THE day before that on which we were to return to Loches, Marc and I
went on to one of the terraces which overlooked the road, to shoot our
bows and arrows. All of a sudden Marc cried out, “Hollo! here’s Ulysses!
what does he come for, I wonder?”
Ulysses was one of the gendarmes belonging to the brigade at Loches. I
was leaning on the railing: Ulysses came up to us at a hard gallop.
“Hollo! Ulysses, how d’ye do?” cried Marc.
Ulysses raised his head, looked at us, and nodded. “Is your papa at
home?” he asked Marc.
“Yes,” answered Marc, “he is.”
Off went the gendarme at a trot, and in another minute we saw him turn
to the left and enter the great gate of the courtyard of Bois-Clair.
When he turned to leave us I noticed that he carried a small yellow
leather bag at his back. I watched it jumping up and down as the horse
trotted. Ah! if I had only known what that little yellow bag contained!
François soon came out to tell us that luncheon was ready. When we
entered the courtyard we saw the gendarme’s horse tied to one of the
chestnut trees. The flies were tormenting him; he kept shaking his head,
and giving tremendous kicks with his great iron-shod feet. As we passed
him he was frightened, and started, making a tremendous clatter. Off I
ran. As I passed the kitchen window, I saw Ulysses at table having
At luncheon Mr. and Mrs. Sublaine both seemed much pre-occupied; every
now and then they spoke together in a low tone of voice. After luncheon
Ulysses came into the room, and then Mr. Sublaine told him he should
“start to-night instead of to-morrow.”
I looked at Marc with surprise, and I saw, by the expression of his
face, that he was as much astonished as myself.
As we were leaving the dining-room Mrs. Sublaine told us to make our
little arrangements in the way of packing, and so on, for that we were
going to leave Bois-Clair that evening. She did not tell us why, but
returned to talk to Mr. Sublaine. We were back again at Loches at eight
o’clock that night.
THE next day Marc came to see me, and told me that his father was going
to Orleans. This news distressed me, I scarcely knew why. I had a
presentiment that something terrible would follow. I had seen at
Bois-Clair a large letter with a red seal, which laid beside Mr.
Sublaine’s plate at luncheon. No doubt this had been brought by the
gendarme in his little yellow bag. It was owing to that letter, with the
red seal, that we had returned to Loches, sooner than was intended. This
I felt quite sure of: and also that the same letter caused Mr. Sublaine
to hurry off to Orleans. What would come next?
Alas! my fears were but too well founded. The day but one following,
when I went to play with Marc, he told me that his father was appointed
to a higher post under government at Orleans.
As Marc told me this, he looked very sad. When he told me, I could
scarcely speak. I remember I only answered, “Ah!” It must have seemed
very stupid, but I am sure he saw how grieved I was, for he did all he
could to comfort me.
Marc’s parents were only to go at the beginning of October, so there was
still a little time for us to be together, but I only seemed to suffer
more in consequence. Each time I saw Marc, my heart seemed to swell with
pain at the thought of our parting. I was miserable! how I loved him! he
had been so good to me! how handsome he was! alas! should I lose sight
of that good, kind face, perhaps for ever!
He tried his best to console me, he promised that he would often write
to me, and talked of holidays yet to come that we would pass together at
Bois-Clair: and then the blow was struck.
ON Saturday the third of October, Marc, and the rest of his family went
to Orleans. Sunday I spent in tears, and on Monday my father took me to
The way to the college was through a very long street, called Pont
Street. That Monday was very cold, I remember; an autumnal fog came up
from the meadows near and seemed to creep into my bones, and I trembled
in every limb.
At every step we met college boys of all ages, who were loitering along
in the same direction we were going. They called to one another from a
distance, and formed into different groups, from several of which I
heard chance words escaping, in which very clear allusions were made to
a new boy who had “a fine big nose of his own.”
Once within the college grounds the boys prepared to enter school,
separating into their different classes. After wandering about for some
time, uncertain where to go, I found myself in the middle of a group of
boys which opened, with apparent good nature, to let me join them, and
then closed round me. Once in the crowd I discovered that the object of
each boy seemed to be to push his neighbour down; three times did I
advance with the rest to the school door, and each time I was pushed
away from it and knocked up against the wall. The fourth attempt was
more successful, I was lifted off my legs and borne with the crowd into
school, where, half crushed and quite out of breath, I managed to
stumble on to one of the nearest benches.
