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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesUne Vie; Or, The History Of A Heart - Chapter XII - A New Home
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Une Vie; Or, The History Of A Heart - Chapter XII - A New Home Post by :MartyNicholas Category :Long Stories Author :Guy De Maupassant Date :July 2011 Read :2044

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Une Vie; Or, The History Of A Heart - Chapter XII - A New Home

Chapter XII - A New Home


In a week's time Rosalie had taken absolute control of everything and
everyone in the chateau. Jeanne was quite resigned and obeyed
passively. Weak and dragging her feet as she walked, as little mother
had formerly done, she went out walking leaning on Rosalie's arm, the
latter lecturing her and consoling her with abrupt and tender words as
they walked slowly along, treating her mistress as though she were a
sick child.

They always talked of bygone days, Jeanne with tears in her throat,
and Rosalie in the quiet tone of a phlegmatic peasant. The servant
kept referring to the subject of unpaid interests; and at last
requested Jeanne to give her up all the business papers that Jeanne,
in her ignorance of money matters, was hiding from her, out of
consideration for her son.

After that, for a week, Rosalie went to Fecamp every day to have
matters explained to her by a lawyer whom she knew.

One evening, after having put her mistress to bed, she sat down by the
bedside and said abruptly: "Now that you are settled quietly, madame,
we will have a chat." And she told her exactly how matters stood.

When everything was settled, there would be about seven thousand
francs of income left, no more.

"We cannot help it, my girl," said Jeanne. "I feel that I shall not
make old bones, and there will be quite enough for me."

But Rosalie was annoyed: "For you, madame, it might be; but M.
Paul--will you leave nothing for him?"

Jeanne shuddered. "I beg you not to mention him again. It hurts me too
much to think about him."

"But I wish to speak about him, because you see you are not brave,
Madame Jeanne. He does foolish things. Well! what of it? He will not
do so always; and then he will marry and have children. He will need
money to bring them up. Pay attention to me: you must sell 'The
Poplars.'"

Jeanne sprang up in a sitting posture. "Sell 'The Poplars'! Do you
mean it? Oh, never, never!"

But Rosalie was not disturbed. "I tell you that you will sell the
place, madame, because it must be done." And then she explained her
calculations, her plans, her reasons.

Once they had sold "The Poplars" and the two farms belonging to it to
a buyer whom she had found, they would keep four farms situated at St.
Leonard, which, free of all mortgage, would bring in an income of
eight thousand three hundred francs. They would set aside thirteen
hundred francs a year for repairs and for the upkeep of the property;
there would then remain seven thousand francs, five thousand of which
would cover the annual expenditures and the other two thousand would
be put away for a rainy day.

She added: "All the rest has been squandered; there is an end of it.
And then I am to keep the key, you understand. As for M. Paul, he will
have nothing left, nothing; he would take your last sou from you."

Jeanne, who was weeping silently, murmured:

"But if he has nothing to eat?"

"He can come and eat with us if he is hungry. There will always be a
bed and some stew for him. Do you believe he would have acted as he
has done if you had not given him a sou in the first place?"

"But he was in debt, he would have been disgraced."

"When you have nothing left, will that prevent him from making fresh
debts? You have paid his debts, that is all right; but you will not
pay any more; it is I who am telling you this. Now goodnight, madame."

And she left the room.

Jeanne did not sleep, she was so upset at the idea of selling "The
Poplars," of going away, of leaving this house to which all her life
was linked.

When Rosalie came into the room next morning she said to her: "My poor
girl, I never could make up my mind to go away from here."

But the servant grew angry: "It will have to be, however, madame; the
lawyer will soon be here with the man who wants to buy the chateau.
Otherwise, in four years you will not have a rap left."

Jeanne was crushed, and repeated: "I could not do it; I never could."

An hour later the postman brought her a letter from Paul asking for
ten thousand francs. What should she do? At her wit's end, she
consulted Rosalie, who threw up her hands, exclaiming: "What was I
telling you, madame? Ah! You would have been in a nice fix, both of
you, if I had not come back." And Jeanne, bending to her servant's
will, wrote as follows to the young man:

"My Dear Son: I can do nothing more for you. You have ruined me; I am
even obliged to sell 'The Poplars.' But never forget that I shall
always have a home whenever you want to seek shelter with your old
mother, to whom you have caused much suffering. Jeanne."

