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A Simple Heart
by [?]

Mother Liébard, seeing her mistress, was prodigal in demonstrations of joy. She served them a lunch where there was roast beef, tripe, black sausage, a fricassee of chicken, sparkling cider, a fruit tart, and plums in brandy, accompanying the whole with polite observations to madame, who seemed in better health, to mademoiselle, become ‘magnificent’, to Mr. Paul, grown singularly ‘stout’; without forgetting their late grandparents, whom the Liébards had known, being in the service of the family for several gener
ations. The farm had,like them, an old-time character. The beams of the roof were worm-eaten, the walls black with smoke, the tiles grey with dust. An oak dresser carried all sorts of utensils, jugs, plates, pewter, basins, wolf traps, sheep shears; an enormous syringe made the children laugh. Not a tree in the three courtyards but had mushrooms at its base, or in its branches a bunch of mistletoe. The wind had thrown down several. They had sprouted again in the middle, and all were bent under the number of their apples. The thatch roofs, like brown velvet, and all unequal in thickness, resisted the strongest gales. Yet the wagon-shed was falling in ruins. Madame Aubain said she would see about it, and bade them reharness the beasts.

They were half an hour yet before they reached Trouville. The little caravan dismounted to pass the Écores Hill; it was a rock overhanging the ships; and three minutes later, at the end of the quay, they entered the courtyard of the Golden Lamb, Mother David’s inn.

Virginia, from the beginning, felt herself more robust, the result of the change of air and the action of the baths. She took them in her chemise, for lack of a bathing costume; and her maid dressed her afterwards in the shed of a customs man who looked after the bathers.

In the afternoon they would go with the donkey past the Black Rocks in the direction of Hennequeville. The path at first rose between land undulating like the lawns of a gentleman’s estate, then arrived at a plateau, where alternated pasture ground and cultivated fields. At the edge of the road, among the clusters of reeds, grew holly bushes; here and there a tall dead tree made zigzags with its branches on the blue air.

Almost always they rested in a meadow, with Deauville on their left, Havre on their right, and in front the open sea. It was brilliant in the sunshine, smooth like a mirror, so gentle that its murmur could scarcely be heard. Hidden sparrows chirped, and the immense vault of the sky formed a cover for all. Madame Aubain, seated, would work at her sewing; Virginia beside her, plaited reeds; Felicity pulled up lavender; Paul, who was bored, wanted to go away.

Other times they crossed the River Toucques in a boat, and looked for shells. The low tide left uncovered sea urchins, scallops, jellyfish; and the children ran to catch the puffs of foam that the wind carried up. The sleepy waves, falling on the sand, rolled in along the beach; they stretched as far as eye could see, but on the landward side had for limit the dunes separating it from the Marais, a wide meadow, shaped like a hippodrome. When they were coming back that way Trouville, at the foot of its sloping hillock, grew bigger at each step, and with all its different-sized houses, seemed to spread out in gay disorder.

The days on which it was too hot they did not leave their room. The dazzling brightness outside plastered bars of light between the slats of the shutters. No noise in the village. Down below on the pavement, nobody. This widespread silence increased everything’s tranquillity. In the distance the hammers of the caulkers plugged the keels, and a heavy breeze brought a scent of tar.