Bugeot’s became one of the most famous and wealthiest among the small businesses of its kind. Even in the slow season, it produced many size flowers, and brought out many new designs Every year. The whole world was aware that thanks to the diligence of Madame Bugeot and the intelligence of her husband. Indeed, everyone said that Bugeot's had been doing well since the start. Despite Charles's excesses, they had been able to save about twenty thousand francs.


Charles - always the enthusiast - became suddenly passionate about the countryside. Despite Lise's reluctance, they bought a plot of land in a village called Maltournée near Neuilly sur Marne. During the summer (Now he only visited the clients in the Winter season), Charles kept busy with building-work and did the masonry. In October, when it was time for him to return to Paris, the house was ready. It was a bungalow with four rooms and a kitchen, as well as a veranda and a shady garden with some nice pear trees and plum trees. It was ready to welcome the family for the next summer, if Lise agreed. But she refused. Charles was proud of his success. Not without reason. It was his idea to use the annual savings on customizing only one type of decorative flowers. This would guarantee that they were always available and this was a saving on half the wages.  Lise had reluctantly agreed to the scheme: Fashion might not alway require that particular design. However, Lise was extraordinarily frugal, she kept the books well-balanced and, knew how to turn a profit out of anything, she merely had an exaggerated and irrepressible fear of the unknown. Even good results unsettled her. She was convinced that evil would prevail. Her proof was that country house, which she detested and where she left her husband alone throughout the Summer. But he enjoyed solitude and peace. Charles loved his house. This had been one of his fondest dreams when he was young. Often he used to write about that dream in his long letters to Lise. If only they became rich one day! He would surround his house with a green lawn and trees that both of them had picked. 

"Only as far as his shadow across the lawn,

Only as far he wants to see.

Happiness that cannot be touched with the hands ,

Only remains a dream!”


How remote that dream was!

Every Saturday, Charles felt a strong desire to see his house again. He went there in all weathers.  The house was only sparsely furnished:  a folding bed, a table, a few chairs. Some plates and other equipment for cooking breakfast and lunch if there was the need. Charles had also brought all his books. But he was not cut out for solitude. On Sunday mornings, he was already bored so he went out and visited the taverns on the waterfront, there he met his neighbours. He went fishing with them, shouted, argued, got drunk and only returned to Paris  on a Tuesday or a Wednesday . When Lise rebuked him and told him that he was wasting money, he replied that he had earned it . By the way, all this would not happen, if she had followed her husband like a dutiful woman.  Lise suggested to bring a second folding bed  to Neuilly and advised her husband to take Lotte with him . It seemed to her, that he was increasingly fond of the girl especially as she had become more lively and more intelligent. Charles disliked Gigi because she was too stupid.

On a Saturday evening, Lotte hugged little Gigi, and she drove away with her father. They walked from Nogent-le -Perreux train-station to Maltournée. It was quite a distance, but Lotte marched on at a good pace. The wind stung her cheeks like needles; Lotte enjoyed that. On Sunday morning, the father woke her up earlyand together they went on long walks events by the bank of the Marne river towards Ville-Evrard , Noisy-le-Grand , Chelles or Noisiel . Sometimes, father rented a rowing-boat.  During their trips, they talked about school and solved mathematical equations. The child succeeded in all of them. She enjoyed arithmetic.

They also quizzed each other about events from French history and the Revolution. Lotte believed she knew everything in the smallest details. Father had registered her at the lending library and always went to choose the books for her. This is how the girl read - nay devoured - the 'History of the French Revolution' by Claude Michelet, and similar works by Edgar Quinet, and by Henry Martin. Lotte was passionate about ancient history as well. If she had been a man, she would have liked to be Leonidas or that little boy who was torn apart by a fox and did not feel any pain. She deeply admired Brutus, hated Carthage, and dreamed to travel to the pyramids. Father spoke about his time as a soldier. He praised the courage of the young generals in the Republic, above all he praised Bonaparte's genius.

"But he killed freedom,"Lotte said.

Father admitted that. But it did not matter. He was still a great man. The little girl shook her head: 

"It's he Charlotte Corday should have killed - only - at the time he wasn't yet famous - so she didn't know."

