Summary of « Le Notaire du Havre » with commentary

Chapter One

The book begins with a description Laurent's family just before dinner: ‑
The eldest son, Ferdinand, is writing with careful application. His defective eyesight was only recognised at a later date. Joseph, the second son, was pretending to be doing his homework but was secretly reading the newspaper.
The third son, Laurent, (who is the narrator of this story) is reciting his multiplication tables while, at the same time, kicking his younger sister, Cecile, who was playing under the table.

Their mother ushers them into the kitchen to wash their hands. Then they return to the dining room table for dinner. 
Their mother small, shapely, a little plump (page 46):
Elle était petite, bien faite, un peu grasse, la peau tendue sur le visage plein.

The meal began with lentil soup - 'As always' complained Joseph. The main course was sausage with lentils and big boys argued over the sausage. Cecile, pleased with whatever food she got, was singing to herself, as she always did and as she still does.

The father, M. Pasquier returns home.  He is holding a letter. His wife begins to apologise for having only lentils to eat again.  His attention elsewhere, he looks at his family with an ironical and loving smile. He is elegantly dressed in a well-cut coat with a fur collar. We have a description of this handsome man with his imposing presence (page 47) 
Avec ses longues moustaches blondes, presque rousses, ses yeux bleus, sa belle prestance, il ressemblait à Clovis, au Clovis de mon livre. Il était beau. Nous l'admirions.

Above M. and Mme Pasquier as sketched by Jean Olivier Héron on the front cover of the Folio edition of this novel.

He throws the letter on the table and then bluntly announces that Mme. Delahaie has just died.  

(Aunt  Alphonsine Delahaie had brought up Mme Pasquier, whose mother died in her first year.  The letter had come from the Delahaie family lawyer in Le Havre- Note the title of the book!).

Their mother bursts into tears but he smiles disdainfully.

 Joseph tells her not to weep (Page 47):-
Puisqu’on ne l'aimait pas, c'est pas la peine de pleurer.

There is a further description of M. Pasquier (Page 47) :
Il avait des manières gracieuses. Un véritable homme du monde comme on en voit sur les images. Il souriait toujours si joliment.

Mother apologises for the lentil soup again.  She is now too upset to eat.
Joseph (already mercenary although not yet turned 14 years) thinks of the inheritance — but his mother says it is improper to think of it at this time.

The living conditions in their present home were impossible for a family of six. The two eldest boys slept in a tiny room, without a window - probably a former pantry- off the kitchen. Page 48
Joseph et Ferdinand couchaient ensemble dans un réduit qui prenait  jour sur la cuisine. Comme c'étaient de grands garçons, on leur allumait une lampe et ils avaient le droit de lire ou de travailler une heure avant de s'endormir.

The two youngest children sleep in turn, one with mother — one with papa and they quarrelled a bit because each preferred to sleep with mother. Page 48
Nous couchions, Cécile et moi, dans la chambre de nos parents. Il y avait là deux grands lits de bois disposés presque a angle droit. Maman dormait dans l'un, papa dans l'autre. Nous, les petits, nous couchions alternativement dans l'un et dans l'autre et nous nous querellions un peu pour coucher toujours avec maman, parce qu'une mère, c'est plus doux, plus chaud et parce que papa, craignant les coups de pied, nous refoulait dans la ruelle.

That night Laurent is with papa. His father is already making plans — they will leave this little hovel and find an apartment with 4 rooms at least — to put Mme Delahaie's furniture in.

Mme. Pasquier does not like him calling their present home a hovel.  Page 49
Mais n'appelle pas ce petit logement une cambuse. Il a ses commodités.
Nous le regretterons peut-être un jour.

But Mme Pasquier is not so certain about who will be the beneficiaries of the will. She tells him not to start dreaming. In irritation M. Pasquier says she is the one who dreams (p. 50):-
« Rêver! » grondait mon père avec irritation. « Je me demande un peu lequel de nous deux s'amuse â rêver. »

Mme Pasquier is afraid she will have been cut out of the will. Papa says her family hadn't enough character to do that. When mother asks him not to talk like that when her aunt had just died, Raymond says he was the one they couldn't stand (Page 50):—
« Leur bête noire, voilà ce que j'étais »

Mme Pasquier explains why her family could not understand him (P. 50) :-
Tu es travailleur, tu es sobre et courageux et intelligent, tout, mais pas â leur façon. Et tu ne peux pas t'empêcher de dire des choses et d’avoir l'air de te moquer du monde.

(NB- The preface has told us that there was a class difference between the Pasquier and the Delahaie.  The Pasquier came from a family of poor peasants.  The Delahaie were quite comfortably off, lower middle class, business people)

The reply she gets is dismissive and he ends the conversation.

However, it is M. Pasquier who breaks the silence that follows by saying that he will not go to Le Havre, as the lawyer’s letter does not mention him.  Mme Pasquier, unperturbed, says she will go alone to Le Havre. She tells her husband they will discuss moving house later.

They still do not sleep.  A long silence ensues which Mme Pasquier breaks. Her own imagination has taken flight. She has heard of a flat, which sounds attractive, near the Gare Montparnasse.

It is then the turn of M. Pasquier to warn his wife not to get carried away (p. 51):-
Non, mais ne te monte pas la tête Lucie. On verra tout ça plus tard .... but the duet goes on as Laurent sleeps. His father is talking of his being in the prime of life at 42 years of age.

Chapter II

Mother spent the morning of the next day running errands - while their neighbour a lonely spinster, Mlle. Bailleul, looked after them. She also taught them religion and gave them school lessons. Laurent liked her nice dark eyes. When his father talked to her, she blushed and became confused. (M. Pasquier charmed the ladies)

Mme Pasquier returned home after lunch and began making her funeral clothes. Although she worked at great speed, she would need to stay up late

Papa returned home only at bedtime. He immediately seats himself in front of his wife’s sewing machine to announce the momentous decision he has taken.  He tells her that he has got through a lot that day and has been strongly advised to devote himself to study, so that he can pass exams to give him (medical) qualifications:- he had seen an influential man called Chevallereau to begin with (p. 53):
Il me conseille formellement de travailler mes examens.

Mme Pasquier reminds him they will be short of ready cash, but papa says he is determined and would have done the same even without Mme Delahaie’s death. He claims that they will be able to manage as he will still have some fixed income - and they can sell the Delahaie furniture.

Maman is dis­pleased at the idea of selling family furniture.

Mme Pasquier leaves for the funeral the next day expecting to be away three days but she returns on the evening of the next day.

Joseph, typically, is eager to know the financial news. Mme Pasquier says the will is complicated. They will get the furniture. She is to get half the money - but in stocks and shares worth 50,000 Francs nearly. However these investments have been put, not in her name but in the children’s names and cannot be touched for the present.  The only money she will be able to draw is the annual interest.  Joseph's eyes grow wider and a drop of saliva flows from his mouth.

M. Pasquier recognises that the reason why the Delahaie have done this is to prevent him getting his hands on the money. He calls the Delahaie “mufles”- swine.

The other half of the estate, which has not been left to the Pasquier family, is divided into three. One third provides an annuity for her Aunt Coralie. The rest about 40,000 Francs goes to Mme Pasquier’s two sisters in Lima.

M. Pasquier angrily exclaims that they are dead: Maman tells him not to fly in a temper. When the lawyer in Le Havre is able to prove that the sisters are dead, Mme. Pasquier will get this 40,000 francs again in securities, but, this time in securities that have no restriction on them.  Thus Mme Pasquier will be able to sell these immediately, when they are made over to her.   The lawyer has told her that he does not think that the enquiries into their fate, which have been going on for seven years, will take more than another four months longer.   Out of caution, Mme Pasquier is allowing six months.

She has faith in the forcefulness of her lawyer - she says he is getting angry about the delay and he has a neck like a bull (page 60): -
Quand il se fâche, cet homme-là ! Tu ne le connais pas: une encolure de taureau positivement. 

