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    Chapter 20

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    Chapter 20
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    Jeanne, with her eyes fixed on the door, remained plunged in grief
    over her mother's sudden departure. She gazed around her; the room was
    empty and silent; but she could still hear the waning sounds of
    hurrying footsteps and rustling skirts, and last the slamming of the
    outer door. Then nothing stirred, and she was alone.

    All alone, all alone. Over the bed hung her mother's dressing-gown,
    flung there at random, the skirt bulging out and a sleeve lying across
    the bolster, so that the garment looked like some person who had
    fallen down overwhelmed with grief, and sobbing in misery. There was
    some linen scattered about, and a black neckerchief lay on the floor
    like a blot of mourning. The chairs were in disorder, the table had
    been pushed in front of the wardrobe, and amidst it all she was
    quite alone. She felt her tears choking her as she looked at the
    dressing-gown which no longer garmented her mother, but was stretched
    there with the ghastly semblance of death. She clasped her hands, and
    for the last time wailed, "Mamma! mamma!" The blue velvet hangings,
    however, deadened the sound. It was all over, and she was alone.

    Then the time slipped away. The clock struck three. A dismal, dingy
    light came in through the windows. Dark clouds were sailing over the
    sky, which made it still gloomier. Through the panes of glass, which
    were covered with moisture, Paris could only be dimly seen; the watery
    vapor blurred it; its far-away outskirts seemed hidden by thick smoke.
    Thus the city even was no longer there to keep the child company, as
    on bright afternoons, when, on leaning out a little, it seemed to her
    as though she could touch each district with her hand.

    What was she to do? Her little arms tightened in despair against her
    bosom. This desertion seemed to her mournful, passing all bounds,
    characterized by an injustice and wickedness that enraged her. She had
    never known anything so hateful; it struck her that everything was
    going to vanish; nothing of the old life would ever come back again.
    Then she caught sight of her doll seated near her on a chair, with its
    back against a cushion, and its legs stretched out, its eyes staring
    at her as though it were a human being. It was not her mechanical
    doll, but a large one with a pasteboard head, curly hair, and eyes of
    enamel, whose fixed look sometimes frightened her. What with two
    years' constant dressing and undressing, the paint had got rubbed off
    the chin and cheeks, and the limbs, of pink leather stuffed with
    sawdust, had become limp and wrinkled like old linen. The doll was
    just now in its night attire, arrayed only in a bed-gown, with its
    arms twisted, one in the air and the other hanging downwards. When
    Jeanne realized that there was still some one with her, she felt for
    an instant less unhappy. She took the doll in her arms and embraced it
    ardently, while its head swung back, for its neck was broken. Then she
    chattered away to it, telling it that it was Jeanne's best-behaved
    friend, that it had a good heart, for it never went out and left
    Jeanne alone. It was, said she, her treasure, her kitten, her dear
    little pet. Trembling with agitation, striving to prevent herself from
    weeping again, she covered it all over with kisses.

    This fit of tenderness gave her some revengeful consolation, and the
    doll fell over her arm like a bundle of rags. She rose and looked out,
    with her forehead against a window-pane. The rain had ceased falling,
    and the clouds of the last downpour, driven before the wind, were
    nearing the horizon towards the heights of Pere-Lachaise, which were
    wrapped in gloom; and against this stormy background Paris, illumined
    by a uniform clearness, assumed a lonely, melancholy grandeur. It
    seemed to be uninhabited, like one of those cities seen in a
    nightmare--the reflex of a world of death. To Jeanne it certainly
    appeared anything but pretty. She was now idly dreaming of those she
    had loved since her birth. Her oldest sweetheart, the one of her early
    days at Marseilles, had been a huge cat, which was very heavy; she
    would clasp it with her little arms, and carry it from one chair to
    another without provoking its anger in the least; but it had
    disappeared, and that was the first misfortune she remembered. She had
    next had a sparrow, but it died; she had picked it up one morning from
    the bottom of its cage. That made two. She never reckoned the toys
    which got broken just to grieve her, all kinds of wrongs which had
    caused her much suffering because she was so sensitive. One doll in
    particular, no higher than one's hand, had driven her to despair by
    getting its head smashed; she had cherished it to a such a degree that
    she had buried it by stealth in a corner of the yard; and some time
    afterwards, overcome by a craving to look on it once more, she had
    disinterred it, and made herself sick with terror whilst gazing on its
    blackened and repulsive features.

