The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard

The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard


It was she, it was her very self, I assure you! She had the same air of child-queen, the same proud supple poise; she held the same hazel wand in her hand; she still wore her double-peaked head-dress, and the train of her long brocade robe undulated about her little feet.Same face, same figure.It was she indeed; and to prevent any possible doubt of it, she was seated on the back of a huge old-fashioned book strongly resembling the "Cosmography of Munster."Her immobility but half reassured me; I was really afraid that she was going to take some more nuts out of her alms-purse and throw the shells at my face.

I was standing there, waving my hands and gaping, when the musical and laughing voice of Madame de Gabry suddenly rang in my ears.

"So you are examining your fairy, Monsieur Bonnard!" said my hostess.

"Well, do you think the resemblance good?"It was very quickly said; but even while hearing it I had time to perceive that my fairy was a statuette in coloured wax, modeled with much taste and spirit by some novice hand.But the phenomenon, even thus reduced by a rational explanation, did not cease to excite my surprise.How, and by whom, had the Lady of the Cosmography been enabled to assume plastic existence? That was what remained for me to learn.

Turning towards Madame de Gabry, I perceived that she was not alone.

A young girl dressed in black was standing beside her.She had large intelligent eyes, of a grey as sweet as that of the sky of the Isle of France, and at once artless and characteristic in their expression.At the extremities of her rather thin arms were fidgeting uneasily two slender hands, supple but slightly red, as it becomes the hands of young girls to be.Sheathed in her closely fitting merino robe, she had the slim grace of a young tree; and her large mouth bespoke frankness.I could not describe how much the child pleased me at first sight! She was not beautiful; but the three dimples of her cheeks and chin seemed to laugh, and her whole person, which revealed the awkwardness of innocence, had something in it indescribably good and sincere.

My gaze alternated from the statuette to the young girl; and I saw her blush--so frankly and fully!--the crimson passing over her face as by waves.

"Well," said my hostess, who had become sufficiently accustomed to my distracted moods to put the same question to me twice, "is that the very same lady who came in to see you through the window that you left open? She was very saucy, but then you were quite imprudent! Anyhow, do you recognise her?""It is her very self," I replied; "I see her now on that pier-table precisely as I saw her on the table in the library.""Then, if that be so," replied Madame de Gabry, "you have to blame for it, in the first place, yourself, as a man who, although devoid of all imagination, to use your own words, knew how to depict your dream in such vivid colours; in the second place, me, who was able to remember and repeat faithfully all your dream; and lastly, Mademoiselle Jeanne, whom I now introduce to you, for she herself modeled that wax figure precisely according to my instructions."Madame de Gabry had taken the young girl's hand as she spoke; but the latter had suddenly broken away from her, and was already running through the park with the speed of a bird.

"Little crazy creature!" Madame de Gabry cried after her."How can one be so shy? Come back here to be scolded and kissed!"But it was all of no avail; the frightened child disappeared among the shrubbery.Madame de Gabry seated herself in the only chair remaining in the dilapidated parlour.

Anatole France