Le drame d'Aurore
Chapter 1, p. 10 to 12.
It was Mélanie who had refused to go live in Odilon Gratton’s house, in the Petit Cinq. Even before their marriage, she had been categorical:
"I’ll never live in a shack like that. Besides, the land is barren. What good is it as farmland, eh, Odilon?"
Odilon, who spoke in a meek voice, and who felt dominated by the big woman with the mean face and eyes that would never look directly at the person she was speaking to, had mildly objected:
"My first wife, Rosa, was happy to live there for fifteen years!"
"Well, I’m not your first wife. If you want my hand in marriage, promise me that we’ll live closer to St. Horace than that, and on land able to sustain its owner."
The widower had acquiesced. Since he had met Mélanie, he felt quite happy. She was solidly built and healthy as a horse--a change from Rosa, who had been thin, frail, and prone to catch every ailment going around. This woman was a good acquisition. Other than her strength and health, she was bringing to the marriage respectable savings, which she guarded with fierce jealousy.
Two years of solitude had weighed heavily on Odilon. Of course, there was little Aurore, but she was growing up and soon would be able to take care of herself. Might as well enjoy one’s youth, and, at forty years of age, Odilon, although not in his prime adolescence, was nevertheless at a time in his life when he felt in full possession of his strength. Waiting another ten years would not bring him a better wife, and at such a good price.
Mélanie’s demands seemed to him vaguely justified, and he wasted no time giving in to them implicitly. That night, when he returned home, Aurore was waiting for him, and Odilon was quick to tell her the big news.
"Little girl, you want your father to be happy, don't you?"
Aurore had always been shy. Since her mother’s death, two years earlier, her shyness had increased out of a sort of fear of her father, a small abrupt man, who said little, rarely smiled and, in particular, gave the little girl no opportunity to know him better.
So, when he asked if she wanted him to be happy, Aurore could only nod her head hesitantly. Not knowing what he meant by this, the little girl answered without thinking, without truly understanding.
"If you want me to be happy, then you’ll be pleased if I remarry."
He had spoken in his gruff voice, avoiding Aurore’s big black eyes that suddenly revealed immense anxiety.
Remarry. But that meant a… a woman… Another mother? And who? What woman could replace the Other, the dear mother that Aurore had so adored?
A myriad of questions were running through the child’s mind. Tears slowly welled up in her eyes, and still she dared say nothing. Odilon Gratton stared at his daughter for a while, searching for a look of disapproval that would throw him into one of his loud rages that, although not basically vicious, nevertheless terrified Aurore.
"You’re not pleased?" he asked.
Aurore remained still, silent.
Barely audible, her voice choking with emotion, Aurore whispered, "I’m happy, Papa..."
But as soon as the words were out, she turned on her heels and ran upstairs to her room, where she could better release her overwhelming sadness.
For a long time that night, her tiny, frail body shook with sobs, her delicate shoulders heaving again and again with each sob, each pang of her deep pain.