Their Papa is still angry about what he sees as the revenge of the Delahaie family against him. 

The parents send the children to bed and go over the figures yet again.

Chapter III

These previous scenes, in that earlier home, described by his father as a hovel, form a nebulous prelude to Laurent’s life.

His conscious life started really in the Rue Vandamme, to where they had made their planned move.  It was the time when his memory started and the place where the blast of loud emotions sounded in his life (page 62)-
C’est là que le voile se fend, là que, pour la première fois, se font entendre avec force les trompettes déchirantes de la douleur, de la joie, de l’orgueil.

They lived at the top of an apartment block, rising up alone above little provincial hovels.  Page 63
Assez neuve, et déjà toute poudrée de flammèches et de suie. Carrée, massive et presque seule encore de son espèce dans ce quartier fait de petites bâtisses provinciales et de masures villageoises.

This was to be the place where all the dramatic vents of the next few years would be acted out – a citadel, a hideout, a private nook, a sacred refuge. Page 63
Une citadelle, certes, un repaire, un creux a nous, ouvert seulement sur les nuages et les clartés du ciel parisien, un asile sacré où toutes les choses de nous, les espérances, les ambitions, les détresses, les discordes, les chimères, tous les mystères de la famille vont, pendant des années, fermenter, cuire et recuire dans une brûlante moiteur.

Laurent lists his memories of this apartment block.  His childhood memories have remained engraved on his mind and are composed, perhaps more powerfully, of sounds and smells as well as sights.  In detail he recalls the different noises of the house, as you go up from the ground floor to the top- a mandolin, a yapping dog, the panting for breath of an asthmatic man, the fat lady singing love songs, the hammering of the man with some mysterious job and everywhere children scampering, sewing machines rattling and men and women talking and quarrelling.
Children could create their own remarkable sound phenomenon.  By striking hard on the metal banister with their fists, they could send the sound of its vibration to the top of the house.  All these sounds were so vivid to a little boy, and yet sometimes were recorded almost unconsciously P. 63
Tout cela si clair a l'oreille fine et distraite du petit garçon. Tout cela très étouffé, très amorti par des murailles, des portes, des vêtements humides pendus à des clous, des épaisseurs d'air domestique dix et dix fois respiré.

Just as vivid were the smells from each apartment.  You knew what people were eating on every floor - onion, fried herring, and these smells attacked in force and stuck to you until the next morning.

The most dramatic effect of all came with the shaking of the whole building when a train passed, arousing a chorus of sounds and noises from inside the building. With it came the smell of the smoke of the locomotives, which all the other boarders had got used to and didn’t notice, but the little boy was very much aware of this familiar smell –Page 64/65
L'odeur de la houille ardente est entrée par une imposte avec une grosse boule de vent. L'odeur des trains, comme elle est familière! Nul, ici, ne la salue plus d'une pensée, sauf le petit garçon à tablier noir qui monte l'escalier en suçant une bille.

At the top of the stairs, there is a wide landing with four apartments opening onto it. One belongs to the Pasquier, one to the Wasselin family, one to the Courtois and one is empty.

Although they lived near central Paris, their view was not of the grandeur of Paris but of an undistinguished clutter of buildings.  Page 66: 
À peine la fenêtre ouverte, l’âme s'envolait sur Paris. Ce n'était pas le Paris clair et bien dessiné qu'on découvre du haut des collines illustres. C'était une immensité confuse de toits, de murs, de hangars, de réservoirs, de cheminées, de bâtiments difformes.

To the left they could see the Eiffel Tower, not quite finished when they moved in - beneath them were the tracks of the railway
A gauche, en se penchant, on apercevait la tour Eiffel enfouie mi-corps dans ce chaos rocheux, et qui, lors de notre emménagement, était à peine achevée.

M. Pasquier had got the four rooms he wanted - looking onto the road, in reality, a cul-de sac but M. Pasquier forbad the use of that word, which he regarded as giving a poor impression.

With heavy heart Maman had sold some of her Aunt's furniture and had raised enough money to keep them for 4-5 months. So their father could work with peace of mind for his exams. From the money, they were able to pay for the removal to the Rue Vandamme, pay the bills of M. Pasquier that he had forgotten about and buy the children some clothes.

M. Pasquier is disappointed as he had hoped for some money to spare.  He said it was not possible to keep a dancing girl mistress on that.  His wife reproaches him for the bad taste of his joke.  (M. Pasquier, the lady’s man?)

Mme Pasquier had made all these arrangements, based on the statement of the lawyer in Le Havre that she could expect the 40,000 francs due to her shortly in October.  This money from her dead sisters’ share of the will allow her to think of years of comfort ahead - of holidays in the country.

Her husband reproached her for getting carried away with her plans. This was the eternal game between them. Although Mme Pasquier was prudent and fearful one word from that extraordinary husband of hers in whom in she had such faith set her dreaming. Then papa whose dreams were more furtive would reproach her for too many plans (p. 68) -
"Elle était pétrie de prudence et de crainte, mais us mot de papa la faisait rêver. Qui croire, grand Dieu: Si l’on ne croit pas cet homme extraordinaire?  Et mère, un mot de papa dans le cœur, s'envolait."

It was Mme Pasquier who had found the apartment in Rue Vandamme and who had arranged the delivery of the furniture.
M. Pasquier now has the study that he always desired. The children are delighted -to see a piano. Little Cécile goes to the piano and plays and sings. They realise she is gifted as a musician. What moves them most is to see their father, usually so distant, so mocking overwhelmed by the spell.
There was a mercury thermometer from which a -drop of quicksilver had fallen onto the floor, which the children tried to catch. Twenty times the removal men were to take this away - each time it lost mercury - but still it works accurately.

Chapter IV

They all had new clothes when they moved. Mme Pasquier made the clothes. Joseph had his first long trousers.
When the bell rang, Mme Pasquier was agitated thinking it could be news from Le Havre. Her chin began to tremble. She told a favourite story how this strange characteristic came into the family - Her grandfather who had to execute his own general - Marshal Ney.
Some nights M. Pasquier would show impatience that there was no news from Le Havre. 
He tried to suggest to his wife that they should invest any money they got in some schemes his friends had recommended that offered fantastic rates of interest.  The idea shocks his prudent wife, who will not think of it.

If there was any word the children came across that they didn't know he could tell them. Laurent found out later that his father had made an immense effort to learn words and their meaning (p. 76) -
"J'ai compris, par la suite, qu'il avait fait un effort immense et naïf pour apprendre les mots et leur sens et que, dans ses calculs, c'était bien la le commencement de tout, l'échelon initial, le premier grade nécessaire â l'ascension d'une tribu."

At night M. Pasquier set to work in his study, where Cécile slept on the couch. Sometimes when Cécile seemed disturbed by the light, he would carry her into Mme Pasquier's bed, putting Laurent on the couch.

On occasion, when Laurent awoke, he would see his father's head start to droop in slumber. Then he would put his wrist over the paraffin lamp or stab himself on the back of the left hand with his knife to ward off sleep. In the morning seeing his swollen hand Mme Pasquier would shake her head in reproach.

Laurent would hear, at the other end of the apart­ment, his mother desperately doing her accounts. Alarmed that it was only the 19th, she wondering how they would get to the end of the month.
There were two main events in this spring of 1889.  While they were walking near the Meudon Woods – Ferdinand, first to get there had stopped at a sign saying  'Passage interdit". To their amazement their father pulled it up and led them through.
(M.Pasquier’s attitude to authority)

Laforêt de Meudon is a country park in the suburbs of Paris, only 5 kilometres from the city centre.

Another day they had a treat - a meal in a restaurant. The boys would not have known it was a cheap restaurant ifpapa had not told them.
The next day Ferdinand and Laurent were to start school. Cécile was to start music lessons.