    However, it was always the others who were the first to fail in their
    love. They got broken; they disappeared. The separation, at all
    events, was invariably their fault. Why was it? She herself never
    changed. When she loved any one, her love lasted all her life. Her
    mind could not grasp the idea of neglect and desertion; such things
    seemed to her monstrously wicked, and never occurred to her little
    heart without giving it a deadly pang. She shivered as a host of vague
    ideas slowly awoke within her. So people parted one day; each went his
    own way, never to meet or love each other again. With her eyes fixed
    on the limitless and dreary expanse of Paris, she sat chilled by all
    that her childish passion could divine of life's hard blows.

    Meantime her breath was fast dimming the glass. With her hands she
    rubbed away the vapor that prevented her from looking out. Several
    monuments in the distance, wet with the rain, glittered like browny
    ice. There were lines of houses, regular and distinct, which, with
    their fronts standing out pale amidst the surrounding roofs, looked
    like outstretched linen--some tremendous washing spread to dry on
    fields of ruddy grass. The sky was clearing, and athwart the tail of
    the cloud which still cloaked the city in gloom the milky rays of the
    sun were beginning to stream. A brightness seemed to be hesitating
    over some of the districts; in certain places the sky would soon begin
    to smile. Jeanne gazed below, over the quay and the slopes of the
    Trocadero; the street traffic was about to begin afresh after that
    violent downpour. The cabs again passed by at a jolting crawl, while
    the omnibuses rattled along the still lonely streets with a louder
    noise than usual. Umbrellas were being shut up, and wayfarers, who had
    taken shelter beneath the trees, ventured from one foot pavement to
    another through muddy streams which were rushing into the gutters.

    Jeanne noticed with special interest a lady and a little girl, both of
    them fashionably dressed, who were standing beneath the awning of a
    toy-shop near the bridge. Doubtless they had been caught in the
    shower, and had taken refuge there. The child would fain have carried
    away the whole shop, and had pestered her mother to buy her a hoop.
    Both were now leaving, however, and the child was running along full
    of glee, driving the hoop before her. At this Jeanne's melancholy
    returned with intensified force; her doll became hideous. She longed
    to have a hoop and to be down yonder and run along, while her mother
    slowly walked behind her and cautioned her not to go too far. Then,
    however, everything became dim again. At each minute she had to rub
    the glass clear. She had been enjoined never to open the window; but
    she was full of rebellious thoughts; she surely might gaze out of the
    window, if she were not to be taken for a walk. So she opened it, and
    leaned out like a grown-up person--in imitation of her mother when she
    ensconced herself there and lapsed into silence.

    The air was mild, and moist in its mildness, which seemed to her
    delightful. A darkness slowly rising over the horizon induced her to
    lift her head. To her imagination it seemed as if some gigantic bird
    with outstretched wings were hovering on high. At first she saw
    nothing; the sky was clear; but at last, at the angle of the roof, a
    gloomy cloud made its appearance, sailing on and speedily enveloping
    the whole heaven. Another squall was rising before a roaring west
    wind. The daylight was quickly dying away, and the city grew dark,
    amidst a livid shimmer, which imparted to the house-fronts a rusty

    Almost immediately afterwards the rain fell. The streets were swept by
    it; the umbrellas were again opened; and the passers-by, fleeing in
    every direction, vanished like chaff. One old lady gripped her skirts
    with both hands, while the torrent beat down on her bonnet as though
    it were falling from a spout. And the rain travelled on; the cloud
    kept pace with the water ragefully falling upon Paris; the big drops
    enfiladed the avenues of the quays, with a gallop like that of a
    runaway horse, raising a white dust which rolled along the ground at a
    prodigious speed. They also descended the Champs-Elysees, plunged into
    the long narrow streets of the Saint-Germain district, and at a bound
    filled up all the open spaces and deserted squares. In a few seconds,
    behind this veil which grew thicker and thicker, the city paled and
    seemed to melt away. It was as though a curtain were being drawn
    obliquely from heaven to earth. Masses of vapor arose too; and the
    vast, splashing pit-a-pat was as deafening as any rattle of old iron.

