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A Simple Heart
by [?]

‘All right, I’ll take you. ’

Felicity a quarter of an hour afterwards was settled in her house.

At first she lived there in a sort of tremor caused by the ‘kind of house’, and the memory of ‘Monsieur’ hovering over everything. Paul and Virginia, one aged seven, the other hardly four, seemed to h
er to be made of precious stuff; she carried them on her back like a horse, and Madame Aubain forbade her to kiss them every minute, and that mortified her. Yet she was happy. The gentleness of the environment had melted her sorrow.

Every Thursday friends came to take a hand at boston-whist. Felicity prepared in advance the cards and the footwarmers. They arrived at eight o’clock very punctually, and went away before the stroke of eleven.

Each Monday morning the second-hand dealer who lodged under the alley spread out his scrap iron on the ground. Then the town was filled with a hum of voices, in which were mingled the neighing of horses, the bleating of sheep, the grunting of pigs, and the dry rattle of traps on the road. About midday, at the height of the market, could be seen on the threshold a tall old peasant, his cap pulled down, his nose hooked, and who was Robelin, the farmer of Geffosses. A short time after it was Liébard, the farmer of Toucques, small, red, fat, wearing a grey jacket and leggings fitted with spurs.

Both of them offered their landlady fowls or cheeses. Felicity invariably baffled their tricks, and they went away full of consideration for her.

On indeterminate occasions Madame Aubain received a visit from the Marquis de Germanville, one of her uncles, ruined by debauchery, who lived at Falaise, on the last morsel of his property. He arrived always at lunch time, with a frightful little dog, whose paws dirtied all the furniture. In spite of his efforts to appear a gentleman, even going so far as to lift his hat every time he said: ‘My late father’, his old habits got the better of him; he poured out for himself glass after glass, and let out some rather free stories. Felicity would push him outside politely: ‘You’ve had enough of it, Monsieur de Germanville! We’ll see you another time!’ And she shut the door.

She opened it with pleasure to Monsieur Bourais, an ex-solicitor. His white cravat, and his bald head, the frill of his shirt, his wide brown frockcoat, his way of taking snuff, making a circle with his arm, his whole personality produced in her the excitement into which the sight of extraordinary men throws us.

As he managed the estate of ‘Madame’ he shut himself up with her for hours in monsieur’s study: he was always afraid of compromising himself, he had a great respect for the magistracy, and had pretensions to Latin.

To instruct the children in a pleasant fashion he made them a present of a geography with engravings. They represented different scenes in the world, cannibals with feathers in their hair, a monkey carrying off a young lady, Bedouins in the desert, a whale being harpooned, etc.

Paul explained these engravings to Felicity. This, in fact, was all her literary education.

The children’s education was taken in hand by Guyot, a poor wretch employed at the Town Hall, famous for his fine handwriting, a man who sharpened his penknife on his boot.

When the weather was clear they would go early in the morning to the farm of Geffosses.

The courtyard is sloping, the house in the middle: and the sea, in the distance, appears like a grey stain.

Felicity took out of her basket slices of cold meat, and they lunched in a room attached to the dairy. It was the only remnant of a pleasure house which had not disappeared. The wall-paper hung in rags, and trembled in the draughts. Madame Aubain leant forward, overwhelmed with memories: the children did not dare to speak. ‘But go out and play’, she would say. They decamped.