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Title: Pierre and Luce
Author: Rolland, Romain, 1866-1944
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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produced from scanned images of public domain material


_BY ROMAIN ROLLAND_

JEAN-CHRISTOPHE

JEAN-CHRISTOPHE IN PARIS

JEAN-CHRISTOPHE: JOURNEY'S END

COLAS BREUGNON, BURGUNDIAN

CLERAMBAULT

THE MUSICIANS OF TODAY

SOME MUSICIANS OF FORMER DAYS

BEETHOVEN

HANDEL

MUSICAL TOUR THROUGH THE LAND OF THE PAST

THE FOURTEENTH OF JULY

THE PEOPLE'S THEATER

PIERRE AND LUCE

* * * * *



PIERRE AND LUCE

BY
ROMAIN ROLLAND

_Translated by_
CHARLES DE KAY

[Illustration]

NEW YORK
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
1922

COPYRIGHT, 1922,
BY
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY

_Printed in U.S.A._


THE ISLE OF CALMS

"_Just as the Gulf Stream embraces the Sargasso Sea into which gradually
drift the odds and ends that are carried away by the marine currents
into the regions of calm, so does our aerial current surround a region
where the air is still. It is called_ THE ISLE OF CALMS."


DURATION OF THE STORY

From Wednesday evening, January 30, to Good Friday, May 29, 1918.



PIERRE AND LUCE


PIERRE plunged into the subway. A feverish, a brutal crowd. On his feet
near the door, closely pressed in a bank of human bodies and sharing the
heavy atmosphere passing in and out of their mouths, he stared without
seeing them at the black and rumbling vaults over which flickered the
shining eyes of the train. The same heavy shadows lay in his mind, the
same gleams, hard and tremulous. Suffocating in the raised collar of his
overcoat, his arms jammed against his sides and his lips compressed, his
forehead damp with perspiration momentarily cooled by a current from
outside when the door opened, he tried hard not to see, he tried not to
breathe, he tried not to live. The heart of this young fellow of
eighteen, still almost a child, was full of a dull despair. Above his
head, above the shadows of these long vaulted ways, of this rat-run
through which the monster of metal whirled, all swarming with human
masks--was Paris, the snow, the cold January darkness, the nightmare of
life and of death--the war.

The war! Four years ago it was, the war had come to stay. It had weighed
heavily on his adolescent years. It had caught him by surprise in that
morally critical period when the growing boy, disquieted by the
awakening of his feelings, discovers with a shock the existence of
blind, bestial, crushing forces in life whose prey he is and that
without having asked to live at all. And if he happens to be delicate in
character, tender of heart and frail as to body in the way Pierre was,
he experiences a disgust and horror which he does not dare confide to
others for all these brutalities, these nastinesses, all this nonsense
of fruitful and devouring nature--this breeding sow that gobbles up her
litter of pigs.

In every growing youth between sixteen and eighteen there is a bit of
the soul of Hamlet. Don't ask him to understand the war! (All right for
you men, who have had your fill!) He has all he can do to understand
life and forgive its existence. As a rule he digs himself in with his
dream and with the arts, until the time comes when he has got used to
his incarnation, and the grub has achieved its agonizing passage from
larva to winged insect. What a need he has for peace and meditation
during these April days so full of the trouble of maturing life! But
they come after him to the bottom of his burrow, look him up, drag him
from the dark while still so tender in his new-made skin. They toss him
into the raw air amongst the hard human race whose follies and hatreds
he is expected at the very first moment to accept without understanding
them and, not understanding, to atone for them.

Pierre had been called to military service along with those of his own
class, boys of sixteen to eighteen. Within six months his country would
be needing his flesh. The war claimed him. Six months of respite. Six
months! Oh, if one could only stop thinking at all from this time to
that! Just to stay in this underground tunnel! Never see cruel daylight
any more!...

He plunged deeper into his gloom along with the flying train and closed
his eyes....

When he opened them again--a few steps away, but separated by the bodies
of two strangers, stood a young girl who had just entered. At first all
he saw of her was a delicate profile under the shadow of her hat, one
blonde curl on a somewhat thin cheek, a highlight perched upon the
smooth cheekbone, the fine line of nose and lifted upper lip, and her
mouth, slightly parted, still quivering a little from her sudden rush
into the car. Through the portals of his eyes into his heart she
entered, she entered all complete; and the door closed. Noises from
without fell to nothing. Silence. Peace. She was there.

She did not look at him. In fact she did not even know as yet of his
existence. And yet she was there inside him. He held her image there,
speechless, crushed in his arms, and he dared not breathe for fear that
his breath might ruffle her.

A jostling at the next station. Noisily talking, the crowd threw
themselves into the already packed carriage. Pierre found himself shoved
and carried along by the human wave. Above the tunnel vault, in the city
up there, certain dull reports. The train started up again. At that
moment a man quite out of his senses, who covered up his face with his
hands, came running down the stairway of the station and rolled down on
the floor at the bottom. There was just enough time to catch sight of
the blood that trickled through his fingers.... Then the tunnel and
darkness again. In the car frightened outcries: "The Gothas are at it
again!" During the general excitement which fused these closely packed
bodies into one, his hand had seized the hand that touched him. And
when he raised his eyes he saw it was She.

She did not pull her hand away. At the pressure of his fingers hers
replied in a sympathy of emotion, drawing together a bit, and then
letting themselves go, soft and burning, without budging. Thus the two
remained in the protective darkness, their hands like two birds hid in
the same nest; and the blood from their hearts ran in a single flood
through the warmth of their palms. They said no word to one another. His
mouth almost touched the curl on her cheek and the tip of her ear. They
did not make a gesture. She did not look at him. Two stations beyond,
she loosed her hand from his, which did not keep her, slipped between
the bodies and left without having looked at him.

When she had vanished it occurred to him to follow.... Too late. The
train was in motion. At the next stop he ran up to the surface. There he
found the nocturnal cold, the unseen touches of some flakes of snow and
the City, frightened and amused at its fright; above it very high in
the air circled the warlike birds. But he saw only her, the one who was
within him; and he reached home holding the hand of the unknown girl.

* * * * *



PIERRE AUBIER lived with his parents near Cluny Square. His father was a
municipal judge; his brother, older than he by six years, had
volunteered at the beginning of the war. A good sound family of the
_bourgeois_ class, excellent folks, affectionate and human, never having
dared to think for themselves and very probably never imagining that
such a thing could be. Profoundly honest and with a lofty sense of the
duties of his office, Judge Aubier would have rejected with indignation
as a supreme insult the suspicion even that the verdicts he announced
could have been dictated by any other considerations than those of
equity and his own conscience. But the voice of his conscience had never
spoken--let us better say whispered--against the government. For that
conscience was born a functionary. It registered thoughts as a State
function--variable but infallible. Established powers were invested by
him with a sacred truth. He admired sincerely those souls of iron, the
great free and unbending magistrates of the past; and perhaps secretly
believed himself to be of their stock. He was a very small edition of
Michel de l'Hospital over whom a century of republican slavery had
passed.

As to Madame Aubier she was as good a Christian as her husband was a
good republican. Just as sincerely and honestly as he made himself a
docile instrument of the government against any form of liberty which
was not official, so did she mingle her prayers, and that in perfect
purity of heart, with the homicidal vows which were made about the war
in every country of Europe by the Catholic priests, the Protestant
ministers, the rabbis and the popes, the newspapers and the right-minded
thinkers of the time. And both of them, father and mother, adored their
children and, like true French people, had for them only a profound,
essential affection, would have sacrificed everything for them, and yet,
in order to do as others, would sacrifice them without hesitation. To
whom? Why, to the unknown god. In every epoch Abraham has led Isaac to
the funeral pile. And his magnificent folly still remains an example for
poor human beings.

As often is the case, at this family hearth affection was great and
intimacy null. How should thoughts communicate freely from one to the
other when each one forbore a look into the bottom of his own mind?
Whatever one may feel, one knows that certain dogmas at any rate must be
blinked, set aside; and if it already amounts to an embarrassment when
the dogmas are discreet enough to stay within the limits traced for them
(that was the case, to sum all up, of those belonging to the beyond)
what is to be said when they pretend to mix themselves with life, to
rule life entirely as our laical and obligatory dogmas actually do? Just
you try to forget the dogma of your country! The new religion compelled
a return to the Old Testament. It was not to be made comfortable with
lip devotion and innocent rituals, hygienic and ridiculous, like
confession, Friday fasting, rest on Sunday, which once upon a time
incited the racy spirit of our "philosophers" during the period when the
people were free--under the kings. The new religion wanted all, was not
satisfied with less; all the man complete, his body, his blood, his life
and his thinking mind. Above all his blood. Since the time of the Aztecs
of Mexico never was there a divinity so gorged with blood. It would be
deeply unjust to say that the believers did not suffer from this. They
suffered, but they believed. Alas my poor brother men, for whom
suffering itself is a proof positive of the divine!...

Mr. and Mrs. Aubier suffered like the others, and like the others
adored. But from a growing boy one could not demand such abnegation of
heart, feeling and good sense. Pierre would have liked to comprehend at
least what it was that oppressed him. What a lot of questions burned
within which he could not utter! For the very first word of all was,
"But what if I don't believe in it at all!"--a blasphemy just to start
with. No, he could not speak out. They would have gazed at him in a
stupor, frightened, indignant--with sorrow and shame. And since he was
at that plastic age when the soul, with a bark still too tender,
wrinkles up at the slightest breeze that comes from outside and under
its furtive fingers molds its form shudderingly, he felt himself
beforehand sorrowful and ashamed. Ah! how they believed, all of them!
(But did they really all of them believe?) How was it they managed it
then?--One did not dare to ask. Not to believe, standing all alone among
all those who do believe, is like one who lacks some organ, superfluous
perchance, but one that all the others possess; and so, blushing, one
hides one's nudity from the public.

The only one who was able to comprehend the tortures of the young fellow
was his elder brother. Pierre had for Philip that adoration which the
younger ones often have (but which they jealously conceal) for the older
brother or sister, some stranger comrade, at times merely the vision of
an hour and lost again--who realizes in their eyes the dream at once of
what they could wish to be and of what they would like to love: chaste
ardors and troublesome, of the future, formed of mixing currents. The
big brother was aware of this naïve homage and was flattered by it. Not
so long ago he had tried to read the heart of the little brother, and
explain things to him with discretion; for, although more robust, like
him he was molded of that fine clay which, among the better sort of men,
retains a little of the woman and does not blush to own it. But the war
had come and torn him away from his hard working career, from his study
of the sciences, from his twenty-year-old dream and from his intimacy
with his young brother. He had dropped everything in the intoxicating
idealism of the moment, like a big crazy bird that launches out into
space with the heroic and absurd illusion that his beak and his talons
will put an end to the war and restore to earth the reign of peace.
Since then the big bird had returned two or three times to the nest;
each time, alas, a little more worn in plumage. He had come back
denuded of many of his illusions, but he found himself too much
mortified about them to acknowledge it. He was ashamed to have believed
in them. Folly, not to have known how to see life as it is! Now he set
his heart upon dissipating its enchantment and accepting it stoically,
whatsoever it might turn out. Not himself alone did he punish; a
wretched suffering urged him to punish his illusions in the heart of his
young brother, where he found that they held their own. At his first
coming back, when Pierre had run up to him burning in his walled-up
heart, he had been frozen at once by the welcome his elder gave him,
affectionate certainly, always affectionate, but with a certain harsh
irony in his tone hard to fathom. Questions that pressed forward to his
lips were pushed back on the instant. Philip had seen them coming and
cut them down with a word, with a look. After two or three attempts
Pierre drew back with an aching heart. He did not recognize his brother
any more. The other recognized him only too well. He perceived in him
what he himself had been not so long ago and what never he could be
again. He made him pay for it. It caused him regret afterward, but of
that he showed no sign and just began over again. Both of them suffered
and, through a too common misunderstanding, their suffering, so much
alike, so near, which ought to have brought them together, only
separated them. The sole difference between them was that the elder knew
that it was near while Pierre believed himself alone in his suffering
with nobody to whom he could open his soul.

