They sat well back, for both feared to be seen, and hardly spoke at first. But when the vehicle was well on its way, and he had behind him the sad Calvary where his honour hung gibbeted, Jansoulet, utterly overcome, laid his head on his mother’s shoulder, hid it in the old green shawl, and there, with the burning tears flowing, all his great body shaken by sobs, he returned to the cry of his childhood: “Mother.”
Que l’heure est
Qu’on passe en aimant!
C’est moins qu’un moment,
Un peu plus qu’un reve.
In the semi-obscurity of a great drawing-room filled with flowers, the seats of the furniture covered with holland, the chandeliers draped with muslin, the windows open, and the venetians lowered, Mme. Jenkins is seated at the piano reading the new song of the fashionable musician; some melodic phrases accompanying exquisite verse, a melancholy Lied, unequally divided, which seems written for the tender gravities of her voice and the disturbed state of her soul.
Le temps nous enleve
sighs the poor woman, moved by the sound of her own voice, and while the notes float away in the court-yard of the house, where the fountain falls drop by drop among a bed of rhododendrons, the singer breaks off, her hands holding the chord, her eyes fixed on the music, but her look far away. The doctor is absent. The care of his health and business has exiled him from Paris for some days, and the thoughts of the beautiful Mme. Jenkins have taken that grave turn, as often happens in solitude, that analytical tendency which sometimes makes even momentary separations fatal in the most united households. United they had not been for sometime. They only saw each other at meal-times, before the servants, hardly speaking unless he, the man of unctuous manners, allowed himself to make some disobliging or brutal remark on her son, or on her age, which she began to show, or on some dress which did not become her. Always gentle and serene, she stifled her tears, accepted everything, feigned not to understand; not that she loved him still after so much cruelty and contempt, but it was the story, as their coachman Joe told it, “of an old clinger who was determined to make him marry her.” Up to then a terrible obstacle—the life of the legitimate wife—had prolonged a dishonourable situation. Now that the obstacle no longer existed she wished to put an end to the situation, because of Andre, who from one day to another might be forced to despise his mother, because of the world which they had deceived for ten years—a world she never entered but with a beating heart, for fear of the treatment she would receive after a discovery. To her allusions, to her prayers, Jenkins had answered at first by phrases, grand gestures: “Could you distrust me? Is not our engagement sacred?”