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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAbbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 1 - Chapter 8
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Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 1 - Chapter 8 Post by :Ericb Category :Long Stories Author :Emile Zola Date :May 2012 Read :751

Click below to download : Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 1 - Chapter 8 (Format : PDF)

Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 1 - Chapter 8


The house with its shutters closed seemed wrapped in slumber as it stood there in the midday sun, amidst the hum of the big flies that swarmed all up the ivy to the roof tiles. The sunlit ruin was steeped in happy quietude. When the doctor had opened the gate of the narrow garden, which was enclosed by a lofty quickset hedge, there, in the shadow cast by a wall, they found Jeanbernat, tall and erect, and calmly smoking his pipe, as in the deep silence he watched his vegetables grow.

'What, are you up then, you humbug?' exclaimed the astonished doctor.

'So you were coming to bury me, were you?' growled the old man harshly. 'I don't want anybody. I bled myself.'

He stopped short as he caught sight of the priest, and assumed so threatening an expression that the doctor hastened to intervene.

'This is my nephew,' he said; 'the new Cure of Les Artaud--a good fellow, too. Devil take it, we haven't been bowling over the roads at this hour of the day to eat you, Jeanbernat.'

The old man calmed down a little.

'I don't want any shavelings here,' he grumbled. 'They're enough to make one croak. Mind, doctor, no priests, and no physics when I go off, or we shall quarrel. Let him come in, however, as he is your nephew.'

Abbe Mouret, struck dumb with amazement, could not speak a word. He stood there in the middle of the path scanning that strange solitaire, with scorched, brick-tinted face, and limbs all withered and twisted like a bundle of ropes, who seemed to bear the burden of his eighty years with a scornful contempt for life. When the doctor attempted to feel his pulse, his ill-humour broke out afresh.

'Do leave me in peace! I bled myself with my knife, I tell you. It's all over, now. Who was the fool of a peasant who disturbed you? The doctor here, and the priest as well, why not the mutes too! Well, it can't be helped, people will be fools. It won't prevent us from having a drink, eh?'

He fetched a bottle and three glasses, and stood them on an old table which he brought out into the shade. Then, having filled the glasses to the brim, he insisted on clinking them. His anger had given place to jeering cheerfulness.

'It won't poison you, Monsieur le Cure,' he said. 'A glass of good wine isn't a sin. Upon my word, however, this is the first time I ever clinked a glass with a cassock, but no offence to you. That poor Abbe Caffin, your predecessor, refused to argue with me. He was afraid.'

Jeanbernat gave vent to a hearty laugh, and then went on: 'Just fancy, he had pledged himself that he would prove to me that God exists. So, whenever I met him, I defied him to do it; and he sloped off crestfallen, I can tell you.'

'What, God does not exist!' cried Abbe Mouret, roused from his silence.

'Oh! just as you please,' mockingly replied Jeanbernat. 'We'll begin together all over again, if it's any pleasure to you. But I warn you that I'm a tough hand at it. There are some thousands of books in one of the rooms upstairs, which were rescued from the fire at the Paradou: all the philosophers of the eighteenth century, a whole heap of old books on religion. I've learned some fine things from them. I've been reading them these twenty years. Marry! you'll find you've got some one who can talk, Monsieur le Cure.'

He had risen, slowly waving his hand towards the surrounding horizon, to the earth and to the sky, and repeating solemnly: 'There's nothing, nothing, nothing. When the sun is snuffed out, all will be at an end.'

Doctor Pascal nudged Abbe Mouret with his elbow. With blinking eyes he was curiously observing the old man and nodding approvingly in order to induce him to talk. 'So you are a materialist, Jeanbernat?' he said.