As I took my school-books one by one out of my satchel, my neighbour
jogged my elbow, and so threw them down; and the professor, looking
sternly at me, begged that I would not “make so much noise.”
He asked the names of all the pupils, and made me repeat mine very
“Write an exercise!” said he at last.
Just as I plunged my pen into the inkstand and brought it out—certainly
rather too full of ink—a neighbour who was watching me, gave my elbow
another jog, and calculated the effect so well, that the contents of the
pen were shot all over the clean white collar of one of the smaller
boys, a little red-headed fellow, who turned round to me in a fury. I
tried to explain how the misfortune occurred, the professor was very
angry, and I made myself as small as possible.
The exercise over, the professor proceeded to question us, that is, to
question the new pupils.
“Borniquet!” said he, “stand up.”
Borniquet did not move. The boys looked at one another with surprise and
began whispering, the professor a second time ordered the pupil named
Borniquet to rise. Strange to say, Borniquet made no sign: this time
there was a regular murmur of surprise among the pupils; the professor
became red with indignation. I trembled at the bare idea of the terrible
punishment that awaited the luckless Borniquet; I would not have been in
his place for something.
“I desire you to stand up, Borniquet!” cried the professor, turning to
the right,—just where I was. I looked now at the boys on each side of me
with great curiosity; it must be one of them, thought I.
“But you, you, you!” cried the professor again, pointing his finger
right in my direction. I turned round and looked behind me. Where was
Borniquet? The whole class now burst out laughing.
“You, the third boy on the second bench!” cried the professor, now quite
The third boy on the second bench was me. The boys near me said, “Get
up! get up!” As there was certainly some mistake somewhere, I still
hesitated, when I felt a sudden and violent push, which came from I knew
not where, and I was on my legs. I looked at the professor, feeling very
He was a worthy man: thinking he had a very stupid and nervous pupil
before him he questioned me in a kind, gentle tone to encourage me.
Presently he stooped over his desk, and then looked up quite surprised.
“But, I see,” cried he, “that there is no pupil of the name of Borniquet
on the list! Why what is your name?”
“Bicquerot,” I said.
He tapped his forehead and declared that he had made a slip of the
tongue. “That might happen to any one,” he remarked, turning towards the
But it was a curious thing that he should have made the mistake in the
name so many times. His tongue had a strange way of slipping. During the
whole year I was called by the two names, and had to answer sometimes to
Borniquet, sometimes to Bicquerot. And naturally my schoolfellows
preferred calling me by my wrong name Borniquet.
A CURLY headed little boy, with eyes sparkling with malice, and a tiny
turned-up nose, came close up to me and said: “Don’t you intend to give
it back to me?”
“What do you mean?” I asked in surprise.
“You know very well,” he answered, looking more impertinent than ever.
“But I assure you I do not,” replied I.
“My nose; you know you have taken my share as well as your own, and it’s
very nasty of you,” said this disagreeable child.
I reddened and turned away from him. The boy on the other side of me
seized the opportunity of my turning towards him, to say: “My little
“Not Borniquet but Bicquerot!” I corrected.
“Ah, that’s true,” he went on. “But, my little Borniquet, tell me, what
is it made of?”
I guessed that he alluded to my nose, and I shrugged my shoulders.
“He has a false nose,” said my interlocutor in a voice loud enough for
nearly everyone to hear, “and he won’t tell me if it is made of
All the boys near us began to laugh, and presently the whole class
joined in the hilarity: never had an unfortunate nose become so popular
All sorts of jokes were made about my luckless nose. Little pieces of
paper were sent round with witty and unpleasant allusions to my
prominent feature. A future caricaturist gained great applause by making
a sketch representing the pupil Borniquet dressed as an acrobat beating
a drum, and suspended from the trapeze by his monstrous nose.
The least reference made to _any_ nose instantly attracted every eye to
mine, and sent the class off into roars of laughter.
What a beginning to my college life! I said to myself over and over
again, If Marc had but not left me, all this would never have happened.