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    Chapter 27

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    Chapter 27
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    The kind-hearted bookbinder harassed his son with no reproaches.

    After dinner he went and sat at his shop-door, and looked at the first star that peeped out in the evening sky.

    "My boy," said he, "I am not a man of learning like you; but I have a notion--and you must not rob me of it, because it is a comfort to me--that, when I have finished binding books, I shall go to that star. The idea occurred to me from what I have read in the paper that the stars are all worlds. What is that star called?"

    "Venus, father."

    "In my part of the world, they say it is the shepherd's star. It's a beautiful star, and I think your mother is there. That is why I should like to go there."

    The old man passed his knotted fingers across his brow, murmuring:

    "God forgive me, how one forgets those who are gone!"

    Jean sought balm for his wounded spirit in reading poetry and in long, dreamy walks. His head was filled with visions--a welter of sublime imaginings, in which floated such figures as Ophelia and Cassandra, Gretchen, Delia, Phædra, Manon Lescaut, and Virginia, and hovering amid these, shadows still nameless, still almost formless, and yet full of seduction! Holding bowls and daggers and trailing long veils, they came and went, faded and grew vivid with colour. And Jean could hear them calling to him; "If ever we win to life, it will be through you. And what a bliss it will be for you, Jean Servien, to have created us. How you will love us!" And Jean Servien would answer them; "Come back, come back, or rather do not leave me. But I cannot tell how to make you visible; you vanish away when I gaze at you, and I cannot net you in the meshes of beautiful verse!"

    Again and again he tried to write poems, tragedies, romances; but his indolence, his lack of ideas, his fastidiousness brought him to a standstill before half a dozen lines were written, and he would toss the all but virgin page into the fire. Quickly discouraged, he turned his attention to politics. The funeral of Victor Noir, the Belleville risings, the _plébiscite_, filled his thoughts; he read the papers, joined the groups that gathered on the boulevards, followed the yelping pack of white blouses, and was one of the crowd that hooted the Commissary of Police as he read the Riot Act. Disorder and uproar intoxicated him; his heart beat as if it would burst his bosom, his enthusiasm rose to fever pitch, amid these stupid exhibitions of mob violence. Then to end up, after tramping the streets with other gaping idlers till late at night, he would make his way back, with weary limbs and aching ribs, his head whirling confusedly with bombast and loud talk, through the sleeping city to the Faubourg Saint-Germain. There, as he strode past some aristocratic mansion and saw the scutcheon blazoned on its façade and the two lions lying white in the moonlight on guard before its closed portal, he would cast a look of hatred at the building. Presently, as he resumed his march, he would picture himself standing, musket in hand, on a barricade, in the smoke of insurrection, along with workmen and young fellows from the schools, as we see it all represented in lithographs.

    One day in July, he saw a troop of white blouses moving along the boulevard and shouting: "To Berlin!" Ragamuffin street-boys ran yelping round. Respectable citizens lined the sidewalks, staring in wonder, and saying nothing; but one of them, a stout, tall, red-faced man, waved his hat and shouted:

    "To Berlin! long live the Emperor!"

    Jean recognized Monsieur Bargemont.
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