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By Gustave Flaubert





For half a century the housewives of Pont-l'Eveque had envied Madame

Aubain her servant Felicite.

For a hundred francs a yearshe cooked and did the houseworkwashed

ironedmendedharnessed the horsefattened the poultrymade the

butter and remained faithful to her mistress--although the latter was

by no means an agreeable person.

Madame Aubain had married a comely youth without any moneywho died

in the beginning of 1809leaving her with two young children and a

number of debts. She sold all her property excepting the farm of

Toucques and the farm of Geffossesthe income of which barely

amounted to 5000 francs; then she left her house in Saint-Melaine

and moved into a less pretentious one which had belonged to her

ancestors and stood back of the market-place. This housewith its

slate-covered roofwas built between a passage-way and a narrow

street that led to the river. The interior was so unevenly graded that

it caused people to stumble. A narrow hall separated the kitchen from

the parlourwhere Madame Aubain sat all day in a straw armchair near

the window. Eight mahogany chairs stood in a row against the white

wainscoting. An old pianostanding beneath a barometerwas covered

with a pyramid of old books and boxes. On either side of the yellow

marble mantelpiecein Louis XV. stylestood a tapestry armchair. The

clock represented a temple of Vesta; and the whole room smelled musty

as it was on a lower level than the garden.

On the first floor was Madame's bed-chambera large room papered in a

flowered design and containing the portrait of Monsieur dressed in the

costume of a dandy. It communicated with a smaller roomin which

there were two little cribswithout any mattresses. Nextcame the

parlour (always closed)filled with furniture covered with sheets.

Then a hallwhich led to the studywhere books and papers were piled

on the shelves of a book-case that enclosed three quarters of the big

black desk. Two panels were entirely hidden under pen-and-ink

sketchesGouache landscapes and Audran engravingsrelics of better

times and vanished luxury. On the second floora garret-window

lighted Felicite's roomwhich looked out upon the meadows.

She arose at daybreakin order to attend massand she worked without

interruption until night; thenwhen dinner was overthe dishes

cleared away and the door securely lockedshe would bury the log

under the ashes and fall asleep in front of the hearth with a rosary

in her hand. Nobody could bargain with greater obstinacyand as for

cleanlinessthe lustre on her brass sauce-pans was the envy and

despair of other servants. She was most economicaland when she ate

she would gather up crumbs with the tip of her fingerso that nothing

should be wasted of the loaf of bread weighing twelve pounds which was

baked especially for her and lasted three weeks.

Summer and winter she wore a dimity kerchief fastened in the back with

a pina cap which concealed her haira red skirtgrey stockings

and an apron with a bib like those worn by hospital nurses.

Her face was thin and her voice shrill. When she was twenty-fiveshe

looked forty. After she had passed fiftynobody could tell her age;

erect and silent alwaysshe resembled a wooden figure working






Like every other womanshe had had an affair of the heart. Her

fatherwho was a masonwas killed by falling from a scaffolding.

Then her mother died and her sisters went their different ways; a

farmer took her inand while she was quite smalllet her keep cows

in the fields. She was clad in miserable ragsbeaten for the

slightest offence and finally dismissed for a theft of thirty sous

which she did not commit. She took service on another farm where she

tended the poultry; and as she was well thought of by her masterher

fellow-workers soon grew jealous.

One evening in August (she was then eighteen years old)they

persuaded her to accompany them to the fair at Colleville. She was

immediately dazzled by the noisethe lights in the treesthe

brightness of the dressesthe laces and gold crossesand the crowd

of people all hopping at the same time. She was standing modestly at a

distancewhen presently a young man of well-to-do appearancewho had

been leaning on the pole of a wagon and smoking his pipeapproached

herand asked her for a dance. He treated her to cider and cake

bought her a silk shawland thenthinking she had guessed his

purposeoffered to see her home. When they came to the end of a field

he threw her down brutally. But she grew frightened and screamedand

he walked off.

One eveningon the road leading to Beaumontshe came upon a wagon

loaded with hayand when she overtook itshe recognised Theodore. He

greeted her calmlyand asked her to forget what had happened between

themas it "was all the fault of the drink."

She did not know what to reply and wished to run away.

Presently he began to speak of the harvest and of the notables of the

village; his father had left Colleville and bought the farm of Les

Ecotsso that now they would be neighbours. "Ah!" she exclaimed.He

then added that his parents were looking around for a wife for him

but that hehimselfwas not so anxious and preferred to wait for a

girl who suited him. She hung her head. He then asked her whether she

had ever thought of marrying. She repliedsmilinglythat it was

wrong of him to make fun of her. "Oh! noI am in earnest" he said

and put his left arm around her waist while they sauntered along. The

air was softthe stars were brightand the huge load of hay

oscillated in front of themdrawn by four horses whose ponderous

hoofs raised clouds of dust. Without a word from their driver they

turned to the right. He kissed her again and she went home. The

following weekTheodore obtained meetings.

They met in yardsbehind walls or under isolated trees. She was not

ignorantas girls of well-to-do families are--for the animals had

instructed her;--but her reason and her instinct of honour kept her

from falling. Her resistance exasperated Theodore's love and so in

order to satisfy it (or perchance ingenuously)he offered to marry

her. She would not believe him at firstso he made solemn promises.

Butin a short time he mentioned a difficulty; the previous yearhis

parents had purchased a substitute for him; but any day he might be

drafted and the prospect of serving in the army alarmed him greatly.

To Felicite his cowardice appeared a proof of his love for herand

her devotion to him grew stronger. When she met himhe would torture

her with his fears and his entreaties. At lasthe announced that he

was going to the prefect himself for informationand would let her

know everything on the following Sundaybetween eleven o'clock and


When the time grew nearshe ran to meet her lover.

But instead of Theodoreone of his friends was at the meeting-place.

He informed her that she would never see her sweetheart again; forin

order to escape the conscriptionhe had married a rich old woman

Madame Lehoussaisof Toucques.

The poor girl's sorrow was frightful. She threw herself on the ground

she cried and called on the Lordand wandered around desolately until

sunrise. Then she went back to the farmdeclared her intention of

leavingand at the end of the monthafter she had received her

wagesshe packed all her belongings in a handkerchief and started for


In front of the innshe met a woman wearing widow's weedsand upon

questioning herlearned that she was looking for a cook. The girl did

not know very muchbut appeared so willing and so modest in her

requirementsthat Madame Aubain finally said:

"Very wellI will give you a trial."

And half an hour later Felicite was installed in her house.

At first she lived in a constant anxiety that was caused by "the style

of the household" and the memory of "Monsieur" that hoveredover

everything. Paul and Virginiathe one aged sevenand the other

barely fourseemed made of some precious material; she carried them

pig-a-backand was greatly mortified when Madame Aubain forbade her

to kiss them every other minute.

But in spite of all thisshe was happy. The comfort of her new

surroundings had obliterated her sadness.

Every Thursdayfriends of Madame Aubain dropped in for a game of

cardsand it was Felicite's duty to prepare the table and heat the

foot-warmers. They arrived at exactly eight o'clock and departed

before eleven.