    Jeanne, giddy with the noise, started back. A leaden wall seemed to
    have been built up before her. But she was fond of rain; so she
    returned, leaned out again, and stretched out her arms to feel the
    big, cold rain-drops splashing on her hands. This gave her some
    amusement, and she got wet to the sleeves. Her doll must, of course,
    like herself, have a headache, and she therefore hastened to put it
    astride the window-rail, with its back against the side wall. She
    thought, as she saw the drops pelting down upon it, that they were
    doing it some good. Stiffly erect, its little teeth displayed in a
    never-fading smile, the doll sat there, with one shoulder streaming
    with water, while every gust of wind lifted up its night-dress. Its
    poor body, which had lost some of its sawdust stuffing, seemed to be

    What was the reason that had prevented her mother from taking her with
    her? wondered Jeanne. The rain that beat down on her hands seemed a
    fresh inducement to be out. It must be very nice, she argued, in the
    street. Once more there flashed on her mind's eye the little girl
    driving her hoop along the pavement. Nobody could deny that she had
    gone out with her mamma. Both of them had even seemed to be
    exceedingly well pleased. This was sufficient proof that little girls
    were taken out when it rained.

    But, then, willingness on her mother's part was requisite. Why had she
    been unwilling? Then Jeanne again thought of her big cat which had
    gone away over the houses opposite with its tail in the air, and of
    the poor little sparrow which she had tempted with food when it was
    dead, and which had pretended that it did not understand. That kind of
    thing always happened to her; nobody's love for her was enduring
    enough. Oh! she would have been ready in a couple of minutes; when she
    chose she dressed quickly enough; it was only a question of her boots,
    which Rosalie buttoned, her jacket, her hat, and it was done. Her
    mother might easily have waited two minutes for her. When she left
    home to see her friends, she did not turn her things all topsy-turvy
    as she had done that afternoon; when she went to the Bois de Boulogne,
    she led her gently by the hand, and stopped with her outside every
    shop in the Rue de Passy.

    Jeanne could not get to the bottom of it; her black eyebrows frowned,
    and her delicate features put on a stern, jealous expression which
    made her resemble some wicked old maid. She felt in a vague way that
    her mother had gone to some place where children never go. She had not
    been taken out because something was to be hidden from her. This
    thought filled her with unutterable sadness, and her heart throbbed
    with pain.

    The rain was becoming finer, and through the curtain which veiled
    Paris glimpses of buildings were occasionally afforded. The dome of
    the Invalides, airy and quivering, was the first to reappear through
    the glittering vibration of the downpour. Next, some of the districts
    emerged into sight as the torrent slackened; the city seemed to rise
    from a deluge that had overwhelmed it, its roofs all streaming, and
    every street filled with a river of water from which vapor still
    ascended. But suddenly there was a burst of light; a ray of sunshine
    fell athwart the shower. For a moment it was like a smile breaking
    through tears.

    The rain had now ceased to fall over the Champs-Elysees district; but
    it was sabring the left bank, the Cite, and the far-away suburbs; in
    the sunshine the drops could be seen flashing down like innumerable
    slender shafts of steel. On the right a rainbow gleamed forth. As the
    gush of light streamed across the sky, touches of pink and blue
    appeared on the horizon, a medley of color, suggestive of a childish
    attempt at water-color painting. Then there was a sudden blaze--a fall
    of golden snow, as it were, over a city of crystal. But the light died
    away, a cloud rolled up, and the smile faded amidst tears; Paris
    dripped and dripped, with a prolonged sobbing noise, beneath the
    leaden-hued sky.