'Oh, I am only a poor man,' replied the old fellow, relighting his pipe. 'When Count de Corbiere, whose foster-brother I was, died from a fall from his horse, his children sent me here to look after this park of the Sleeping Beauty, in order to get rid of me. I was sixty years old then, and I thought I was about done. But death forgot me; and I had to make myself a burrow. If one lives all alone, look you, one gets to see things in rather a queer fashion. The trees are no longer trees, the earth puts on the ways of a living being, the stones seem to tell you tales. A parcel of rubbish, eh? But I know some secrets that would fairly stagger you. Besides, what do you think there is to do in this devilish desert? I read the old books; it was more amusing than shooting. The Count, who used to curse like a heathen, was always saying to me: "Jeanbernat, my boy, I fully expect to meet you again in the hot place, so that you will be able to serve me there as you have up here."'

Once more he waved his hand to the horizon and added: 'You hear, nothing; there's nothing. It's all foolery.'

Dr. Pascal began to laugh.

'A pleasant piece of foolery, at any rate,' he said. 'Jeanbernat, you are a deceiver. I suspect you are in love, in spite of your affectation of being _blase_. You were speaking very tenderly of the trees and stones just now.'

'Oh, no, I assure you,' murmured the old man, 'I have done with that. At one time, it's true, when I first knew you and used to go herborising with you, I was stupid enough to love all sorts of things I came across in that huge liar, the country. Fortunately, the old volumes have killed all that. I only wish my garden was smaller; I don't go out into the road twice a year. You see that bench? That's where I spend all my time, just watching my lettuces grow.'

'And what about your rounds in the park?' broke in the doctor.

'In the park!' repeated Jeanbernat, with a look of profound surprise. 'Why, it's more than twelve years since I set foot in it! What do you suppose I could do inside that cemetery? It's too big. It's stupid, what with those endless trees and moss everywhere and broken statues, and holes in which one might break one's neck at every step. The last time I went in there, it was so dark under the trees, there was such a stink of wild flowers, and such queer breezes blew along the paths, that I felt almost afraid. So I have shut myself up to prevent the park coming in here. A patch of sunlight, three feet of lettuce before me, and a big hedge shutting out all the view, why, that's more than enough for happiness. Nothing, that's what I'd like, nothing at all, something so tiny that nothing from outside could come to disturb me. Seven feet of earth, if you like, just to be able to croak on my back.'

He struck the table with his fist, and suddenly raised his voice to call out to Abbe Mouret: 'Come, just another glass, your reverence. The old gentleman isn't at the bottom of the bottle, you know.'

The priest felt ill at ease. To lead back to God that singular old man, whose reason seemed to him to be strangely disordered, appeared a task beyond his powers. He now remembered certain bits of gossip he had heard from La Teuse about the Philosopher, as the peasants of Les Artaud dubbed Jeanbernat. Scraps of scandalous stories vaguely floated in his memory. He rose, making a sign to the doctor that he wished to leave this house, where he seemed to inhale an odour of damnation. But, in spite of his covert fears, a strange feeling of curiosity made him linger. He simply walked to the end of the garden, throwing a searching glance into the vestibule, as if to see beyond it, behind the walls. All he could perceive, however, through the gaping doorway, was the black staircase. So he came back again, and sought for some hole, some glimpse of that sea of foliage which he knew was near by the mighty murmur that broke upon the house, like the sound of waves.

'And is the little one well?' asked the doctor, taking up his hat.

'Pretty well,' answered Jeanbernat. 'She's never here. She often disappears all day long--still, she may be in the upstair rooms.'

He raised his head and called: 'Albine! Albine!' Then with a shrug of his shoulders, he added: 'Yes, my word, she is a nice hussy. . . . Well, till next time, Monsieur le Cure. I'm always at your disposal.'

Abbe Mouret, however, had no time to accept the Philosopher's challenge. A door suddenly opened at the end of the vestibule; a dazzling breach was made in the black darkness of the wall, and through the breach came a vision of a virgin forest, a great depth of woodland, beneath a flood of sunbeams. In that sudden blaze of light the priest distinctly perceived certain far-away things: a large yellow flower in the middle of a lawn, a sheet of water falling from a lofty rock, a colossal tree filled with a swarm of birds; and all this steeped, lost, blazing in such a tangle of greenery, such riotous luxuriance of vegetation, that the whole horizon seemed one great burst of shooting foliage. The door banged to, and everything vanished.

