The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard


She is a humble woman who has lived a very, very long time in the habit of doing good; and she has become hardened and stiffened in that habit.Bear patiently with the harsh ways of that upright soul.If you know how to command, she will know how to obey.Go now, my child; arrange your room in whatever way may seem to you best suited for your studies and for your repose."Having started Jeanne, with this viaticum, upon her domestic career, I began to read a Review, which, although conducted by very young men, is excellent.The tone of it is somewhat unpolished, but the spirit is zealous.The article I read was certainly far superior, in point of precision and positiveness, to anything of the sort ever written when I was a young man.The author of the article, Monsieur Paul Meyer, points out every error with a remarkably lucid power of incisive criticism.

We used not in my time to criticise with such strict justice.Our indulgence was vast.It went even so far as to confuse the scholar and the ignoramus in the same burst of praise.And nevertheless one must learn how to find fault; and it is even an imperative duty to blame when the blame is deserved.

I remember little Raymond (that was the name we gave him); he did not know anything, and his mind was not a mind capable of absorbing any solid learning; but he was very fond of his mother.We took very good care never to utter a hint of the ignorance of so perfect a son; and, thanks, to our forbearance, little Raymond made his way to the highest positions.He had lost his mother then; but honours of all kinds were showered upon him.He became omnipotent--to the grievous injury of his colleagues and of science....But here comes my young fiend of the Luxembourg.

"Good-evening, Gelis.You look very happy to-day.What good fortune has come to you, my dear lad?"His good fortune is that he has been able to sustain his thesis very credibly, and that he has taken high rank in his class.He tells me this with the additional information that my own words, which were incidentally referred to in the course of the examination, had been spoken of by the college professors in terms of the most unqualified praise.

"That is very nice," I replied; "and it makes me very happy, Gelis, to find my old reputation thus associated with your own youthful honours.I was very much interested, you know, in that thesis of yours;--but some domestic arrangements have been keeping me so busy lately that I quite forgot this was the day on which you were to sustain it."Mademoiselle Jeanne made her appearance very opportunely, as if in order to suggest to him something about the nature of those very domestic arrangements.The giddy girl burst into the City of Books like a fresh breeze, crying at the top of her voice that her room was a perfect little wonder.then she became very red indeed on seeing Monsieur Gelis there.But none of us can escape our destiny.

Monsieur Gelis asked her how she was with the tone of a young fellow who resumes upon a previous acquaintance, and who proposes to put himself forward as an old friend.Oh, never fear!--she had not forgotten him at all; that was very evident from the fact that then and there, right under my nose, they resumed their last year's conversation on the subject of the "Venetian blond"! They continued the discussion after quite an animated fashion.I began to ask myself what right I had to be in the room at all.The only thing I could do in order to make myself heard was to cough.As for getting in a word, they never even gave me a chance.Gelis discoursed enthusiastically, not only about the Venetian colourists, but also upon all other matters relating to nature or to mankind.And Jeanne kept answering him, "Yes, Monsieur, you are right."...."That is just what I supposed, Monsieur."...."Monsieur, you express so beautifully just what I feel."..."I am going to think a great deal about what you have just told me, Monsieur."When I speak, Mademoiselle never answers me in that tone.It is only with the very tip of her tongue that she will even taste any intellectual food which I set before her.Usually she will not touch it at all.But Monsieur Gelis seems to be in her opinion the supreme authority upon all subjects.It was always, "Oh, yes!"--"Oh, of course!"--to all his empty chatter.And, then, the eyes of Jeanne!

I had never seen them look so large before; I had never before observed in them such fixity of expression; but her gaze otherwise remained what it always is--artless, frank, and brave.Gelis evidently pleased her; she like Gelis, and her eyes betrayed the fact.They would have published it to the entire universe! All very fine, Master Bonnard!--you have been so deeply interested in observing your ward, that you have been forgetting you are her guardian! You began only this morning to exercise that function;and you can already see that it involves some very delicate and difficult duties.Bonnard, you must really try to devise some means of keeping that young man away from her; you really ought....Eh!

how am I to know what I am to do?...

I have picked up a book at random from the nearest shelf; I open it, and I enter respectfully into the middle of a drama of Sophocles.

the older I grow, the more I learn to love the two civilisations of the antique world; and now I always keep the poets of Italy and of Greece on a shelf within easy reach of my arm in the City of Books.

Monsieur and Mademoiselle finally condescend to take some notice of me, now that I seem too busy to take any notice of them.I really think that Mademoiselle Jeanne has even asked me what I am reading.

Anatole France