    Jeanne, with her sleeves soaked, was seized with a fit of coughing.
    But she was unconscious of the chill that was penetrating her; she was
    now absorbed in the thought that her mother had gone into Paris. She
    had come at last to know three buildings--the Invalides, the Pantheon,
    and the Tower of St.-Jacques. She now slowly went over their names,
    and pointed them out with her finger without attempting to think what
    they might be like were she nearer to them. Without doubt, however,
    her mother was down there; and she settled in her mind that she was in
    the Pantheon, because it astonished her the most, huge as it was,
    towering up through the air, like the city's head-piece. Then she
    began to question herself. Paris was still to her the place where
    children never go; she was never taken there. She would have liked to
    know it, however, that she might have quietly said to herself: "Mamma
    is there; she is doing such and such a thing." But it all seemed to
    her too immense; it was impossible to find any one there. Then her
    glance travelled towards the other end of the plain. Might her mother
    not rather be in one of that cluster of houses on the hill to the
    left? or nearer in, beneath those huge trees, whose bare branches
    seemed as dead as firewood? Oh! if she could only have lifted up the
    roofs! What could that gloomy edifice be? What was that street along
    which something of enormous bulk seemed to be running? And what could
    that district be at sight of which she always felt frightened,
    convinced as she was that people fought one another there? She could
    not see it distinctly, but, to tell the truth, its aspects stirred
    one; it was very ugly, and must not be looked at by little girls.

    A host of indefinable ideas and suppositions, which brought her to the
    verge of weeping, awoke trouble in Jeanne's ignorant, childish mind.
    From the unknown world of Paris, with its smoke, its endless noises,
    its powerful, surging life, an odor of wretchedness, filth, and crime
    seemed to be wafted to her through the mild, humid atmosphere, and she
    was forced to avert her head, as though she had been leaning over one
    of those pestilential pits which breathe forth suffocation from
    their unseen horrors. The Invalides, the Pantheon, the Tower of
    Saint-Jacques--these she named and counted; but she knew nothing of
    anything else, and she sat there, terrified and ashamed, with the
    all-absorbing thought that her mother was among those wicked places,
    at some spot which she was unable to identify in the depths yonder.

    Suddenly Jeanne turned round. She could have sworn that somebody had
    walked into the bedroom, that a light hand had even touched her
    shoulder. But the room was empty, still in the same disorder as when
    Helene had left. The dressing-gown, flung across the pillow, still lay
    in the same mournful, weeping attitude. Then Jeanne, with pallid
    cheeks, cast a glance around, and her heart nearly burst within her.
    She was alone! she was alone! And, O Heaven, her mother, in forsaking
    her, had pushed her with such force that she might have fallen to the
    floor. The thought came back to her with anguish; she again seemed to
    feel the pain of that outrage on her wrists and shoulders. Why had she
    been struck? She had been good, and had nothing to reproach herself
    with. She was usually spoken to with such gentleness that the
    punishment she had received awoke feelings of indignation within her.
    She was thrilled by a sensation of childish fear, as in the old times
    when she was threatened with the approach of the wolf, and looked for
    it and saw it not: it was lingering in some shady corner, with many
    other things that were going to overwhelm her. However, she was full
    of suspicion; her face paled and swelled with jealous fury. Of a
    sudden, the thought that her mother must love those whom she had gone
    to see far more than she loved her came upon her with such crushing
    force that her little hands clutched her bosom. She knew it now; yes,
    her mother was false to her.

    Over Paris a great sorrow seemed to be brooding, pending the arrival
    of a fresh squall. A murmur travelled through the darkened air, and
    heavy clouds were hovering overhead. Jeanne, still at the window, was
    convulsed by another fit of coughing; but in the chill she experienced
    she felt herself revenged; she would willingly have had her illness
    return. With her hands pressed against her bosom, she grew conscious
    of some pain growing more intense within her. It was an agony to which
    her body abandoned itself. She trembled with fear, and did not again
    venture to turn round; she felt quite cold at the idea of glancing
    into the room any more. To be little means to be without strength.
    What could this new complaint be which filled her with mingled shame
    and bitter pleasure? With stiffened body, she sat there as if waiting
    --every one of her pure and innocent limbs in an agony of revulsion.
    From the innermost recesses of her being all her woman's feelings were
    aroused, and there darted through her a pang, as though she had
    received a blow from a distance. Then with failing heart she cried out
    chokingly: "Mamma! mamma!" No one could have known whether she called
    to her mother for aid, or whether she accused her of having inflicted
    on her the pain which seemed to be killing her.

