeared even more striking on a inspiration, found his vocation: registrature! and he displayed coloured picture by Espinal, representing the baptism of such a high ability that an inspector had offered him his our Saviour. With his scarlet wings and emerald body, it daughter and his influence.
was really the image of Loulou. Having bought the picture, Paul, who had become quite settled, brought his bride to she hung it near the one of the Comte d’Artois so that she visit his mother.
could take them in at one glance.
But she looked down upon the customs of Pont-l’Eveque, They associated in her mind, the parrot becoming sancti-put on airs, and hurt Felicite’s feelings. Madame Aubain fied through the neighbourhood of the Holy Ghost, and felt relieved when she left.
the latter becoming more lifelike in her eyes, and more com-The following week they learned of Monsieur Bourais’
prehensible. In all probability the Father had never chosen death in an inn. There were rumours of suicide, which were as messenger a dove, as the latter has no voice, but rather confirmed; doubts concerning his integrity arose. Madame one of Loulou’s ancestors. And Felicite said her prayers in Aubain looked over her accounts and soon discovered his front of the coloured picture, though from time to time she numerous embezzlements; sales of wood which had been turned slightly towards the bird.
concealed from her, false receipts, etc. Furthermore, he had 29
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert an illegitimate child, and entertained a friendship for “a and the wardrobe had been emptied of Virginia’s belongings!
person in Dozule.”
Felicite went upstairs, overcome with grief.
These base actions affected her very much. In March, The following day a sign was posted on the door; the 1853, she developed a pain in her chest; her tongue looked chemist screamed in her ear that the house was for sale.
as if it were coated with smoke, and the leeches they ap-For a moment she tottered, and had to sit down.
plied did not relieve her oppression; and on the ninth evening What hurt her most was to give up her room,—so nice for she died, being just seventy-two years old.
poor Loulou! She looked at him in despair and implored the People thought that she was younger, because her hair, Holy Ghost, and it was this way that she contracted the idola-which she wore in bands framing her pale face, was brown.
trous habit of saying her prayers kneeling in front of the bird.
Few friends regretted her loss, for her manner was so haughty Sometimes the sun fell through the window on his glass eye, that she did not attract them. Felicite mourned for her as and lighted a spark in it which sent Felicite into ecstasy.
servants seldom mourn for their masters. The fact that Her mistress had left her an income of three hundred and Madame should die before herself perplexed her mind and eighty francs. The garden supplied her with vegetables. As seemed contrary to the order of things, and absolutely mon-for clothes, she had enough to last her till the end of her days, strous and inadmissible. Ten days later (the time to journey and she economised on the light by going to bed at dusk.
from Besancon), the heirs arrived. Her daughter-in-law ran-She rarely went out, in order to avoid passing in front of sacked the drawers, kept some of the furniture, and sold the the second-hand dealer’s shop where there was some of the rest; then they went back to their own home.
old furniture. Since her fainting spell, she dragged her leg, Madame’s armchair, foot-warmer, work-table, the eight chairs, and as her strength was failing rapidly, old Mother Simon, everything was gone! The places occupied by the pictures formed who had lost her money in the grocery business, came very yellow squares on the walls. They had taken the two little beds, morning to chop the wood and pump the water.
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert Her eyesight grew dim. She did not open the shutters that she begged him to accept after her death, her only trea-after that. Many years passed. But the house did not sell or sure, Loulou. From Tuesday until Saturday, the day before rent. Fearing that she would be put out, Felicite did not ask the event, she coughed more frequently. In the evening her for repairs. The laths of the roof were rotting away, and face was contracted, her lips stuck to her gums and she be-during one whole winter her bolster was wet. After Easter gan to vomit; and on the following day, she felt so low that she spit blood.
she called for a priest.
Then Mother Simon went for a doctor. Felicite wished to Three neighbours surrounded her when the dominie ad-know what her complaint was. But, being too deaf to hear, ministered the Extreme Unction. Afterwards she said that she caught only one word: “Pneumonia.” She was familiar she wished to speak to Fabu.
with it and gently answered:—”Ah! Like Madame,” think-He arrived in his Sunday clothes, very ill at ease among ing it quite natural that she should follow her mistress.
the funereal surroundings.
The time for the altars in the street drew near.