Then why did he not turn toward those of his own age, his companions at
school? It might seem as if these growing youths ought to have come
close to one another and mutually given one another support. But nothing
of the kind. On the contrary, a sorrowful fatality kept them separate,
scattered in little groups, and even in the inner circle of these minim
groups kept them distant and reserved. The commoner sort had plunged,
eyes closed, head foremost into the current of the war. The larger
number drew themselves away and did not feel any connection with the
generations that preceded them; they did not partake in any way of their
passions, their hopes and their hatreds; they were bystanders beside all
the frantic goings-on like men who are sober looking on at those who are
drunk. But what could they do in opposition? Many had started little
magazines, reviews whose ephemeral lives were snuffed out after the
first numbers for lack of air; the censorship produced a vacuum; the
entire thought of France was under the pneumatic exhausting bell. Among
these young fellows the most distinguished ones, too feeble to rebel and
too proud to complain, knew beforehand that they were delivered up to
the sword of war. While they waited for their turn at the
slaughterhouse they looked on and made their judgments in silence, each
one by himself, with a little surprise and a great deal of irony.
Through a disdainful reaction against the mental condition of the herd
they fell back into a kind of egotism, intellectual and artistic
egotism, an idealistic sensualism, where the tracked and hunted ego
vindicated its rights against human fellowship. Laughable fellowship,
which made itself manifest to these adolescents only in the shape of
finished murder, one undergone in common! A precocious experience had
shriveled their illusions: they had seen how much those same illusions
were worth in their elders and how those who did not believe in them
paid for them with their lives. Even as to those of their own age and as
to man in general their confidence was shaken. And besides, at such a
time it cost something to confide in people! Every day one learned of
some denunciation of thoughts and intimate conversations by a patriotic
spy whose zeal the government honored and stimulated. So it was that
these young people, through discouragement, through disdain, through
prudence, through a stoical sense of their solitude in thought, gave
themselves very little indeed the one to the other.

Pierre could not find among them that Horatio whom little
eighteen-year-old Hamlets seek. If he had a horror of estranging his
thought from public opinion (that public woman) he did feel the need of
joining it freely with souls of his own choosing. He was too tender to
be able to content himself with himself. He suffered from the universal
suffering. That crushed him by the amount of its pain, which he
exaggerated:--for if humanity does support it in spite of everything,
that is because humanity has a harder hide than is the delicate skin of
a frail boy. But what he did not exaggerate and what weighed him down
much more than the suffering of the world was the imbecility of it all.

It is nothing to undergo pain, it is nothing to die, if only one can see
a reason for it. Sacrifice is a good thing when one understands why it
is made. But what is this why? What is the sense of this world and its
harrowings for a youth? If he be sincere and sound of mind, in what way
can he interest himself in the coarse medley of nations standing head to
head like stupid rams on the brink of an abyss, into which all are about
to tumble? And yet the road was broad enough for all. Why then this
madness to destroy oneself? Why these countries given over to pride,
these States devoted to rapine, these peoples to whom is taught murder,
as if murder were their duty? But wherefore this butchery everywhere
among living beings? Why this world that devours itself? To what purpose
the nightmare of that monstrous and endless chain of life, each one of
whose links sets its jaws into the neck of the other, feasts on its
flesh, delights in its suffering and lives through its death? Why the
conflict and why the pain? Why death? Why life? Why? Why?...

That night when the boy got home the why had ceased its cry.

* * * * *



NEVERTHELESS nothing had changed. There he was in his own room littered
with papers and books. All about the familiar sounds. In the street the
trumpet sounding the close of the warning against air-bombs. On the
house stairs the reassured gossip of the tenants coming up from the
cellar. In the story overhead the crazy marching to and fro of the old
neighbor who for months had been waiting for his vanished son.

But here in his own chamber lay no longer those cares of his in ambush
which he had left there....

Sometimes it happens that an incomplete accord in music sounds raucous
in a way; it leaves the mind disquieted, up to the moment when some note
is added which procures a fusion of the hostile or coldly alien
elements, like visitors who do not know one another and wait to be
introduced. At once the ice is broken and harmony spreads from one
member of the group to another. This moral chemistry had just been put
in operation by a warm and furtive contact of hands. Pierre was not
conscious of the reason for the change; he never dreamed of analyzing.
But he felt that the habitual hostility of things in general had
suddenly softened. A shooting pain takes possession of your head for
hours; of a sudden you perceive it is no longer there: how was it that
it went? Scarcely a feeling of buzzing about the temples to recall
it.... Pierre was a bit suspicious of this new-found calm. He suspected
that it concealed under a passing truce a much worse return of the pain
which was merely taking breath. Already was he acquainted with the
respites that are obtained through the arts. When into our eyes
penetrate the divine proportions of lines and colors, or into the
voluptuous windings of the sonorous ear-shell the lovely, varied play of
accords which combine and interlock in obedience to the laws of
harmonious numbers, peace takes possession of us and joy inundates our
souls. But that is a radiance which comes from outside; one would say
from a sun, the distant fires of which hold us in suspense fascinated,
lifted high above our life. It endures only a moment and then one falls
again. Art is never more than a passing forgetfulness of the actual, the
real. Pierre was afraid and fully expected the same deception.--But this
time the radiation came from within. Nothing that belongs to life was
forgot. But everything fell into harmony. His recollections, his new
thoughts. Even to the familiar objects about him: the books and papers
in his chamber sprang alive and took on an interest which they had lost.

For months past his intellectual growth had been compressed like a young
tree which is struck in full blossoming by the "saints of the ice." He
did not belong to those practical boys who profit by the indulgence
offered at universities to the younger classes just about to be called
to the colors in order to pull out hastily a diploma from under the
indulgent eyes of the examiners. Nor was he one to feel the despairing
eagerness of the young man who sees death approaching and so takes
double mouthfuls and devours the arts and sciences which he will never
have a chance to test and verify in life. That perpetual feeling of
emptiness at the end, emptiness that is underneath and everywhere hidden
beneath the cruel and absurd illusion of the world--this it was that
swept aside all his enthusiasms. He would throw himself on a book, on a
thought--then he stopped, discouraged. Whither would that lead? What the
use of learning? What is the point of getting riches if it be necessary
to lose everything, leave everything, if nothing really belongs to you?
In order that activity, in order that science should have any sense, it
is necessary that life should have some. This sense no effort of the
mind, no supplication from the heart had been able to produce for
him.--And yet, lo and behold, all of itself, this sense had come....
Life had some sense....

What then?--And seeking to find whence came this inner smile--he beheld
the parted lips upon which his mouth was burning to press itself.

* * * * *



IN ordinary times, no doubt, this wordless fascination would not have
persisted. At that period of upgrowth when one is a lover of love, one
sees love in every eye; the greedy and uncertain heart gathers it
flitting from one to the other, and nothing forces it to settle down;
the heart is just beginning its day.

But the day at the present period will be a short one: it is necessary
to hurry up.

The heart of this young fellow was in a hurry all the greater because it
was so much behindhand. Great cities which from a distance appear like
the smoking solfataras of sensuality really harbor fresh souls and
ingenuous bodies. How many young men and young girls there are who
respect love and keep their senses virgin up to the marriage day! Even
in the refined circles where mental curiosity is precociously excited,
what singular ignorances conceal themselves under the free talk of some
young worldly girl or of some student who knows everything and
understands nothing! In the heart of Paris there are provinces most
naïve, little gardens as of cloisters, pure existences as of springs.
Paris permits herself to be betrayed by her literature. Those who speak
in her name are the most soiled of all. And besides, one only knows too
well that a false human consideration often prevents the pure from
avowing their innocence.--Pierre did not yet understand love; and he was
delivered up to the first appeal love made.

This also added to the enchantment of his thought: that love had been
born under the wing of death. In that moment of emotion when they felt
the menace of the bombs pass over their heads, when the bloodstained
apparition of the wounded man contracted their hearts, then it was their
fingers groped toward each other; and both of them had read therein, at
the same time with the quivering of the flesh that was frightened, the
loving consolation of an unknown friend. Fleeting pressure! One of the
two hands, that of the man, says: "Lean upon me!" And the other, the
maternal one, pushes aside her own fear in order to say: "My little
dear!"

Nothing of all this was uttered or heard. But that inward murmur filled
the soul far better than words, that curtain of foliage which masks our
thought. Pierre allowed himself to be cradled by this humming. Such the
song of a golden wasp that floats through the chiaroscuro of one's
thought. His days became numb things in this new languor. That solitary
and naked heart dreamed of the warmth of a nest.

During these first weeks of February, Paris was counting her ruins from
the last raid and licking her wounds. The press, locked up in its
kennel, was barking for reprisals. And, according to the statement of
"the Man who put the fetters on," the government was making war on the
French. The open season for suits at law for treasonable acts commenced.
The spectacle of a wretched creature who was defending his own head,
bitterly demanded by the public accuser, was a matter of amusement for
_Tout-Paris_, whose appetite for the theatre had not yet been satisfied
by four years of war and ten millions of dead men dissolving behind the
flies.

But the youth remained completely and solely absorbed in the mysterious
guest who had just come to make him a visit. Strange intensity of these
visions of love printed on the very floor of his thought and
nevertheless lacking in contour! Pierre would have been incapable of
saying what was the form of her features or what the color of her eyes
or the modeling of her lips. All he could bring back was the emotion
already in himself. All his attempts to give precision to the image
merely ended in deforming it. He was no more successful when he went to
work to find her in the streets of Paris. At every turn he believed he
had seen her. It was either a smile or a white young neck or a gleam in
some eyes. And then the blood shook in his heart. There was no
resemblance, none whatever, between these flying images and the real
image which he sought and which he believed he loved. Well, then, he did
not love her? Surely he loved her; and that is why he saw her everywhere
and under every shape. For she just is every smile, each radiance, all
life. And the exact form would be a limitation.--But one longs for that
limitation in order to clasp love and to possess it.

Though he might never see her again he knew that she existed, she
existed, and that she was the nest. In the hurricane a port. A
lighthouse in the night. _Stella Maris, Amor._ Oh, Love, watch over us
at the hour of death!...

* * * * *



ALONG the quay of the Seine beside the Institute he wandered, looking
with little attention at the shelves of the few _bouquinistes_ who had
stuck to their posts. He found himself at the foot of the steps of the
Pont des Arts. Raising his eyes he perceived her for whom he had waited.
A portfolio of drawings under her arm, she came down the steps like a
little doe. He did not reflect for the shadow of a second; he rushed
forward to meet her and while he ascended toward her who was coming
down, for the first time their gaze rested the one on the other and
entered. Arrived in front of her and stopping short, he began to blush.
Surprised, seeing that he blushed, she reddened too. Before he could get
his breath again the little deerlike step had already gone beyond him.
When strength returned and he was able to turn about her skirt was
disappearing at the turning of the arcade which looks upon the Rue de
Seine. He did not try to follow her. Leaning against the balustrade of
the bridge, he saw _her own_ look in the stream that flowed below. For
some time his heart had a pasture new.... (Oh, dear, stupid children!)....

A week later he was loafing in the Luxembourg Gardens which the sun was
filling with a golden softness. Such a radiant February in that funereal
year! Dreaming with his eyes open and hardly knowing well whether he was
dreaming what he saw, or saw what he was dreaming, steeped in a greedy
languor obscurely happy, unhappy, in love, as much filled full of
tenderness as with the sun, he smiled as he strolled with inattentive
eyes, and without his knowing it his lips moved, reciting words without
connection, a song of some kind. He looked down at the sandy path and,
like the wingtip of a dove that passes, he had an impression that a
smile had just passed along. He whirled about and saw that he had just
crossed her path. And just at that moment, without stopping in her
walk, she turned her head with a smile in order to observe him. Then he
hesitated no longer and went toward her, his hands almost extended in so
juvenile and naïve a rush that naïvely she waited for him. He made no
excuses for himself. There was no awkwardness between them. It seemed to
them they were continuing an interview already begun.

"You are laughing at me," said he; "you are quite right!"

"I'm not laughing at you"--(her voice like her step was lively and
supple)--"you were laughing all to yourself; I merely laughed at seeing
you."

"Was I laughing, really?"

"You are still laughing now."

"Now I know why."

She did not ask him what he meant. They walked side by side. They were
happy.

"What a jolly little sun!" said she.

"Newly born springtide!"

"Was it to him just now you were sending that little smile?"

"Not to him alone. Perhaps to you, too."

"Little liar! Bad boy. You don't even know me."

"As if one could say such a thing! We have seen each other I don't know
how often!"

"Thrice, counting this time."

"Ah--you remember, then? You see that we are old acquaintances!"

"Let's talk about it."

"I'm agreed. That's all I want!... Oh, come, let us sit there! Just an
instant, won't you please? It's so nice at the edge of the water!"

(They were near the Galathea Fountain, which the masons had covered over
with tarpaulins to protect it from the bombs.)

"I really can not, I shall miss my train."

She gave him the hour. He showed her that she had more than twenty-five
minutes.

Yes, but she wanted first to buy her lunch at the corner of Rue Racine,
where they keep good little buns. He hauled one out of his pocket.

"No better than this one.... Don't you really want to take it?..."

She laughed and hesitated. He put it in her hand and kept hold of her
hand.

"You would give me such pleasure!... Come now, come and sit down...."

He led her to a bench in the middle of the walk that runs about the
basin.

"I've something else...."

He brought out of his pocket a chocolate tablet.

