The Voyage

The Voyage

The Voyage

The Voyage

Excerpt

STANDING ON A LADDER PROPPED AGAINST THE white walls of the house, Barbet was re-painting the shutters of the Maison Hazard. His mother had wanted the colour to be grey, and had complained that the work should in any case have been done by one of the day-labourers and not by their master; but Barbet had no sense of his own importance, he enjoyed the task and liked the green he had chosen. He had, therefore, chaffed her for her conservatism and steadily continued, singing small songs on his ladder to keep time with the sweep and patter of his brush.

The house, an old one, had been given by its extensions the shape of an L which included, within its arms, a courtyard facing south and east over the valley of the Charente. Formerly this courtyard had been shut in by the high walls usual in that secretive countryside, but when Julien Hazard died in 1876, his son Théophile, who was called Barbet because Théophile was too grand a name for him, had pulled down the walls to what he called "sitting-level" and for the last seven years had enjoyed an outlook denied to his childhood. The great stone gateway at the south-east corner remained; for a stone gateway, with rounded arch, perhaps suggested long ago by the Romanesque façades of the local churches, was the pride of a Charentais home. Barbet's mother had fought for the walls too, but not with the same desperation as for her gateway, and, when the walls were down, she had been pleased, as Barbet had known she would be, and had clapped her hands at the view. "There," she had exclaimed, "it's like coming out of a box!"

At the back of the L were two walled courtyards. The larger, to the west, had at its farther end, facing the house, the customary . . .

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