Chapter V

It is Désiré, the son of their neighbours, the Wasselin, who takes Laurent to school. Three-years older than he is, at only thirteen,Désiré is a giant, with big feet, big hands:- a big, round swollen head, dark sunken eyes and a hangdog look (page 80):-
"Il devait être laid pour les étrangers et pourtant il me plut, tout de suite, il me toucha le cœur."

Laurent has a passing view of Mme Wasselin.  She is a woman with faded looks but still quite beautiful. She tells Laurent's mother that Désiré is an angel not bad like the others.

Désiré explains he's three years behind in his studies. Laurent asks him if he doesn't understand the school work. Désiré says ‘Yes’ - but he's not interested.
Laurent asks him if nothing interests him. Désiré says some things, and blushes but will not say what they are.

In the yard when a ruffian steals Laurent's cap, Désiré orders him back, Ferdinand sighs with respect (p. 82) :-
"Toi, tu es fort," soupira Ferdinand, soudain respectueux
Presque à voix basse, Désiré Wasselin répondit « Oui »

Laurent meets the headmaster. He sees the drill as the pupils line up and enter school singing (p. 83):-
"La Musique accomplissait son prodige naïf et l'on oubliait qui son mal de dents, qui la colère matinale d'un papa, qui l'embuscade et la bataille au coin de la rue de l'Ouest, qui son ventre creux qui ses galoches percées."

His teacher is a majestic personage called Joliclerc. Laurent has warm memories of him (Page 84):—    
Il m'a dès mes premiers pas dans la bataille donné, de l'autorité, une image à la fois forte et supportable. Merveille !  Supportable et faible.  Mettons plaisante et mettons chère.

He attributes to this teacher the fact that in later life when he was called upon to choose between force and persuasion — it was reason which he chose.
In arithmetic, when Désiré recites his sum 37 cherries divided by 7 he says correctly 5 cherries with 2 left over for him. Automatically he adds “but I don't mind”.  The teacher throws up his arms and says (page 85)-
Toujours martyr, alors, mon pauvre Wasselin?

When it comes to his turn Laurent can't answer what colour is wine.  He did not know because whereas wine was part of the everyday life of these working class children, his family drank a frothy light brew that his father prepared in the cellar. (page 86):—
C'étaient des enfants de manouvriers. Ami, ennemi, nourriture et poison, le vin était mêlé sans cesse aux pensées, aux effusions et aux chamailles * de leurs familles. Pouvais-je expliquer au bon maître que je ne connaissais pas le vin, que chez nous jamais nous ne buvions de vin, que mon père brassait lui-même dans une futaille, à la cave, une boisson économique tantôt écumante et légère, tantôt inerte et doucereuse ? Je me rassis plein de honte.

Laurent congratulates Désiré on his arithmetic. Désiré says (page 86):—
Et tu vois, pour finir, j'ai encore dit quelque chose qu'il ne fallait pas dire. Je me demande pourquoi.

Chapter VI

Laurent’s father's life was governed by demanding and precise passions which Laurent discovered as time went on and from which he suffered cruelly. M. Pasquier did not want to waste much time on accessories like friendships.  P 87
Donc, point d'amis véritables : des « connaissances », des relations, des voisins. Je n'ai pas a mentionner les compagnons de travail : mon père a toujours travaillé seul, conduit, éperonné par une ambition trop opiniâtre pour se découvrir des semblables et signer des alliances.

Mme Pasquier lived only for her work and her family, people outside were phantoms who disturbed her and she tried to keep on the right side of them. Thus when friendships came into the house it was the children who brought them in.

Désiré the bad scholar, the woeful was Laurent's friend from the start. One day Wasselin had saved Laurent's life when he was attacked by a stray dog. Wasselin used to come to their hone at all hours - to escape his own home - although he used to keep well away from the dinner table - Joseph had hurt him by saying that he had smelly feet!

Looking back on M. & Mme. Wasselin, Laurent thinks of them as a couple of ham-actors living their lives in the manner of a tragi­comedy.

M. Wasselin was tall and skinny. M. Pasquier called him the sacristan with the hangdog look: - (p. 89) 
"Grand, non pas grêle mais plutôt efflanqué, le visage complètement ras, ce qu'on ne voyait, en ce temps-la qu'aux prêtres et aux acteurs, M. Wasselin avait l'allure et les façons d'un sacristain patibulaire." L'expression est de papa.

Laurent describes M. Wasselin’s peculiar mannerism of making a prrrt sound.  As early as the first day in the Rue Vandamme they had heard the rum­pus in the Wasselin apartment.  Mme Pasquier had dreaded that her husband would lose his temper and go and intervene, so that they would finish up having to move as so often in the past Page 90:
— Laisse, Ram, avait dit maman. Ne va pas t'emporter, surtout : il nous faudrait quitter cette maison, comme toutes les autres, et ce serait bien dommage. Puisque c'est à choisir, amis ou ennemis, prenons-en
 notre parti. Sans compter ce petit Désiré qui est un ange effectivement.

Later M. Pasquier grew to regard Wasselin as a source of amusement: - (p. 90)
« Cest un bouffon » disait mon père avec un mépris souriant. "Il est insupportable, mais impayable."

Their first face to face meeting came one Sunday when their lunch was disturbed by a squabble at the Wasselin’s. Finally they hear M. Wasselin driving away another son (with his usual melodrama):- (p. 91)
"Je te maudis! Fils indigne! Je te maudis."

Joining in the act on her knees Mme. Wasselin is pleading with him to withdraw his curse.

Then the Pasquiers come out of their door. The Wasselin son, an ungainly youth, runs off and M. Wasselin makes a histrionic apology for his unworthy son, while Mme. Pasquier consoles his wife (Page 91).
 « Le coupable s'est enfui. Justice est faite! » dit M. Wasselin d'une voix grondante et, se tournant vers notre groupe aperçu soudainement, il fit un ample salut. « Quelle honte! Quelle infamie! Et en présence d'une famille honorable. Veuillez nous excuser, comme nous pardonnons nous-mêmes à l'enfant indigne. Du calme, Paula! De la sérénité. De la résignation.

M. Wasselin was an accountant, constantly changing his job. Usually sacked but often moving of his own volition, loving freedom and change. He would say:- (p. 92)
"Je suis un homme libre et volatil. Je suis un insoumis, un impatient. Impatient du joug, jeunes gens!"  La vie est faite ainsi et non seulement l'immonde race humaine. Il y a des limaces impatientes et des huitres qui ne tiennent pas en place. J'aime l'inconnu, l'inexploré."

He used to enjoy reporting the discussions he had had with his employers which he used to mime marvelously. He enacted the dialogues between him and his employer like comic sketches and the Pasquier found them very entertaining page 93:
Lui :" Monsieur Wasselin, dit-il, vous jouissez ici d'une position stable.
Moi: Assurément, monsieur Duchnoque. (Il ne s'appelle pas Duchnoque, c'est un nom d'amitié.) Assurément. Et c'est, si  j'ose vous l'avouer, ce qui m'attriste.
Lui : Ce qui vous attriste ? Expliquez-vous, mon­sieur Wasselin.
Moi : Comprenez, monsieur Duchnoque. Tant que je cherchais une place, j'avais de l'espoir. 
Lui : Comment ? Quel espoir ? 
Moi : L'espoir de trouver une place, monsieur Duchnoque.
Lui : Pas possible ! Et maintenant ?
Moi : J'ai la place, monsieur Duchnoque. Mais je n'ai plus d'espoir. C'est infiniment triste.

M. Pasquier suspected that he drank, gambled and certainly he chewed his nails!

M. Wasselin used to help himself to pencils and stationery from his office, to the alarm of his wife.

He constantly invited the Pasquier to dinner, and they did their best to think of excuses until they realised the invitation was pure rhetoric.