"Oh, if only we knew everything", Father sighed. 

After that conversation, they had lunch at the tavern with Charles' neighbours. Lotte disliked that because on several occasions, Father drank a lot with them for hours. His face became red and puffy. He was irritable, then emotional again. These constant moods changes frightened the child, and took away her joy. However, on other occasions, Father gave in to his girl's request and stopped his drinking session.  Lotte was taking her task seriously and she offered to prepare his lunch at the house. On Sundays, at five clock, they always made their way back to the station to catch the seven o'clock train. They ate dinner in Paris with mother and Gigi.

On one of those Sundays, Charles rented a boat for a trip on the river. Lotte enjoyed rowing. Father sat in front of her and looked at her. Lotte's face was all rosy, her brown curls were flapping in the wind, her pale eyes were laughing at him, between half-opened lips the lips he could see her small, regular teeth.  Lotte was happy. She wanted to travel like that all the way to the sea. Far, far away her boat would go - as far as America. Father laughed:

" My poor child, the waves would devour you in no time, you and your boat."

No, Lotte was totally confident - she would dodge the waves sideways- and she knew how to do it, she had read it in a book. 

Charles thought about his own youth, about small, pretty, gentle Lise. How much he had loved her!

" Oh Father - just look at the strange plants! "


Lotte wanted them. Father took the paddles from her, with a couple of stokes, the boat reached the grasses, and Charles caught them, the boat leaned, there was no danger. Father scattered the grasses over his little girl's head. Lotte laughed with all her heart, her dimples showed on her facde, she shook her curls, rubbed them on Father's knees to dry them. A kiss on her neck …. Father had kissed her and now he was weeping. Embarrassed, Lotte stopped the game and remained still. Unsettled, she bit her lip, to stop herself from crying. She held father's hand in her little hands and gently stroked it, her eyes were downcast. Father certainly had many faults - but - mother was too argumentative. The boat glided slowly in the maze created by the foliage, the water seemed dead. On the right, a nearby plaster quarry looked like a white spot. On the left, tall black trees bleakly stretched their bare arms against the gloomy, grey sky.

 Charles thought about everything he had dreamed, believed in, and hoped for. All that was so far behind him, as if it had sunk into an abyss; whereas his life, like the boat glided away taken by the flow of time. Lise ,  petite Lise, beloved Lise . Why had he never been happy with her? Why had she never been happy with him? Perhaps, it was his fault. His fault? Certainly not! Did he not from day one perform his marital duty without forcing himself on her? Was it not a great blessing for her to have met him, instead of meeting some poor driver's stable-hand, a fate that would otherwise had awaited her? Oh what a wife he had, he chose such a stupid hen! How come he had not been able to see this coming? No heart, no flesh - money - nothing but money. Of course, she was a good woman, more than one loafer could be envious but she taught him how to hate work. It was true that after he had strolled for several days and returned home sick, she had nursed him. But he had never heard any tender word from her. And yet - he demanded nothing else and he would have given his whole life for a caress. He sobbed.  He was convinced that he was the most dejected creature in the world. A generous man, yet everything had failed him. Shocked at what she saw, the child wrapped her arms around his neck, and tried to comfort him:

" Father - I'm here - your little girl. I love you. "

" My little girl, beloved, sweet girl. Yes, you do. You're so gentle, you find comforting words. You -. You love me - you're hugging me. "

" Father - I love you dearly – but please - let go of me."

" Charlotte! "

The voice sounded strange. It was a threat and a request at the same time. Lotte became fearful, moved away. The man - bloodshot eyes - the face dark-red - tried to pin her on the floor. She clung desperately - to the edge of the boat - in fear for her life. The boat was rocking between the grasses. she called out with a whining voice :

" Father! Father! "

" Be quiet . "

One last scream:  "Father! " Then a sudden noise on the water. The boat stranded ashore.


