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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAbbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 3 - Chapter 7
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Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 3 - Chapter 7 Post by :LloydM Category :Long Stories Author :Emile Zola Date :May 2012 Read :1897

Click below to download : Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 3 - Chapter 7 (Format : PDF)

Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 3 - Chapter 7

BOOK III CHAPTER VII

Sunday was a busy day for Abbe Mouret. He had to think of vespers, which he generally said to empty seats, for even mother Brichet did not carry her piety so far as to go back to church in the afternoon. Then, at four o'clock, Brother Archangias brought the little rogues from his school to repeat their catechism to his reverence. This lesson sometimes lasted until late. When the children showed themselves quite intractable, La Teuse was summoned to frighten them with her broom.

On that particular Sunday, about four o'clock, Desiree found herself quite alone in the parsonage. As she felt a little bored, she went to gather some food for her rabbits in the churchyard, where there were some magnificent poppies, of which rabbits are extremely fond. Dragging herself about on her knees between the grave-stones, she gathered apronfuls of juicy verdure on which her pets fell greedily.

'Oh! what lovely plantains!' she muttered, stooping before Abbe Caffin's tombstone, and delighted with the discovery she had made.

There were, indeed, some magnificent plantains spreading out their broad leaves beside the stone. Desiree had just finished filling her apron with them when she fancied she heard a strange noise behind her. A rustling of branches and a rolling of small pebbles came from the ravine which skirted one side of the graveyard, and at the bottom of which flowed the Mascle, a stream which descended from the high lands of the Paradou. But the ascent here was so rough, so impracticable, that Desiree imagined that the noise could only have been made by some lost dog or straying goat. She stepped quickly to the edge, and, as she looked over, she was amazed to see amidst the brambles a girl who was climbing up the rocks with extraordinary agility.

'I will give you a hand,' she said. 'You might easily break your neck there.'

The girl, directly she saw she was discovered, started back, as though she would rather go down again, but after a moment's hesitation she ventured to take the hand that was held out to her.

'Oh! I know who you are,' said Desiree, with a beaming smile, and letting her apron fall that she might grasp the girl by the waist. 'You once gave me some blackbirds, but they all died, poor little dears. I was so sorry about it.--Wait a bit, I know your name, I have heard it before. La Teuse often mentions it when Serge isn't there; but she told me that I was not to repeat it. Wait a moment, I shall remember it directly!'

She tried to recall the name, and grew quite grave in the attempt. Then, having succeeded in remembering it, she became gay again, and seemingly found great pleasure in dwelling upon its musical sound.

'Albine! Albine!---- What a sweet name it is! At first I used to think you must be a tomtit, because I once had a tomtit with a name very like yours, though I don't remember exactly what it was.'

Albine did not smile. Her face was very pale, and there was a feverish gleam in her eyes. A few drops of blood trickled from her hands. When she had recovered her breath, she hastily exclaimed:

No! no! leave it alone. You will only stain your handkerchief. It is nothing but a scratch. I didn't want to come by the road, as I should have been seen--so I preferred coming along the bed of the torrent---- Is Serge there?'

Desiree did not feel at all shocked at hearing the girl pronounce her brother's name thus familiarly and with an expression of subdued passion. She simply replied that he was in the church hearing the children say their catechism.

'You must not speak at all loudly,' she added, raising her finger to her lips. 'Serge forbade me to talk loudly when he is catechising the children, and we shall get into trouble if we don't keep quiet. Let us go into the stable--shall we? We can talk better there.'

'I want to see Serge,' said Albine, simply.

Desiree cast a hasty glance at the church, and then whispered, 'Yes, yes; Serge will be finely caught. Come with me. We will hide ourselves, and keep quite quiet. We shall have some fine fun!'

She had picked up the herbage which had fallen from her apron, and quitting the graveyard she stole back to the parsonage, telling Albine to hide herself behind her and make herself as little as possible. As they stealthily glided through the farmyard, they caught sight of La Teuse, who was crossing over to the vestry, but she did not appear to notice them.

