Émile Zola-The Fortune of the Rougons (2)

Let yourself soak up this wonderful piece of reading…


From that day onwards the two youngsters never missed their assignation. The still water, the clear mirrors in which they gazed at each other, gave their meetings a charming quality that amply satisfied their playful, childish imaginations. They had no desire to see each other face to face: it seemed much more fun to use the well as a mirror, and confide their morning greetings to its echo. They soon came to regard the well as an old friend. They loved to bend over the motionless water, which looked like molten silver. A greenish glimmer flickered below, in a mysterious half-light, and seemed to change the damp hole into a lost hiding-place deep in the woods. They saw each other in a sort of nest lined with moss, surrounded by fresh water and foliage. And all the strangeness of the deep spring, the hollow tower over which they bent, trembling with fascination, added an unspoken, delicious note of fear to their merry laughter. They had the wild idea of going down and sitting on a row of big stones that formed a kind of circular bench a few inches above the water; they would dip their feet in and talk for hours, and no one ever thought of coming to look for them there. But when they wondered what might be down there, their vague fears returned; they thought it was quite enough to let their reflections descend into the depths amidst the green glimmers that tinged the shimmering stones and the strange sounds that came up from the darkest corners. These sounds made them quite uneasy; they often fancied that voices were answering theirs; then they would remain silent, and hear a thousand faint cries they could not understand. These came from the movement of the moisture, the sighs of the atmosphere, the drops that slid over the stones and fell into the water like loud sobs. They would nod affectionately to each other to reassure themselves. Thus the attraction that kept them leaning over the brink had an element of secret terror, like all magical charms. But the well remained their old friend. It was such an excellent excuse for meeting! Justin, who watched Miette’s every moment, never suspected why she was always so eager to go and draw water every morning. Sometimes, from a distance, he saw her leaning over and taking her time. “The lazy thing!” he would mutter. “She likes dawdle!” How could he suspect that, on the other side of the wall, there was someone who was courting Miette, gazing at her smiling face in the water, and saying to her: “If that red-haired ass Justin gets nasty, just tell me, and he’ll have me to deal with!”

The Fortune of the Rougons

by Émile Zola


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