Lotte suffered a concussion ; for a few days the family thought that she would not survive . She had been delirious  - sitting up - screaming - speaking of a boat , of grasses , of a quarry , and crying with heartbreaking voice :

" Father ! Father ! "

Lise could not understand what had happened. On that Sunday evening, Charles had returned home in a car with the unconscious little girl . He had wrapped the feverish Lotte in his coat . Lise received him with a rebuke:

"You useless scamp, I entrusted our daughter to you, - you say that you love her - and look in what state you bring her home! What's wrong with her - pneumonia?  What a stupid idea of you to go on the water! The money that will cost us!" 

"Put your daughter to bed, Lise. It's for the best." 

"Yes, indeed - Sir thinks it's for the best.  Do I always have to fix all his nonsense? Woe the day that I met you! What good did it do to me, I had to work all night long, every night!?! I kept watch so that you could let off steam with your cards, your women - Yes women -! dirty harlots more like!  And your country house -!  what a bright idea that was! Now we will have to throw money out of the window again for the doctor. "

Lise, full of rage, undressed the girl and wept in pain and anger. Upset yet worried because she could only hear indistinct murmurs from the child's lips. Charles left and slammed the door shut behind him; he did not show up for the whole night. The next morning - Lotte got worse - so Lise sent the first worker who arrived to the doctor's. The latter arrived a few hours later. These doctors! You could die - and they still would not hurry up. He examined the little girl, shook his head, asked Lise whether the child had been frightened or had been shaken violently? Lise was assuming that the child had fallen into the water with the father . But she replied dryly:


Was he not supposed  to know his job ? Lise added :

"What's wrong with her? "

" I don't know - I'll be back -. For now, please avoid any noise in her vicinity "

" Is that so ? You're a doctor and you don't know ? "

Dr. Lagorgne had been the local GP for twenty years.  He was employed by the flower-workers health insurance company. Therefore, all his patients were small merchants like the Bugeots. He only charged three francs for his visit. A good man, with family worries, he had limited confidence in his own field of expertise. He wanted nothing but do his best, get by year after year. He wanted to please everyone and as he said - not kill anyone. He adjusted his glasses, looked at the woman, smiled ironically and did no seemed to take her outrage to heart. He requested ink and pen to write his prescription. As promised, he came back in the evening. His opinion that the child experienced a shock was reinforced, although the mother stubbornly denied it. Finally, he diagnosed encephalitis.

" Nothing has changed since this morning. " Lise thought. " This is just a ruse to make more visits. "

Lise put her work-table next to her daughter's bed. She did not abandon her side, only leaving from time to time to check on the workers. At night, she slept next to her in an armchair. Charles had now been gone for five days and did not show up during the day. One evening, he staggered home drunk. He tried to sneak through the dining room, his back on the wall, as if he did not want to be seen. He never asked about Lotte. This indifference outraged mother: Did he not love his child?  She took great pain to refrain herself from screaming at him and telling what she thought about his behaviour.  One night, Lise said:

"You miserable wretch, I never would have thought that you had so little heart. "

The husband, madness in his eyes, raised his hand to strike her:

" Shut up , It your fault that everything happened - yours, yours - all alone - do you hear me? "

They started a loud argument. Lotte woke up. They fell silent. The parents no longer spoke to each other on the following nights. The fever subsided. Lotte felt better. She asked about Gigi, who was staying at Aunt Sophie's. She failed to grasp the reply that she was given and fell back into her silence.  Lise tried in vain to raise her out of it. Hours passed. Lotte rose up a little and said:

" Lucie, you know - Lucie Parent - I liked her. "

And then:

" Did Rachel get the first prize in drawing?  - she deserves it, you know. " 

"Listen to me little girl, it is not yet the time for the award ceremony. It's only March . You had to fall sick during high season. " 

Lotte said: " Ah ! "


Then silence. She found out that it was the middle of the high season. She did not show any affection for her mother, who was almost killing himself while nursing her. There were only thoughts for strangers. Lise sighed: Truly, the girl was just like her father - amiable on the outside, yet full of malice inside.


On a beautiful pre-Spring afternoon, as they were alone again, Lotte asked for the window to be left open. The window of the workshop was open too. They could hear buzzing sounds, like a beehive. Lotte said:

" Father..."