Every Monday morningthe dealer in second-hand goodswho lived under

the alley-wayspread out his wares on the sidewalk. Then the city

would be filled with a buzzing of voices in which the neighing of

horsesthe bleating of lambsthe grunting of pigscould be

distinguishedmingled with the sharp sound of wheels on the cobble-

stones. About twelve o'clockwhen the market was in full swingthere

appeared at the front door a tallmiddle-aged peasantwith a hooked

nose and a cap on the back of his head; it was Robelinthe farmer of

Geffosses. Shortly afterwards came Liebardthe farmer of Toucques

shortrotund and ruddywearing a grey jacket and spurred boots.

Both men brought their landlady either chickens or cheese. Felicite

would invariably thwart their ruses and they held her in great


At various timesMadame Aubain received a visit from the Marquis de

Gremanvilleone of her uncleswho was ruined and lived at Falaise on

the remainder of his estates. He always came at dinner-time and

brought an ugly poodle with himwhose paws soiled their furniture. In

spite of his efforts to appear a man of breeding (he even went so far

as to raise his hat every time he said "My deceased father")his

habits got the better of himand he would fill his glass a little too

often and relate broad stories. Felicite would show him out very

politely and say: "You have had enough for this timeMonsieur de

Gremanville! Hoping to see you again!" and would close the door.

She opened it gladly for Monsieur Bouraisa retired lawyer. His bald

head and white cravatthe ruffling of his shirthis flowing brown

coatthe manner in which he took snuffhis whole personin fact

produced in her the kind of awe which we feel when we see

extraordinary persons. As he managed Madame's estateshe spent hours

with her in Monsieur's study; he was in constant fear of being

compromisedhad a great regard for the magistracy and some

pretensions to learning.

In order to facilitate the children's studieshe presented them with

an engraved geography which represented various scenes of the world;

cannibals with feather head-dressesa gorilla kidnapping a young

girlArabs in the deserta whale being harpoonedetc.

Paul explained the pictures to Felicite. Andin factthis was her

only literary education.

The children's studies were under the direction of a poor devil

employed at the town-hallwho sharpened his pocket-knife on his boots

and was famous for his penmanship.

When the weather was finethey went to Geffosses. The house was built

in the centre of the sloping yard; and the sea looked like a grey spot

in the distance. Felicite would take slices of cold meat from the

lunch basket and they would sit down and eat in a room next to the

dairy. This room was all that remained of a cottage that had been torn

down. The dilapidated wall-paper trembled in the drafts. Madame

Aubainoverwhelmed by recollectionswould hang her headwhile the

children were afraid to open their mouths. Then"Why don't you go and

play?" their mother would say; and they would scamper off.

Paul would go to the old barncatch birdsthrow stones into the

pondor pound the trunks of the trees with a stick till they

resounded like drums. Virginia would feed the rabbits and run to pick

the wild flowers in the fieldsand her flying legs would disclose her

little embroidered pantalettes. One autumn eveningthey struck out

for home through the meadows. The new moon illumined part of the sky

and a mist hovered like a veil over the sinuosities of the river.

Oxenlying in the pasturesgazed mildly at the passing persons. In

the third fieldhoweverseveral of them got up and surrounded them.

"Don't be afraid" cried Felicite; and murmuring a sort of lamentshe

passed her hand over the back of the nearest ox; he turned away and

the others followed. But when they came to the next pasturethey

heard frightful bellowing.

It was a bull which was hidden from them by the fog. He advanced

towards the two womenand Madame Aubain prepared to flee for her

life. "Nono! not so fast" warned Felicite. Still they hurriedon

for they could hear the noisy breathing of the bull behind them. His

hoofs pounded the grass like hammersand presently he began to

gallop! Felicite turned around and threw patches of grass in his eyes.

He hung his headshook his horns and bellowed with fury. Madame

Aubain and the childrenhuddled at the end of the fieldwere trying

to jump over the ditch. Felicite continued to back before the bull

blinding him with dirtwhile she shouted to them to make haste.

Madame Aubain finally slid into the ditchafter shoving first

Virginia and then Paul into itand though she stumbled several times

she managedby dint of courageto climb the other side of it.

The bull had driven Felicite up against a fence; the foam from his

muzzle flew in her face and in another minute he would have

disembowelled her. She had just time to slip between two bars and the

huge animalthwartedpaused.

For yearsthis occurrence was a topic of conversation in Pont-

l'Eveque. But Felicite took no credit to herselfand probably never

knew that she had been heroic.

Virginia occupied her thoughts solelyfor the shock she had sustained

gave her a nervous affectionand the physicianM. Poupart

prescribed the salt-water bathing at Trouville. In those days

Trouville was not greatly patronised. Madame Aubain gathered

informationconsulted Bouraisand made preparations as if they were

going on an extended trip.

The baggage was sent the day before on Liebard's cart. On the

following morninghe brought around two horsesone of which had a

woman's saddle with a velveteen back to itwhile on the crupper of

the other was a rolled shawl that was to be used for a seat. Madame

Aubain mounted the second horsebehind Liebard. Felicite took charge

of the little girland Paul rode M. Lechaptois' donkeywhich had

been lent for the occasion on the condition that they should be

careful of it.

The road was so bad that it took two hours to cover the eight miles.

The two horses sank knee-deep into the mud and stumbled into ditches;

sometimes they had to jump over them. In certain placesLiebard's

mare stopped abruptly. He waited patiently till she started againand

talked of the people whose estates bordered the roadadding his own

moral reflections to the outline of their histories. Thuswhen they

were passing through Toucquesand came to some windows draped with

nasturtiumshe shrugged his shoulders and said: "There's a woman

Madame Lehoussaiswhoinstead of taking a young man--" Felicite

could not catch what followed; the horses began to trotthe donkey to

gallopand they turned into a lane; then a gate swung opentwo farm-

hands appeared and they all dismounted at the very threshold of the


Mother Liebardwhen she caught sight of her mistresswas lavish with

joyful demonstrations. She got up a lunch which comprised a leg of

muttontripesausagesa chicken fricasseesweet cidera fruit

tart and some preserved prunes; then to all this the good woman added

polite remarks about Madamewho appeared to be in better health

Mademoisellewho had grown to be "superb" and Paulwho hadbecome

singularly sturdy; she spoke also of their deceased grandparentswhom

the Liebards had knownfor they had been in the service of the family

for several generations.

Like its ownersthe farm had an ancient appearance. The beams of the

ceiling were mouldythe walls black with smoke and the windows grey

with dust. The oak sideboard was filled with all sorts of utensils

platespitcherstin bowlswolf-traps. The children laughed when

they saw a huge syringe. There was not a tree in the yard that did not

have mushrooms growing around its footor a bunch of mistletoe

hanging in its branches. Several of the trees had been blown downbut

they had started to grow in the middle and all were laden with

quantities of apples. The thatched roofswhich were of unequal

thicknesslooked like brown velvet and could resist the fiercest

gales. But the wagon-shed was fast crumbling to ruins. Madame Aubain

said that she would attend to itand then gave orders to have the

horses saddled.

It took another thirty minutes to reach Trouville. The little caravan

dismounted in order to pass Les Ecoresa cliff that overhangs the

bayand a few minutes laterat the end of the dockthey entered the

yard of the Golden Lamban inn kept by Mother David.

