Theresa Raquin, by Émile Zola

Chapter XV

Laurent resumed calling of an evening, every two or three days, remaining in the shop talking to Madame Raquin for half an hour. Then he went off without looking Therese in the face. The old mercer regarded him as the rescuer of her niece, as a noble-hearted young man who had done his utmost to restore her son to her, and she welcomed him with tender kindness.

One Thursday evening, when Laurent happened to be there, old Michaud and Grivet entered. Eight o’clock was striking. The clerk and the former commissary of police had both thought, independently of one another, that they could resume their dear custom, without appearing importunate, and they arrived at the same moment, as if urged by the same impulse. Behind them, came Olivier and Suzanne.

Everyone went upstairs to the dining-room. Madame Raquin who expected nobody, hastened to light the lamp, and prepare the tea. When all were seated round the table, each before a cup, when the box of dominoes had been emptied on the board, the old mother, with the past suddenly brought back to her, looked at her guests, and burst into sobs. There was a vacant place, that of her son.

This despair cast a chill upon the company and annoyed them. Every countenance wore an air of egotistic beatitude. These people fell ill at ease, having no longer the slightest recollection of Camille alive in their hearts.

“Come, my dear lady,” exclaimed old Michaud, slightly impatiently, “you must not give way to despair like that. You will make yourself ill.”

“We are all mortal,” affirmed Grivet.

“Your tears will not restore your son to you,” sententiously observed Olivier.

“Do not cause us pain, I beg you,” murmured Suzanne.

And as Madame Raquin sobbed louder, unable to restrain her tears, Michaud resumed:

“Come, come, have a little courage. You know we come here to give you some distraction. Then do not let us feel sad. Let us try to forget. We are playing two sous a game. Eh! What do you say?”

The mercer stifled her sobs with a violent effort. Perhaps she was conscious of the happy egotism of her guests. She dried her tears, but was still quite upset. The dominoes trembled in her poor hands, and the moisture in her eyes prevented her seeing.

The game began.

Laurent and Therese had witnessed this brief scene in a grave and impassive manner. The young man was delighted to see these Thursday evenings resumed. He ardently desired them to be continued, aware that he would have need of these gatherings to attain his end. Besides, without asking himself the reason, he felt more at ease among these few persons whom he knew, and it gave him courage to look Therese in the face.

The young woman, attired in black, pale and meditative, seemed to him to possess a beauty that he had hitherto ignored. He was happy to meet her eyes, and to see them rest upon his own with courageous fixedness. Therese still belonged to him, heart and soul.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 15:06