When the notary arrived with M. Jeoffrin, a retired sugar refiner, she
received them herself, and invited them to look over the chateau.

A month later, she signed a deed of sale, and also bought herself a
little cottage in the neighborhood of Goderville, on the high road to
Montiviliers, in the hamlet of Batteville.

Then she walked up and down all alone until evening, in little
mother's avenue, with a sore heart and troubled mind, bidding
distracted and sobbing farewells to the landscape, the trees, the
rustic bench under the plane tree, to all those things she knew so
well and that seemed to have become part of her vision and her soul,
the grove, the mound overlooking the plain, where she had so often
sat, and from where she had seen the Comte de Fourville running toward
the sea on that terrible day of Julian's death, to an old elm whose
upper branches were missing, against which she had often leaned, and
to all this familiar garden spot.

Rosalie came out and took her by the arm to make her come into the
house.

A tall young peasant of twenty-five was waiting outside the door. He
greeted her in a friendly manner as if he had known her for some time:
"Good-morning, Madame Jeanne. I hope you are well. Mother told me to
come and help you move. I would like to know what you are going to
take away, seeing that I shall do it from time to time so as not to
interfere with my farm work."

It was her maid's son, Julien's son, Paul's brother.

She felt as if her heart stopped beating; and yet she would have liked
to embrace this young fellow.

She looked at him, trying to find some resemblance to her husband or
to her son. He was ruddy, vigorous, with fair hair and his mother's
blue eyes. And yet he looked like Julien. In what way? How? She could
not have told, but there was something like him in the whole makeup of
his face.

The young man resumed: "If you could show me at once, I should be much
obliged."

But she had not yet decided what she was going to take with her, as
her new home was very small; and she begged him to come back again at
the end of the week.

She was now entirely occupied with getting ready to move, which
brought a little variety into her very dreary and hopeless life. She
went from room to room, picking out the furniture which recalled
episodes in her life, old friends, as it were, who have a share in our
life and almost of our being, whom we have known since childhood, and
to which are linked our happy or sad recollections, dates in our
history; silent companions of our sad or sombre hours, who have grown
old and become worn at our side, their covers torn in places, their
joints shaky, their color faded.

She selected them, one by one, sometimes hesitating and troubled, as
if she were taking some important step, changing her mind every
instant, weighing the merits of two easy chairs or of some old
writing-desk and an old work table.

She opened the drawers, sought to recall things; then, when she had
said to herself, "Yes, I will take this," the article was taken down
into the dining-room.

She wished to keep all the furniture of her room, her bed, her
tapestries, her clock, everything.

She took away some of the parlor chairs, those that she had loved as a
little child; the fox and the stork, the fox and the crow, the ant and
the grasshopper, and the melancholy heron.

Then, while wandering about in all the corners of this dwelling she
was going to forsake, she went one day up into the loft, where she was
filled with amazement; it was a chaos of articles of every kind, some
broken, others tarnished only, others taken up there for no special
reason probably, except that they were tired of them or that they had
been replaced by others. She saw numberless knick-knacks that she
remembered, and that had disappeared suddenly, trifles that she had
handled, those old little insignificant articles that she had seen
every day without noticing, but which now, discovered in this loft,
assumed an importance as of forgotten relics, of friends that she had
found again.

She went from one to the other of them with a little pang, saying:
"Why, it was I who broke that china cup a few evenings before my
wedding. Ah! there is mother's little lantern and a cane that little
father broke in trying to open the gate when the wood was swollen with
the rain."

There were also a number of things that she did not remember that had
belonged to her grandparents or to their parents, dusty things that
appeared to be exiled in a period that is not their own, and that
looked sad at their abandonment, and whose history, whose experiences
no one knows, for they never saw those who chose them, bought them,
owned them, and loved them; never knew the hands that had touched them
familiarly, and the eyes that looked at them with delight.

Jeanne examined carefully three-legged chairs to see if they recalled
any memories, a copper warming pan, a damaged foot stove that she
thought she remembered, and a number of housekeeping utensils unfit
for use.