During the first few daysVirginia felt strongerowing to the change

of air and the action of the sea-baths. She took them in her little

chemiseas she had no bathing suitand afterwards her nurse dressed

her in the cabin of a customs officerwhich was used for that purpose

by other bathers.

In the afternoonthey would take the donkey and go to the Roches-

Noiresnear Hennequeville. The path led at first through undulating

groundsand thence to a plateauwhere pastures and tilled fields

alternated. At the edge of the roadmingling with the bramblesgrew

holly bushesand here and there stood large dead trees whose branches

traced zigzags upon the blue sky.

Ordinarilythey rested in a field facing the oceanwith Deauville on

their leftand Havre on their right. The sea glittered brightly in

the sun and was as smooth as a mirrorand so calm that they could

scarcely distinguish its murmur; sparrows chirped joyfully and the

immense canopy of heaven spread over it all. Madame Aubain brought out

her sewingand Virginia amused herself by braiding reeds; Felicite

wove lavender blossomswhile Paul was bored and wished to go home.

Sometimes they crossed the Toucques in a boatand started to hunt for

sea-shells. The outgoing tide exposed star-fish and sea-urchinsand

the children tried to catch the flakes of foam which the wind blew

away. The sleepy waves lapping the sand unfurled themselves along the

shore that extended as far as the eye could seebut where land began

it was limited by the downs which separated it from the "Swamp" a

large meadow shaped like a hippodrome. When they went home that way

Trouvilleon the slope of a hill belowgrew larger and larger as

they advancedandwith all its houses of unequal heightseemed to

spread out before them in a sort of giddy confusion.

When the heat was too oppressivethey remained in their rooms. The

dazzling sunlight cast bars of light between the shutters. Not a sound

in the villagenot a soul on the sidewalk. This silence intensified

the tranquility of everything. In the distancethe hammers of some

calkers pounded the hull of a shipand the sultry breeze brought them

an odour of tar.

The principal diversion consisted in watching the return of the

fishing-smacks. As soon as they passed the beaconsthey began to ply

to windward. The sails were lowered to one third of the mastsand

with their fore-sails swelled up like balloons they glided over the

waves and anchored in the middle of the harbour. Then they crept up

alongside of the dock and the sailors threw the quivering fish over

the side of the boat; a line of carts was waiting for themand women

with white caps sprang forward to receive the baskets and embrace

their men-folk.

One dayone of them spoke to Felicitewhoafter a little while

returned to the house gleefully. She had found one of her sistersand

presently Nastasie Barettewife of Lerouxmade her appearance

holding an infant in her armsanother child by the handwhile on her

left was a little cabin-boy with his hands in his pockets and his cap

on his ear.

At the end of fifteen minutesMadame Aubain bade her go.

They always hung around the kitchenor approached Felicite when she

and the children were out walking. The husbandhoweverdid not show


Felicite developed a great fondness for them; she bought them a stove

some shirts and a blanket; it was evident that they exploited her. Her

foolishness annoyed Madame Aubainwhomoreover did not like the

nephew's familiarityfor he called her son "thou";--andasVirginia

began to cough and the season was overshe decided to return to Pont-


Monsieur Bourais assisted her in the choice of a college. The one at

Caen was considered the best. So Paul was sent away and bravely said

good-bye to them allfor he was glad to go to live in a house where

he would have boy companions.

Madame Aubain resigned herself to the separation from her son because

it was unavoidable. Virginia brooded less and less over it. Felicite

regretted the noise he madebut soon a new occupation diverted her

mind; beginning from Christmasshe accompanied the little girl to her

catechism lesson every day.





After she had made a curtsey at the thresholdshe would walk up the

aisle between the double lines of chairsopen Madame Aubain's pew

sit down and look around.

Girls and boysthe former on the rightthe latter on the left-hand

side of the churchfilled the stalls of the choir; the priest stood

beside the reading-desk; on one stained window of the side-aisle the

Holy Ghost hovered over the Virgin; on another oneMary knelt before

the Child Jesusand behind the altera wooden group represented

Saint Michael felling the dragon.

The priest first read a condensed lesson of sacred history. Felicite

evoked Paradisethe Floodthe Tower of Babelthe blazing cities

the dying nationsthe shattered idols; and out of this she developed

a great respect for the Almighty and a great fear of His wrath. Then

when she had listened to the Passionshe wept. Why had they crucified

Him who loved little childrennourished the peoplemade the blind

seeand whoout of humilityhad wished to be born among the poor

in a stable? The sowingsthe harveststhe wine-pressesall those

familiar things which the Scriptures mentionformed a part of her

life; the word of God sanctified them; and she loved the lambs with

increased tenderness for the sake of the Lamband the doves because

of the Holy Ghost.

She found it hardhoweverto think of the latter as a personfor

was it not a birda flameand sometimes only a breath? Perhaps it is

its light that at night hovers over swampsits breath that propels

the cloudsits voice that renders church-bells harmonious. And

Felicite worshipped devoutlywhile enjoying the coolness and the

stillness of the church.

As for the dogmashe could not understand it and did not even try.

The priest discoursedthe children recitedand she went to sleep

only to awaken with a start when they were leaving the church and

their wooden shoes clattered on the stone pavement.

In this wayshe learned her catechismher religious education having

been neglected in her youth; and thenceforth she imitated all

Virginia's religious practicesfasted when she didand went to

confession with her. At the Corpus-Christi Day they both decorated an


She worried in advance over Virginia's first communion. She fussed

about the shoesthe rosarythe book and the gloves. With what

nervousness she helped the mother dress the child!

During the entire ceremonyshe felt anguished. Monsieur Bourais hid

part of the choir from viewbut directly in front of herthe flock

of maidenswearing white wreaths over their lowered veilsformed a

snow-white fieldand she recognised her darling by the slenderness of

her neck and her devout attitude. The bell tinkled. All the heads bent

and there was a silence. Thenat the peals of the organ the singers

and the worshippers struck up the Agnes Dei; the boys' procession

began; behind them came the girls. With clasped handsthey advanced

step by step to the lighted altarknelt at the first stepreceived

one by one the Hostand returned to their seats in the same order.

When Virginia's turn cameFelicite leaned forward to watch herand

through that imagination which springs from true affectionshe at

once became the childwhose face and dress became herswhose heart

beat in her bosomand when Virginia opened her mouth and closed her

lidsshe did likewise and came very near fainting.

The following dayshe presented herself early at the church so as to

receive communion from the cure. She took it with the proper feeling

but did not experience the same delight as on the previous day.

Madame Aubain wished to make an accomplished girl of her daughter; and

as Guyot could not teach English or musicshe decided to send her to

the Ursulines at Honfleur.

The child made no objectionbut Felicite sighed and thought Madame

was heartless. Thenshe thought that perhaps her mistress was right

as these things were beyond her sphere. Finallyone dayan old

fiacre stopped in front of the door and a nun stepped out. Felicite

put Virginia's luggage on top of the carriagegave the coachman some

instructionsand smuggled six jars of jama dozen pears and a bunch

of violets under the seat.