Lise stood up, she leaned over the end of the bed. She saw the little girl's emaciated face looking like a wax mask, the beautiful hair cut short. There was a slight wrinkle by the mouth-  a strange expression of fatigue. The eyes - rigid and hard - starred in front of her. However, it seemed that they were looking elsewhere . The child folded her little lean hands across her chest.

Gently, Lise spoke to her:

" Lolotte , do you remember the Sunday when you went with Father to Neuilly ? When you came back, you were sick. What did you do? Tell me. "

"We took a boat and father wanted ... "

" Tell me - what did your father want? "

"He wanted..."

Lotte rose her arm, let it fall back down, then closed her eyes. Her face was painfully distorted. She said tonelessly:

"I can't."

Lise became pale. She found nothing to say. In order to regain her confidence, she walked to the door - the workers were talking too loudly:


" Let them be. ", Lotte said and turned her head to the wall.

That night Charles and Lise had a terrible confrontation. At first, Charles denied everything, then finally he admitted his guilt. He accused himself of being a scoundrel. Then, as Lise pelted him with the worst swear words possible, Charles defended himself: he did no harm. Then he became the accuser: he held her indifference and her avarice against her. He claimed she had taught her daughter to be a tease. They beat each other.

The next morning, when Dr Lagorgne checked out the condition of his patient, he was surprised and scared. No explanation was needed. Looking at Lise's red, swollen face was enough. However he advised her to take the child to the hospital. Lise's self-esteem was deeply offended. She almost choked with rage:

" I love my daughter, doctor, I'm looking after her. "

" One more reason to have her admitted to hospital."

Charlotte became delirious again. Gigi who had come home, because her little brother got rubella, threw herself on Lotte's bed, and cried:

" Lolo, Lolo, I'm here - I don't want you to die."

The weeping girl was slapped and sent to a corner.

At last, the doctor explained:

" I believe we have saved her life, but I implore you -. Avoid all noises.  Another relapse and if it does not kill her, it will make her mentally handicapped for the rest of her life. "

Strangely, the more the patient became aware of her surroundings, the less she wanted to see the doctor. However, the hapless man was handling his patient with the utmost gentleness. He sat down next to her, gently took her hand, told her stories. All in vain. Lotte turned her eyes away from him. It seemed that she was suspicious of him. As soon as the doctor was making a movement - the girl became defensive. During another visit, he brought her a little printed picture, and a big doll that could speak and wore a velvet dress. Lotte looked at it for a long time then she disregarded the gift. After each visit, the fever seemed come back. The mother almost believed that the doctor was doing this on purpose. She was not moved by his kindness. She thought that he was crazy to give a doll to an eleven year old girl. How little he had to toil for his money! Three francs for a consultation that lasted for half an hour - he could easily afford to make useless gifts. Why did he want to continue his visits since, as he said so himself, the little girl, was saved? Lise did not dare to ask him to stop the visits but she gave hints through her behaviour . She was almost grateful that the child disliked the doctor. She contributed to make her daughter's feelings stronger by making unpleasant remarks about the doctor before the latter was coming and after he was leaving.  Often the doctor could still hear them. She did not accompany him to the door.


"I'll see myself out." he said. 

Did he guess the mother's intentions? He cared for his patient. He knew that there was a secret that he needed to unlock. He always came back stayed calm, used gentle words and gradually he gained the young girl’s confidence. Lise thought, these people really couldn't take a hint. Incidentally, she was determined not to pay promptly.

Since the last argument, Charles had kept himself busy at home, when he returned home for lunch (the table was set in the workshop), he had not caused any more scenes. Lise was starting to raise her hopes, and then her sister Sophie wrote to her: in addition to the rubella, the little boy became sick with bronchitis and died. Charles needed to leave work and go to the funeral. Due to this new fateful injustice, Lise became consumed by hatred towards everything. Had she not always done her duty? Why was life hunting her? Others women that knew, those lazy, profligate women they succeed. Look at Madame Porcher , the wine merchant's wife in whose tavern Charles played cards; she was a pretty person , her husband was a good fellow , always eager to keep the household in order, while she flirted with the handsome Hector , the travel-salesman and business partner of the Ledoux Company ,  even though Hector was also married.  Life!

