The Counterfeiters XX : Edouard’s Journal

Without exactly pretending to explain anything, I should not like to put forward any fact which was not accounted for by a sufficiency of motive. And for that reason I shall not make use of little Boris’s suicide for my Counterfeiters; I have too much difficulty in understanding it. And then, I dislike police court items. There is something peremptory, irrefutable, brutal, outrageously real about them.… I accept reality coming as a proof in support of my thought, but not as preceding it. It displeases me to be surprised. Boris’s suicide seems to me an indecency, for I was not expecting it.

A little cowardice enters into every suicide, notwithstanding La Pérouse, who no doubt thinks his grandson was more courageous than he. If the child could have foreseen the disaster which his dreadful action has brought upon the Vedels, there would be no excuse for him. Azaïs has been obliged to break up the school—for the time being, he says; but Rachel is afraid of ruin. Four families have already removed their children. I have not been able to dissuade Pauline from taking George away, so that she may keep him at home with her; especially as the boy has been profoundly shaken by his schoolfellow’s death, and seems inclined to reform. What repercussions this calamity has had! Even Olivier is touched by it. Armand, notwithstanding his cynical airs, feels such anxiety at the ruin which is threatening his family, that he has offered to devote the time that Passavant leaves him, to working in the school, for old La Pérouse has become manifestly incapable of doing what is required of him.

I dreaded seeing him again. It was in his little bedroom on the second floor of the pension, that he received me. He took me by the arm at once, and with a mysterious, almost a smiling air, which greatly surprised me, for I was expecting tears:

“That noise,” he said, “you know … the noise I told you about the other day …”


“It has stopped—finished. I don’t hear it any more, however much I listen.”

As one humours a child, “I wager,” said I, “that now you regret it.”

“Oh! no; no.… It’s such a rest. I am so much in need of silence. Do you know what I’ve been thinking? That in this life we can’t know what real silence is. Even our blood makes a kind of continual noise; we don’t notice it, because we have become accustomed to it ever since our childhood.… But I think there are things in life which we can’t succeed in hearing—harmonies … because this noise drowns them. Yes, I think it’s only after our death that we shall really be able to hear.”

“You told me you didn’t believe …”

“In the immortality of the soul? Did I tell you that?… Yes; I suppose I did. But I don’t believe the contrary either, you know.”

And as I was silent, he went on, nodding his head and with a sententious air:

“Have you noticed that in this world God always keeps silent? It’s only the devil who speaks. Or at least, at least …” he went on, “… however carefully we listen, it’s only the devil we can succeed in hearing. We have not the ears to hear the voice of God. The word of God! Have you ever wondered what it is like?… Oh! I don’t mean the word that has been transferred into human language.… You remember the Gospel: ‘In the beginning was the Word.’ I have often thought that the word of God was the whole of creation. But the devil seized hold of it. His noise drowns the voice of God. Oh! tell me, don’t you think that all the same it’s God who will end by having the last word?… And if, after death, time no longer exists, if we enter at once into Eternity, do you think we shall be able to hear God then … directly?”

A kind of transport began to shake him, as if he were going to fall down in convulsions, and he was suddenly seized by a fit of sobbing.

“No, no!” he cried, confusedly; “the devil and God are one and the same; they work together. We try to believe that everything bad on earth comes from the devil, but it’s because, if we didn’t, we should never find strength to forgive God. He plays with us like a cat, tormenting a mouse.… And then afterwards he wants us to be grateful to him as well. Grateful for what? for what? …”

Then, leaning towards me:

“Do you know the most horrible thing of all that he has done?… Sacrificed his own son to save us. His son! his son!… Cruelty! that’s the principal attribute of God.”

He flung himself on his bed and turned his face to the wall. For a few moments a spasmodic shudder ran through him; then, as he seemed to have fallen asleep, I left him.

He had not said a word to me about Boris; but I thought that in this mystical despair was to be seen the expression of a grief too blinding to be looked at steadfastly.

I hear from Olivier that Bernard has gone back to his father’s; and, indeed, it was the best thing he could do. When he learnt, from a chance meeting with Caloub, that the old judge was not well, Bernard followed the impulse of his heart. We shall meet to-morrow evening, for Profitendieu has invited me to dinner with Molinier, Pauline and the two boys. I feel very curious to know Caloub.