'There! There!' said Desiree, quite delighted, as they stowed themselves away in the stable; 'keep quiet, and no one will know that we are here. There is some straw there for you to lie down upon.'

Albine seated herself on a truss of straw.

'And Serge?' she asked, persisting in her one fixed idea.

'Listen! You can hear his voice. When he claps his hands, it will be all over, and the children will go away--Listen! he is telling them a tale.'

They could indeed just hear Abbe Mouret's voice, which was wafted to them through the vestry doorway which La Teuse had doubtless left open. It came to them like a solemn murmur, in which they could distinguish the name of Jesus thrice repeated. Albine trembled. She sprang up as though to hasten to that beloved voice whose caressing accents she knew so well, but all sound of it suddenly died away, shut off by the closing of the door. Then she sat down again, to wait, her hands tightly clasped, and her clear eyes gleaming with the intensity of her thoughts. Desiree, who was lying at her feet, gazed up at her with innocent admiration.

'How beautiful you are!' she whispered. 'You are like an image that Serge used to have in his bedroom. It was quite white like you are, with great curls floating about the neck; and the heart was quite bare and uncovered, just in the place where I can feel yours beating---- But you are not listening to me. You are looking quite sad. Let us play at something? Will you?'

Then she stopped short, holding her breath and saying between her teeth: 'Ah! the wretches! they will get us caught!' She still had her apron full of herbage with her, and her pets were taking it by assault. A troop of fowls had surrounded her, clucking and calling each other, and pecking at the hanging green stuff. The goat pushed its head slyly under her arm, and began to eat the longer leaves. Even the cow, which was tethered to the wall, strained at its cord and poked out its nose, kissing her with its warm breath.

'Oh! you thieves!' cried Desiree. 'But this is for the rabbits, not for you! Leave me alone, won't you! You, there, will get your ears boxed, if you don't go away! And you too will have your tail pulled if I catch you at it again. The wretches! they will be eating my hands soon!'

She drove the goat off, dispersed the fowls with her feet, and tapped the cow's nose with her fists. But the creatures just shook themselves, and then came back more greedily than ever, surrounding her, jumping on her, and tearing open her apron. At this she whispered to Albine, as though she were afraid the animals might hear her.

'Aren't they amusing, the dears? Watch them eat.'

Albine looked on with a grave expression.

'Now, now, be good,' resumed Desiree; 'you shall all have some, but you must wait your turns. Now, big Lisa, you first. Eh! how fond you are of plantain, aren't you?'

Big Lisa was the cow. She slowly munched a handful of the juicy leaves which had grown beside Abbe Caffin's tomb. A thread of saliva hung down from her mouth, and her great brown eyes shone with quiet enjoyment.

'There! now it's your turn,' continued Desiree, turning towards the goat. 'You are fond of poppies, I know; and you like the flowers best, don't you? The buds that shine in your teeth like red-hot butterflies! See, here are some splendid ones; they came from the left-hand corner, where there was a burial last year.'

As she spoke, she gave the goat a bunch of scarlet flowers, which the animal ate from her hand. When there was nothing left in her grasp but the stalks, she pushed these between its teeth. Behind her, in the meanwhile, the fowls were desperately pecking away at her petticoats. She threw them some wild chicory and dandelions which she had gathered amongst the old slabs that were ranged alongside the church walls. It was particularly over the dandelions that the fowls quarrelled, so voraciously indeed, with such scratchings and flapping of wings, that the other fowls in the yard heard them. And then came a general invasion. The big yellow cock, Alexander, was the first to appear; having seized a dandelion and torn it in halves, without attempting to eat it, he called to the hens who were still outside to come and peck. Then a white hen strutted in, then a black one, and then a whole crowd of hens, who hustled one another, and trod on one another's tails, and ended by forming a wild flood of feathers. Behind the fowls came the pigeons, and the ducks, and the geese, and, last of all, the turkeys. Desiree laughed at seeing herself thus surrounded by this noisy, squabbling mob.