“Forgive me,” she said, making an effort to extend her The first one was always erected at the foot of the hill, the arm, “I believed it was you who killed him!” second in front of the post-office, and the third in the middle What did such accusations mean? Suspect a man like him of the street. This position occasioned some rivalry among the of murder! And Fabu became excited and was about to make women and they finally decided upon Madame Aubain’s yard.
Felicite’s fever grew worse. She was sorry that she could
“Don’t you see she is not in her right mind?” not do anything for the altar. If she could, at least, have From time to time Felicite spoke to shadows. The women contributed something towards it! Then she thought of the left her and Mother Simon sat down to breakfast.
parrot. Her neighbours objected that it would not be proper.
A little later, she took Loulou and holding him up to But the cure gave his consent and she was so grateful for it Felicite:
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert
“Say good-bye to him, now!” she commanded.
smallest ones, with curly heads, threw rose leaves into the Although he was not a corpse, he was eaten up by worms; air; the deacon with outstretched arms conducted the mu-one of his wings was broken and the wadding was coming sic; and two incense-bearers turned with each step they took out of his body. But Felicite was blind now, and she took toward the Holy Sacrament, which was carried by M. le him and laid him against her cheek. Then Mother Simon Cure, attired in his handsome chasuble and walking under removed him in order to set him on the altar.
a canopy of red velvet supported by four men. A crowd of people followed, jammed between the walls of the houses CHAPTER V
hung with white sheets; at last the procession arrived at the foot of the hill.
THE GRASS EXHALED an odour of summer; flies buzzed in the A cold sweat broke out on Felicite’s forehead. Mother air, the sun shone on the river and warmed the slated roof.
Simon wiped it away with a cloth, saying inwardly that some Old Mother Simon had returned to Felicite and was peace-day she would have to go through the same thing herself.
fully falling asleep.
The murmur of the crowd grew louder, was very distinct The ringing of bells woke her; the people were coming for a moment and then died away. A volley of musketry shook out of church. Felicite’s delirium subsided. By thinking of the window-panes. It was the postilions saluting the Sacra-the procession, she was able to see it as if she had taken part ment. Felicite rolled her eyes, and said as loudly as she could: in it. All the school-children, the singers and the firemen
“Is he all right?” meaning the parrot.
walked on the sidewalks, while in the middle of the street Her death agony began. A rattle that grew more and more came first the custodian of the church with his halberd, rapid shook her body. Froth appeared at the corners of her then the beadle with a large cross, the teacher in charge of mouth, and her whole frame trembled. In a little while could the boys and a sister escorting the little girls; three of the be heard the music of the bass horns, the clear voices of the 32
A Simple Soul — Gustave Flaubert children and the men’s deeper notes. At intervals all was erybody knelt. There was deep silence; and the censers slip-still, and their shoes sounded like a herd of cattle passing ping on their chains were swung high in the air. A blue over the grass.
vapour rose in Felicite’s room. She opened her nostrils and The clergy appeared in the yard. Mother Simon climbed inhaled with a mystic sensuousness; then she closed her lids.
on a chair to reach the bull’s-eye, and in this manner could Her lips smiled. The beats of her heart grew fainter and see the altar. It was covered with a lace cloth and draped fainter, and vaguer, like a fountain giving out, like an echo with green wreaths. In the middle stood a little frame con-dying away;— and when she exhaled her last breath, she taining relics; at the corners were two little orange-trees, thought she saw in the half-opened heavens a gigantic par-and all along the edge were silver candlesticks, porcelain rot hovering above her head.
vases containing sun-flowers, lilies, peonies, and tufts of If you would like to view more of Gustave hydrangeas. This mount of bright colours descended di-Flaubert’s
agonally from the first floor to the carpet that covered the writings in PDF format return to sidewalk. Rare objects arrested one’s eye. A golden sugar-bowl was crowned with violets, earrings set with Alencon
stones were displayed on green moss, and two Chinese
screens with their bright landscapes were near by. Loulou, hidden beneath roses, showed nothing but his blue head If you would like to view more Electronic Clas-which looked like a piece of lapis-lazuli.
PDF Books return to
The singers, the canopy-bearers and the children lined up against the sides of the yard. Slowly the priest ascended
the steps and placed his shining sun on the lace cloth. Ev-
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