At the last minuteVirginia had a fit of sobbing; she embraced her

mother again and againwhile the latter kissed her on the forehead

and said: "Nowbe bravebe brave!" The step was pulled up and the

fiacre rumbled off.

Then Madame Aubain had a fainting spelland that evening all her

friendsincluding the two LormeausMadame Lechaptoisthe ladies

RochefeuilleMessieurs de Houppeville and Bouraiscalled on her and

tendered their sympathy.

At first the separation proved very painful to her. But her daughter

wrote her three times a week and the other days sheherselfwrote to

Virginia. Then she walked in the gardenread a littleand in this

way managed to fill out the emptiness of the hours.

Each morningout of habitFelicite entered Virginia's room and gazed

at the walls. She missed combing her hairlacing her shoestucking

her in her bedand the bright face and little hand when they used to

go out for a walk. In order to occupy herself she tried to make lace.

But her clumsy fingers broke the threads; she had no heart for

anythinglost her sleep and "wasted away" as she put it.

In order to have some distractionshe asked leave to receive the

visits of her nephew Victor.

He would come on Sundayafter churchwith ruddy cheeks and bared

chestbringing with him the scent of the country. She would set the

table and they would sit down opposite each otherand eat their

dinner; she ate as little as possibleherselfto avoid any extra

expensebut would stuff him so with food that he would finally go to

sleep. At the first stroke of vespersshe would wake him upbrush

his trouserstie his cravat and walk to church with himleaning on

his arm with maternal pride.

His parents always told him to get something out of hereither a

package of brown sugaror soapor brandyand sometimes even money.

He brought her his clothes to mendand she accepted the task gladly

because it meant another visit from him.

In Augusthis father took him on a coasting-vessel.

It was vacation time and the arrival of the children consoled

Felicite. But Paul was capriciousand Virginia was growing too old to

be thee-and-thou'da fact which seemed to produce a sort of

embarrassment in their relations.

Victor went successively to Morlaixto Dunkirkand to Brighton;

whenever he returned from a trip he would bring her a present. The

first time it was a box of shells; the seconda coffee-cup; the

thirda big doll of ginger-bread. He was growing handsomehad a good

figurea tiny moustachekind eyesand a little leather cap that sat

jauntily on the back of his head. He amused his aunt by telling her

stories mingled with nautical expressions.

One Mondaythe 14th of July1819 (she never forgot the date)Victor

announced that he had been engaged on a merchant-vessel and that in

two days he would take the steamer at Honfleur and join his sailer

which was going to start from Havre very soon. Perhaps he might be

away two years.

The prospect of his departure filled Felicite with despairand in

order to bid him farewellon Wednesday nightafter Madame's dinner

she put on her pattens and trudged the four miles that separated Pont-

l'Eveque from Honfleur.

When she reached the Calvaryinstead of turning to the rightshe

turned to the left and lost herself in coal-yards; she had to retrace

her steps; some people she spoke to advised her to hasten. She walked

helplessly around the harbour filled with vesselsand knocked against

hawsers. Presently the ground sloped abruptlylights flitted to and

froand she thought all at once that she had gone mad when she saw

some horses in the sky.

Otherson the edge of the dockneighed at the sight of the ocean. A

derrick pulled them up in the airand dumped them into a boatwhere

passengers were bustling about among barrels of ciderbaskets of

cheese and bags of meal; chickens cackledthe captain swore and a

cabin-boy rested on the railingapparently indifferent to his

surroundings. Felicitewho did not recognise himkept shouting:

"Victor!" He suddenly raised his eyesbut while she was preparingto

rush up to himthey withdrew the gangplank.

The packettowed by singing womenglided out of the harbour. Her

hull squeaked and the heavy waves beat up against her sides. The sail

had turned and nobody was visible;--and on the oceansilvered by the

light of the moonthe vessel formed a black spot that grew dimmer and

dimmerand finally disappeared.

When Felicite passed the Calvary againshe felt as if she must

entrust that which was dearest to her to the Lord; and for a long

while she prayedwith uplifted eyes and a face wet with tears. The

city was sleeping; some customs officials were taking the air; and the

water kept pouring through the holes of the dam with a deafening roar.

The town clock struck two.

The parlour of the convent would not open until morningand surely a

delay would annoy Madamesoin spite of her desire to see the other

childshe went home. The maids of the inn were just arising when she

reached Pont-l'Eveque.

So the poor boy would be on the ocean for months! His previous trips

had not alarmed her. One can come back from England and Brittany; but

Americathe coloniesthe islandswere all lost in an uncertain

region at the very end of the world.

From that time onFelicite thought solely of her nephew. On warm days

she feared he would suffer from thirstand when it stormedshe was

afraid he would be struck by lightning. When she harkened to the wind

that rattled in the chimney and dislodged the tiles on the roofshe

imagined that he was being buffeted by the same stormperched on top

of a shattered mastwith his whole body bend backward and covered

with sea-foam; or--these were recollections of the engraved geography

--he was being devoured by savagesor captured in a forest by apes

or dying on some lonely coast. She never mentioned her anxieties


Madame Aubain worried about her daughter.

The sisters thought that Virginia was affectionate but delicate. The

slightest emotion enervated her. She had to give up her piano lessons.

Her mother insisted upon regular letters from the convent. One

morningwhen the postman failed to comeshe grew impatient and began

to pace to and frofrom her chair to the window. It was really

extraordinary! No news since four days!

In order to console her mistress by her own exampleFelicite said:

"WhyMadameI haven't had any news since six months!--"

"From whom?--"

The servant replied gently:

"Why--from my nephew."

"Ohyesyour nephew!" And shrugging her shouldersMadame Aubain

continued to pace the floor as if to say: "I did not think of it.--

BesidesI do not carea cabin-boya pauper!--but my daughter--what

a difference! just think of it!--"

Felicitealthough she had been reared roughlywas very indignant.

Then she forgot about it.

It appeared quite natural to her that one should lose one's head about


The two children were of equal importance; they were united in her

heart and their fate was to be the same.

The chemist informed her that Victor's vessel had reached Havana. He

had read the information in a newspaper.

Felicite imagined that Havana was a place where people did nothing but

smokeand that Victor walked around among negroes in a cloud of

tobacco. Could a personin case of needreturn by land? How far was

it from Pont-l'Eveque? In order to learn these thingsshe questioned

Monsieur Bourais. He reached for his map and began some explanations

concerning longitudesand smiled with superiority at Felicite's

bewilderment. At lasthe took a pencil and pointed out an

imperceptible black point in the scallops of an oval blotchadding:

"There it is." She bent over the map; the maze of coloured lineshurt

her eyes without enlightening her; and when Bourais asked her what

puzzled hershe requested him to show her the house Victor lived in.

Bourais threw up his handssneezedand then laughed uproariously;

such ignorance delighted his soul; but Felicite failed to understand

the cause of his mirthshe whose intelligence was so limited that she

perhaps expected to see even the picture of her nephew!

It was two weeks later that Liebard came into the kitchen at market-

timeand handed her a letter from her brother-in-law. As neither of

them could readshe called upon her mistress.

Madame Aubainwho was counting the stitches of her knittinglaid her

work down beside heropened the letterstartedand in a low tone

and with a searching look said: "They tell you of a--misfortune. Your


He had died. The letter told nothing more.