'This is what always happens,' said she, 'every time that I bring any green stuff from the graveyard. They nearly kill each other to get at it; they must find it very nice.'

Then she made a fight to keep a few handfuls of the leaves from the greedy beaks which rose all round her, saying that something must really be saved for the rabbits. She would surely get angry with them if they went on like that, and give them nothing but dry bread in future. However, she was obliged to give way. The geese tugged at her apron so violently that she was almost pulled down upon her knees; the ducks gobbled away at her ankles; two of the pigeons flew upon her head, and some of the fowls fluttered about her shoulders. It was the ferocity of creatures who smell flesh: the fat plantains, the crimson poppies, the milky dandelions, in which remained some of the life of the dead. Desiree laughed loudly, and felt that she was on the point of slipping down, and letting go of her last two handfuls, when the fowls were panic-stricken by a terrible grunting.

'Ah! it's you, my fatty,' she exclaimed, quite delighted; 'eat them up, and set me at liberty.'

The pig waddled in; he was no longer the little pig of former days--pink as a newly painted toy, with a tiny little tail, like a bit of string; but a fat wobbling creature, fit to be killed, with a belly as round as a monk's, and a back all bristling with rough hairs, that reeked of fatness. His stomach had grown quite yellow from his habit of sleeping on the manure heap. Waddling along on his shaky feet, he charged with lowered snout at the scared fowls, and so left Desiree at liberty to escape, and take the rabbits the few scraps of green stuff which she had so strenuously defended. When she came back, all was peace again. The stupid, ecstatic-looking geese were lazily swaying their long necks about, the ducks and turkeys were waddling in ungainly fashion alongside the wall; the fowls were quietly clucking and peaking at invisible grains on the hard ground of the stable; while the pig, the goat, and the big cow, were drowsily blinking their eyes, as though they were falling asleep. Outside it had just begun to rain.

'Ah! well, there's a shower coming on!' cried Desiree, throwing herself down on the straw. 'You had better stay where you are, my dears, if you don't want to get soaked.'

Then she turned to Albine and added: 'How stupid they all look, don't they? They only wake up just to eat!'

Albine still remained silent. The merry laughter of that buxom girl as she struggled amidst those greedy necks and gluttonous beaks, which tickled and kissed her, and seemed bent on devouring her very flesh, had rendered the unhappy daughter of the Paradou yet paler than she had been before. So much gaiety, so much vitality, so much boisterous health made her despair. She strained her feverish arms to her desolate bosom, which desertion had parched.

'And Serge?' she asked again, in the same clear, stubborn voice.

'Hush!' said Desiree. 'I heard him just now. He hasn't finished yet---- We have been making a pretty disturbance; La Teuse must surely have grown deaf this afternoon---- Let us keep quiet now. I like to hear the rain fall.'

The shower beat in at the open doorway, casting big drops upon the threshold. The restless fowls, after venturing out for a moment, had quickly retreated to the far end of the stable; where, indeed, with the exception of three ducks who remained quietly walking in the rain, all the pets had now taken refuge, clustering round the girl's skirts. It was growing very warm amongst the straw. Desiree pulled two big trusses together, made a bed of them, and lay down at full length. She felt extremely comfortable there.

'It is so nice,' she murmured. 'Come and lie down like me. It is so springy and soft, all this straw; and it tickles one so funnily in the neck. Do you roll about in the straw at home? There is nothing I am fonder of---- Sometimes I tickle the soles of my feet with it. That is very funny, too----'

But at that moment, the big yellow cock, who had been gravely stalking towards her, jumped upon her breast.

'Get away with you, Alexander! get away!' she cried. 'What a tiresome creature he is! The idea of his perching himself on me---- You are too rough, sir, and you scratch me with your claws. Do you hear me? I don't want you to go away, but you must be good, and mustn't peck at my hair.'

Then she troubled herself no further about him. The cock still maintained his position, every now and then glancing inquisitively at the girl's chin with his gleaming eye. The other birds all began to cluster round her. After rolling amongst the straw, she was now lying lazily on her back with her arms stretched out.