She then put together all the things she wished to take, and going
downstairs, sent Rosalie up to get them. The servant indignantly
refused to bring down "that rubbish." But Jeanne, who had not much
will left, held her own this time, and had to be obeyed.

One morning the young farmer, Julien's son, Denis Lecoq, came with his
wagon for the first load. Rosalie went back with him in order to
superintend the unloading and placing of furniture where it was to
stand.

Rosalie had come back and was waiting for Jeanne, who had been out on
the cliff. She was enchanted with the new house, declaring it was much
more cheerful than this old box of a building, which was not even on
the side of the road.

Jeanne wept all the evening.

Ever since they heard that the chateau was sold, the farmers were not
more civil to her than necessary, calling her among themselves "the
crazy woman," without knowing exactly why, but doubtless because they
guessed with their animal instinct at her morbid and increasing
sentimentality, at all the disturbance of her poor mind that had
undergone so much sorrow.

The night before they left she chanced to go into the stable. A growl
made her start. It was Massacre, whom she had hardly thought of for
months. Blind and paralyzed, having reached a great age for an animal,
he existed in a straw bed, taken care of by Ludivine, who never forgot
him. She took him in her arms, kissed him, and carried him into the
house. As big as a barrel, he could scarcely carry himself along on
his stiff legs, and he barked like the wooden dogs that one gives to
children.

The day of departure finally came. Jeanne had slept in Julien's old
room, as hers was dismantled. She got up exhausted and short of breath
as if she had been running. The carriage containing the trunks and the
rest of the furniture was in the yard ready to start. Another
two-wheeled vehicle was to take Jeanne and the servant. Old Simon and
Ludivine were to stay until the arrival of a new proprietor, and then
to go to some of their relations, Jeanne having provided a little
income for them. They had also saved up some money, and being now very
old and garrulous, they were not of much use in the house. Marius had
long since married and left.

About eight o'clock it began to rain, a fine icy rain, driven by a
light breeze. On the kitchen table, some cups of cafe au lait were
steaming. Jeanne sat down and sipped hers, then rising, she said,
"Come along."

She put on her hat and shawl, and while Rosalie was putting on her
overshoes, she said in a choking voice: "Do you remember, my girl, how
it rained when we left Rouen to come here?"

As she said this, she put her two hands to her breast and fell over on
her back, unconscious. She remained thus over an hour, apparently
dead. Then she opened her eyes and was seized with convulsions
accompanied by floods of tears.

When she was a little calmer she was so weak that she could not stand
up, and Rosalie, fearing another attack if they delayed their
departure, went to look for her son. They took her up and carried her
to the carriage, placed her on the wooden bench covered with leather;
and the old servant got in beside her, wrapped her up with a big
cloak, and holding an umbrella over her head, cried: "Quick, Denis,
let us be off." The young man climbed up beside his mother and whipped
up the horse, whose jerky pace made the two women bounce about
vigorously.

As they turned the corner to enter the village, they saw some one
stalking along the road; it was Abbe Tolbiac, who seemed to be
watching for them to go by. He stopped to let the carriage pass. He
was holding up his cassock with one hand, to keep it out of the mud,
and his thin legs, encased in black stockings, ended in a pair of
enormous muddy shoes.

Jeanne lowered her eyes so as not to meet his glance, and Rosalie, who
had heard all about him, flew into a rage. "Peasant! Peasant!" she
murmured; and then seizing her son's hand: "Give him a good slash with
the whip."

But the young man, just as they were passing the priest, made the
wheel of the wagon, which was going at full speed, sink into a rut,
splashing the abbe with mud from head to foot.

Rosalie was delighted and turned round to shake her fist at him, while
the priest was wiping off the mud with his big handkerchief.

All at once Jeanne exclaimed: "We have forgotten Massacre!" They
stopped, and, getting down, Denis ran to fetch the dog, while Rosalie
held the reins. He presently reappeared, carrying in his arms the
shapeless and crippled animal, which he placed at the feet of the two
women.

* * * * *

Content of Chapter XII - A New Home (Guy De Maupassant's novel: Une Vie; or, The History of a Heart)

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