Le Château de ma mère ("My Mother's Castle")

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Second volume of "SOUVENIRS D'ENFANCE" ("CHILDHOOD MEMORIES"), comprising three other parts ("LA GLOIRE DE MON PÈRE" / "MY FATHER'S GLORY", "LE TEMPS DES SECRETS / "THE TIME OF SECRETS", "LE TEMPS DES AMOURS" / "THE TIME OF LOVE").

First Edition

Monte-Carlo Pastorelly, 1957.

Summary

For Marcel, this is the long walking journey to reach Bastide Neuve, her mother Augustine's terrors and the beginning of a lasting friendship with Lili. With him, he wanders in the hills and discovers nature.

From a bush near the door, came out a medium-sized but thumping man. He was wearing a green uniform and a peaked cap. A leather holster was hanging from his belt, the grip of a regulation revolver sticking out of it. He kept on a leash a dreadful dog at the end of a chain, the very dog we had been dreading for so long. It was like a calf with a bulldog's head. Alopecia had covered its dirty yellow short hair with large pink stains that looked like geography maps. Its left hind leg remained aloft, jerking convulsively, its thick chops were hanging down, extended by trickling slobber, and on each side of the horrible mouth, two fangs were sticking up to murder innocent people. Finally, one of the monster's eyes was milky, but the other, wide open, was shining with a yellow threat while a snoring and whistling breath was coming at intervals out of its slimy nose. The man's face was just as horrifying. His nose was stippled with holes, like a strawberry, his moustache was whitish on one side and reddish-brown on the other, and his lower eyelids were rimmed with small hairy sprats. My mother moaned with anguish and hid her face in the shivering roses. The little sister started to cry. My father, deathly pale, stood still. Paul was hiding behind him and I swallowed hard...
The man was silently staring at us; we could hear the big dog rattling.
"Sir, my father said...
- What are you doing here?, the brute shouted suddenly. Who did allow you to enter Mr. Baron's property? You're his guests, are you? relatives?"
He was looking alternately at each one of us, with protruding and shiny eyes. Each time he talked, his belly would shake about and lift the revolver. He took one step towards my father.
"For a start, what is your name?"
Suddenly, I said:
"Esménard Victor.
- Be quiet, Joseph said. This is no time for jokes."
Blocked by his parcels, he took out his wallet with difficulty and handed his card. The brute had a look at it and turned towards me:
"Here is a well-drilled one! He already knows how to give a false name!"
He looked at the card again and cried out:
"A public schoolmaster! That's the last straw. A schoolmaster secretly entering the property of others! A schoolmaster! Besides, maybe it isn't true. When children give false names the father might give a false card."
Joseph eventually recovered speech and engaged in a rather long plea.
He mentioned the "house" (which, in view of the circumstances, he called the cottage), his children's health, the long walks that would exhaust my mother, the strictness of the chief education officer...
He was sincere and moving, but pitiful. The blood had rushed to my cheeks and I was burning with rage.