'Ah! how pleasant it is,' she said; 'but then it makes me feel so sleepy. Straw always makes one drowsy, doesn't it? Serge doesn't like it. Perhaps you don't either. What do you like? Tell me, so that I may know.'

She was gradually dozing off. For a moment she opened her eyes widely, as though she were looking for something, and then her eyelids fell with a tranquil smile of content. She seemed to be asleep, but after a few minutes she opened her eyes again, and said:

'The cow is going to have a calf---- That will be so nice, and will please me more than anything.'

Then she sank into deep slumber. The fowls had ended by perching on her body; she was buried beneath a wave of living plumage. Hens were brooding over her feet; geese stretched their soft downy necks over her legs. The pig lay against her left side, while on the right, the goat poked its bearded head under her arm. The pigeons were roosting and nestling all over her, on her hands, her waist, and her shoulders. And there she lay asleep, in all her rosy freshness, caressed by the cow's warm breath, while the big cock still squatted just below her bosom with gleaming comb and quivering wings.

Outside, the rain was falling less heavily. A sunbeam, escaping from beneath a cloud, gilded the fine drops of water. Albine, who had remained perfectly still, watched the slumber of Desiree, that big, plump girl who found her great delight in rolling about in the straw. She wished that she, too, could slumber away so peacefully, and feel such pleasure, because a few straws had tickled her neck. And she felt jealous of those strong arms, that firm bosom, all that vitality, all that purely animal development which made the other like a tranquil easy-minded sister of the big red and white cow.

However, the rain had now quite ceased. The three cats of the parsonage filed out into the yard one after the other, keeping close to the wall, and taking the greatest precautions to avoid wetting their paws. They peeped into the stable, and then stalked up to the sleeping girl, and lay down, purring, close by her. Moumou, the big black cat, curled itself up close to her cheek, and gently licked her chin.

'And Serge?' murmured Albine, quite mechanically.

What was it that kept them apart? Who was it that prevented them from being happy together? Why might she not love him, and why might she not be loved, freely and in the broad sunlight, as the trees lived and loved? She knew not, but she felt that she had been forsaken, and had received a mortal wound. Yet she was possessed by a stubborn, determined longing, a very necessity, indeed, of once more clasping her love in her arms, of concealing him somewhere, that he might be hers in all felicity. She rose to her feet. The vestry door had just been opened again. A clapping of hands sounded, followed by the uproar of a swarm of children clattering in wooden shoes over the stone flags. The catechising was over. Then Albine gently glided out of the stable, where she had been waiting for an hour amidst the reeking warmth that emanated from Desiree's pets.

As she quietly slipped through the passage that led to the vestry, she caught sight of La Teuse, who was going to her kitchen, and who fortunately did not turn her head. Certain, now, of not being seen and stopped, Albine softly pushed the door which was before her, keeping hold of it in order that it might make no noise as it closed again.

And she found herself in the church.

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Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 3 - Chapter 8 Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 3 - Chapter 8

Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 3 - Chapter 8
BOOK III CHAPTER VIIIAt first she could see nobody. Outside, the rain had again begun to fall in fine close drops. The church looked very grey and gloomy. She passed behind the high altar, and walked on towards the pulpit. In the middle of the nave, there were only a number of empty benches, left there in disorder by the urchins of the catechism class. Amidst all this void came a low tic-tac from the swaying pendulum. She went down the church to knock at the confessional-box, which she saw standing at the other end. But, just as she passed the
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BOOK III CHAPTER VIThe next day was Sunday. As the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross fell on a high mass day, Abbe Mouret desired to celebrate the festival with especial solemnity. He was now full of extraordinary devotion for the Cross, and had replaced the image of the Immaculate Conception in his bedroom by a large crucifix of black wood, before which he spent long hours in worship. To exalt the Cross, to plant it before him, above all else, in a halo of glory, as the one object of his life, gave him the strength he needed
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