He addressed his son Désiré with fierce mockery as "enfant déchu" and a degenerate, page 96. 
Souvent, il se contentait d'appeler son fils " enfant déchu ". Il criait : " Va me chercher du tabac, en­fant déchu... Remonte une bouteille de bière, enfant déchu... " Plus souvent encore, il criait, avec un terrible accent faubourien, ces mots peu compréhen­sibles au profane : " Enfant dédèche... Êtes-vous prêt, enfant dédèche... " * Il ajoutait tout aussitôt des injures mystérieuses : " avorton... dégénéré... phénomène... sous-produit... "

Désiré would tremble and grow pale. M. Wasselin did not address Désiré in the 'tu' form.

Mme. Wasselin defended her son and protested against her husband’s insinuation that he could not be the father. Mme Pasquier tried to stop her children hearing when the quarrel took this tack, but they heard M. Waesselin’s elaborate and perverse justification of his own sexual infidelities:
— C'est par amour, Paula, que je t'ai épousée. Et si je t'ai trompée, c'est par amour encore. 'Sache-le, Paula, je ne t'ai jamais trompée qu'avec des femmes qui te ressemblaient, oui, Paula, qui te ressem­blaient plus que tu ne te ressembles toi-même. Explique-moi ça, Paula.
— Ah! gémissait Mme Wasselin, fais ce que tu voudras, misérable, ……….

M. Wasselin’s verbal abuse of Désiré was particularly cruel – see the closing paragraphs of chapter 6: 
— Je n'en rougis pas, j'en souffre. Il est idiot. Soit! Ce sera ma croix. Toute famille a son idiot, son épileptique, son syphilitique, son tuberculeux, son escroc, sa fille de mauvaise vie. Et les familles qui ne sont pas encore pourvues le seront bientôt. Dieu est équitable!
La voix s'élevait, théâtrale. 
And this was followed by physical abuse :
Et, tout à coup, on entendait un fracas de vaisselle ou de meubles. Une espèce de convulsion secouait planchers et murailles. Désiré commençait de supplier et de gémir.

Chapter VII

Laurent describes in detail the district of Paris in which they live.

His mother warned her children of the dangers on the streets of Paris-children were run over every day.  Beware of dogs, of drunks and strangers who come talking.

Perhaps we can see the above drawing as Mme Pasquier returning from shopping with Cécile

But her warnings were in vain because of the city’s enchantments. The many different smells that he encountered on his way home fascinated him and mapped out his route for him.  Page 97
 ….. si je ressuscite un jour, fantôme aveugle, c'est au nez que je reconnaîtrai la patrie de mon enfance. Sen­teurs d'une fruiterie, fraîches, acides et qui, vers le soir, s'attendrissent, virent doucement au relent de marécage, de verdure fanée, d'aliment mort. Fumet de la blanchisserie qui sent le linge roussi, le réchaud, la file en nage. Remugle de la boucherie qui tient le « bouillon et bœuf……………. Haleine de la boulangerie, noble, tiède, mater­nelleJ'allais, les narines en éveil, le souffle vite lâché, vite repris.

When he got towards the end of the rue du Château, it was againthe smell of the trains that met him.  In those days, there was a level crossing there, where carriages and carts had to wait impatiently when the gates were closed.  Pedestrians, however, could still cross using the footbridge where they were sometimes engulfed in the smoke from the funnel of a train passing underneath.

As they neared home, there was a string of hotels with their cooking smells and then the blast of smells from the stables – (for in 1889, all road transport, including the buses, was horse-drawn).

Back home he would take a book and crouch on the balcony so far above this scene. One day when he was there, Désiré climbed over from his own balcony risking a fall to the ground. He was perfectly calm, but Laurent was terrified for him. Page 100
— Oh! dis-je, d'une voix défaillante. Sais-tu que tu pouvais mourir?
De la tête, il fit « oui » et il ajouta simplement : — Tu ne le diras à personne.

On fine days the windows were opened and they could hear the Wasselin quarrels in full volume.

Désiré had a coarse elder sister, Solange.  She gave her mother cheek.  She was short-sighted and fat and ate like a glutton. The lout of a brother, Lucien, the one who had received the paternal curse, returned at times and received the same paternal curse on ten different occasions! 

Sometimes the Wasselin apartment was shut up and Désiré was left sitting on the stairs.  On one occasion Laurent looked through the Wasselin keyhole and saw that the parents were in. M. Wasselin was taking off his jacket and there was laughter.  Désiré was neither surprised nor interested.

There is now a description of the other neighbor, M. Courtois.  Although barely 50 years old, Courtois looked decrepit  and was, in fact, declining mentally.  A retired watchmaker, he, like most Frenchman of those days, had had the ambition to retire early, unaware of the unpleasant connotations of early retirement:- (p. 102) 
"Il avait travaille la jusqu'a la cinquantaine, dans le dessein unique et fervent comme presque tous les Français en ce temps-la, de 'se retirer' Mot dont je suis bien surpris que si peu de gens perçoivent la résonance lugubre: démission, fuite, suicide."

M. Courtois had a younger brother and two sisters, who used to come and play cards in the Rue Vandamme every Saturday evening. Mme Courtois had grown to look and smell like her husband and his family.

M. Courtois gave Laurent painting lessons and in return Laurent had to play cards with Mme Courtois - who always cheated and always won.

Chapter VIII
At June 1889 (with the famous letter from Le Havre only six weeks away supposedly) the whole Pasquier family began to dream in company. Mme Pasquier plans new winter clothes and extra furnishings. M. Pasquier thought they could rent the empty apartment next door. Mme. Pasquier suggests knocking a door through. Then she thinks of having a maid. Then it’s two maids. Then they would turn about and start saving their money in their dreams. - Finally came the sacking of the imagined maid.  M. Pasquier was the first to weary of dreams: - (P. 110)

"Il regardait maman avec une ironie d'abord souriante, puis glacée, puis rancuneuse. -Oh: comme les rêves d'autrui le trouvaient méprisant, même quand il les avait fait naître, surtout, surtout, quand il les avait fait naître."

Feeling things were going better, they treated themselves to a visit to the Paris Exhibition (1889)

Mme Pasquier took the children to the public baths for a wash.

The family dreams went with Laurent to school. When M. Joliclerc asked him what a harbour was (un havre), Laurent replied a place where there is a lawyer. Désiré shared their dreams and he also waited for their letter.
Désiré says there is nothing in his house but what his father earns - and it's hard for his father. Laurent is touched to see that Désiré loves his father (P.112).
"Si petit que je fusse alors  j'étais touché d’émotion.  Désiré, battu, injurié chaque jour, adorait ce père horrible."

One evening when M. Wasselin was giving forth in a family row next door, M.  Pasquier, who when calm judged other people's anger absurd, moralised about this behaviour          (P. 113)
"De telles vulgarités disparaîtront quand les hommes sont plus instruits." 
Joseph pointed out that M. Wasselin had his baccalaureat and another diploma.

One day, Aunt Troussereau, M. Pasquier's sister, comes to look over their house. Mme. Pasquier splits her sides when she has left. She explains to her bemused husband that she had come because she could smell money that was on the way to them.

Chapter IX

Term comes to a chaotic weary end. War broke out between the boys of ther school and those of a neighbouring school. Désiré leads Laurent unscathed through the ambushes in the streets. He pays tribute to Désiré’s bravery, (coloured by his later experience of the First World War):- (p. 118) " Désiré Wasselin avait reçu de la nature le plus grand don qu'un home en puisse attendre: le vrai courage, froid, fidèle, sans colère et sans haine."

As October approached the Pasquiers became more impatient. M. Pasquier had bouts of bad temper and his father’s outbursts of anger were one of the great worries of Laurent’s childhood. Page 119:
……. ses colères ont été l'un des grands soucis de mon enfance.
Elles étaient de plusieurs sortes, mais éclataient de préférence, quels que fussent leur objet et leur caractère, les jours mon père se trouvait indisposé, déçu, pressé de travail ou de tracas.

Some of his outbursts were not real anger and were playful, but could trigger a display of real anger.