Felicite dropped on a chairleaned her head against the backand

closed her lids; presently they grew pink. Thenwith drooping head

inert hands and staring eyes she repeated at intervals:

"Poor little chap! poor little chap!"

Liebard watched her and sighed. Madame Aubain was trembling.

She proposed to the girl to go to see her sister in Trouville.

With a single motionFelicite replied that it was not necessary.

There was a silence. Old Liebard thought it about time for him to take


Then Felicite uttered:

"They have no sympathythey do not care!"

Her head fell forward againand from time to timemechanicallyshe

toyed with the long knitting-needles on the work-table.

Some women passed through the yard with a basket of wet clothes.

When she saw them through the windowshe suddenly remembered her own

wash; as she had soaked it the day beforeshe must go and rinse it

now. So she arose and left the room.

Her tub and her board were on the bank of the Toucques. She threw a

heap of clothes on the groundrolled up her sleeves and grasped her

bat; and her loud pounding could be heard in the neighbouring gardens.

The meadows were emptythe breeze wrinkled the streamat the bottom

of which were long grasses that looked like the hair of corpses

floating in the water. She restrained her sorrow and was very brave

until night; butwhen she had gone to her own roomshe gave way to

itburying her face in the pillow and pressing her two fists against

her temples.

A long while afterwardshe learned through Victor's captainthe

circumstances which surrounded his death. At the hospital they had

bled him too muchtreating him for yellow fever. Four doctors held

him at one time. He died almost instantlyand the chief surgeon had


"Here goes another one!"

His parents had always treated him barbarously; she preferred not to

see them againand they made no advanceseither from forgetfulness

or out of innate hardness.

Virginia was growing weaker.

A coughcontinual feveroppressive breathing and spots on her cheeks

indicated some serious trouble. Monsieur Popart had advised a sojourn

in Provence. Madame Aubain decided that they would goand she would

have had her daughter come home at oncehad it not been for the

climate of Pont-l'Eveque.

She made an arrangement with a livery-stable man who drove her over to

the convent every Tuesday. In the garden there was a terracefrom

which the view extends to the Seine. Virginia walked in itleaning on

her mother's arm and treading the dead vine leaves. Sometimes the sun

shining through the cloudsmade her blink her lidswhen she gazed at

the sails in the distanceand let her eyes roam over the horizon from

the chateau of Tancarville to the lighthouses of Havre. Then they

rested on the arbour. Her mother had bought a little cask of fine

Malaga wineand Virginialaughing at the idea of becoming

intoxicatedwould drink a few drops of itbut never more.

Her strength returned. Autumn passed. Felicite began to reassure

Madame Aubain. Butone eveningwhen she returned home after an

errandshe met M. Boupart's coach in front of the door; M. Boupart

himself was standing in the vestibule and Madame Aubain was tying the

strings of her bonnet. "Give me my foot-warmermy purse and my

gloves; and be quick about it" she said.

Virginia had congestion of the lungs; perhaps it was desperate.

"Not yet" said the physicianand both got into the carriagewhile

the snow fell in thick flakes. It was almost night and very cold.

Felicite rushed to the church to light a candle. Then she ran after

the coach which she overtook after an hour's chasesprang up behind

and held on to the straps. But suddenly a thought crossed her mind:

"The yard had been left open; supposing that burglars got in!" And

down she jumped.

The next morningat daybreakshe called at the doctor's. He had been

homebut had left again. Then she waited at the innthinking that

strangers might bring her a letter. At lastat daylight she took the

diligence for Lisieux.

The convent was at the end of a steep and narrow street. When she

arrived about at the middle of itshe heard strange noisesa funeral

knell. "It must be for some one else" thought she; and she pulledthe

knocker violently.

After several minutes had elapsedshe heard footstepsthe door was

half opened and a nun appeared. The good sisterwith an air of

compunctiontold her that "she had just passed away." And at thesame

time the tolling of Saint-Leonard's increased.

Felicite reached the second floor. Already at the thresholdshe

caught sight of Virginia lying on her backwith clasped handsher

mouth open and her head thrown backbeneath a black crucifix inclined

toward herand stiff curtains which were less white than her face.

Madame Aubain lay at the foot of the couchclasping it with her arms

and uttering groans of agony. The Mother Superior was standing on the

right side of the bed. The three candles on the bureau made red blurs

and the windows were dimmed by the fog outside. The nuns carried

Madame Aubain from the room.

For two nightsFelicite never left the corpse. She would repeat the

same prayerssprinkle holy water over the sheetsget upcome back

to the bed and contemplate the body. At the end of the first vigil

she noticed that the face had taken on a yellow tingethe lips grew

bluethe nose grew pinchedthe eyes were sunken. She kissed them

several times and would not have been greatly astonished had Virginia

opened them; to souls like this the supernatural is always quite

simple. She washed herwrapped her in a shroudput her into the

casketlaid a wreath of flowers on her head and arranged her curls.

They were blond and of an extraordinary length for her age. Felicite

cut off a big lock and put half of it into her bosomresolving never

to part with it.

The body was taken to Pont-l'Evequeaccording to Madame Aubain's

wishes; she followed the hearse in a closed carriage.

After the ceremony it took three quarters of an hour to reach the

cemetery. Paulsobbingheaded the procession; Monsieur Bourais

followedand then came the principle inhabitants of the townthe

women covered with black capesand Felicite. The memory of her

nephewand the thought that she had not been able to render him these

honoursmade her doubly unhappyand she felt as if he were being

buried with Virginia.

Madame Aubain's grief was uncontrollable. At first she rebelled

against Godthinking that he was unjust to have taken away her child

--she who had never done anything wrongand whose conscience was so

pure! But no! she ought to have taken her South. Other doctors would

have saved her. She accused herselfprayed to be able to join her

childand cried in the midst of her dreams. Of the latterone more

especially haunted her. Her husbanddressed like a sailorhad come

back from a long voyageand with tears in his eyes told her that he

had received the order to take Virginia away. Then they both consulted

about a hiding-place.

Once she came in from the gardenall upset. A moment before (and she

showed the place)the father and daughter had appeared to herone

after the other; they did nothing but look at her.

During several months she remained inert in her room. Felicite scolded

her gently; she must keep up for her son and also for the other one

for "her memory."

"Her memory!" replied Madame Aubainas if she were just awakening

"Oh! yesyesyou do not forget her!" This was an allusion to the

cemetery where she had been expressly forbidden to go

But Felicite went there every day. At four o'clock exactlyshe would

go through the townclimb the hillopen the gate and arrive at

Virginia's tomb. It was a small column of pink marble with a flat

stone at its baseand it was surrounded by a little plot enclosed by

chains. The flower-beds were bright with blossoms. Felicite watered

their leavesrenewed the graveland knelt on the ground in order to

till the earth properly. When Madame Aubain was able to visit the

cemetery she felt very much relieved and consoled.

Years passedall alike and marked by no other events than the return

of the great church holidays: EasterAssumptionAll Saints' Day.

