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7 o The Fall ‘‘I shall leave him, but . . .’’—A Trap—Her Sixteenth Birthday—Neither Depravity nor Pleasure—Vile Book— A Lunatic—Premature Despair and Belated Remorse— Smallpox—‘‘Coachman, to Saint-Louis!’’    fragrant to me. I breathed it in as if it were an intoxicating flower. I was yanked from my rapture by my mother pulling on myarm, who said, ‘‘Where are you going? This is not the way.’’ ‘‘Oh! Forgive me, dear mother,’’ I said kissing her several times, ‘‘forgive me! I must look like a mad woman, but it feels so good to be free!’’ ‘‘I am very glad that you prize your freedom so, then maybe you will be good from now on.’’ I was not paying attention to what she was saying. ‘‘We are going to go home. You will work with me.’’ ‘‘Yes, Maman.’’ ‘‘Do not be ugly with poor Vincent.’’ That drew me out of my reverie. ‘‘And,’’ she said, ‘‘try to live in peace with him, for the love of me.’’ ‘‘Oh yes, you know only what you have been told. I am going to tell you the truth.’’ During my narration, she turned red, pale, cried. I had just made her suffer terribly. ‘‘   ,  . . .’’ We had arrived. Vincent was at that window where I had gotten hurt. It all came back to me at the sight of that house and the air was stifling. But finally I went up the stairs with determination. I went in looking Vincent straight in the eyes. I thought he would flinch, but not a muscle in his face moved.  The Fall My mother turned toward me and said, ‘‘All right now, repeat in front of him what you told me on the way here.’’ It wasmyturntoturn paleandlosemycomposure.Isawmymother’s face brighten. She doubted me. I was appalled. I walked on, head held high, eyes forward. Vincent showed no emotion . ‘‘Have you become mute? Why do you not say why I left here? Why do you not say what happened?’’ And I repeated everything I had told my mother. Vincent became even more impassive. ‘‘I do not have much to say. You know that your daughter hates me. I, on the other hand, have known her since she was a child and I love her very much. She came home looking very sad, and I tried to comfort her. I do not know what she might have interpreted, but she ran away.’’ My mother must have been afraid of the state she saw me in, because she asked him to leave us alone. He picked up his hat and walked by me. On his lips was a smile that infuriated me. ‘‘You believe him instead of me, right? Well, he can have my place. I do not want to live here anymore. You are set on keeping him. I am leaving.’’ My mother positioned herself in front of the door. ‘‘Now, Céleste, listen to me.’’ ‘‘No, not if you do not throw this man out.’’ ‘‘Well, yes, I shall leave him, but listen to me. He just inherited a few thousand francs and he promised them to me so I can get settled. Be patient for a little while.’’ I was at the end of my strength. The sleepless nights, the events of the past few weeks had exhausted me.These notions of self-interest and calculations my mother was telling me about so she could delay making a decision dulled my heart. In those days I did not understand what power this emotion called love can have over the soul of women of her age. My mother was forty-seven then. I stopped fighting. That was all my mother wanted. She kissed me with more warmth than she had in a long time. I went to bed before Vincent returned, and when I got up, he had already left. I avoided all possibilities of seeing him, because when we met there were unending quarrels. One day he came back during the day, and finding me alone he had the gall to say to me, ‘‘Come on, now, let me kiss you, and stop pout-  The Fall ing. I told you your mother would not believe you. If you wish, there is still time.’’ ‘‘Listen,’’ I said, ‘‘someone is coming up, I think it is my mother. . . . Dear mother, come here and give me some advice.This is what this man was proposing just a minute ago. What do you think I should do?’’ ‘‘No...


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