    At that moment the tempest burst. Through the deep and ominous
    stillness the wind howled over the city, which was shrouded in
    darkness; and afterwards there came a long-continued crashing
    --window-shutters beating to and fro, slates flying, chimney-tops and
    gutter-pipes rattling on to the pavements. For a few seconds a calm
    ensued; then there blew another gust, which swept along with such
    mighty strength that the ocean of roofs seemed convulsed, tossing
    about in waves, and then disappearing in a whirlpool. For a moment
    chaos reigned. Some enormous clouds, like huge blots of ink, swept
    through a host of smaller ones, which were scattered and floated like
    shreds of rag which the wind tore to pieces and carried off thread by
    thread. A second later two clouds rushed upon one another, and rent
    one another with crashing reports, which seemed to sprinkle the
    coppery expanse with wreckage; and every time the hurricane thus
    veered, blowing from every point of the compass, the thunder of
    opposing navies resounded in the atmosphere, and an awful rending and
    sinking followed, the hanging fragments of the clouds, jagged like
    huge bits of broken walls, threatening Paris with imminent destruction.
    The rain was not yet falling. But suddenly a cloud burst above the
    central quarters, and a water-spout ascended the Seine. The river's
    green ribbon, riddled and stirred to its depths by the splashing drops,
    became transformed into a stream of mud; and one by one, behind the
    downpour, the bridges appeared to view again, slender and delicately
    outlined in the mist; while, right and left, the trees edging the grey
    pavements of the deserted quays were shaken furiously by the wind.
    Away in the background, over Notre-Dame, the cloud divided and poured
    down such a torrent of water that the island of La Cite seemed
    submerged. Far above the drenched houses the cathedral towers alone
    rose up against a patch of clear sky, like floating waifs.

    On every side the water now rushed down from the heavens. Three times
    in succession did the right bank appear to be engulfed. The first fall
    inundated the distant suburbs, gradually extending its area, and
    beating on the turrets of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul and Saint-Jacques,
    which glistened in the rain. Then two other downpours, following in
    hot haste one upon the other, streamed over Montmartre and the
    Champs-Elysees. At times a glimpse could be obtained of the glass roof
    of the Palace of Industry, steaming, as it were, under the splashing
    water; of Saint-Augustin, whose cupola swam in a kind of fog like a
    clouded moon; of the Madeleine, which spread out its flat roof, looking
    like some ancient court whose flagstones had been freshly scoured;
    while, in the rear, the huge mass of the Opera House made one think of
    a dismasted vessel, which with its hull caught between two rocks, was
    resisting the assaults of the tempest.

    On the left bank of the Seine, also hidden by a watery veil, you
    perceived the dome of the Invalides, the spires of Sainte-Clotilde,
    and the towers of Saint-Sulpice, apparently melting away in the moist
    atmosphere. Another cloud spread out, and from the colonnade of the
    Pantheon sheets of water streamed down, threatening to inundate what
    lay below. And from that moment the rain fell upon the city in all
    directions; one might have imagined that the heavens were
    precipitating themselves on the earth; streets vanished, sank into the
    depths, and men reappeared, drifting on the surface, amidst shocks
    whose violence seemed to foretell the end of the city. A prolonged
    roar ascended--the roar of all the water rushing along the gutters and
    falling into the drains. And at last, above muddy-looking Paris, which
    had assumed with the showers a dingy-yellow hue, the livid clouds
    spread themselves out in uniform fashion, without stain or rift. The
    rain was becoming finer, and was falling sharply and vertically; but
    whenever the wind again rose, the grey hatching was curved into mighty
    waves, and the raindrops, driven almost horizontally, could be heard
    lashing the walls with a hissing sound, till, with the fall of the
    wind, they again fell vertically, peppering the soil with a quiet
    obstinacy, from the heights of Passy away to the level plain of
    Charenton. Then the vast city, as though overwhelmed and lifeless
    after some awful convulsion, seemed but an expanse of stony ruins
    under the invisible heavens.