"_Gourmand!_ ... And what besides?..."

"Only--I'm ashamed. It's not in its wrapper."

"Give it me, give it! It's just the war."

He looked on as she nibbled.

"It's the first time," said he, "that I've thought the war had any good
in it."

"Oh, let's not talk of it! It is so completely overwhelming!"

"Yes," he said, enthusiastic, "we shall never speak of it."

(All of a sudden the atmosphere began to grow lighter.)

"Look at those pierrots who are taking their tub."

(She pointed to the sparrows that were attending to their toilets on the
edge of the basin.)

"But, then--the other night" (he followed her thought) "the other night
in the subway--tell me now, you did see me then?"

"Sure."

"But you never looked my way. All the time you stayed turned in the
other direction.... See now, just as at present...."

He gazed at her profile as she nibbled at her bun, looking straight
ahead of her with roguish eyes.

"Do look at me a moment!... What are you gazing at off there?"

She did not turn her head. He took her right hand, the glove of which
was torn at the index, and showed the end of the finger.

"What are you looking at?"

"And you examining my glove!... Will you be so kind as not to tear it
more!"

[In a distracted fashion he was engaged in making the hole larger.]

"Oh, forgive me!... But how were you able to see?"

She did not answer; but in that mocking profile he could see the corner
of her eye and that was laughing.

"Oh, you slyboots!"

"It's very simple. Everybody can do that."

"I never could."

"Just try.... You simply squint."

"I never could, never. In order to see it's necessary for me to look
right to the front, stupidly."

"Oh, no, not so stupidly!"

"At last! I see your eyes."

They looked at each other, gently laughing.

"What's your name?"

"Luce."

"That's a lovely name, lovely as this day!"

"And yours?"

"Pierre--rather worn out."

"A fine name--that has honest and clear eyes."

"Like mine."

"Well, yes, so far as clear goes they are."

"That's because they're looking at Luce."

"Luce?... People say 'Mademoiselle.'"

"No."

"No?"

(He shook his head.)

"You are not 'Mademoiselle.' You are just Luce and I am Pierre."

They were holding hands; and without looking at one another, their eyes
fixed upon the tender blue of the sky between the branches of the
leafless trees, they kept silence. The flood of their thoughts
intermingled by way of their hands.

She said:

"The other night both of us were afraid."

"Yes," said he, "how good it was."

(Only later they smiled at having expressed, each one, what the other
was dreaming of.)

She tore her hand away and suddenly sprang up, having heard the clock
strike.

"Oh, I have scarcely more than time left...."

Together they marched at that little quick-step the Parisian women take
so prettily, so that seeing them trot, one scarcely thinks of their
swiftness, so easy appears the gait.

"Do you pass here often?"

"Every day. But oftener on the other side of the terrace." (She pointed
to the garden with its Watteau trees.) "I am just back from the Museum."

(He looked at the portfolio she carried.)

"Painter?" he asked.

"No," she replied, "that's too big a word. A little dauberette."

"Why? For your own pleasure?"

"Oh, no indeed! For money."

"For money?"

"It's horrid, isn't it? to make art for money?"

"It's particularly astonishing to make money if one cannot paint."

"It's just for that reason, you see. I'll explain it to you another
time."

"Another time, by the fountain, we'll have lunch again."

"We shall see. If it's good weather."

"But you will come earlier? Will you not? Say yes ... Luce...."

(They were come to the station. She jumped on the running board of the
tram car.)

"Answer, say yes, little light!..."

She did not answer; but when the tram was in motion she made a "yes"
with her eyelids and he read on her lips without her having spoken:

"Yes, Pierre."

Both of them thought, as they went their way:

"It's amazing, this evening, what a happy look everybody has!"

And they kept smiling without taking heed of what had occurred. They
knew only that they had _it_, that they possessed _it_ and that _it
belonged_ to them. It? What? Nothing. We feel rich this evening!... On
getting home they looked at themselves carefully in the mirror just as
one looks at a friend, with loving eyes. They said to themselves: "That
gaze of his, of hers, was fixed on _you_." They went to bed early,
overcome--but wherefore?--by a delicious weariness. While they undressed
they kept thinking:

"What's best of all at present is, that there's a tomorrow."

* * * * *



TOMORROW!... Those who come after us will have some difficulty in
understanding what silent despair and weariness of spirit without
grounds that word evoked during the fourth year of the war.... Oh, such
a weariness! So many times had hopes been destroyed! Hundreds of
tomorrows just like yesterday and today followed on, each similarly
devoted to emptiness and waiting--to waiting for emptiness. Time no
longer ran. The year was like a river Styx which encircles life with the
circuit of its black and greasy waters, with its somber, watery, silky
flood that seems no longer to move. Tomorrow? Tomorrow is dead.

In the hearts of these children Tomorrow was resuscitated from the
grave.

Tomorrow saw them seated again near the fountain. And tomorrows followed
one another. The fine weather favored these very brief meetings, every
day a little less brief. Each one brought a lunch in order to have the
pleasure of exchanging. Pierre now waited at the door of the Museum. He
wanted to see her art works. Although she was not proud of them she did
not make him beg at all before showing them. They were reproductions of
famous paintings in miniature, or portions of paintings, a group, a
figure, a bust. Not too disagreeable at the first glance but extremely
loose in drawing. Here and there quite true and pretty touches; but
right alongside the mistakes of a pupil, exhibiting not merely the most
elementary ignorance but a reckless ease perfectly careless of what
anyone might think.--"Enough! Good enough the way they are!"--Luce
recited the names of the pictures copied. Pierre knew them too well. His
face was quite drawn from his discomfiture. Luce felt that he was not
pleased; but she summoned all her courage to show him everything--and
this one too.... Woof!... it was the ugliest one she had! She kept up
her mocking smile which was directed to her own address as well as to
Pierre's; but she would not confess to herself a pinch of vexation.
Pierre hardened his lips in order not to speak. But at last it was too
much for him. She showed him a copy of a Florentine Raphael.

"But these are not its colors!" said he.

"Oh, well, that wouldn't be surprising," said she. "I didn't go and look
at it. I took a photo."

"And didn't anybody object?"

"Who? My clients? They haven't been to look at it either.... And
besides, even if they had seen it, they don't look so narrowly! The red,
the green, the blue--they only see the fire in it. Sometimes I copy the
original in colors, but I change the colors.... See here, for instance,
this one...." (An angel by Murillo).

"Do you find it's better?"

"No, but it amused me.... And then, it's easier.... And besides, it's
all the same to me. The essential thing is that this will sell...."

At this last piece of boasting she stopped, took the color sketches
from him and burst out laughing.

"Ha! So they're even uglier than you had expected?"

He said, greatly annoyed:

"But why, why do you make things like these?"

She examined his upset visage with a kindly smile of maternal irony;
this dear little _bourgeois_ for whom everything had been so easy and
who could not conceive that one must make concessions for....

He asked once more:

"Why? Tell me, why?"

(He was quite crestfallen, as if it was he who was the botcher in
paint!... Dear little boy! She would have liked to kiss him ... very
properly, on his forehead!)

She answered gently:

"Why, in order to live."

He was quite overcome. He had never dreamed of it.

"Life is complicated," she went on in a light and mocking tone. "In the
first place it is necessary to eat, and then to eat every day. In the
evening one has dined. It's necessary to begin again the next day. And
then it's necessary to dress oneself. Dress oneself completely, body,
head, hands, feet. That's so far as clothing is concerned! And then pay
for it all. For everything. Life, it's just paying."

For the first time he saw what had escaped the shortsightedness of his
love: the modest fur in some places worn, the shoes somewhat the worse
for wear, the traces of embarrassed means which the natural elegance of
a little Parisian woman makes one forget. And his heart contracted
within him.

"Ah! couldn't I be allowed, couldn't I be permitted to help you?"

She moved away from him a bit and reddened:

"No, no," she returned, much upset, "there's no question of that....
Never!... I have no need...."

"But it would make me so happy!"

"No.... Nothing more to be said about that. Or we shall not be friends
any more...."

"We are friends, then?"

"Yes. That's to say, if you are so still after you have seen these
horrible daubs?"

"Surely, surely! It isn't your fault."

"But do they trouble you?"

"Oh, yes."

She laughed out contentedly.

"That makes you laugh, naughty girl!"

"No, it's not being naughty. You do not understand."

"Then why do you laugh?"

"I shan't tell you."

(She was thinking: "Love! how kind you are to be troubled because I have
done something that is ugly!")

She went on:

"You are so kind. Thank you."

(He looked at her with astonished eyes.)

"Don't try to understand," said she, tapping him softly on his hand....
"There, let's talk of something else...."

"Yes. But one word more.... Still, I could wish to know.... Tell me
(and don't be hurt).... Are you at the present moment a bit strapped?"

"No, no, I told you that just now, because there have been now and then
hard times. But now it goes much better. Mama has found a situation
where she is well paid."

"Your mother is at work?"

"Yes, in a munitions factory. She gets twelve francs a day. It's a
fortune."

"In a factory! A war factory!"

"Yes."

"Why, it's frightful!"

"Oh, well! One takes what offers!"

"Luce! but if you, you should have such an offer?..."

"Oh, me? You see yourself, I just daub. Ah! You perceive now that I have
good reason to make my smears!"

"But if it were necessary to have money and there were no other way than
to work in one of those factories that produce bomb-shells, would you
go?"

"If it were necessary to make money and no other means?... Why, surely!
I would run for it."

"Luce! Do you realize what it is they're doing in there?"

"No, I don't think about it."

"Everything that will make people suffer, die, that tears them to
pieces, that burns, that tortures beings like you, like me...."

She put her hand on her mouth to signal to him to hush.

"I know, I know all that, but I don't want to think of it."

"You don't want to think about it?"

"No," said she.

And a moment after:

"One must live.... If one thinks about it, one cannot live any more. For
myself I want to live, I want to live. If they compel me to do that in
order to live, shall I torment myself on this account or on that? That's
no business of mine; it isn't I that wants it. If it is wrong it is not
my fault, not my own. As for me, what I want is nothing bad."

"And what is it you do want?"

"First of all I want to live."

"You love life?"

"Why, of course. Am I wrong in that?"

"Oh, no! It is so jolly that you do live...."

"And you, you don't love it also?"

"I did not, up to the time...."

"Up to the time?"

(This question did not call for an answer. Both of them knew it.)

Following up his thought, Pierre:

"You just said 'first of all.' ... 'I want to live, first of all.' ...
And what then? What else do you wish?"

"I don't know."

"Yes, you do know...."

"You are very indiscreet."

"Yes, very."

"It embarrasses me to tell you...."

"Tell me in my ear. No one will overhear."

She smiled:

"I would like ..." (she hesitated).

"I would like just a _little bit_ of happiness...."

(They were quite close the one to the other.)

She went on:

"Is that too much to ask?... They have often told me that I'm an
egotist; and as for me, I sometimes say to myself: What has one a right
to? When one sees so many wretchednesses, so much pain about one, you
hardly dare to ask.... But in spite of all my heart does insist and
cries out: Yes, I have the right, I have the right to a very little
portion of happiness.... Tell me very frankly, is that being an egotist?
Do you think that wrong?"

He was overcome by an infinite pity. That cry of the heart, that poor
little naïve cry stirred him down to his soul. Tears came to his eyes.
Side by side on the bench, leaning one against the other, they felt the
warmth of their legs. He would have liked to turn toward her and take
her in his arms. He did not dare move for fear of not remaining in
control of his emotion. Immovable, they looked straight forward at the
ground before their feet. Very swiftly, in a low ardent voice, almost
without moving his lips, he said:

"Oh, my darling little body! Oh, my heart! Would I could hold your
little feet in my hands, upon my mouth.... I would like to eat you
all...."

Without budging and very low and very quickly, just as he had spoken,
she replied full of trouble: "Crazy! Foolish boy! Silence! I beg of
you...."

A stroller-by of a certain age limped slowly past them. They felt their
two bodies melt together with tenderness....

Nobody left on the walk. A sparrow with ruffled feathers was dusting
itself in the sand. The fountain shed its lucent droplets. Timidly their
faces turned one toward the other; and scarcely had their eyes met each
other, when like the rush of birds their mouths met, frightened and
closely pressed--and then they flew apart. Luce sprang up, departed. He
also had risen. She said to him: "Stay here."

They did not dare to look at one another any longer. He murmured:

"Luce! That little bit ... that little bit of happiness ... say, now we
have it!"

* * * * *



THE weather caused an interruption to the lunches by the fountain of the
sparrows. Fogs came to obscure the February sun. But they could not
snuff out the one they carried in their hearts. Ah! all the bad weather
you could wish might be on hand: cold, hot, rain, wind, snow or sun!
Everything would be well, always. And even, things would be better. For
when happiness is in its period of growth the very finest of all the
days is always today.