On his good days, M. Pasquier was cold and disdainful (p. 120) 
"Mon père était, les bons jours, souriant, froid, dédaigneux. Il caressait d’un geste élégant ses belles moustaches flambantes."

He had great thoughts - great plans a heavy task.

Unfortunately, very often, he was not like that.  At these times, his father would come down from his philosopher's pedestal. He was intolerant of ugliness - he would tell a distinguished man off for yawning in public. Mme. Pasquier would try to shut him up and drag him away. Other targets were men picking their noses - someone scratching themself – to whom he would offer to help!
If he met an exceptionally ugly person, he would make loud protests
Rencontrions-nous un quidam d'une laideur excessive, papa levait les yeux au ciel et criait : " II faut être beau Je ne comprends pas... Pourquoi me tires-tu par la manche, Lucie ? Je te répète qu'il n'est pas permis d'être laid comme certaines personnes que je préfère ne pas désigner plus clairement."

He demonstrated to nursing mothers how to hold their babies. He was at that time a righter of wrongs - (p. 123)
"Il y avait alors, en cet homme extraordinaire, du redresseur de torts et même, chose inimaginable quand on songe à la suite de son existence, du censeur et du moraliste." (NB Hints of an immoral lifestyle to be seen in later books)

His father was not averse to making a very public demonstration of his viewpoint. Laurent describes how his father halted a play with a strident whistle because he thought it was rubbish. Laurent is not sure whether anger is the right word for these public displays.  (Later he says he will tell us about the "colère au propriétaire." – his outburst of anger against the landlord which is the climax of this book)

In these bursts of anger he rarely lost control of himself: - (p. 125)
Mon père, dans ses emportements, avait quelque chose d'un artiste. Il perdait rarement le contrôle de son personnage. Il semblait se gargariser de* sa voix, de sa maitrise."  -*(revel in)

Even at the height of the scene of anger, Laurent saw him smile.  Some part must have been real anger, but there were also other elements: curiosity - experiment - habit. Five minutes later it was all forgotten with him.

During late September, the delays in the affair of Le Havre caused him some fits of temper. At the height of one he threw a dish of lentils through the top-storey window. They heard a cry in the street, Mme. Pasquier thought he had killed someone - but it was only Mme. Tesson, the concierge, shouting with fright.

Chapter  X

Mme Pasquier often used the expression : « Pour l’amour de dieu ! » , but the love of God, that is to say religion did not have a prominent role in their hectic lives.  Mme Pasquier had been brought up as a catholic and was married in a Catholic church.  In his early childhood, Laurent saw her pray under the pressure of the trials of her life. Subsequently she stopped praying and gave up going to church, except for weddings and funerals.  It wasn’t out of conviction that she changed – she had no time to think of such issues, it was the attitude taken by her husband.

M. Pasquier wasn’t passionately anti-clerical.  Had he been he would have had problems with Lucie at the start of their relationship.  He simply had a polite indifference to religion, while on the outside he seemed to go along with it.  The author comments that this indifference is more ominous in the history of religion than anti-clerical fury. (Page 118 – Folio edition)
….. mon père marquait, pour les choses de la foi, cette indifférence polie, cet assentiment extérieur que l'on doit considérer, bien plus que les fureurs anticléricales, comme un présage alarmant dans l'histoire d'une religion.

My father had his children baptised and confirmed, got married in church and on his death had a funeral service.  But this was absolutely all- purely social convention.  He lived a life without god and Laurent has done the same.  He makes mention of this phenomenon as a feature of modern life.

During their first days in the rue Vandamme, she heard her mother tell Mlle Bailleul that if Raymond went to hell through not going to church, she would prefer to go with him rather than be alone.

Mlle was horrified as she had all the medieval terrors of religion.  She told Mme Pasquier that volcanoes showed that hell existed.  But she wasn’t listening.  She said that if she died now the family could draw the Delahaie inheritance straightaway.

Mlle Bailleul was going on about the damned in hell, but Mme Pasquier was realising that she was needed to look after the children and husband she loved.  Her husband was not as strong as he looked after the serious illness he had had and needed her:
 Mais qu'est-ce qu'ils feraient, mon Dieu! si je mourais maintenant! Et je ne parle pas des pauvres petits, je pense même a mon Raymond. Il a l'air, comme ça, jeune et fort. Et, depuis sa grande maladie, il est fragile, très fragile. Si je n'étais pas là pour lui frictionner le dos, il mourrait, mademoiselle, il ne serait pas long à mourir.

Mlle breaks off to look after the children, whom she watched over closely.

Mme. Bailleul arranged for Désiré to have lessons for his first communion. One day Désiré tells Laurent he has vowed to become a priest if papa…….. but he says he can't explain. (N.B. the pathetic preoccupation of Désiré with his unworthy father)

At the end of the summer, the letter still had not arrived and M. Pasquier had to take on extra work from Cleiss to make money. Again he was working into the early hours of the morning -still burning his wrist.
Mme Pasquier is getting very anxious about their financial position. In despair she talks to herself under her breath:- (p. 131)
"Mon Dieu, que faire? Lee examens de Raymond, toutes les études, je sais que c'est sacré. Je sais que c'est pour notre bien. Mais en attend­ant ca va devenir difficile. Et cette lettre de Lima qui n'arrive pas."

Chapter XI

In the autumn to the consternation of his parents Joseph tells them he had decided to leave school. He thinks what he learns is useless - and they can’t afford the books. Father dismisses the idea. At a time when he was giving the greatest effort of his life for the ascent of the tribe, the relieving troops were showing signs of fatigue: Page 134
Mon père tirait sur sa moustache. Il avait l’air profondément déçu.  Alors qu'il se préparait  à donner lui-même pour l’ascension de la tribu, le plus grand effort de sa vie, voilà que, déjà, l'équipe de relève manifestait des signes de fatigue."

Joseph had decided to go into commerce because he wanted to start earning more quickly. (Later in life Joseph will claim he was asked to give up his studies by his parents.)  M. goes around making deep sighs about the Joseph is starting two years training with a business firm, he could never stand the idea of being an employee: Page 135
Papa levait les épaules et pous­sait de grands soupirs. Il n'avait jamais pu se courber sous aucun joug. Les mots d'emploi, d'employé lui donnaient des crises de rage.

Laurent was now showing himself a good scholar. He enjoyed school – away from the anguish of home. Page 135

L'école de la rue Desprez, où nous nous étions maintenus, devint bientôt pour moi l'un de ces lieux bénis ou l'orgueil sème et récolte avec un bonheur constant. Cette allégresse du travail ne me faisait pas oublier les angoisses de la maison.

At midday and at evening he used to call at the loge of Mme. Tesson, the concierge, but the letter never came.  However on one day Désiré and Laurent saw a letter waiting.

 They go to tell Mme Pasquier at the public -laundry where she is doing the washing. – Their mother returns with them to collect the letter. Mme Pasquier reads her chin trembling – but it’s only a document to sign. Mme Pasquier is shattered with disappointment. She stares ahead unseeing. Laurent says 'Don't look like that."

That night they decide to pawn something – the piano. The next day Cecile finds her piano gone and is heartbroken. At the end of a miserable day, the parents decide to pawn two watches instead and get the piano back.

Chapter XII

The family went into the gloomy tunnel of winter. They have to live on and be patient. Papa is studying hard. Maman is busy sewing - always in a hurry:- (p. 143)
"Elle va vite, elle est pressée. Je ne saurais vraiment pas l’imaginer nonchalante. Elle sera toujours pressée, même plus tard, dans le paradis ...."
The children are asleep - the house is peaceful, but fear stalks the house 
(p. 144)  "'Pourtant, la peur est là. C'est une créature de l'ombre ...."

The child, anxious, gets up to see the gas hasn't been left on; that the door is bolted.

