فصل 14

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فصل 14

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Debts

Thursday was the day. She got up and dressed very quietly, in order not to disturb Charles, and took the early coach to Rouen, arriving just as the city was beginning to wake up. For fear of being seen, she usually avoided the main streets, going instead down narrow lanes and alleys until she reached the rue Nationale, and turned down a side street, and yes, there he was.

Leon made no sign, but continued on his way. She followed him until they came to the hotel. In he went and up the stairs, opened the door of their room and entered; and then how they kissed, and then how they talked! They spoke of all the worries they had had during the week, all the things they had done. But that was all over now, and they looked at each other with little sounds of delight, and words of tenderness and love.

The bed was large, with red curtains, and there was nothing so beautiful in the world as her dark head and white skin against the dark red when, with a shy little gesture, she put her arms together and hid her face in her hands. How they loved this room. They had their lunch by the fire on a little side-table. They were so completely involved in each other that it seemed like being in their own home, and they dreamed they would continue to live there always. They talked about ‘our room’, and for the first time in his life Leon tasted the sweetness of female company, a woman’s life.

He knelt on the ground in front of her and, with his two elbows on her knees, looked at her with a smile, leaning his face towards her. And she leaned down to him, and whispered, ‘Oh, don’t move! Don’t speak! Look at me! There is something in your eyes so sweet - it does me so much good.’ And she called him ‘child’: ‘Do you love me, child?’ And she hardly heard his reply, so wildly did he press his lips to her mouth.

At the end of their day she would say, ‘Goodbye till Thursday! Thursday!’

Then suddenly she would seize his head in both her hands, kiss him quickly on the forehead and, crying ‘Goodbye’, run down the stairs.

Charles would be at home and waiting for her and, at last, Madame arrived. She hardly looked at her child and, if dinner was late, did not criticize the cook. Often her husband, seeing how pale she was, asked her if she was feeling ill.

‘No,’ said Emma.

‘But,’ he answered, ‘you seem so strange tonight.’

‘Oh, no! It’s nothing. I’m all right.’

But her whole life had become a lie, in which her love for Leon lay hidden from the world. Lying became a necessary part of her day, almost a hobby.

One day, however, Monsieur Lheureux met her in Rouen as she was coming out of the Hotel de Boulogne with Leon; it gave her a shock, and she thought he would tell everyone. He was not such a fool. But three days later he came into her room, shut the door behind him and said, ‘I need some money, and soon.’

She told him she could not let him have any. Lheureux reminded her how helpful he had always been and pulled out of his pocket an account of goods not paid for - more than two thousand francs.

She lowered her head.

‘But if you haven’t got cash, you’ve got property,’ and he mentioned a farm near Aumale that Charles had inherited from his father. Lheureux knew everything - how big the farm was, how much rent it was worth.

‘If I were you,’ he said, ‘I would pay my debts, and there would still be some money left over.’

He came back the following week, saying that after a lot of trouble he had found a buyer willing to pay four thousand francs for the farm. Emma was happier than she had been for months. But Lheureux shook his head and told her how much richer she would be if she let him manage these affairs. Finally he persuaded her to borrow even more money from him and to sign a series of documents which she did not understand. He told her this would give her more cash now - cash she could use to pay her other debts and buy some of the little things she wanted. Emma, with her mind full of thoughts of Leon and what they could do together, did not even read the papers, but simply signed her name where Lheureux placed his dirty finger. With this money in her hands, she felt she might begin to be free.

Freedom, however, was a disappointment. Despite her hopes, she now found Leon less pleased to meet her than before, less in love. Because she had more money in her pocket she made more demands on him, but his employer was worried about his work, and his friends asked him why they could no longer see him. And the more Emma demanded, the less Leon wanted to give, and while her love, her need continued to grow, so did her anger. In the end, she brought roses for him from Yonville and threw them in his face.

So Emma was not happy. Why was there this emptiness in her life? Why did whatever she want turn into dust? Everything was a lie, every smile hid a bored yawn; every promise hid a curse.

To make matters worse, one day a small, red-faced man came to the house explaining that he came from a Monsieur Vincart of Rouen. He politely handed her a paper. It was a bill for seven hundred francs, signed by her. Lheureux had sold her bills to a money-lender! She sent the servant to fetch him. He was busy and could not come, and the stranger asked what reply he should take to Monsieur Vincart.

‘Well,’ said Emma, ‘tell him I haven’t got it… It will have to be next week. Ask him to wait… Yes, next week, tell him.’

The man left without another word.