The fog offered them a benevolent pretext not to separate during a
portion of the day. Less risk that way of being observed. In the morning
he went to wait for her at the arrival of the train and he accompanied
her in her walks about Paris. He had the collar of his overcoat turned
up. She wore a fur toque, her boa rolled in a chilly way up to her chin,
her little veil tightly tied on, which her lips pushed out and made in
it a small round relief. But the best veil was the moist network of the
protective mist. The mist was like a curtain of ashes, dense, grayish,
with phosphorescent spots. One could not see farther than ten yards. It
became thicker and thicker as they passed down the old streets
perpendicular to the Seine. Friendly fog, in which a dream stretches
itself between ice-cold linen and shudders with delight! They were like
the almond in the shell of the nut, like a flame enclosed in a dark
lantern. Pierre held the left arm of Luce closely pressed to him; they
walked with the same step, almost of the same stature, she a trifle
taller, twittering in a halfvoice, their figures quite close together;
he would have liked to kiss the little moist round on her veil.

She was going to the shopman who sold "false antiques"--who had ordered
them--to dispose of her "turnips," her "little beets" as she called
them. They were never in a great hurry to reach the place and without
doing so on purpose (at least that is what they insisted) took the
longest way about, putting their mistake to the debit of the fog. When
at last, nevertheless, the place came to meet them despite all the
efforts made to get it off the track, Pierre stayed at a distance. She
entered the shop. He waited at the corner of the street. He waited a
long time and he was not very warm. But he was glad to wait and not to
be warm and even to be bored, because it was all for her. At last she
came out again and quick, quick she skipped up to him, smiling, tender,
in great disquiet lest he be frozen. He saw in her eyes when she had
succeeded and then he rejoiced over it as if it were he who had made the
money. But most often she came back to him empty handed; it was
necessary to return to the shop two or three days in succession in order
to obtain her pay. Very happy she, if they did not give her back the
object ordered accompanied by rebukes! Today for instance they had made
a great fuss on account of a miniature painted from the photograph of an
honest fellow deceased, whom she had never seen. The family was
indignant because she had not given him the exact colors of his eyes
and hair. It was necessary to do it all over again. Since she was
disposed rather to look at the comic side of her misadventures, she
laughed courageously about it. But Pierre did not laugh. He was furious.

"Idiots! Triple idiots!"

When Luce showed him the photographs which she had to copy in colors he
thundered in his disdain (Oh, how amused she was at his comical fury!)
at these heads of imbeciles, frozen in solemn smiles. That the dear eyes
of his Luce should have to apply themselves to reproducing and her hands
to tracing the pictures of these mugs seemed to him a profanation. No,
it was too revolting! Copies from the museums were more worth while. But
one could not count on them any more. The last museums had shut their
doors and no longer interested her clients. It was no longer the hour
for Virgin Maries and angels, only for the _poilus_. Every family had
its own, dead or alive, oftener dead, and wanted to eternalize his
features. The wealthier ones wanted colors: work paid for well enough,
but beginning to be scarce; it was needful for her not to be capricious.
Lacking which, all that remained for the time being was the enlarging of
photographs at laughable prices.

The clearest point in all of this was that she no longer had any reason
to spend her time in Paris: no more copies in the museum; all that was
needed being, to go to the shop to collect and bring back the orders
every two or three days; the work itself could be done at home. That was
not exactly what the two children liked. They continued to stroll about
the streets, unable to decide on taking up the way to the station. Since
they felt weary and the icy fog pierced them through, they went into a
church; and there, seated most properly in the corner of a chapel, they
talked in low voices about the little common-place affairs of their life
while they looked at the stained-glass windows. From time to time there
fell a silence; and their souls, delivered from mere words (it was not
the meaning in the words that interested them but their breath of life,
like the furtive contacts between quivering antennae) their souls
pursued another dialogue more solemn and profound. The dreams in the
colored windows, the shadows cast by the piers, the droning of the hymns
mingled with their dream, evoked the sorrowful facts of life which they
desired to forget and the consoling homesickness of the infinite.
Although it was nearly eleven o'clock, a yellowish twilight brimmed the
nave like the oil of a sacred cruet. From on high and from a great
distance came strange gleams, the sombre purple of a window, a red pool
on violet ones, indistinct figures encircled by their black settings.
Against the high wall of night the blood-like gleam of light made a
wound....

Abruptly Luce remarked:

"Shall you have to be _taken_?"

He understood at once what she meant for in the silence his spirit too
had pursued the same obscure trail.

"Yes," he said. "We mustn't talk of it."

"Only one thing. Tell me when?"

He told her:

"In six months."

She sighed.

He said:

"We mustn't think of it any more. What use would it be?"

She said:

"Yes, what use?"

They drew long breaths in order to push back the thought. Then
courageously (or should one say to the contrary "timorously"? Let him
who knows decide where true courage lies!) they both compelled
themselves to talk of something else--of the stars of the candles,
trembling in a reek, of the organ playing a prelude. Of the beadle who
was passing. Of the box full of surprises which her handbag was, in
which the indiscreet fingers of Pierre were rummaging. They had a very
passion of amusing themselves with nothings. Neither one nor the other
of these poor little creatures so much as considered the shadow of an
idea of escaping from that destiny which must separate them. To make any
resistance against the war, to brave the current of a nation: as well
to lift up the church which covered them with its shell! The only
recourse was to forget, to forget up to the last second, while hoping at
bottom that this last second would never arrive. Until then, to be
happy.

After they went out, while chatting, she pulled him by the arm in order
to cast a glance at a shopfront, which they had just passed. A shoe
shop. He found his gaze caressing tenderly a pair of fine leather shoes,
tall and laced up.

"Pretty, eh?" said he.

She said:

"A love!"

He laughed at the expression and she laughed also.

"Wouldn't they be too big?"

"No, just a fit."

"Well, then, suppose one bought them?"

She pressed his arm and pulled him on so as to tear him away from the
sight.

"One has to belong to the wealthy" (humming the air of _Dansons la
capucine_....) "But they're not for us."

"Why not? Cinderella put the slipper on all right!"

"At that time there were fairies still."

"In the present time there are lovers still."

She sang:

"_Non, non, nenni, mon petit ami!_"

"Why so, since we are friends?"

"Just for that reason."

"For that?"

"Yes, because one cannot accept things from a friend."

"Then perhaps--from an enemy?"

"Rather from a stranger; my shopman, for instance, if he wanted to
advance me a payment, the robber!"

"But, Luce, I certainly have the right to order from you a painting, if
I wish?"

She stopped, to burst out laughing.

"You, a painting by me? My poor friend, what could you do with it? You
have gained a good deal of merit already, just for having looked at
them. I know well enough that they are _croûtes_. They would stick in
your throat."

"Not at all! Some of them are very cunning. And besides, if they suit
my taste?"

"It's certainly changed since yesterday."

"Isn't it allowable to change one's taste?"

"No, not when one's a friend."

"Luce, do my portrait!"

"Well, well, now; his portrait!"

"Why, it's very serious. I'm as good as those idiots...."

She squeezed his arm in an unthinking burst:

"Darling!"

"What was that you said?"

"I didn't say anything."

"I heard you all right."

"Well then, keep it for yourself!"

"No, I shan't keep it. I'll give it back to you double.... Darling!...
Darling! You'll do my portrait, won't you? It's settled?"

"Have you a photo?"

"No, I have not."

"Then what do you expect? I can't paint you in the street, I suppose."

"You told me that at home you were alone almost every day."

"Yes, the days mama works at the factory.... But I don't dare...."

"You are afraid, then, that we shall be seen?"

"No, that's not the reason. We have no neighbors."

"Well, then, what is it you're afraid of?"

She did not reply.

They were come to the square before the tramway station. Although all
about them were people who were waiting, they were hardly to be seen,
the fog continued to isolate the little couple. She evaded his eyes. He
took her two hands and said tenderly:

"My darling, don't be afraid...."

She lifted her eyes and they gazed at each other. Their eyes were so
loyal!

"I trust you," said she.

She closed her eyes. She felt that she was sacred to him.

They let go hands. The tram was about to start. Pierre's gaze questioned
Luce.

"What day?" he demanded.

"Thursday," she replied. "Come about two."

At the moment of parting she regained her roguish smile; she whispered
in his ear:

"And you must bring your photo just the same. I am not strong enough to
paint without the photo.... Yes, yes, I know you have some, you naughty
little humbug."

* * * * *



OUT beyond the Malakoff. Streets like broken teeth separated by vague
regions losing themselves in a dubious kind of country-side where among
boarded enclosures blossom the cabins of ragpickers. The gray dull sky
is lying low over the colorless ground whose thin edges smoke with the
fog. The air is chill. The house easy to find: there are only three of
them on one side of the road. The last of the three; it has no neighbor
across the street. It has but one story with a little courtyard which is
surrounded by a picket fence; two or three starveling trees, a square
patch of kitchen garden under the snow.

Pierre has made no noise on entering; the snow deadens his steps. But
the curtains of the ground floor are in motion; and when he reaches the
door, the door opens and Luce is on the threshold. In the half light of
the hall they say good day in a choking voice, and she ushers him into
the first apartment which serves as dining-room. There it is that she
works: her easel is installed near the window. At first they do not know
what to say to one another: both have thought over this visit altogether
too much beforehand; none of the speeches they had prepared is able to
come forth; and they talk in a halfvoice, although there is nobody else
in the house--and it's just for that reason. They stay seated at some
distance from each other with their arms rigid; and he has not even
thrown back the collar of his cloak. They chat about the cold weather
and the hours of the tramcars. They are unhappy to feel themselves so
silly.

At last she makes an effort and asks if he has brought the photographs,
and scarcely has he taken them from his pocket when both pluck up a
spirit. These pictures are the intermediaries over whose heads the chat
revives; for now the two are not entirely alone; there are eyes that
look at you and they are not embarrassing. Pierre has had the clever
idea (there was really no roguishness in it) to bring all his
photographs, from the age of three; there was one that showed him in a
little skirt. Luce laughed with pleasure; she spoke to the photo in
comical baby talk. Can there be anything more delightful to a woman than
to see the picture of the person she loves when he was quite small? She
cradles, she rocks him in her thoughts, she gives him the breast; and
she is even not so far from the dream that she has given him birth. And
besides (nor does she dupe herself at all) it forms a convenient pretext
to say to the infant what she cannot force herself to say to the
grown-up.--When he asks which one of the photographs she prefers, she
says without hesitating:

"The dear little codger...."

How serious he looks, already! Almost more serious than today. Certainly
if Luce dared to look (and just here she does dare) in order to make
comparisons with the Pierre of today, she would see in his eyes an
expression of joy and infantile gayety that does not appear in the
infant: for the eyes of this infant, this little _bourgeois_ under a
bell glass, are birds in a cage that lack sunlight; and the sunlight has
come, hasn't it, Luce?...

In his turn he asks to see photos of Luce. She exhibits a little girl of
six with a big plait who is squeezing a little dog in her arms; and as
she sees it again she thinks mischievously that in that period she loved
no less fervently nor very differently; whatever heart she possessed she
gave it even then to her dog; it was Pierre already, while waiting till
he arrived. Also she showed a young miss of thirteen or fourteen who
twisted her neck with a coquettish and a somewhat pretentious air;
luckily there was always there at the corners of the mouth that roguish
little smile which appeared to say:

"You know, I'm just amusing myself; I don't taken myself seriously."

Now they had completely forgotten their former embarrassment.

She set herself to sketching-in the portrait. Since he must not budge
one bit any more, nor talk except with the tips of his lips, she it was
who made almost all the conversation, all by herself. Instinct told her
that silence was dangerous. And as it happens with sincere persons who
talk at some length, she came quickly to the point of confiding to him
the intimate affairs of her life and those of her family which she did
not have the slightest intention of recounting. She heard herself speak
with astonishment; but there was no way of returning to solid ground;
the very silence of Pierre was like a declivity down which the stream
glided....

She recited the facts of her infant life in the provinces. She came from
Touraine. Her mother belonging to a well-to-do family of the solid
_bourgeoisie_ became infatuated with a tutor, the son of a farmer. The
_bourgeois_ family opposed the marriage; but the two lovers were
obstinate; the young girl had waited until she was of age in order to
send out the legal summons to her family. After the marriage her people
would not recognize her. The young couple lived through years of
affection and hard fare. The husband wore himself out at his task and
sickness arrived. The wife accepted this further burden courageously;
she worked for two. Her parents, obstinately cherishing their wounded
pride, refused to do anything to come to his assistance. The sick man
died a few months before the outbreak of the war. And the two women did
not try to renew connection with the mother's family. The latter would
have welcomed the young girl if she had made any advances; she would
have been received like a _mea culpa_ condoning the action of her
mother. But the family might wait! Rather eat stones for breakfast!