One morning, Lotte took off her blanket. She noticed that her skin on her whole body was red. Terrible dread overtook her. But she did not call anyone and pulled the blanket right up to her chin, and started to ponder. Stories that the little girls had told at school, came to her mind. She had never paid much attention to what she considered to be malicious lies. In particular, the older girls had once a conversation in the school yard, they pitied Rachel's mother, saying that she had so many children and every time her abdomen needed to be opened. Sitting on the bench nearby, the smaller girls heard this and poor Rachel wept. Others replied that babies came out by themselves. Charlotte thought that this was the more likely theory, although she knew nothing. All she wanted was to comfort Rachel who loved her mother more than anyone else. Now she thought that the older girl might have been right. She remembered that one evening, one worker had talked about one of her recently married colleague who had died of a miscarriage:

"There's nothing more to say - she was too young!"

Lise became concerned, almost frozen with fright when her daughter asks her with a toneless , calm voice :

" Mother , am I going to die soon ? "

Lise shrugged her shoulders , then replied harshly :

" Look here, don't be a fool . "

" Mother , it would be better . "

" Damn it, stop being so annoying ! Be quiet . At your age you’ve probably heard a lot of things . I still remember all what I have heard in my class. And I went to convent school ! Your father only wanted to scare you . you know that quite well . And now you're a big girl .That's all . " 

Many people have the habit of talking mysteriously or impossible to open up about the facts of life. Does the child want advice? They spin a silly story. Does the child insist? They tell them to remain silent, and accuse them of improper behaviour. The facts of life do not change depending on the whims of prudish adults. If they wrap themselves in silence, others will provide answers. And young heads will burden themselves with ugly assumptions. They only learn that there is a vice that consists in doing forbidden things, just because they are forbidden. Lise firmly believed that she has never known the vice about which they talked so much at school and in her family. She had never spent long hours reflecting on that. She never had any nervous breakdowns. After the incident with her own brother, she did not suffer from encephalitis. She was still fond of her brother afterwards. That was because her mother had been very stern. Lise had not been capable of educating her own children. She wanted them to be happier than herself. Now everything was turning against her. The result was this enigmatic, provocative daughter. When she was informed about of her little brother, she showed no reaction (she had never seen him). And now she was talking about of dying, playing the victim and there was nothing wrong with her at all!

Even worse, Lotte was opening up to the doctor. Lise feared that the doctor would take advantage of that, and continue his consultations. And that the girl would make useless confessions to him. Lotte was capable of such a thing. Since her childhood, she has shown a lack of restraint. Lise now agreed with her husband: Charlotte's behaviour had always been something quite provocative. Charles was not that bad. Since the death of the infant boy, he was kind to his wife, like in the early days of their marriage. But now she valued his advances, and found a peculiar pleasure in his caresses. How did that happen? It had come at once upon her, and it was filling her with shame. She was afraid of her daughter's eyes, it was as if they could guess what was happening. Sometimes, they rested on her like an anxious question. Lise refrained from scolding and from trying to shake the little girl, from asking her to give up this comedy. Lise had unclear feelings about her special affection for Charles and in the light of what had happened, it might have been a horrible thing to accept that the event itself had brought this about. Without doubt, this was true. Both Charles and Lise had endured a terrible shock - both of them have been let down and in their shared torment, they had become closer.


Debased, denied, misunderstood, repressed life is always invincible and worthy of the highest level of compassion. Lise cursed it and blamed it solely for her misery. She was ready to curse the girl who seemed to blame her for her downfall. Perhaps, life was not to blame after all, but those vices, irresistible desire to do what is prohibited. The weak submit to it without resistance. Oppression endured for too long, makes every natural instinct impossible. Hence the unfortunate patient who cannot be healed.  At last, Dr Lagorgne allowed Charlotte to get up a little every day. For this purpose, he suggested the idea to the parents that they sent the child to farmers, whom he knew. They lived around Chateaudun and would not charge much. Charles gave his consent easily, at the same time he announced that he no longer intended to care for his daughter and he would leave the final decision to the mother. Lise thought that this was a waste of money. Yet, and somehow relieved, she agreed.