The honest workman was carrying his little girl. His wife and he stopped at a street-corner.
A tram, shiny with paint, came toward them, almost empty. And they felt a great joy when they thought of how they were going to enter it for four sous apiece. And the honest workman signaled to the conductor to stop the horses. But he seeing they were poor simple people looked at them disdainfully, and would not halt his vehicle.
At eighteen Pierre left the home in the country where he had been born.
At the very moment when he left, his old mother was ill in bed in the blue room, where there were the daguerreotype of his father and peacock-feathers in a vase and a clock representing Paul and Virginia. Its hands pointed to the hour of three.
In the courtyard under the fig-tree his grandfather was resting.
In the garden his fiancee stood among roses and gleaming pear-trees.
* * * * *
Pierre went to earn his living in a country where there were negroes and parrots and india-rubber trees and molasses and fevers and snakes.
He dwelled there thirty years.
* * * * *
At the very moment when he returned to the home in the country where he had been born, the blue room had faded to white, his mother was reposing in the bosom of heaven, the picture of his father was no longer there, the peacock-feathers and the vase had disappeared. Some sort of object stood in the clock’s place.
In the courtyard under the fig-tree where his grandfather, who had long since died, had been accustomed to rest, there were broken plates and a poor sick chicken.
In the garden of roses and gleaming pear-trees where his fiancee had stood, there was an old woman.
The story does not tell who she was.
THE HIGHWAY OF LIFE
One day a poet sat down at a table to write a story. Not a single idea would come to him, but nevertheless he was happy, because the sun shone on a geranium on the window-sill, and because a gnat flew about in the blue of the open window.
Suddenly his life appeared before him like a great white road. It began in a dark grove where there were laughing waters, and ended at a quiet grave overgrown with brambles, nettles, and soapwort.
In the dark grove he found the guardian-angel of his childhood. He had the golden wings of a wasp, fair hair, and a face as calm as the water of a well on a summer’s day.
The guardian-angel said to the poet:
“Do you remember when you were a child? You came here with your father and mother who were going fishing. The field near by was warm and covered with flowers and grasshoppers. The grasshoppers looked like broken blades of moving grass. Do you wish to see this place again, my friend?”