Pierre was amazed at the hard heartedness of these _bourgeois_ parents.
Luce did not find it extraordinary.

"Don't you believe there are a great many people like that? Not wicked.
No, I am sure that my grandparents are not, and even believe that it
pained them not to say to us: 'Come back!' But their self-respect had
been mortified too much. And self-love among these people, there's
nothing else that is so great. It is stronger than all the rest. When
one has done them wrong it is not merely the wrong that one has done
them; there is _the Wrong_; the others are wrong and they themselves are
right. And so, without being cruel (no, really, they are not) they would
let you die near them at a slow fire rather than concede that perhaps
after all they were not right. Oh, they are not the only ones! One meets
with many others!... Say, am I mistaken? Aren't they just like that?"

Pierre pondered. He was excited. For he was thinking:

"Why, yes. That is the way they are...."

Through the eyes of the little girl he saw abruptly the penury of heart,
the desert-like aridity of this _bourgeois_ class of which he formed a
part. Dry and wornout earth which little by little has imbibed all the
juices of life and does not renew them any more, just like those lands
in Asia where the fecundating rivers, drop by drop, have disappeared
under the vitreous sand. Even those whom they believe they love are
loved in a proprietary way; they sacrifice them to their egotism, to
their buttressed pride, to their narrow and headstrong intelligence.
Pierre took a sorrowful review of his parents and himself. He was
silent. The panes of the apartment vibrated under the shock of a distant
cannonade. And Pierre, who was thinking of those who were dying, said
with bitterness:

"And that, too, is their work."

Yes, the hoarse barking of these cannon away off there, the universal
war, the grand catastrophe--the dryness of heart and the inhumanity of
that braggart and limited _bourgeoisie_ had a large part in the
responsibility for all that. And now (which was only just) the unchained
monster would never stop until it had devoured them.

And Luce said:

"That is true."

For without knowing that she did so she followed the thought of Pierre.
He started at the echo:

"Yes, it is true," said he, "what has come about is just. This world
was too old; it ought to, it must die."

And Luce, bowing her head, sorrowful and resigned, said once more:

"Yes."

Solemn faces of children bent beneath Destiny, whose youthful brows
touched by the wing of care bore within them such distressful
ponderings!...

Darkness increased in the room. It was not very warm in there. Her hands
being icy, Luce stopped her work, which Pierre was not allowed to see.
They went to the window and contemplated the evening shadows across
mournful fields and wooded hills. The violet forests formed a half
circle against a greenish sky powdered with dust of a pale gold. A bit
of the soul of Puvis de Chavannes floated there. A simple phrase of Luce
made it evident that she understood how to read that subtle harmony. He
was almost astonished. She was not miffed at that, and said that one
might easily feel a thing that one would be incapable of expressing.
Though she painted very badly, it was not altogether her fault. Through
an economical turn, perhaps ill-advised, she had not finished her course
at the Arts Décoratifs. Besides, poverty alone had made her turn to
painting. What use in painting without a purpose? And did not Pierre
think that almost all those who produce art do it without actual
necessity, through vanity, in order to occupy their time, or else
because at first they think they need it and later on will not confess
they were mistaken? One should not be an artist save when one absolutely
cannot keep to oneself the feeling one has--only when one has too much
feeling. But Luce said she possessed just enough for one. She went on:

"No, for two."

(Because he made a face at her.)

The lovely golden tints in the sky began to turn to brown. The deserted
plain put on a disconsolate mask. Pierre asked Luce if she was not
afraid in that solitude.

"No."

"When you get home late?"

"There is no danger. The Apaches don't come here. They have their own
customs. They are _bourgeois_, too. Besides, we have over there an old
ragpicker, and his dog. And besides, I have no fear. Oh, I'm not
boasting about myself! I have no merit at all in it. I am not courageous
naturally. Only, I have not as yet had any occasion to meet with real
fear. The day I do see it, perhaps I shall be more of a poltroon than
the next one. Does one ever know what one really is?"

"Well, I for my part know what you are," quoth Pierre.

"Ah, that is much easier. I myself likewise, I know ... as to you! One
always knows better about another."

The moist chill of evening entered the room through the closed windows.
Pierre felt a little shudder. Luce, who perceived it at once on his
neck, ran to make him a cup of chocolate, which she heated on her
spirit-lamp. They took a bit of food. Luce had thrown her shawl
maternally over Pierre's shoulders; and he let her do it like a cat
enjoying the warmth of the stuff. Once more the current of their
thoughts brought them back to the family history which Luce had
interrupted.

Pierre continued:

"Both of you all alone, so entirely alone, you and your mother: you must
be deeply attached to one another."

"Yes," said Luce. "We were very much attached."

"_Were?_" repeated Pierre.

"Oh!" said Luce, "we always love each other;" still somewhat embarrassed
by the word which had escaped her without thinking. (Why must she always
tell him more than she meant to? And nevertheless he did not ask, he
dared not ask her. But she saw that his heart was putting the question.
And it's so nice to confide in someone when one has never had the
chance! The silence of the house, the half-shade of the room encouraged
her to confess.) She observed:

"There's no saying or knowing what has been going on for the last four
years. The whole world is changed."

"You mean to say that your mother, or that you have changed?"

"The whole world," repeated she.

"In what respect?"

"That's hard to define. One feels everywhere among people who know each
other, even in the family, that the relations are not the same. One is
never sure of anything any more; in the morning one says to oneself:
What is it I am going to experience this night? Shall I recognize it?
One is as if on a plank in the water just about to upset."

"What is it that's happened?"

"I don't know," said Luce, "I can't explain it. But it has come since
the war. There is something in the air. Everybody is troubled. In
families one sees people who were not capable of doing without one
another marching off today, each one in his own direction. And as if
intoxicated each one runs along with nose on the trail."

"Where do they go?"

"I don't know. And I believe they don't either. Either pure chance or
some desire spurs them. Women take lovers. Men forget their wives. And
kindly people, too, who generally appear so calm and so orderly!
Everywhere we hear of households broken up. It's the same between
parents and children. My mother...."

She stopped, then ran on:

"My mother lives her own life."

She stopped again:

"Oh, it's perfectly natural! She is still young, and poor mama has not
had much happiness; she has not poured out her sum of affection. She has
a right to want to make her life over again."

Pierre inquired:

"She wants to marry again?"

Luce shook her head. One could hardly know very well.... Pierre dared
not insist.

"She loves me well, still. But it's not the way it used to be. She is
able to do without me at present.... Poor mama! She would be so sorry if
she knew that her love for me is no longer in her heart as the first of
all! She would never confess that, never.... O, how queer it is, this
life!"

She wore a sweet smile, sorrowful and roguish. Upon her hands placed on
the table Pierre put his hands tenderly, and sat without motion.

"We are poor creatures," he muttered.

Luce continued in a moment:

"We two, how tranquil we are!... The others have the fever. The war. The
factories. People are in a hurry. They hustle. To work hard, to live, to
enjoy themselves...."

"Yes," said Pierre, "the time is short."

"All the more reason not to run!" said Luce. "One gets too soon to the
end. Let us walk slowly."

"But it's time that hurries along. Hold on to it well."

"I'm holding onto it; I'm holding," said Luce, grasping his hand.

Thus back and forward, tenderly, gravely, they talked like a pair of
good old friends. But they took good care that the table should stay
between them.

And behold, they perceived that the night had filled the room. Pierre
rose hurriedly. Luce did nothing to retain him. The short hour had
passed. They were afraid of the hour that might come. They said _au
revoir_ to each other with the same constraint, the same low and choked
voice as when he came in. On the threshold their hands scarcely dared to
press each other.

But when the door was shut, just as he was about to leave the garden, as
he turned his head toward the window of the ground floor, he saw in the
last gleam of the copper-colored twilight, on the pane, the outline of
Luce, who was following his departure into the uncertain depths of the
gleam-filled obscurity with a face full of passion. And turning back to
the window, he pressed his lips against the closed pane. Their lips
kissed through the wall of glass. Then Luce moved back into the shadows
of the room and the curtain fell.

* * * * *



FOR the past fortnight they had been unaware of anything that was going
on in the world. In Paris people might make arrests and issue
condemnations as hard as they could. Germany might make treaties and
tear up those she had signed. Governments might lie, the press denounce
and armies kill. They did not read the papers. They knew there was the
war somewhere all about them, just as there is typhus or else influenza;
but that did not touch them; they did not want to think about it.

The war recalled itself to them that night. They had already gone to bed
(they spent their hearts so freely in those days that when evening came
they were worn out). They heard the alarm signals, each in his or her
respective quarter, and declined to get up. They hid their heads in
their beds under the bedclothes as a child will during a
thunder-storm--not at all from fear (they were positive that nothing
could happen to them) but in order to dream. Listening to the air
rumbling in the night, Luce thought:

"It would be delightful to listen to the storm as it passes, in his
arms."

Pierre stopped his ears. Let nothing trouble his thoughts! He insisted
on picking out on the piano of memory the song of the day passed, the
melodious thread of the hours, from the first minute that he entered
Luce's house, the slightest inflections of her voice and her gestures,
the successive images which his eyes had hastily snapped up--a shadow
under the eyelids, a wave of emotion that passed beneath the skin like a
shiver across the water, a smile just brushing against the lips like a
sun ray, and his palm pressed on, nestled against the nude softness of
the two extended hands--these precious fragments that endeavored to
reunite the magic fantasy of love in a single close embrace. He would
not permit that noises from without should enter there. The outside was
for him a tiresome visitor. The war? Oh, I know, I know. Has it come?
Let it wait.... And the war did wait at the door, patiently. War knew
that it would have its turn. He knew that also; that is why he had no
shame in his egotism. The rising billow of death was about to seize him.
So he owed death nothing in advance. Nothing. Let death come back again
at the date of the contract! Up to that day let death be silent! Ah, up
to then at least he did not want to lose anything of this marvelous
time; each second was a golden grain and he the miser who paws over his
treasure. It's mine, it's my property. Don't you dare touch my peace, my
love! It's my own up to the hour.... And when will the hour come?
Perhaps it will not come at all! A miracle? Why not?...

Meantime the stream of hours and days kept on flowing. At each new bend
of the channel the roaring of the rapids drew nearer. Stretched out in
their barque Pierre and Luce listened and heard. But they had no more
fear. Even that enormous voice like the bass notes of an organ cradled
their amorous dream. When the gulf should be there they would close
their eyes, press closer together and all would be over in one blow. The
gulf spared them the trouble of thinking about the life that was to be,
that might possibly be, afterward, about the future without an issue.
For Luce foresaw the obstacles that Pierre would have to encounter if he
wished to marry her; and Pierre less clearly (he had less taste for
clearness) feared them also. Let us not look so far ahead! Life beyond
the gulf was like that "other life" they talked about in church. They
tell you that we shall find each other again; but they are not so very
sure. One sole thing is sure: the present. Our own present. Let's pour
into it without any taking of stock the whole of our part in eternity!

Even less than Pierre did Luce inform herself about the news. The war
did not interest her in the least. It was only one misery more amongst
all the various miseries which form the web and woof of social
existence. Those who can be astonished about it are those only who stand
sheltered from naked realities. And the little girl with her precocious
experience who understood the struggle for one's daily bread--_panem
quotidianum_ ... (God does not grant it for nothing!)--revealed to her
_bourgeois_ friend the murderous war which, for poor folks and
particularly for women, reigns cunningly deep and without a truce below
the lie of peace. She did not talk too much about it, however, for fear
of depressing him: on seeing the excitement into which her accounts
threw him, she had an affectionate feeling of her own superiority. Like
most women she did not entertain with regard to certain ugly facts of
life the physical and moral disgust which upset the young fellow. There
was nothing of the rebel in her. In still worse circumstances she would
have been able to accept repugnant tasks without repugnance and quit
them quite calm and natty, without a stain. Today she could not do that
any more, for since she had come to know Pierre her love had caused her
to be filled with the tastes and distastes of her friend; but that was
not her fundamental nature. Calm and smiling by reason of her race, not
pessimistic at all. Melancholy, and the grand detached airs of life were
not her business. Life is as it is. Let us take it as it is! It might
have been worse! The hazards of an existence which Luce had always known
to be precarious, on the look-out for expedients--and particularly since
the war--had taught her to be careless of the morrow. Add to this that
every preoccupation concerning the beyond was a stranger to this free
little French girl. Life was enough for her. Luce found life delightful,
but it all hangs by a thread and it takes so little to make the thread
break that really it is not worth the trouble to torment oneself about
what may turn up tomorrow. Eyes of mine, drink in the daylight that
bathes you as you pass! As to what may come after, O, my heart, abandon
yourself in confidence to the stream!... And since anyhow we can not do
otherwise!... And now that we love each other, isn't it just delicious?
Luce well knew that it could not be for long. But neither her life nor
she herself, either, would be for long....

