Friday the fifteenth! Impossible!
Alas. My concierge is of a precision the most meticulous. For all legal, financial and military affairs, throughout the French Republic at least, to-day is Friday the fifteenth. But why should this seem impossible to you, a scientist and a watchmaker?
Only listen, and you will understand why I am tempted to doubt the calendar of the Church itself. Two weeks ago my wife announced to me that she had reason to expect the due arrival of a son. She said there could be no question it will be a son because in her mother’s family for three generations it has been the same, three daughters followed by a son.
Eh bien, although I have always desired a son to follow me in this honorable and scientific profession, nevertheless I received the news with a certain consternation. In short, my affairs have not gone too well of late, and without my wife’s assistance by her needle....
That evening I thought much how I might increase my funds, and so for two weeks—two weeks, mon ami—I have omitted my customary cafe after dejeuner, which all these years I have not failed to take with a serious group of friends at the Trois Arts, and even have I smoked no cigarettes. True, this has not added much to our wealth, though it has been some satisfaction to realize I have done my possible. My health has suffered somewhat—I have grown absent-minded, and in the morning my head feels strange. However, that may not be due entirely to my unnatural abstinence.
However, on Friday the fifteenth July, at three o’clock precisely, as I sat here in meditation having finished a small work, I saw a telegraph boy hurry toward me down the street. Then had I a premonition. My heart beat as it has not these twenty years. In an instant I was reading the message: my brother, who long ago ran away on adventure to Indo-China, had just died and left me a fortune in tea.
That was on Friday the fifteenth. And do you know what has happened since? I have lived two separate lives. Yes, two existences have unrolled before me. In one I saw myself as I would have been without the telegram. My business fell away; my son was born a daughter, to my wife’s indignation and my own dismay; and having sold my little shop I sought work in a cursed factory. Ah me, it was terrible! But the other picture. With my brother’s fortune I made aggrandisements and eventually moved to the Rue de la Paix. My scientific genius was at last appreciated, and my watches and clocks became the pride of the haute monde. My son grew into a fine man, much resembling myself, and after learning the profession opened a branch office at Buenos Ayres. I won the ribbon. In short, nothing lacked to make life agreeable and meritorious.