'Ah! the jade!' cried Jeanbernat, 'she was in the Paradou again!'

Albine was now laughing on the threshold of the vestibule. She wore an orange-coloured skirt, with a large red kerchief fastened round her waist, thus looking like some gipsy in holiday garb. And she went on laughing, her head thrown back, her bosom swelling with mirth, delighted with her flowers, wild flowers which she had plaited into her fair hair, fastened to her neck, her bodice, and her bare slender golden arms. She seemed like a huge nosegay, exhaling a powerful perfume.

'Ay, you are a beauty!' growled the old man. 'You smell of weeds enough to poison one--would any one think she was sixteen, that doll?'

Albine remained unabashed, however, and laughed still more heartily. Doctor Pascal, who was her great friend, let her kiss him.

'So you are not frightened in the Paradou?' he asked.

'Frightened? What of?' she said, her eyes wide open with astonishment. 'The walls are too high, no one can get in. There's only myself. It is my garden, all my very own. A fine big one, too. I haven't found out where it ends yet.'

'And the animals?' interrupted the doctor.

'The animals? Oh! they don't hurt; they all know me well.'

'But it is very dark under the trees?'

'Course! there's shade: if there were none, the sun would burn my face up. It is very pleasant in the shade among the leaves.'

She flitted about, filling the little garden with the rustling sweep of her skirts, and scattering round the pungent odour of wild flowers which clung to her. She had smiled at Abbe Mouret without trace of shyness, without heed of the astonished look with which he observed her. The priest had stepped aside. That fair-haired maid, with long oval face, glowing with life, seemed to him to be the weird mysterious offspring of the forest of which he had caught a glimpse in a sheet of sunlight.

'I say, I have got some blackbird nestlings; would you like them?' Albine asked the doctor.

'No, thanks,' he answered, laughing. 'You should give them to the Cure's sister; she is very fond of pets. Good day, Jeanbernat.'

Albine, however, had fastened on the priest.

'You are the vicar of Les Artaud, aren't you? You have a sister? I'll go and see her. Only you must not speak to me about God. My uncle will not have it.'

'You bother us, be off,' exclaimed Jeanbernat, shrugging his shoulders. Then bounding away like a goat, dropping a shower of flowers behind her, she disappeared. The slam of a door was heard, and from behind the house came bursts of laughter, which died away in the distance like the scampering rush of some mad animal let loose among the grass.

'You'll see, she will end by sleeping in the Paradou,' muttered the old man with indifference.

And as he saw his visitors off, he added: 'If you should find me dead one of these fine days, doctor, just do me the favour of pitching me into the muck-pit there, behind my lettuces. Good evening, gentlemen.'

He let the wooden gate which closed the hedge fall to again, and the house assumed once more its aspect of happy peacefulness in the noonday sunlight, amidst the buzzing of the big flies that swarmed all up the ivy even to the roof tiles.

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Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 1 - Chapter 9 Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 1 - Chapter 9

Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 1 - Chapter 9
BOOK I CHAPTER IXThe gig once more rolled along the road skirting the Paradou's interminable wall. Abbe Mouret, still silent, scanned with upturned eyes the huge boughs which stretched over that wall, like the arms of giants hidden there. All sorts of sounds came from the park: rustling of wings, quivering of leaves, furtive bounds at which branches snapped, mighty sighs that bowed the young shoots--a vast breath of life sweeping over the crests of a nation of trees. At times, as he heard a birdlike note that seemed like a human laugh, the priest turned his head, as if he

Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 1 - Chapter 7 Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 1 - Chapter 7

Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 1 - Chapter 7
BOOK I CHAPTER VIIThe morning was becoming terribly hot. In that huge rocky amphitheatre the sun kindled a furnace-like glare from the moment when the first fine weather began. By the planet's height in the sky Abbe Mouret now perceived that he had only just time to return home if he wished to get there by eleven o'clock and escape a scolding from La Teuse. Having finished reading his breviary and made his application to Bambousse, he swiftly retraced his steps, gazing as he went at his church, now a grey spot in the distance, and at the black rigid silhouette