She did not resemble much that little fellow who loved her and whom she
loved, tender, ardent and nervous, happy and miserable, who always
enjoyed and suffered to excess, who gave himself, who flew into a rage,
always with passion, and who was dear to her just because he resembled
her hardly at all. But both of them were in accord as to a mute resolve
not to look into the future: the girl through the carelessness of the
resigned rivulet that sings on its way--the other through that exalted
negation which plunges into the gulf of the present and never desires to
emerge again.

* * * * *



THE big brother had come back again on furlough for a few days. During
the first evening at home he perceived that there was something changed
in the family atmosphere. What? He could not tell; but he was vexed. The
mind possesses antennae which perceive at a distance before
consciousness is able to touch and consider the object. And the finest
of all antennae are those of vanity. Philip's agitated themselves,
searched about and were surprised; they missed something.... Did he not
have his circle of affection which rendered unto him the customary
homage--the attentive audience to which in miserly fashion he doled out
his stories--his parents who brooded him under their touched
admiration--the young brother?... Stop there! It was he, exactly he who
was missing to the appeal.

He was present of course but he did not exert himself about his big
brother; he did not beg for confidences as was his wont, which the other
used to take pleasure in denying. Pitiful vanity! Philip, who on former
occasions affected in regard of the ardent questions of his younger
brother a sort of protective and bantering lackadaisicalness, was hurt
that he did not put them this time. It was he who tried to provoke them:
he became more loquacious and he looked at Pierre as if he wished him to
feel that his talk was meant for him. At another time Pierre would have
thrilled with joy and caught on the fly the handkerchief that was tossed
him. But he quietly permitted Philip to pick it up for himself if he had
any desire to do so. Philip, feeling piqued, tried irony. Instead of
being troubled, Pierre answered with composure in the same detached
tone. Philip wanted to discuss, became agitated, harangued. After a few
minutes he found that he was haranguing all by himself. Pierre looked on
at his efforts wearing an air of saying:

"Go ahead, my dear boy! If that is any pleasure to you! Continue! I'm
listening...."

That insolent little smile!... Their rôles were reversed.

Philip stopped talking, much mortified, and observed his young brother
more attentively, who, however, did not occupy himself further with him.
How he had changed! The parents, who saw him every day, had not noticed
anything; but the penetrating and moreover jealous eyes of Philip did
not find any more the well known expression after several months of
absence. Pierre had a happy, languid, thoughtless, torpid air,
indifferent as to persons, inattentive to what is about them, floating
in an atmosphere of voluptuous dream, like a young girl. And Philip felt
that he counted for nothing in the little brother's thoughts.

Since he was no less expert in analyzing himself than in observing
others, he was quick to recover consciousness of his own vexation and
laugh at it. Vanity thrust aside, he interested himself in Pierre and
searched for the secret of his metamorphosis. He would have liked well
to have solicited his confidence, but that was a business to which he
was not habituated, and besides, little brother did not seem to have any
need of confiding; with a careless and chaffing unconstraint he looked
on while Philip attempted awkwardly to spread the net; and with his
hands in his pockets, smiling, his thoughts elsewhere, whistling a
little air, he answered vaguely, without listening carefully to what he
was being asked--then, all of a sudden, turned off to his own regions.
Good night! And he was no longer there. One caught only at his
reflection in the water, which escaped from between one's fingers.--And
Philip, like a lover disdained, felt all his value now and experienced
the attraction of the mystery in this heart which he had lost.

The key to the enigma came to him by pure chance. As he was coming home
in the evening by Boulevard Montparnasse, in the dark he passed Pierre
and Luce. He was afraid they might have noticed him. But they cared
little for what surrounded them. Closely pressed together, Pierre
supporting his arm on the arm of Luce and holding her hand with fingers
interlaced, they strolled along with short steps immersed in the hungry
and gluttonous tenderness of Eros and Psyche as they lie at length on
the nuptial couch in the Farnesina. The close embrace of their gaze
fused them into a single being like a waxen group. Philip, leaning
against a tree, looked upon them as they passed, stopped, went on and
disappeared in the dark. And his heart was full of pity for the two
children. He thought:

"My life is sacrificed. So be it! But it is not right to take those
also. If at the least I could pay for their happiness!"

The next morning, in spite of his polite inattention, Pierre noticed
vaguely--in actual fact not at once, but after some reflection--the
affectionate tone of his brother with him. And, getting half awake, he
perceived his kind eyes which he had not noticed before. Philip looked
at him with such clarity that Pierre had an impression that this gaze
was scrutinizing him; and awkwardly he hastened at once to push the
shutter over his secret. But Philip smiled, rose, and putting his hand
on his shoulder proposed that they should take a turn in the open.
Pierre could not resist the new confidence which was tendered him and
together they proceeded to the Luxembourg near at hand. The big brother
had kept his hand on the shoulder of the younger and the latter felt
himself proud of the re-established accord. His tongue was loosed. They
talked animatedly of intellectual things, of books, their reflections on
men, their new experiences--of everything except the subject both were
thinking about. It was like a tacit convention. They were happy to feel
themselves intimate, with a secret between them. While chatting Pierre
inquired of himself:

"Does he know? But how could he know?"

Philip observed him as he chattered along and kept on smiling. Pierre
ended by stopping short in the midst of a sentence.

"What's the matter with you?"

"Nothing. I'm just looking at you. I am delighted with you."

They shook hands. While they were returning Philip said:

"Are you happy?"

Without speaking Pierre nodded with his head--yes.

"You are right, my boy. A great, beautiful thing is happiness. Take my
portion...."

In order not to trouble him, Philip during his furlough avoided making
any allusion to the near incorporation of Pierre's class in the army.
But on the day of his departure he could not prevent himself from
expressing his anxiety at seeing his young brother exposed very soon to
the trials which he knew only too well. Scarcely did a shadow cross the
brow of the young lover. He drew his eyebrows a bit together, blinked
with his eyes as if to drive off a troublesome vision, and said:

"Enough! Later on! _Chi lo sa?_"

"We know it only too well," said Philip.

"What in any case I do know," said Pierre, vexed that he should insist,
"is that when I am down there I for my part shall do no killing."

Without contradicting him, Philip smiled sorrowfully, knowing well what
the implacable power of the crowd does with weak souls and with their
will.

* * * * *



MARCH was back again with a longer day and the first songs of birds. But
along with the days increased the sinister flames of the war. The air
was feverish with waiting for springtime--and waiting for the cataclysm.
One heard the monstrous rumbling grow in intensity, the arms of millions
of enemies clashing together, heaped up for the past months against the
dyke of the trenches, and all ready to spill over like a tidal bore upon
the Ile de France and the nave of La Cité. The shadow of frightful
rumors preceded the plague; a fantastic report of poisoned gases, of
deadly venom scattered through the air, which was about, so it was said,
to descend on whole provinces and destroy everything like the
asphyxiating overflow from Pelée Mountain. Finally the visits of bombing
Gothas, coming oftener and oftener, cleverly kept up the nervousness of
Paris.

Pierre and Luce continued to refuse to recognize anything about them,
but the slow fever which they breathed in, whether they would or not,
from that atmosphere heavy with menace, kindled the desire that glowed
in their young bodies. Three years of war had propagated in European
souls a freedom of morals which reached even the most honest and
straight. And of the two children, neither one nor the other, had any
religious beliefs. But they were protected by their delicacy of heart,
their instinctive modesty. Only, in secret they had decided to give
themselves completely one to the other before the blind cruelty of
mankind should separate them. They had not spoken of this. They said it
to themselves that evening.

Once or twice during the week Luce's mother was kept at the factory by
her night work. On these nights Luce, in order not to stay alone in that
desert quarter, slept in Paris with a girl friend. Nobody kept watch
over her. The two lovers took advantage of this freedom to pass a
portion of the evening together and sometimes they took a simple dinner
in a little out-of-the-way restaurant. On leaving after dinner on this
mid-March evening they heard the bomb-alert signal sound. They took
refuge in the nearest place as if it were an affair of a rain shower,
and for some time amused themselves observing their chance comrades. But
the danger seeming distant or no longer there, although nothing had
occurred to announce the end of the bomb-warning, Luce and Pierre, who
did not want to get home too late, went on their way chatting gaily.
They followed an old dark and narrow street near Saint Sulpice. They had
just passed a hackney coach standing idle, both horse and driver asleep,
near the gate of a _porte cochère_. They were twenty steps away and on
the other sidewalk, when everything about them shuddered: a red,
blinding flash, a roll of thunder, a rain of loosened tiles and broken
windowpanes! Near the buttress of a house which made a sharp projection
into the street they flattened themselves against the wall and their
bodies interlaced. By the gleam of the explosion they had seen their own
eyes full of love and dismay. And when the darkness fell again Luce's
voice was saying:

"No, Pierre. I want no more."

And Pierre felt upon his own lips the lips and the teeth of the
passionate girl. They remained palpitating in the darkness of the
street. Some paces away some men, issuing from the houses, picked the
dying coachman from among the remnants of the smashed vehicle; they
passed quite close to them with the unfortunate man whose blood was
falling drop by drop. Luce and Pierre remained petrified; so closely
knit together that when consciousness revived in them it seemed as if
their bodies had been naked in the pressure. They loosened their hands
and lips grown together which drank of the loved one like roots. And,
both of them, they began to tremble.

"Let us go home!" said Luce, invaded by a sacred terror.

She dragged him away.

"Luce! you will not let me leave this life before ...?"

"Oh, God," said Luce, squeezing his arm, "that thought would be worse
than death!"

"My love, my love!" they kept repeating, one to the other.

Once more they came to a stop.

"When shall I be yours?" said Pierre.

(He could not have dared to ask: "When shall you be mine?")

Luce noticed this and was touched by it.

"Adored one," she said to him," ... very soon! Let's not hurry. You can
not desire it more than I wish it!... Let us stay this way a little
while.... It is splendid!... This month longer, right to the end!..."

"Until Easter?" he murmured.

(This year Easter was the last day in March.)

"Yes, at the Resurrection."

"Ah," quoth he, "there's the Death before Resurrection."

"Hush!" she interposed, closing his mouth with her own.

They drew away from each other.

"This night, it's our betrothal," whispered Pierre.

Huddled against each other while they walked in the shadows, they wept
gently with tenderness. The ground crackled underfoot with the broken
glass and the sidewalk was bloody. Death and the night were lying in
ambush round about their love. But above their heads like a magic circle
beyond the embrasure of the two black walls in the narrow street, as
through a chimney, the heart of a star throbbed against the deep pulpy
grain of the sky....

Lo and behold! The voices of the bells sing out, lights are rekindled
and the streets are animate once more. The air is free of foes. Paris
breathes again. Death has flown.

* * * * *



THEY had come to the day preceding Palm Sunday. Every day they saw each
other for hours together; and they did not even try to hide themselves
any more. They no longer had any accounts to render the world. By such
gossamer threads were they attached to it and so near to breaking!--Two
days before, the German grand offensive had been started. The wave
advanced along a front of nearly a hundred kilometers. Fast following
emotions caused the City to vibrate: the explosion of Courneuve, which
had shaken Paris like an earthquake; the incessant air-bomb alarms which
broke in on sleep and wore out nerves. And on this morning of Saturday
after a troubled night all those who were not able to close an eyelid
until very late were roused again by the thunder of the mysterious
cannon buried in the far distance, which, beyond the Somme, launched
death in trial shots, as if from another planet. In the course of the
earlier shots, which were attributed to the coming back of the aerial
Gothas, people had taken refuge in a docile way inside their cellars;
but a danger that continues becomes in time a habit to which life
accommodates itself; and the peril is not far from turning out an
attraction even, when the risks run are common to all and are not too
great. Besides, the weather was too lovely; it was a pity to bury one's
self alive: before noon all the world was out of doors; and the streets
and gardens, the terraces of the cafés had a festival air on this
radiant and burning afternoon.

It was this afternoon Pierre and Luce had selected to pass, far from the
crowd, in the forest of Chaville. For the past ten days they had existed
in an uplifted calm. Profound peace at the heart, and nerves on edge.
They had a feeling like existing on an islet, about which rushed a
frantic current: a vertigo of sight and hearing carried them away. But
with eyelids lowered and hands on ears, when the bolt is pushed on the
door, suddenly in one's inner deep there comes a silence, a blinding
silence, the moveless summer day, when Joy invisible like a hidden bird
sings its song, fresh and liquid, like a brook. O Joy! magical singer,
warblings of happiness! I know too well it suffices that a slit should
open between my lids or that my finger should cease to push a moment
against my ear, and the foam and roar of the stream will follow in.
Frail dyke! Just to know it so frail exalts the mood of Joy which I know
is threatened. Peace and silence itself take on a passionate look!...