    Jeanne, who had sunk down by the window, had wailed out once more,
    "Mamma! mamma!" A terrible weariness deprived her limbs of their
    strength as she lingered there, face to face with the engulfing of
    Paris. Amidst her exhaustion, whilst the breeze played with her
    tresses, and her face remained wet with rain, she preserved some taste
    of the bitter pleasure which had made her shiver, while within her
    heart there was a consciousness of some irretrievable woe. Everything
    seemed to her to have come to an end; she realized that she was
    getting very old. The hours might pass away, but now she did not even
    cast a glance into the room. It was all the same to her to be
    forgotten and alone. Such despair possessed the child's heart that all
    around her seemed black. If she were scolded, as of old, when she was
    ill, it would surely be very wrong. She was burning with fever;
    something like a sick headache was weighing on her. Surely too, but a
    moment ago, something had snapped within her. She could not prevent
    it; she must inevitably submit to whatever might be her fate. Besides,
    weariness was prostrating her. She had joined her hands over the
    window-bar, on which she rested her head, and, though at times she
    opened her eyes to gaze at the rain, drowsiness was stealing over her.

    And still and ever the rain kept beating down; the livid sky seemed
    dissolving in water. A final blast of wind had passed by; a monotonous
    roar could be heard. Amidst a solemn quiescence the sovereign rain
    poured unceasingly upon the silent, deserted city it had conquered;
    and behind this sheet of streaked crystal Paris showed like some
    phantom place, with quivering outlines, which seemed to be melting
    away. To Jeanne the scene now brought nothing beyond sleepiness and
    horrid dreams, as though all the mystery and unknown evil were rising
    up in vapor to pierce her through and make her cough. Every time she
    opened her eyes she was seized with a fit of coughing, and would
    remain for a few seconds looking at the scene; which as her head fell
    back once more, clung to her mind, and seemed to spread over her and
    crush her.

    The rain was still falling. What hour might it be now? Jeanne could
    not have told. Perhaps the clock had ceased going. It seemed to her
    too great a fatigue to turn round. It was surely at least a week since
    her mother had quitted her. She had abandoned all expectation of her
    return; she was resigned to the prospect of never seeing her again.
    Then she became oblivious of everything--the wrongs which had been
    done her, the pain which she had just experienced, even the loneliness
    in which she was suffered to remain. A weight, chilly like stone, fell
    upon her. This only was certain: she was very unhappy--ah! as unhappy
    as the poor little waifs to whom she gave alms as they huddled
    together in gateways. Ah! Heaven! how coughing racked one, and how
    penetrating was the cold when there was no nobody to love one! She
    closed her heavy eyelids, succumbing to a feverish stupor; and the
    last of her thoughts was a vague memory of childhood, of a visit to a
    mill, full of yellow wheat, and of tiny grains slipping under
    millstones as huge as houses.

    Hours and hours passed away; each minute was a century. The rain beat
    down without ceasing, with ever the same tranquil flow, as though all
    time and eternity were allowed it to deluge the plain. Jeanne had
    fallen asleep. Close by, her doll still sat astride the iron
    window-bar; and, with its legs in the room and its head outside, its
    nightdress clinging to its rosy skin, its eyes glaring, and its hair
    streaming with water, it looked not unlike a drowned child; and so
    emaciated did it appear in its comical yet distressing posture of
    death, that it almost brought tears of pity to the eyes. Jeanne
    coughed in her sleep; but now she never once opened her eyes. Her head
    swayed to and fro on her crossed arms, and the cough spent itself in a
    wheeze without awakening her. Nothing more existed for her. She slept
    in the darkness. She did not even withdraw her hand, from whose cold,
    red fingers bright raindrops were trickling one by one into the vast
    expanse which lay beneath the window. This went on for hours and
    hours. Paris was slowly waning on the horizon, like some phantom city;
    heaven and earth mingled together in an indistinguishable jumble; and
    still and ever with unflagging persistency did the grey rain fall.
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