“I think you are going crazy,” she said nervously, “let me alone!”
He was wild with rage, not knowing what to say, exasperated, and he shook her with all his might, repeating:
“Do you hear me, do you hear me?”
She made an abrupt effort to disengage herself and the tips of her fingers touched her husband’s nose. He was furious, thinking she had tried to hit him, and he sprang upon her holding her down; and boxing her ears with all his might, he cried: “Take that, and that, there, there, wretch!”
When he was out of breath and exhausted, he rose and went toward the dressing table to prepare a glass of eau sucree with orange flower, for he felt as if he should faint.
She was weeping in bed, sobbing bitterly, for she felt as if her happiness was over, through her own fault.
Then, amidst her tears, she stammered out:
“Listen, Antoine, come here, I told you a lie, you will understand, listen.”
And prepared to defend herself now, armed with excuses and artifice, she raised her disheveled head with its nightcap all awry.
Turning toward her, he approached, ashamed of having struck her, but feeling in the bottom of his heart as a husband, a relentless hatred toward this woman who had deceived the former husband, Souris.
MY UNCLE JULES
A white-haired old man begged us for alms. My companion, Joseph Davranche, gave him five francs. Noticing my surprised look, he said:
“That poor unfortunate reminds me of a story which I shall tell you, the memory of which continually pursues me. Here it is:
“My family, which came originally from Havre, was not rich. We just managed to make both ends meet. My father worked hard, came home late from the office, and earned very little. I had two sisters.
“My mother suffered a good deal from our reduced circumstances, and she often had harsh words for her husband, veiled and sly reproaches. The poor man then made a gesture which used to distress me. He would pass his open hand over his forehead, as if to wipe away perspiration which did not exist, and he would answer nothing. I felt his helpless suffering. We economized on everything, and never would accept an invitation to dinner, so as not to have to return the courtesy. All our provisions were bought at bargain sales. My sisters made their own gowns, and long discussions would arise on the price of a piece of braid worth fifteen centimes a yard. Our meals usually consisted of soup and beef, prepared with every kind of sauce.
“They say it is wholesome and nourishing, but I should have preferred a change.
“I used to go through terrible scenes on account of lost buttons and torn trousers.
“Every Sunday, dressed in our best, we would take our walk along the breakwater. My father, in a frock coat, high hat and kid gloves, would offer his arm to my mother, decked out and beribboned like a ship on a holiday. My sisters, who were always ready first, would await the signal for leaving; but at the last minute some one always found a spot on my father’s frock coat, and it had to be wiped away quickly with a rag moistened with benzine.