The woods once reached, they held each other by the hand. The first days
of spring are a new wine that rises to the head. The youthful sun
intoxicates with the purest juice of its vine. Light still floats over
the leafless wood, and athwart the bare branches the blue eye of the sky
fascinates the reason and lulls it to sleep.... Scarcely did they
endeavor to exchange a few words. Their tongues declined to finish a
phrase once started. Their legs were weak and they hated to walk. Under
the sunshine and the silence of the woods they tottered. The earth drew
them. Just to lie down in the path! Just to let themselves be carried
along on the rim of the colossal wheel of the worlds....

They scrambled over the bank of the way-side, entered a thicket and,
side by side on the old dead leaves through which violets showed their
buds, they stretched themselves out. The first songs of the birds and
the distant thuds of the guns mingled with the village bells that were
proclaiming the festival of the morrow. The luminous air vibrated hope,
faith, love, death. Notwithstanding the solitude they spoke in whispers.
Their hearts were oppressed: by happiness? or by sorrow? They could not
have told. They were submerged in their dream. Lucile, immobile,
stretched out, her arms close to her body, her eyes open, absorbed and
gazing at the sky, felt rising in her a hidden suffering which since the
morning she forced herself to drive away in order not to mar the joy of
the holiday. Pierre laid his head on Luce's knees in the hollow of her
skirt like a child who goes to sleep with its face close couched against
the warmth of the stomach. And Luce without a word caressed with her
hands the ears and eyes, the nose and lips of her beloved one. Dear
spiritual hands which seemed, as in the tales about fairies, to have
little mouths at the finger-tips! And Pierre, a thinking piano, divined
the meaning of the little waves that sped under the tips, the emotions
that passed through the soul of his darling. He heard her sigh before
she had begun to sigh. Luce had raised herself with her body leaning
forward and, with breathing oppressed, she moaned in a whisper:

"Pierre, oh, Pierre!"

Pierre looked at her troubled.

"Oh, Pierre! What are we, anyway?... What is it they want of us?... What
do we want?... What is this going on within us? These guns, these birds,
this war, this love.... These hands, body, eyes.... Where am I?... and
what am I?"

Pierre, who did not recognize this expression of bewilderment in her,
wanted to take her in his arms. But she repulsed him.

"No! No!"

And hiding her face in her hands she thrust face and hands together into
the grass. Pierre was upset and begged of her:

"Luce!..."

He thrust his head close to that of Luce.

"Luce," he repeated, "what's the matter with you? Is it against me?"

She raised her head.

"No!"

And he saw tears in her eyes.

"Are you in trouble?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"I don't know."

"Tell me...."

"Ah, I'm ashamed," she said....

"Ashamed? About what?"

"About everything."

She fell silent.

Since the morning she had been haunted by a sorrowful memory, painful
and degrading; her mother, crazed by the poison that crept about in the
promiscuous conditions of the factories made for luxury and for murder,
in those human vats, no longer kept up any restraint upon herself. At
home she had indulged in a scene of furious jealousy with her lover,
without caring if her daughter heard; and Luce had learned that her
mother was with child. For her this was like a blot that extended to
herself, whose entire love, whose love for Pierre was polluted thereby.
That is why when Pierre had approached her she had repulsed him; she was
ashamed of herself and of him.... Ashamed of him? Poor Pierre!...

He remained there, humiliated, and not daring to budge any more. She was
struck with remorse, smiled in the midst of tears and, resting her head
on Pierre's knees, said:

"It is my turn!"

Still disquieted, Pierre smoothed her hair as one pets a cat. He
murmured:

"Luce, what is all this? Tell me...."

"Nothing," she responded. "I've seen sorrowful things."

He had too much respect for her secrets to insist. But Luce went on a
few minutes later:

"Ah, there are moments.... One is ashamed to belong to mankind."

Pierre trembled.

"Yes," said he.

And after a silence, bending over, he said very low:

"Forgive me!"

Luce sprang up impetuously, threw herself on Pierre's neck, repeating:

"Forgive me!"

And their mouths found each other.

The two children felt the need of consoling one another, both of them.
Without saying it aloud they were thinking:

"Luckily we are going to die! The most frightful thing would be to
become one of those men who are proud of being man--to destroy, to
render vile...."

Lips touching lips, eyelashes brushing eyelashes, they plunged their
gaze one in the other, smiling and with a tender pity. They did not tire
of that divine sentiment which is the purest form of love. At last they
tore themselves from their contemplation and Luce, with eyes again
serene, perceived once more the gentle hue of the sky, the sweetness of
the renewing trees and the breath of flowers.

"How lovely it all is!" she exclaimed.

She was thinking:

"Why are things so beautiful? And we so poor, so mediocre, so ugly!
(unless it be you, my love, unless it be you!) ..."

She gazed at Pierre again:

"Pshaw! What are others to me?"

And with the magnificent illogicality of love she burst out laughing,
sprang up with a leap, rushed into the wood and cried: "Catch me, catch
me!"

They played like two children all the rest of the day. And when they
were very tired they returned with slow steps toward the valley filled
like a basket with the sheaves of the setting sun. Everything they
savored seemed new to them--with one heart for two, with two bodies for
one.

* * * * *



THEY were five friends about the same age, met together at the house of
one of them, five young comrades at their studies whom a certain
conformity of mind and a first sorting out of opinions had grouped
together apart from the rest. And yet no two of them who thought the
same way. Beneath the pretended unanimity of forty millions of Frenchmen
there are forty million brains that keep right to themselves. Thought in
France is like the country, a state composed of small properties. From
one bit of farm to the other the five friends tried to exchange their
ideas across the hedge. But they did that only to affirm themselves more
imperatively in their several opinions, each for himself. Each one, for
that matter, liberal in mind, and, if not all of them republicans, all
foes of intellectual or social reaction, or any backward return.

Jacques Sée was the most blazingly in favor of the war. This generous
young Jew had espoused all the passions the spirit of France contained.
All through Europe his cousins in Israel espoused like him the causes
and the ideas of their adopted countries. Moreover, according to their
method, they even had a tendency toward an exaggeration of whatever they
adopted. This fine fellow, with ardent but rather heavy voice and look,
with his regular features as if marked with a stamp imposed, was more
pronounced in his convictions than was needful, and violent in
contradiction. According to him, all that was necessary was a crusade
made by the democracies to deliver the nations and extinguish war. Four
years of the philanthropic slaughterhouse had not convinced him. He was
one of those who will never accept the flat contradiction of facts. He
had a twofold pride, the secret pride of his race, which race he wished
to rehabilitate, and his pride personal that wanted to prove itself
right. He wished this all the more because he was not entirely sure of
it. His sincere idealism served as a screen against exacting instincts
too long suppressed and to a need for action and adventure, which was no
less sincere.

Antoine Naudé, he too, was for the war. But that was because he could
not do otherwise. This big honest young _bourgeois_, with his rosy
cheeks, placid and keen, who had a short breath and rolled his _r_ with
the pretty grace of the provinces of the Centre, contemplated with a
quiet smile the enthusiastic transports of his friend Sée; or else he
knew how on occasion to make him climb a tree with a careless word;--but
the big, lazy fellow took precious care not to follow him up! What is
the use of getting in a sweat for or against what does not depend upon
ourselves? It is only in the tragedies that one finds the heroic and
loquacious conflict between duty and one's pleasure. When we have no
choice, we do our duty without wasting words. It was no jollier on that
account. Naudé neither admired nor recriminated. His good sense told him
that, once the train started and the war in motion, it was necessary to
roll along with it; there was no other position to take. As for
searching after the responsibilities, that was merely time lost. When I
am forced to fight it gives me a gay outlook, a pretty consolation, to
know that I might have not fought--if things had really been ... what
they haven't been!

The responsibilities? Now for Bernard Saisset they were exactly the
primordial question; he was obstinate in disentangling that knot of
snakes; or rather, like a little Fury, he brandished the snakes above
his head. A frail boy, distinguished looking, impassioned, too many
nerves, burning with a too lively sensitiveness of the brain, belonging
to the wealthy _bourgeoisie_ and an old republican family which had
played a part in the highest offices of State, he professed, through
reaction, all the ultra-revolutionary passions. He had inspected too
near at hand the masters of the day and what they brought forth. He
accused all the governments--and by preference his own. He talked of
nothing any more but of syndicalists and bolsheviki; he had just made a
discovery of them and he fraternized with them, as if he had known them
from infancy. Without knowing too well which, he saw no remedy save in a
total upset of society. He hated war; but he would have sacrificed
himself with joy in a war between classes--a war against his own class,
a war against himself.

The fourth in the group, Claude Puget, sat by at these jousts of words
with a cold and somewhat disdainful attention. Coming from the very
undermost _bourgeoisie_, poor, uprooted from his province by a passing
inspector of schools who remarked his intelligence, prematurely deprived
of the intimate influence of his family, this winner of a _Lycée_
scholarship, accustomed to depend upon himself alone, to live only with
himself, merely lived by himself and for himself. An egotistic
philosopher given to analysis of the soul, voluptuously immersed in his
introspection like a big cat curled up in a ball, he was not moved at
all by the agitation of the others. These three friends of his who never
could agree among themselves he put in the same bag--with the
"populars." Did not all three forfeit their social rank by wishing to
partake in the aspirations of the mob? Truth to say, the mob was a
different crowd for each of them. But for Puget the crowd, whatever it
might be, was always wrong. The crowd was the enemy. The intellect
should remain alone and follow its particular laws and found, apart from
the vulgar crowd and the State, the small and closed kingdom of thought.

And Pierre, seated near the window, distractedly looked out of doors,
and dreamed. Generally speaking, he mingled in these juvenile assaults
with passion. But today it seemed to him a humming of idle words which
he listened to from so far away, oh, so far away! in a bored and mocking
demi-torpidity. Plunged in their discussions, the others were a long
while in remarking his muteness. But at last Saisset, accustomed to find
in Pierre an echo of his verbal bolshevisms, was astonished at failing
to hear it reverberate any more and put the question to him.

Pierre waked up in a hurry, reddened, smiled and asked:

"What were you talking about?"

They were most indignant.

"Why, you haven't been listening to anything!"

"What, then, were you brooding about?" asked Naudé.

A little confused, a little impertinent, Pierre replied:

"About the springtide. It has come back all right without your
permission. It will clear out without our help."

All of them crushed him with their disdain. Naudé taunted him as a
"poet." And Jacques Sée as a _poseur_.

Puget alone fixed his eyes on him with curiosity and irony in them, his
wrinkled eyes with their cold pupils.

"Flying ant!"

"What?" questioned Pierre, rather amused.

"Beware of the wings!" said Puget. "It's the nuptial flight. It only
lasts one hour."

"Life does not last much more," said Pierre.

* * * * *



DURING Passion Week they saw one another every day. Pierre went to see
Luce in her isolated house. The thin and hungry garden was waking up.
They passed the afternoon there. They felt now an antipathy toward Paris
and the crowd, against life also. At certain moments even, a moral
paralysis kept them silent, immovable, one close to the other, without a
wish to stir. A strange feeling was at work in both of them. They were
afraid! Fear--in the measure that the day approached when they should
give themselves the one to the other--fear through excess of love,
through the purification of soul which the ugly things, the cruelties,
the shameful facts of life frightened, and which, in an intoxication of
passion and melancholy, dreamed of being delivered from it all.... They
said nothing about it to each other.

The most of their time they passed in babbling gently about their
future lodgings, their work in common, their little household. They
arranged in advance, down to the smallest item of their installation,
the furniture, the wall papers, the spot for each object. A true woman,
the evocation of these tender nothings, intimate and familiar images of
daily life, moved Luce sometimes to tears. They tasted the exquisite
small joys of the hearth of the future.... They knew that nothing of
that sort would occur--Pierre through the presentiment of his native
pessimism--Luce through the clairvoyance of love which understood the
practical impossibility of the marriage.... That is why they hasted to
enjoy it in their dream. And each concealed from the other the certainty
felt that it would not be anything else but a dream. Each one believed
that this secret was personal and watched, deeply touched, over the
other's illusion.

When they had exhausted the mournful delights of the impossible future
they were overcome with fatigue, as if they had lived through all of it.
Then they rested themselves, seated under the arbor with the dried-up
vines, while the sun melted the congealed sap; and, Pierre's head on
Luce's shoulder, they listened dreamily to the humming of the earth.
Behind the passing clouds the young sun of March played bo-peep, laughed
and disappeared. Clear sunrays, somber shadows ran across the plain as
in a soul run joys and sorrows.

"Luce," said Pierre abruptly, "don't you recollect?... It was long, long
ago.... Even then we were like this...."

"Yes," said Luce, "that's true. All of it, I remember all.... But where
were we?..."