Next day, at twelve o’clock, a legal document was handed to her, and the sight of the piece of paper with the government stamp on it, and the name ‘Maitre Hareng, Bailiff at Buchy,’ written on it in big letters, scared her so much that she ran without a moment’s delay to Monsieur Lheureux’s shop.

She found him there, tying up a big parcel.

‘What can we do for Madame today?’ he asked, and he showed Madame upstairs to his little office.

‘What’s the matter?’ said Lheureux, seating himself in his big armchair.

‘Look at that.’ And she showed him the paper.

‘Well, what can I do?’

This made her more angry than frightened. Hadn’t he promised not to sell her bills? He agreed that he had but added, ‘I had no choice. I had a knife at my throat.’

‘What’s going to happen now?’

‘Oh, I’ll tell you what will happen; that’s easy. You go before the judge, you pay or they sell your things. It’s quite simple.’

Though Emma wanted to hit him, she asked him sweetly if there was anything she could do to keep this Vincart quiet.

‘Oh, no! Keep Vincart quiet! You don’t know much about him, that’s clear. He’s more bloodthirsty than a tiger!’

Emma cried out that Monsieur Lheureux really would have to do something.

‘I think I’ve been pretty good to you! Look at this,’ he said, opening a record book and running his finger up the page. ‘Here… and again, here… 3 August, two hundred francs… 17 June, a hundred and fifty… 23 March, forty-six. In April…’ He stopped. ‘Anyway, I’ve had enough of these delays, and that’s that!’

Emma said no more. What could she do?

When she went to Rouen, Leon gave her little comfort. He had just heard that he was going to be promoted to chief clerk in his law firm. It was time for him to think about his future. No more love-making! Besides, it rather bored him now when Emma began weeping on his chest, and he had grown tired of so much emotion. Feeling him withdraw from her, she now began to wonder how she could get rid of him! She even began to wish that something terrible would happen which would force them to separate. She stopped her excuse of music lessons, and her visits to Rouen. She stayed in her room, too depressed to pay attention when more legal demands for money came to the house, too depressed to talk to her husband or her child. She would have liked to stop living or else to go on sleeping for ever.

However, she could not stop the world coming to her, and one morning, two weeks after the first visit by Vincart’s man, Felicite brought her a piece of grey-coloured paper. She took it and read the complicated legal language which told her the simple truth that within twenty-four hours she had to pay the total amount of eight thousand francs. Lower down, she read the words which told her that if she did not do this, all her household goods would be sold! What could she do? Twenty-four hours! That meant tomorrow. Maybe Lheureux was just trying to frighten her, that’s what it was! She went to see him.

‘Do you know what’s happening?’ she said. ‘I suppose it’s a joke.’

‘It isn’t.’

‘What do you mean?’

He turned to her slowly and then, folding his arms, said, ‘Did you think, my little lady, that I would keep on supplying you with goods and money for ever, simply for the love of it? Be fair! I must recover my money one way or the other. Anyway, it’s not me, it’s Vincart.’

‘Couldn’t you possibly…?’

‘I can’t do anything.’

‘But… just look at it like this…’ And she began to say she had not known… it had taken her by surprise…

She begged and prayed, she even put her white hand on Lheureux’s knee.

‘That’s enough of that!’ he shouted. ‘Anyone would think you were trying to make love to me.’

‘You horrible man!’

‘Well, who’s got a temper?’ he said, with a laugh.

‘I’ll tell everyone what you’ve done. I’ll tell my husband…’

‘All right, but I don’t think your husband will be very pleased when he understands what you’ve been doing!’

She fell back, as if someone had hit her in the face.

And then he went close up to her, saying sweetly, ‘It’s not very pleasant, I know. But, after all, it never killed anybody, and it seems that it’s the only way to make you pay me back my money…’

‘But where can I get it?’ said Emma.

‘What about all those friends of yours?’

And he gave her a look so searching and so terrible that she shook with fear.

‘I promise you,’ she said. ‘I’ll sign any…’

‘I’ve had enough of you and your signatures!’

‘And I can still sell…’

‘Don’t be a fool,’ he said. ‘You’ve got nothing left to sell!’

‘But if I brought you three thousand francs, a quarter, a third, nearly all of it?’

‘No, it’s no good.’

He pushed her gently towards the stairs.

‘I beg you, Monsieur Lheureux, give me a few days longer!’ and she burst into tears.

‘Oh look, more tears!’

‘But I’m desperate!’

‘I don’t care,’ he whispered in her ear, so close she could smell his sour breath, and then he shut the door.

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