One phantom writes on the wall in letters of green fire, "Je suis le notaire du Havre" then ghosts of the sisters of Lima, of his uncle, then a skeleton, all demand money:- (p. 146)
….. un squelette.  Il sourit de toutes ses dents.  Il porte un chapeau bicorne et un portefeuille à chaîne de cuivre comme les messieurs qui viennent présenter les traites. Il sourit encore et tend la main pour demander de l'argent. Tous les fantômes, rassemblés, tendent la main et demandent en chœur de l'argent, de l'argent, de l'argent, de l'argent. 

Laurent also suffered from agonising ear-ache one evening. His mother rocks him, promising him a goldfish if he doesn't disturb his father at his studies. When in the morning the ear abscess bursts, his mother with the grim determination which she showed when one of her family was in danger, bravely carried him to the bus-stop to the hospital.
In the hospital. Laurent’s suffering is such that he raises his request to a canary.

All kinds of objects go to the pawnshop. M. Pasquier says he will pawn his bed to be able to take his exams. What he regrets is making his children suffer - to him his wife was a bit of property:- (P.149)
"Ce qui me désole, c'est d'en infliger aux enfants.". Il ne parlait même pas de maman. Il l'a toujours considérée, traitée comme du petit bien. » 

One day, M. Pasquier announces they are going to be expropriated.

Chapter XIII

Joseph is alarmed. His father takes on the old defiant appearance of Aunt Troussereau.  Mme. Pasquier recalls that her family made money when they had some land which had been expropriated by the railway.  
Papa says sarcastically we aren't Delahaie and aren't landowners and a little squabble follows – 
(N.B. Their poverty: - M. Pasquier's shoes let water in) - he will take his exams in a month.

In Paris people remembered stories of fortunes made by people who were compensated for giving up their property to make way for the reconstruction of the city during the Second Empire of Louis Napoleon (1852- 1870).

The story of imminent expropriation comes from Wasselin, who says that there is going to be an enlargement of the Gare Mont-Parnasse and he knows because of his political contacts.

(N.B. M. Pasquier disapproves of Wasselin's involvement in politics. He himself as a lone wolf:- (p. 155)
"Mon père était semblable `a ces enragés solitaires, non par calcul égoïste, mais par logique et raison, parce que tout ce qu'il voulait dépendait d'abord de  lui-même et que, s'il fallait s'instruire, s'élever, comme il disait, le mieux était encore de commencer tout de suite et de commencer par soi."

Laurent recalls how he began this story tortured with reproaches against his father in spite of his death and the passage of years. Yet memory appears  to flatter him. Is this incomprehensible father going to deceive him again and make him forget that he was never able to love him; (p. 155)
"O père, comme la lumière du souvenir te va bien! Comme elle t'éclaire avec indulgence Je suis parti dans mon récit le cœur torturé de reproches, malgré la mort et les années ... vas-tu donc me faire oublier que je n'ai pas pu te chérir?"

M. Pasquier aims to demand greater compensation in the expropriation because his apartment is his place of work. He thinks of 10,000 - 12,000 francs. Wasselin is in his element. He forms a tenants’ association. He has great thoughts, great plans and great words. He chooses a barrister friend to help them.  He takes a modest subscription of 20 francs to cover the workhe is doing. Later he takes another 20 francs.

When some linesmen are seen on the line, he bursts into the Pasquier apartment and announces it as conclusive proof of the information he has given them.

During this time Désiré seems a new person with a new happiness and sparkle.  He is proud of his father:- (p. 161)
Un être que toute cette histoire avait fait sortir de son naturel, c'était mon cher Désiré. Il était presque joyeux, son regard brillait d'orgueil. " Papa, disait-il, tu ne le connais pas bien. Il a l'air, comme ça, de plaisanter ; mais il est très intelligent. S'il avait rencontré des gens capables de le comprendre, il serait devenu sûrement un personnage très célèbre.

Désiré admires how eloquent his father can be (page 161).
Tu ne peux pas savoir, tu ne le vois jamais qu'une minute par-ci, par-là. Mais il parle, quand il veut... Il y a de quoi pleurer tellement c'est beau, tellement ça coule."

In spring Laurent’s father passed his first exams.

Unfortunately, the expropriation never took place.  Désiré became melancholic again.

As the weeks went by,  the fable of the expropriation became nothing more than a laugh. One day, however, Désiré gave Laurent 20 francs, promising the other 20 francs later. But, he said, the Pasquier must not tell his parents as Désiré was doing it himself. (This is a sad touch because we see that Désiré had recognised that his father was not genuine.)

Chapter XIV

The next period was sad, confused and gloomy.   Laurent would prefer to let it rest in oblivion. For three months the talk of expropriation had distracted them from thoughts of the lawyer in Le Havre. Now they became desperate in the face of his silence. They wrote letters to the lawyer, letters appealing to the lawyer when his mother wrote them and expressing anger when M. Pasquier wrote them.  No answer came back.

With the money spent on stamps, they could have bought some meat to eat and relieve their diet of lentils.  Nevertheless, Laurent thinks that vegetarianism is healthy and still has a craving for lentils Page 164: 
Elles restent, pour moi, la nourriture par excellence. Je les savoure avec recueil­lement, avec piété, avec aussi je ne sais quelle salubre mélancolie.

Without talking it over with anyone, M. Pasquier wrote to the Chamber of Notaries to register a complaint against their lawyer. Mme. Pasquier was alarmed by the harm this could have done to the progress of their case.

M. Pasquier talked of going to America himself to sort things out. Mme Pasquier weeps to dissuade him. For a few moments, the Pasquier parents indulge in histrionics and Laurent is taken aback page 166:
Minute d'effroi. Je crus que ma mère allait se jeter à genoux pour détourner papa d'un projet en même temps si fol et si grandiose.

They receive a letter from moneylenders, who offer to lend them money in anticipation of the arrival of the money from Le Havre. M. Pasquier is disgusted when Mme Pasquier spells out for him how exorbitant the terms are, but left to himself he might have been tempted by the idea of some money in the hand rather than wait for the money from the will that might never materialise Page 167:
Dix mille mille francs que l'on tiendrait, ça vaudrait mieux, Lucie, que ces quarante mille francs dont nous ne toucherons peut-être jamais le premier liard.

To eke out their income, they decide to take boarders. First came an old bachelor who banged on the wall to summon Mme Pasquier and demanded that the children keep quiet.
Then there came an Italian, (Page 171) who was very polite, but entertained several of his compatriots every evening, talking excitedly but in their own language so that the Pasquier could not understand.  He left in a very proper manner after three weeks. The next day there was hammering on their door and a very important looking man escorted by two police officers asked to see M. Bottone.  They told them that their former boarder was an anarchist, sought by the police. The police also informed the Pasquier that, in any case, they were not authorised to have boarders. This made M Pasquier, who claimed to have been previously unenthusiastic about the idea of boarders, insistent that they should get a replacement.

Finally they had a retired headmistress with eccentric ideas on diet. She left after M. Pasquier had put her firmly in her place. She had tried to claim that the verb “aimer” takes à before the infinitive and had corrected papa. Cruelly, he reminds her that there had been no love in her life:- (p. 172)
"Avec ou sans préposition, c'est un verbe, mademoiselle, que vous n'auriez pas été fâchée de conjuguer au moins une fois, si l'on vous y avait aidée."

She left the next day. Mme Pasquier will not have any more boarders. They preferred to be poorer than to have the secret sanctuary of their lives violated.

Chapter XV .
Désiré and Joseph make their first communion. Everybody but Laurent thinks that Désiré looks ugly- ill-dressed - ridiculous. Laurent finds him noble and very handsome. He thinks Désiré will be a priest. But Désiré says it is still not decided.

Ferdinand failed his exams - his father is seething. That makes Joseph and now Ferdinand who have failed. He alone at his adult age perseveres to seek the disconcerting fortune of study. Page 175
Papa hausse les épaules. Vraiment, quelle dérision ! Vraiment, ca s'annonce très mal : Joseph est " dans le commerce " et Ferdinand est un fruit sec.  Les autres sont encore trop petits. C'est lui donc, lui seul, lui, l'homme déjà mûr — il ne dit plus jamais son âge — qui va tenter, contre tout bon sens, la douloureuse, la déconcertante fortune des études.