They amused themselves by trying to recall under what shapes they had
known one another before. Already as human beings? Perhaps. But
certainly at that time Pierre was the girl and Luce the lover.... Birds
in the air? When she was a small child her mother told Luce that she had
been a little wild goose that had fallen down the chimney; ah! she had
thoroughly broken her wings!... But where particularly they enjoyed
finding themselves again was in the elementary fluid forms that
penetrate one another, twist about and untwist like the volutes of a
dream or else of smoke: white clouds that dissolve in the gulf of the
sky, little waves that play about, the rain on the soil, the dew on the
bush, seeds of dandelion that swim at the beck of the air.... But the
wind carries them away. Provided it does not begin to blow again and
that we shall not lose each other any more for all eternity!...

But he decided:

"As for me, I believe that we never did quit one another; we were
together just as we are now, lying against each other; only, we were
asleep and we dreamed dreams. From time to time we awake.... With
difficulty.... I feel your breath, your cheek against mine.... One makes
a great effort; we bring our mouths together.... One falls back
asleep.... Darling, darling, I am here, I hold your hand, don't let me
go!... Now it is not quite yet the hour, spring hardly shows the end of
his icy nose...."

"Like yours," said Luce.

"Very soon we shall awake on a fine summer's day...."

"We ourselves shall be that fine day of summer," says Luce.

"The warm shade of the limetrees, the sun through the branches, the bees
that sing...."

"The peach on the warm wall and its perfumed pulp...."

"The noon spell of the harvesters and their golden sheaves...."

"The lazy cattle that chew their cud...."

"And at evensong, by the sunset like a flowerset pool, the liquid light
that runs across the tops of the fields...."

"Yes, we shall be everything," quoth Luce, "everything that is good and
sweet to see and to have, to kiss and to eat, to touch and inhale....
What's left over we shall leave to them," she added, pointing to the
city and its smoke wreaths.

She laughed. Then, kissing her friend, she said:

"We have chanted our little duet well. What do you say, my friend
Pierrot?"

"Yea, verily, Jessica," he replied.

"My poor Pierrot," she returned, "we are none too well equipped for this
world, where people know how to sing nothing else but the
_Marseillaise_!..."

"Good enough if they even knew how to sing that!"

"We have got off at the wrong station, we left the train too early."

"I'm afraid," said Pierre, "that the next station would have been still
worse. Can you see us, my darling, in the social fabric of the
future--the hive they promise us, where none will have the right to live
except for the queen bee's service or for the republic?"

"Laying eggs from morning to night like a _mitrailleuse_ or from morning
to night licking the eggs of others.... Thank you for that choice!" said
Luce.

"Oh, Luce, little ugly one, how ugly you talk," said Pierre laughing.

"Yes, it's very bad, I know it. I am good for nothing. Nor you either,
my friend. You are just as ill fitted for killing or maiming men as I am
for sewing them up again, like those wretched horses when they are
ripped up at the bullfights, so that they can serve again at the next
affray. We two are useless beings and dangerous, who have the
ridiculous, criminal pretention to live only in order to love those we
do love, likewise my little lover lad and my friends, honest people and
little children, the good light of the day, also good white bread and
everything that is pretty and right for me to put in my mouth. It's
shameful, it's shameful! Blush for me, Pierrot!... But we shall be well
punished! There is going to be no place for us in that factory of the
State, without rest and without truce, which the earth will be soon....
Luckily we shall not be here!"

"Yes, what happiness!" quoth Pierre.

    "If in thine arms, O Lady of my heart,
        I die, to greater fame I'll not aspire,
        Content upon thy bosom to expire
    Whilst kissing thee and thus from living part...."

"Well, little darling, what sort of a fashion is that?"

"Nevertheless it is after a good old French mode. It's by Ronsard," said
Pierre:

    "...else I would only claim
    A century hence, sans glory and sans fame
    Slothful to die upon thy lap, Cassandra...."

"A hundred years!" sighed Luce. "He doesn't ask much!..."

    "Or I mistake, or more delights are heaped
    In death like that than all the honors reaped
    By Caesar great or firebolt Alexander."

"Naughty, naughty, naughty little scamp! have you no shame? In this
epoch of heroes!"

"There are too many," said Pierre. "I would rather be a little fellow
who loves, a babe of a man."

"The babe of a woman who still has on his lips the milk from my breast,"
cried Luce, seizing him round the neck. "My babe, my own!"

* * * * *



SURVIVORS of those days who, since then, have been witness to the
dazzling change of fortune, will have forgotten doubtless the menacing
heavy flight of the dark wing which, during that week, covered the Ile
de France and touched Paris with its shadow. Joy does not take further
stock in past trials.--The German drive reached the line of its summit
between Holy Monday and Holy Wednesday. The Somme traversed, Bapaume,
Vesle, Guiscard, Roye, Noyon, Albert carried. Eleven hundred guns taken.
Sixty thousand prisoners.... Symbol of the land of grace trampled upon,
on Holy Tuesday died Debussy the harmonious. A lyre that is snapped....
"Poor little expiring Greece!" What will remain of it? A few chiseled
vases, a few perfect stelae which the grass will invade from the Path
of Tombs. Immortal vestiges of ruined Athens....

As from the height of a hill, Pierre and Luce watched the shadow that
moved upon the town. Still wrapped in the rays of their love, they
waited without fear for the end of the brief day. Now they would be two
in the night. Like to the evening _Angelus_ there rose up to them,
conjured up, the voluptuous melancholy of the lovely chords of Debussy
which they had so greatly loved. More than it had ever done in any other
time, music responded to the need of their hearts. Music was the only
art which rendered the voice of the delivered soul behind the screen of
forms.

On Holy Thursday they walked, Luce on Pierre's arm and holding his hand,
along the streets of the suburb, soused with the rain. Gusts of wind
scurried over the moistened plain. They noted neither rain nor wind,
neither the hideousness of the fields nor the muddy ways. They seated
themselves on the low wall of a park, a section of which had recently
fallen in. Under Pierre's umbrella, which scarcely protected her head
and shoulders, Luce, her legs hanging down and her hands wet, her rubber
coat all steeped, looked at the water dripping down. When the wind
stirred the branches a little fire of drops sounded "clop, clop!" Luce
was silent, smiling, tranquilly luminous. A profound joy bathed them.

"Why does one love so much?" said Pierre.

"Ah, Pierre, you do not love me so very much if you ask that."

"I ask you that," said Pierre, "in order to make you say what I know
just as well as you."

"You want me to give you some compliments. But you'll be neatly caught.
For if you know why I love you, I for my part do not know why."

"You don't know?" said Pierre in consternation.

"Why no!" (She was laughing in her sleeve.) "And there is no need at all
why I should know. When one asks why something is, it means that one is
not sure about it, that the thing is not good. Now that I do love, no
more why! No more where or when or for, nor how either! My love is, my
love is! All beside may exist if it cares to."

Their faces kissed each other. The rain took advantage of that, gliding
under the awkward umbrella in order to brush with its fingers their hair
and cheeks; between their lips they drank in a little cold drop.

Pierre remarked:

"But the others?"

"What others?" quoth Luce.

"The poor," answered Pierre. "All those who are not us?"

"Let them do as we do! Let them love!"

"And be loved? Luce, all the world can not do that."

"Why, yes!"

"Why, no. You don't realize the value of the gift you have made me."

"To give one's heart to love, one's lips to the beloved is to give one's
eyes to the light; it isn't giving, it's taking."

"There are blind people."

"We cannot cure them, Pierrot. Let's do the seeing for them!"

Pierre remained silent.

"What are you thinking of?" asked she.

"I am thinking that on this day, very far from us, very near, He
suffered the Passion, He who came on earth to cure the blind."

Luce took his hand:

"Do you believe in Him?"

"No, Luce, I believe no longer. But he remains always the friend of
those he has accepted, even once, at his table. And you, do you know
him?"

"Hardly," responded Luce. "They never talked to me about him. But
without knowing him I love him.... For I know that he loved."

"Not as we do."

"Why not? We ourselves have a poor little heart that knows only how to
love you, my love. But He; He loved all of us. But it's always the same
love."

"Would you like we should go tomorrow," asked Pierre, much moved, "in
honor of His death?... I was told that they will have fine music at
Saint Gervais!"

"Yes, I would love well to go to church with you on that day. I am sure
He will give us welcome. And being nearer to Him, one is nearer each to
the other."

They fell silent.... Rain, rain, rain. The rain falls. The night falls.

"At this hour tomorrow," said she, "we shall be down there."

The fog was penetrating. She gave a little shudder.

"Darling, you are not cold?" he asked, disquieted.

She rose:

"No, no. Everything is love to me. I love everything and everything
loves me. The rain loves me, the wind loves me, the gray sky and the
cold--and my little greatly beloved...."

* * * * *



FOR Holy Friday the heavens remained clothed in their long gray veils;
but the air was soft and calm. In the streets one saw flowers, jonquils,
stocks. Pierre took a few which she kept in her hand. They followed the
peaceful Quai des Orfèvres and passed along the base of pure Notre-Dame.
The charm of the Old City, clothed in a discreet light, surrounded them
with its noble gentleness. On the Place Saint Gervais pigeons flew up
under their feet. They followed them with their eyes about the façade of
the church; one of the birds settled on the head of a statue. At the top
of the steps to the _parvis_ before the church, as they were about to
enter, Luce turned about and perceived in the midst of the crowd a few
steps away a little girl with reddish hair, about a dozen years old,
leaning against the portal, both arms raised above her head, who was
looking at them. She had the fine and somewhat archaic face of some
little cathedral statue, with an enigmatic smile, graceful, shrewd and
tender. Luce smiled also at her while calling Pierre's attention to her.
But the little girl's gaze passed over her head and suddenly changed to
fright. And hiding her face in her hands the child vanished.

"What is the matter with her?" asked Luce.

But Pierre did not look.

They entered. Above their heads the dove was cooing. Last noise from
outside. The voices of Paris were quenched. The fresh air ceased. The
hangings of the organ, the lofty vaultings, the curtain of stones and
sounds parted them from the world.

They installed themselves in one of the side aisles between the second
and the third chapel on the left as you enter. In the hollow of a pier
both of them crouched, seated on some steps, hidden from the rest of the
assembly. Turning their backs to the choir, on raising their eyes they
saw the summit of the altar, the crucifix and the stained windows of a
lateral chapel. The beautiful old chants wept out their pious
melancholy. They were holding hands, the two little pagans, before the
Great Friend, in the church all swathed in mourning. And both of them at
the same time murmured in a low voice:

"Great Friend, before your face I take him, I take her. Unite us! You
see our hearts."

And their fingers remained joined and interlaced like the straw of a
basket. They were one single flesh which the waves of music passed
through with their shivering notes. They took to dreaming, as if they
lay in the same bed.

Luce saw again in her thought that little girl with reddish hair. And
behold it seemed to her that she recalled how she had seen her before in
a dream the past night. She could not reach the point of knowing whether
that was actually true, or if she were projecting the vision of the
present back to the past slumber. Then, weary of the effort, her
thoughts allowed themselves to float.

Pierre pondered over the days of his short, expended life. The lark that
rises from the misty plain to reach the sun.... How far it is! How high
it is! Will it ever be reached?... The fog thickens. There is no earth
any more, there are no heavens any more. And strength gives out....
Suddenly, while beneath the vault of the choir a Gregorian _vocalise_
trickled down, the jubilant song gushed forth, and out from the shadows
emerges the little shivering form of the lark that swims on the sea of
light without shore....

A pressure of their fingers recalled to them that they were swimming
together. They found themselves again in the darkness of the church,
closely pressed together, listening to the beautiful chants; their
hearts melted with love and touched the summits of the purest joy. And
both of them desired--they prayed--never to descend to earth again.

At that moment Luce, who had just kissed her dear little comrade with a
passionate glance--(his eyes half closed and his lips parted, he
appeared lost in an ecstasy of happiness and raised his head in a rush
of thankful joy toward that supreme Power which we look for
instinctively on high)--Luce saw with terror, in the red and gilded
window of the chapel, the face of the reddish-haired child of the
_parvis_ who was smiling at her. And as she sat mute, frozen with
astonishment, she saw once more on that strange visage the same
expression of fright and of pity.

And at the same instant the great pier against which they leaned their
backs moved, and down to its very base the entire church trembled. And
Luce, whose heart beats deadened in her the crash of the explosion and
the shrieks of the crowd, threw herself without having time to fear or
to suffer upon Pierre, in order to cover him with her body like a hen
with her brood--upon Pierre, who with closed eyes was smiling with
happiness. With a maternal movement she clasped the dear head against
her bosom and that with all her power; and, coiled upon him, her mouth
on his neck, they shrank together to their utmost.

And the massive pier crumbled down upon them with one crash.


THE END





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