Household happenings constituted the only data to which in later years

they often referred. Thusin 1825workmen painted the vestibule; in

1827a portion of the roof almost killed a man by falling into the

yard. In the summer of 1828it was Madame's turn to offer the

hallowed bread; at that timeBourais disappeared mysteriously; and

the old acquaintancesGuyotLiebardMadame LechaptoisRobelinold

Gremanvilleparalysed since a long timepassed away one by one. One

nightthe driver of the mail in Pont-l'Eveque announced the

Revolution of July. A few days afterward a new sub-prefect was

nominatedthe Baron de Larsonniereex-consul in Americawho

besides his wifehad his sister-in-law and her three grown daughters

with him. They were often seen on their lawndressed in loose

blousesand they had a parrot and a negro servant. Madame Aubain

received a callwhich she returned promptly. As soon as she caught

sight of themFelicite would run and notify her mistress. But only

one thing was capable of arousing her: a letter from her son.

He could not follow any profession as he was absorbed in drinking. His

mother paid his debts and he made fresh ones; and the sighs that she

heaved while she knitted at the window reached the ears of Felicite

who was spinning in the kitchen.

They walked in the garden togetheralways speaking of Virginiaand

asking each other if such and such a thing would have pleased herand

what she would probably have said on this or that occasion.

All her little belongings were put away in a closet of the room which

held the two little beds. But Madame Aubain looked them over as little

as possible. One summer dayhowevershe resigned herself to the task

and when she opened the closet the moths flew out.

Virginia's frocks were hung under a shelf where there were three

dollssome hoopsa doll-houseand a basic which she had used.

Felicite and Madame Aubain also took out the skirtsthe

handkerchiefsand the stockings and spread them on the bedsbefore

putting them away again. The sun fell on the piteous things

disclosing their spots and the creases formed by the motions of the

body. The atmosphere was warm and blueand a blackbird trilled in the

garden; everything seemed to live in happiness. They found a little

hat of soft brown plushbut it was entirely moth-eaten. Felicite

asked for it. Their eyes met and filled with tears; at last the

mistress opened her arms and the servant threw herself against her

breast and they hugged each other and giving vent to their grief in a

kiss which equalised them for a moment.

It was the first time that this had ever happenedfor Madame Aubain

was not of an expansive nature. Felicite was as grateful for it as if

it had been some favourand thenceforth loved her with animal-like

devotion and a religious veneration.

Her kind-heartedness developed. When she heard the drums of a marching

regiment passing through the streetshe would stand in the doorway

with a jug of cider and give the soldiers a drink. She nursed cholera

victims. She protected Polish refugeesand one of them even declared

that he wished to marry her. But they quarrelledfor one morning when

she returned from the Angelus she found him in the kitchen coolly

eating a dish which he had prepared for himself during her absence.

After the Polish refugeescame Colmichean old man who was credited

with having committed frightful misdeeds in '93. He lived near the

river in the ruins of a pig-sty. The urchins peeped at him through the

cracks in the walls and threw stones that fell on his miserable bed

where he lay gasping with catarrhwith long hairinflamed eyelids

and a tumour as big as his head on one arm.

She got him some linentried to clean his hovel and dreamed of

installing him in the bake-house without his being in Madame's way.

When the cancer brokeshe dressed it every day; sometimes she brought

him some cake and placed him in the sun on a bundle of hay; and the

poor old creaturetrembling and droolingwould thank her in his

broken voiceand put out his hands whenever she left him. Finally he

died; and she had a mass said for the repose of his soul.

That day a great joy came to her: at dinner-timeMadame de

Larsonniere's servant called with the parrotthe cageand the perch

and chain and lock. A note from the baroness told Madame Aubain that

as her husband had been promoted to a prefecturethey were leaving

that nightand she begged her to accept the bird as a remembrance and

a token of her esteem.

Since a long time the parrot had been on Felicite's mindbecause he

came from Americawhich reminded her of Victorand she had

approached the negro on the subject.

Once evenshe had said:

"How glad Madame would be to have him!"

The man had repeated this remark to his mistress whonot being able

to keep the birdtook this means of getting rid of it.





He was called Loulou. His body was greenhis head bluethe tips of

his wings were pink and his breast was golden.

But he had the tiresome tricks of biting his perchpulling his

feathers outscattering refuse and spilling the water of his bath.

Madame Aubain grew tired of him and gave him to Felicite for good.

She undertook his educationand soon he was able to repeat: "Pretty

boy! Your servantsir! I salute youMarie!" His perch was placed

near the door and several persons were astonished that he did not

answer to the name of "Jacquot" for every parrot is calledJacquot.

They called him a goose and a logand these taunts were like so many

dagger thrusts to Felicite. Strange stubbornness of the bird which

would not talk when people watched him!

Neverthelesshe sought society; for on Sundaywhen the ladies

RochefeuilleMonsieur de Houppeville and the new habituesOnfroy

the chemistMonsieur Varin and Captain Mathieudropped in for their

game of cardshe struck the window-panes with his wings and made such

a racket that it was impossible to talk.

Bourais' face must have appeared very funny to Loulou. As soon as he

saw him he would begin to roar. His voice re-echoed in the yardand

the neighbours would come to the windows and begin to laughtoo; and

in order that the parrot might not see himMonsieur Bourais edged

along the wallpushed his hat over his eyes to hide his profileand

entered by the garden doorand the looks he gave the bird lacked

affection. Loulouhaving thrust his head into the butcher-boy's

basketreceived a slapand from that time he always tried to nip his

enemy. Fabu threatened to ring his neckalthough he was not cruelly

inclinednotwithstanding his big whiskers and tattooings. On the

contraryhe rather liked the birdandout of devilrytried to

teach him oaths. Felicitewhom his manner alarmedput Loulou in the

kitchentook off his chain and let him walk all over the house.

When he went downstairshe rested his beak on the stepslifted his

right foot and then his left one; but his mistress feared that such

feats would give him vertigo. He became ill and was unable to eat.

There was a small growth under his tongue like those chickens are

sometimes afflicted with. Felicite pulled it off with her nails and

cured him. One dayPaul was imprudent enough to blow the smoke of his

cigar in his face; another timeMadame Lormeau was teasing him with

the tip of her umbrella and he swallowed the tip. Finally he got lost.

She had put him on the grass to cool him and went away only for a

second; when she returnedshe found no parrot! She hunted among the

busheson the bank of the riverand on the roofswithout paying any

attention to Madame Aubain who screamed at her: "Take care! you must

be insane!" Then she searched every garden in Pont-l'Eveque and

stopped the passers-by to inquire of them: "Haven't you perhaps seen

my parrot?" To those who had never seen the parrotshe described him

minutely. Suddenly she thought she saw something green fluttering

behind the mills at the foot of the hill. But when she was at the top

of the hill she could not see it. A hod-carrier told her that he had

just seen the bird in Saint-Melainein Mother Simon's store. She

rushed to the place. The people did not know what she was talking

about. At last she came homeexhaustedwith her slippers worn to

shredsand despair in her heart. She sat down on the bench near

Madame and was telling of her search when presently a light weight

dropped on her shoulder--Loulou! What the deuce had he been doing?

Perhaps he had just taken a little walk around the town!

She did not easily forget her scare; in factshe never got over it.