Mme. Pasquier consoles her humiliated child. All her life she will sing his praises. He has just been unlucky.

In the years to come, Joseph will become rich, Cécile a famous musician - the new baby Suzanne a radiant beauty — Laurent will be famous but mother to the end will praise Ferdinand who did not make it. Laurent admits he is jealous of this pity.Page 176:
Les années peuvent venir, et même le siècle nou­veau tout chargé de destinées. On dit que Joseph est riche, que la petite Cécile est devenue une artiste incomparable, que la nouvelle, la Suzanne, est d'une beauté radieuse, que Laurent connaît la gloire. Tout cela, c'est très beau, et c'est peut-être même vrai; mais le coeur maternel, jusqu'à la dernière minute, ne battra que pour la justice, que pour l'équilibre vengeur. Il y aura du moins quelqu'un pour exalter les mérites de Ferdinand, pour citer ses mots, publier son goût, louer ses ouvrages.

At times of depression papa thought of giving up his studies so that they could live in comfort.  He had had work promised.

Mme. Pasquier tells him "No" - He must not think of her and she takes in sewing to work on at home. One night, Laurent finds her asleep over her work and obviously ill with a cold. In a moment of rare criticism: she talks reproachfully about the sacrifices M. Pasquier is demanding of them: - (P 178)
"L'instruction, c'est beau, Laurent, surtout quand on la prend jeune, mais, comme nous, comme nous, je veux dire comme ton père, c'est vraiment trop cher payer ..."

Chapter XVI

At the end of winter, maman fell ill in the night. The next day she went into hospital - where she stayed a week. Mlle Bailleul looked after them and Laurent pays tribute to her.

One day during the meal, their father is suddenly transformed into a lisping old man. Joseph explains he has broken his false teeth. Laurent is desperate:- (p. 181)
"J'avais toujours trouvé mon père si beau, si jeune.  Je venais d'entrevoir le vieillard qu'il serait un jour et qu'il tâchait de nous cacher."

The bad angel Wasselin tried to persuade M.Pasquier to bet on horses. Papa always resisted. He had still the careful peasant instincts of his ancestors:- (p. 183) 
"Il était, comme tout le monde, et même beaucoup mieux que tout le monde, capable de se laisser duper, il l’a prouvé bien des fois ; mais il demandait un semblant de raison valable.  Il était encore très près de ces paysans bandés contre les hasards du ciel, de la terre et des éléments. "

His main aim now was to get a loan. He blames Mme. Delahaie for putting them in this position. Mme. Pasquier is bitterly ashamed when she discovers he had approached Mme Troussereau.

It was Mme. Pasquier who thought of the way to get a loan and she made all the arrangements:- (p. 186)
Oh!  Comme elle était habile avec son air ingénu !  Papa disait : « Lucie, que tu ferais une étonnante femme d'affaires?"

They pawned the bookcase so that Mme Pasquier could go to Le Havre for a document of confirmation of the will - she finds the lawyer a very ordinary man - not bull-necked , but thin and pale.  He had told her that things were going reasonably well.

With the confirmation they were able to borrow 10.000 francs from the Courtois.  Maman understood the terms because her family had had money. The whole of the Courtois family attended the signing ceremony.

M. Courtois is reassured about another worry he has. Because he can hear the screech of the screw on the Pasquier piano stool he is sure that he is not going deaf. 
All the financial arrangements are checked meticulously. Then the money was handed over. That night no-one slept - the bolts were checked many times over.

Chapter XVII

They decided to keep some of the money they had borrowed to put to for the running of the house and to take most of their furniture etc out of pawn. Mme Pasquier prudently wanted to put the rest in the savings bank. 
She begged him to be careful, but now that they had money he intended to do as he wished, Page 192
— Sois prudent, je t'en supplie.
Papa ne répondit rien. II était bien résolu, depuis qu'il avait l'argent, à n'en faire qu'à sa tête. Lui qui, si volontiers, criait : « Lucie! Lucie! » dans les instants de détresse, il redevenait, avec la prospérité, le maitre, le dictateur.
M. Pasquier has found an investment giving 12%.  He is contemptuous of the example of the unadventurous Delahaie, who would turn this opportunity down. 

Mme Pasquier points out his illogicality.  They are paying 8% for their loan and he regards it as usury and yet he has no concern at investing at 12%.

He has in fact already bought 690 francs worth of shares in a gas lighting company, Incanda Finsta, without consulting her. Mother’s chin trembles. This investment made Mme Pasquier a nervous wreck: - (p. 195)
"Elle commença de maigrir, de pâlir, de se tourmenter. Elle parlait souvent toute seule ..."

At first M Pasquier could boast how well the shares were doing and he was jubilant but Mme. Pasquier thought the gains were illusory.  She asked Page 196: 
Cet argent, c'est donc quelqu'un qui le gagne notre place.
— Non, c'est l'argent qui travaille.
—        Réfléchis un peu, Raymond. Ce sont les hommes qui travaillent. L'argent, lui, ne fait rien. Et si ce n'est pas quelqu'un qui le gagne a notre place, peut-être bien, alors...
—        Alors ?
— Peut-être qu'il n'existe pas.

A few weeks later, M. Pasquier had to announce the shares were falling. Mme Pasquier pleads with him to sell them all. He refuses. Five days later on a terrible Thursday morning that Laurent will never forget Wasselin brings news of a terrible scandal in the city. It is the collapse of the Gas company Incanda Finsta.

(The Third Republic was marked by a number of political and financial scandals)

Mme Pasquier faints.  When she comes round, Mme Wasselin, who has similar money worries suspects that the Pasquier have lost money in the company. Mme. Pasquier denies that they had any money invested 'to avoid news reaching the Courtois'.

The children are horrified. Mme. Pasquier shuts herself in her room all day. M. Pasquier does not return home until the next morning.  Maman serves him coffee without a word.

Chapter XVIII

The summer of 1891 was the most unfortunate of all. The fine weather formed a cruel disharmony with the gloom of his heart.

Mother had to turn the dining room into a sewing room again -Laurent had just turned 10 then. He hardly ate anything - perhaps out of disgust with everything - perhaps because he realised how little they could afford food.  He was hungry.  He had gone through more things than most people have ever imagined in a life time:-Page 201
"Je connaissais, de la vie, bien des choses que beaucoup d'hommes n'ont pas même imaginés, à l'instant de quitter ce monde.

There were some consolations - Cécile playing the piano and Laurent’s success at school.

M. Pasquier had the virtue or of being able to forget things. He thinks they were lucky not to have had the money from Le Havre or they could have lost all that: - (p. 201) 
M. Pasquier avait le don d'oubli, ce  qui selon les heures est grande faute ou grande vertu."

But Laurent counts the blessings :- (p. 202)
Nous allions à la dérive, souvent dépourvus et désemparés; mais nous avions toujours de grands projets, nous cultivions de beaux espoirs et nos parents nous aimaient."

He thinks by comparison of Désiré, whose father irritated by constant failure, use d to take it out on his son beating him 2 or 3 times a week.

Sometimes when Désiré wept, M. Pasquier would thump on the wall and threaten to call the police.  Otherwise he would take M. Wasselin to the police station himself.

The next day, Désiré would defend his father: (p. 202)
 "Papa voulait s'amuser. Il ne m'a rien fait, je t’assure.  Il a seulement des ennuis "

Now that they are in the debt of the Courtois, they come into their apartment to check what they are doing - anxious in case of any extravagance with their money

M. Courtois is going deafer and more insane. A ritual now starts to take place. He rushes into the apartment to test out that he can still hear the squeak of the piano stool. He threatens to demand his money back if they say he is deaf.

