From Childhood’s Hour

Chapter 4: Nor was this fellowship vouchsafed to me / With stinted kindness


Jean-Pierre Enjolras held back a sigh and set aside his newspaper. “What is it, Henri?”

“What do you know about the family who own the house on the hill?”

“The Combeferres? Whatever prompted this line of questioning?”

“I was just curious.”

“I know very little. They spend much of their time in Paris. Bonapartists, I thought when we came here, but opportunists is rather more apt, I believe. They’ve not suffered these past few years so far as I know. We did some business, he introduced me to some people I might have met much later if not for his assistance, but we’ve nothing in common. Why do you ask?”

“I met the boy the other day.”

“Wherever have you been wandering to meet anyone?”

“He was on the beach.”

“The beach? I own the beach.”

“I know. I told him so.”

“Good. On the beach. Must take after his mother. M. Combeferre sold me that property right after we came here. It hasn’t been his in more than ten years. But wouldn’t that just be like her, to assert that even though she doesn’t still own it, she still controls it. She would have hounded your mother to her grave if she were in Marseille more often.”

He continued in this vein for some time - Mme Combeferre had obviously made a very poor impression on him. Henri managed to slip away, his father still ranting about the ill effects of Parisian society. But when he met Julien the next day, he told him all his father had said, then felt awful when Julien began apologising profusely.

“I am so sorry. It is rather like my mother, isn’t it? I never even thought about it. We still own the woods. I stayed in the woods for days, but no one ever came here, so I dared come all the way to the water, but that doesn’t make it right. I am so sorry. I know the beach isn’t ours. I should never have set foot on it. It is very like her to send me to put my footprint on your land. She didn’t. I swear. I should never have - I’m sorry.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry about because if you hadn’t done it, we wouldn’t have met. It can’t have been wholly wrong if good things come of it.”

Julien shook his head. “A good outcome does not make it right. The meaning is more important than the result in deciding if something is right or wrong, and the meaning of what I did was that my desire to go swimming meant more to me than your right to your property. That is horribly wrong.”

Henri pulled himself into the nearest tree. “I don’t care. I’m glad I met you.”

“My mother says I’m unnatural,” Julien finally blurted out. It had been weighing on him for days, if he should just admit the truth and thus put an end to everything all at once, or if he should pretend otherwise so Henri would still like him. But it was so hard to be false with Henri, and it was only right that the whole truth should win out.

“You are,” Henri replied matter-of-factly. “Come on, if you get up here, I’ll race you to the top!”


Chapter 3: But when the heart is full of din / And doubt beside the portal waits ~ Fiction ~ Chapter 5: At his call / Love him, who for himself will take no heed at all ~ Home