In consequence of a coldshe caught a sore throat; and some time

later she had an earache. Three years later she was stone deafand

spoke in a very loud voice even in church. Although her sins might

have been proclaimed throughout the diocese without any shame to

herselfor ill effects to the communitythe cure thought it

advisable to receive her confession in the vestry-room.

Imaginary buzzings also added to her bewilderment. Her mistress often

said to her: "My goodnesshow stupid you are!" and she wouldanswer:

"YesMadame" and look for something.

The narrow circle of her ideas grew more restricted than it already

was; the bellowing of the oxenthe chime of the bells no longer

reached her intelligence. All things moved silentlylike ghosts. Only

one noise penetrated her ears; the parrot's voice.

As if to divert her mindhe reproduced for her the tick-tack of the

spit in the kitchenthe shrill cry of the fish-vendorsthe saw of

the carpenter who had a shop oppositeand when the door-bell ranghe

would imitate Madame Aubain: "Felicite! go to the front door."

They held conversations togetherLoulou repeating the three phrases

of his repertory over and overFelicite replying by words that had no

greater meaningbut in which she poured out her feelings. In her

isolationthe parrot was almost a sona love. He climbed upon her

fingerspecked at her lipsclung to her shawland when she rocked

her head to and fro like a nursethe big wings of her cap and the

wings of the bird flapped in unison. When clouds gathered on the

horizon and the thunder rumbledLoulou would screamperhaps because

he remembered the storms in his native forests. The dripping of the

rain would excite him to frenzy; he flapped aroundstruck the ceiling

with his wingsupset everythingand would finally fly into the

garden to play. Then he would come back into the roomlight on one of

the andironsand hop around in order to get dry.

One morning during the terrible winter of 1837when she had put him

in front of the fire-place on account of the coldshe found him dead

in his cagehanging to the wire bars with his head down. He had

probably died of congestion. But she believed that he had been

poisonedand although she had no proofs whateverher suspicion

rested on Fabu.

She wept so sorely that her mistress said: "Why don't you have him


She asked the advice of the chemistwho had always been kind to the


He wrote to Havre for her. A certain man named Fellacher consented to

do the work. Butas the diligence driver often lost parcels entrusted

to himFelicite resolved to take her pet to Honfleur herself.

Leafless apple-trees lined the edges of the road. The ditches were

covered with ice. The dogs on the neighbouring farms barked; and

Felicitewith her hands beneath her capeher little black sabots and

her baskettrotted along nimbly in the middle of the sidewalk. She

crossed the forestpassed by the Haut-Cheneand reached Saint-


Behind herin a cloud of dust and impelled by the steep inclinea

mail-coach drawn by galloping horses advanced like a whirlwind. When

he saw a woman in the middle of the roadwho did not get out of the

waythe driver stood up in his seat and shouted to her and so did the

postilionwhile the four horseswhich he could not hold back

accelerated their pace; the two leaders were almost upon her; with a

jerk of the reins he threw them to one sidebutfurious at the

incidenthe lifted his big whip and lashed her from her head to her

feet with such violence that she fell to the ground unconscious.

Her first thoughtwhen she recovered her senseswas to open the

basket. Loulou was unharmed. She felt a sting on her right cheek; when

she took her hand away it was redfor the blood was flowing.

She sat down on a pile of stonesand sopped her cheek with her

handkerchief; then she ate a crust of bread she had put in her basket

and consoled herself by looking at the bird.

Arriving at the top of Ecquemanvilleshe saw the lights of Honfleur

shining in the distance like so many stars; further onthe ocean

spread out in a confused mass. Then a weakness came over her; the

misery of her childhoodthe disappointment of her first lovethe

departure of her nephewthe death of Virginia; all these things came

back to her at onceandrising like a swelling tide in her throat

almost choked her.

Then she wished to speak to the captain of the vesseland without

stating what she was sendingshe gave him some instructions.

Fellacher kept the parrot a long time. He always promised that it

would be ready for the following week; after six months he announced

the shipment of a caseand that was the end of it. Reallyit seemed

as if Loulou would never come back to his home. "They have stolen

him" thought Felicite.

Finally he arrivedsitting bold upright on a branch which could be

screwed into a mahogany pedestalwith his foot in the airhis head

on one sideand in his beak a nut which the naturalistfrom love of

the sumptuoushad gilded. She put him in her room.

This placeto which only a chosen few were admittedlooked like a

chapel and a second-hand shopso filled was it with devotional and

heterogeneous things. The door could not be opened easily on account

of the presence of a large wardrobe. Opposite the window that looked

out into the gardena bull's-eye opened on the yard; a table was

placed by the cot and held a wash-basintwo combsand a piece of

blue soap in a broken saucer. On the walls were rosariesmedalsa

number of Holy Virginsand a holy-water basin made out of a cocoanut;

on the bureauwhich was covered with a napkin like an altarstood

the box of shells that Victor had given her; also a watering-can and a

balloonwriting-booksthe engraved geography and a pair of shoes; on

the nail which held the mirrorhung Virginia's little plush hat!

Felicite carried this sort of respect so far that she even kept one of

Monsieur's old coats. All the things which Madame Aubain discarded

Felicite begged for her own room. Thusshe had artificial flowers on

the edge of the bureauand the picture of the Comte d'Artois in the

recess of the window. By means of a boardLoulou was set on a portion

of the chimney which advanced into the room. Every morning when she

awokeshe saw him in the dim light of dawn and recalled bygone days

and the smallest details of insignificant actionswithout any sense

of bitterness or grief.

As she was unable to communicate with peopleshe lived in a sort of

somnambulistic torpor. The processions of Corpus-Christi Day seemed to

wake her up. She visited the neighbours to beg for candlesticks and

mats so as to adorn the temporary altars in the street.

In churchshe always gazed at the Holy Ghostand noticed that there

was something about it that resembled a parrot. The likenesses

appeared even more striking on a coloured picture by Espinal

representing the baptism of our Saviour. With his scarlet wings and

emerald bodyit was really the image of Loulou. Having bought the

pictureshe hung it near the one of the Comte d'Artois so that she

could take them in at one glance.

They associated in her mindthe parrot becoming sanctified through

the neighbourhood of the Holy Ghostand the latter becoming more

lifelike in her eyesand more comprehensible. In all probability the

Father had never chosen as messenger a doveas the latter has no

voicebut rather one of Loulou's ancestors. And Felicite said her

prayers in front of the coloured picturethough from time to time she

turned slightly towards the bird.

She desired very much to enter in the ranks of the "Daughters of the

Virgin." But Madame Aubain dissuaded her from it.

A most important event occurred: Paul's marriage.

After being first a notary's clerkthen in businessthen in the

customsand a tax collectorand having even applied for a position

in the administration of woods and forestshe had at lastwhen he

was thirty-six years oldby a divine inspirationfound his vocation:

registrature! and he displayed such a high ability that an inspector

had offered him his daughter and his influence.

Paulwho had become quite settledbrought his bride to visit his


But she looked down upon the customs of Pont-l'Evequeput on airs

and hurt Felicite's feelings. Madame Aubain felt relieved when she


The following week they learned of Monsieur Bourais' death in an inn.