The rest of the Courtois family are afraid he will be put away. With great presence of mind Mme. Pasquier says that if M. Courtois demands his money back - it will make such a fuss that everyone will know he is sick. When they leave Mme. Pasquier collapses in a chair:- (p. 206) 
"C'est intolérable! Qu'avons-nous fait pour mériter une punition pareille."

The Courtois ritual goes on the next days.

Désiré now has given up hope for his father. Désiré tells Laurent he will not become a priest, which had been his vow to God, if his father changed his ways.

Chapter XIX

It was either one or two days before the 14th July. The children had been to school in the morning. Joseph returned with the news that M. Wasselin was in prison, Laurent's parents responded with pity: - (p. 209)
"C'étaient des gens simples et droits, encore bien proches de ce peuple pour qui le mot de misérable désigne indifféremment le coupable et le malheureux."

Wasselin had embezzled 2,000 francs. Even Joseph, who did not seem sensitive, seemed frightened and would not eat.

Then the police come up the stairs to search the Wasselin apartment. The Pasquier family stayed inside their home and the children did not go back to school. Their father did not leave either and his elder brother did not go back to work either.

It is 3.30 when the police leave and Mme Pasquier goes to console Mme Wasselin.  Ten minutes later she comes back to report that the police have ransacked the flat. Désiré is weeping and is inconsolable. She then goes back to tidy the flat.
It was after six when the landlord arrived on the landing asking to see Mme Wasselin. Mme Pasquier came to Wasselin’s door and told him it was not the right time to speak to her as she had been through an ordeal.

At this, inside the Pasquier flat, Laurent’s father who had been agitated all afternoon moved silently to their front door and stood behind it, silent, listening.

The landlord says he knows Mme Wasselin is in and tells Mme Pasquier to tell her that she must move out immediately as he does not want thieves in his house.

At this point M. Pasquier quietly opened the door. Laurent sees him at this moment - proud - handsome - like Don Quixote, Page 212:
C'est alors que, tout doucement, mon père ouvrit notre porte. Je dois dire qu’à cette minute il me parut très beau, très fier. Il a toujours été maigre, mais il était, en ce temps-la, presque aussi maigre que l'illustre gentilhomme de la Manche. Sa longue moustache remuait, comme animée d'une vie propre. Il avait d'assez belles mains, glabres, blanches, nerveuses et dont il jouait.

He opens the door wide to face the landlord, and speaking in a deliberate and formal tone, made his personal introduction:
— Monsieur, dit papa posément, vous êtes le propriétaire. Et moi, je suis M. Pasquier. Eugene ­Etienne-Raymond Pasquier.

The landlord squared up to him.  He was a massive man with a pot-belly, and -a feature that would not endear him to M. Pasquier- he was totally bald, Page 212:
II était massif, de poil gris. Il avait une barbe claire, les pattes en cerceau, le ventre en pointe. II était parfaitement chauve et je sentis tout de suite que cette dernière  disgrâce allait aggraver son cas.

M. Pasquier tells him to go back down and leave them in peace.  The landlord becomes red then purple with anger and tells him that this is his house. 
Laurent and his brothers and sister recognise that M. Pasquier is beginning the finest anger of his life: - (p..213) 
Papa se mit a sourire, son calme devint effrayant et nous comprimes tous qu'il était parti, sans retour, pour une colère majuscule, une colère telle qu'un homme n'en fait pas trois d'aussi belles dans sa vie.

He tells the man he is choosing the moment when misfortune strikes a family to do a very evil thing. In a crescendo of abuse he insults the landlord who backs away going down the steps. The mothers try in vain to pull Pasquier back. The landlord goes faster and faster down the stairs with M. Pasquier in pursuit. He accuses him of being bald, pot-bellied, and knock-kneed.

M. Pasquier’s voice becomes muffled in the depths of the building but explodes again as the two men emerge onto the street.  His family are watching from the balcony, full of anguish but strangely relieved.   The lout of a landlord was trying to get away but Pasquier would not let him go as they went along the street and an excited crowd of people escorted them. It was truly the most astonishing example of his temper that they were ever to see, hear and admire.

After they had gone out of sight and out of hearing, the family remained standing there, stunned.  They had seen Jupiter. (the Roman God of thunder) – Page 215
Nous étions tous au balcon, en même temps dévorés d'angoisse et curieusement soulagés. La colère de papa venait crever a l'air libre. Ruaux, le malotru, tâchait à fuir mais l'ange de la justice ne le quittait pas d’une semelle. Une foule surexcitée faisait cortège aux deux hommes. C'était vraiment la plus étonnant colère qu'il nous avait été donné de voir, d'entendre et d'admirer.

It was not until ten minutes later that M. Pasquier returned, his hand shaken by other tenants in approval.  In a faltering voice Mme  Pasquier whispers to Laurent not to say anything to his father.  What he had done was goodhearted but a terrible thing: — (p. 215)
Maman me souffla, d'une voix défaillante :
— Ne dis rien à ton père. Ce qu'il a fait est d'un bon cœur; mais c'est épouvantable.

She tells him to go and see Désiré and Laurent slips into the Wasselin flat to see his friend.

The sight that met his eye there he prefers not to tell.  Laurent fainted and the shock was so great for him that he was unconscious for an hour.  Désiré had hanged.

The sight of him hanging from metal ring of the light fitting haunts him still

A letter has come but no-one has opened it. M. Pasquier asks what it is, but his wife is still distracted and says that Laurent is showing the trembling of the chin, inherited from the Delahaies which manifested in times of stress.

When she opens the letter she tells them simply:
C’est une lettre du Havre.”
Chapter 20
We are given the contents of the letter whose momentous imminent arrival had overshadowed their lives in the last years.

Mme Pasquier spent a whole night working through the figures and the jargon.  Laurent suspects that his father never really understood this weird and wonderful document and he offers his own interpretation:

The reports that the lawyers had obtained about the sisters in Lima had been confused.  Finally they had concluded that one of the women had died in childbirth in 1868 and that the other had disappeared after an earthquake in 1869. The Pasquiers would have to wait 30 years for the allocation of the estate of the second sister, in case she should be traced in the interim. If there was still no trace they would be paid the whole amount of her share, but only in 1899.

However, the Pasquiers were immediately getting the share of the first sister, who was certified to have died in childbirth. This amounted to a gross sum of 20,550 francs.  From this were deducted a mass of expenses.

Mme Pasquier spent a number of days, chewing over their accounts.  At the same time she had the cares of the house.  The landlord had given them immediate notice to quit, following the incident with M. Pasquier and she dreaded him suing her husband for his threatening conduct. She was now showing signs of her pregnancy with the baby who was to be born in January 1892 - Suzanne. 

For Mme. Pasquier there was the catastrophe next door and she was helping Mme Wasselin,  now living alone.

M Pasquier, looking over her shoulder as she worked on the legal documents, gave his confident summary- that they now had 13,200 francs in their hands.  At this his wife looked at him with incredulity- this man of her life of whom she had become the faithful shadow Page 220:
Mère se retourna, toute raide, et considéra longuement ce compagnon extraordinaire, l'homme de sa vie, l'homme dont elle était devenue, pour toujours, l'ombre fidèle.

She tells him that after paying all their debts and expenses they would have only 2,533 francs left.

From now on Mme Pasquier is determined to count only on themselves. There is the chance that they will get the money of the other aunt one day, but she refuses to think about it and to repeat the mistake of their life in recent years. The days of dreaming are over. They must live with the present reality (p. 221)
Quelque chose, en vérité, quelque chose était fini. Un long rêve s'achevait, ce rêve qui, pendant plus de deux ans, nous avait dupés, perdus, rassasiés de nos faims, désaltérés de nos soifs, repus de toutes nos disettes.
Nous repartions, brisés, déçus, saouls de fatigue et de souffrance, mais allégés, allégés quand même.

They were setting off to face further struggles that he will tell of that a future date.

The End