There were rumours of suicidewhich were confirmed; doubts concerning

his integrity arose. Madame Aubain looked over her accounts and soon

discovered his numerous embezzlements; sales of wood which had been

concealed from herfalse receiptsetc. Furthermorehe had an

illegitimate childand entertained a friendship for "a person in


These base actions affected her very much. In March1853she

developed a pain in her chest; her tongue looked as if it were coated

with smokeand the leeches they applied did not relieve her

oppression; and on the ninth evening she diedbeing just seventy-two

years old.

People thought that she was youngerbecause her hairwhich she wore

in bands framing her pale facewas brown. Few friends regretted her

lossfor her manner was so haughty that she did not attract them.

Felicite mourned for her as servants seldom mourn for their masters.

The fact that Madame should die before herself perplexed her mind and

seemed contrary to the order of thingsand absolutely monstrous and

inadmissible. Ten days later (the time to journey from Besancon)the

heirs arrived. Her daughter-in-law ransacked the drawerskept some of

the furnitureand sold the rest; then they went back to their own


Madame's armchairfoot-warmerwork-tablethe eight chairs

everything was gone! The places occupied by the pictures formed yellow

squares on the walls. They had taken the two little bedsand the

wardrobe had been emptied of Virginia's belongings! Felicite went

upstairsovercome with grief.

The following day a sign was posted on the door; the chemist screamed

in her ear that the house was for sale.

For a moment she totteredand had to sit down.

What hurt her most was to give up her room--so nice for poor Loulou!

She looked at him in despair and implored the Holy Ghostand it was

this way that she contracted the idolatrous habit of saying her

prayers kneeling in front of the bird. Sometimes the sun fell through

the window on his glass eyeand lighted a spark in it which sent

Felicite into ecstasy.

Her mistress had left her an income of three hundred and eighty

francs. The garden supplied her with vegetables. As for clothesshe

had enough to last her till the end of her daysand she economised on

the light by going to bed at dusk.

She rarely went outin order to avoid passing in front of the second-

hand dealer's shop where there was some of the old furniture. Since

her fainting spellshe dragged her legand as her strength was

failing rapidlyold Mother Simonwho had lost her money in the

grocery businesscame very morning to chop the wood and pump the


Her eyesight grew dim. She did not open the shutters after that. Many

years passed. But the house did not sell or rent. Fearing that she

would be put outFelicite did not ask for repairs. The laths of the

roof were rotting awayand during one whole winter her bolster was

wet. After Easter she spit blood.

Then Mother Simon went for a doctor. Felicite wished to know what her

complaint was. Butbeing too deaf to hearshe caught only one word:

"Pneumonia." She was familiar with it and gentlyanswered:--"Ah! like

Madame" thinking it quite natural that she should follow her


The time for the altars in the street drew near.

The first one was always erected at the foot of the hillthe second

in front of the post-officeand the third in the middle of the

street. This position occasioned some rivalry among the women and they

finally decided upon Madame Aubain's yard.

Felicite's fever grew worse. She was sorry that she could not do

anything for the altar. If she couldat leasthave contributed

something towards it! Then she thought of the parrot. Her neighbours

objected that it would not be proper. But the cure gave his consent

and she was so grateful for it that she begged him to accept after her

deathher only treasureLoulou. From Tuesday until Saturdaythe day

before the eventshe coughed more frequently. In the evening her face

was contractedher lips stuck to her gums and she began to vomit; and

on the following dayshe felt so low that she called for a priest.

Three neighbours surrounded her when the dominie administered the

Extreme Unction. Afterwards she said that she wished to speak to Fabu.

He arrived in his Sunday clothesvery ill at ease among the funereal


"Forgive me" she saidmaking an effort to extend her arm"I

believed it was you who killed him!"

What did such accusations mean? Suspect a man like him of murder! And

Fabu became excited and was about to make trouble.

"Don't you see she is not in her right mind?"

From time to time Felicite spoke to shadows. The women left her and

Mother Simon sat down to breakfast.

A little latershe took Loulou and holding him up to Felicite:

"Say good-bye to himnow!" she commanded.

Although he was not a corpsehe was eaten up by worms; one of his

wings was broken and the wadding was coming out of his body. But

Felicite was blind nowand she took him and laid him against her

cheek. Then Mother Simon removed him in order to set him on the altar.





The grass exhaled an odour of summer; flies buzzed in the airthe sun

shone on the river and warmed the slated roof. Old Mother Simon had

returned to Felicite and was peacefully falling asleep.

The ringing of bells woke her; the people were coming out of church.

Felicite's delirium subsided. By thinking of the processionshe was

able to see it as if she had taken part in it. All the school-

childrenthe singers and the firemen walked on the sidewalkswhile

in the middle of the street came first the custodian of the church

with his halberdthen the beadle with a large crossthe teacher in

charge of the boys and a sister escorting the little girls; three of

the smallest oneswith curly headsthrew rose leaves into the air;

the deacon with outstretched arms conducted the music; and two

incense-bearers turned with each step they took toward the Holy

Sacramentwhich was carried by M. le Cureattired in his handsome

chasuble and walking under a canopy of red velvet supported by four

men. A crowd of people followedjammed between the walls of the

houses hung with white sheets; at last the procession arrived at the

foot of the hill.

A cold sweat broke out on Felicite's forehead. Mother Simon wiped it

away with a clothsaying inwardly that some day she would have to go

through the same thing herself.

The murmur of the crowd grew louderwas very distinct for a moment

and then died away. A volley of musketry shook the window-panes. It

was the postilions saluting the Sacrament. Felicite rolled her eyes

and said as loudly as she could:

"Is he all right?" meaning the parrot.

Her death agony began. A rattle that grew more and more rapid shook

her body. Froth appeared at the corners of her mouthand her whole

frame trembled. In a little while could be heard the music of the bass

hornsthe clear voices of the children and the men's deeper notes. At

intervals all was stilland their shoes sounded like a herd of cattle

passing over the grass.

The clergy appeared in the yard. Mother Simon climbed on a chair to

reach the bull's-eyeand in this manner could see the altar. It was

covered with a lace cloth and draped with green wreaths. In the middle

stood a little frame containing relics; at the corners were two little

orange-treesand all along the edge were silver candlesticks

porcelain vases containing sun-flowersliliespeoniesand tufts of

hydrangeas. This mount of bright colours descended diagonally from the

first floor to the carpet that covered the sidewalk. Rare objects

arrested one's eye. A golden sugar-bowl was crowned with violets

earrings set with Alencon stones were displayed on green mossand two

Chinese screens with their bright landscapes were near by. Loulou

hidden beneath rosesshowed nothing but his blue head which looked

like a piece of lapis-lazuli.

The singersthe 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. Everybody knelt. There was deep

silence; and the censers slipping on their chains were swung high in

the air. A blue vapour rose in Felicite's room. She opened her

nostrils and inhaled with a mystic sensuousness; then she closed her

lids. Her lips smiled. The beats of her heart grew fainter and

fainterand vaguerlike a fountain giving outlike an echo dying

away;--and when she exhaled her last breathshe thought she saw in

the half-opened heavens a gigantic parrot hovering above her head.