Charlotte woke up in a small brass bed similar to the one that was in Henri's room; she realized that she was in Sonia's room. It must have been late, a tall lamp with a pink silk shade, lit up the room. The Liberty curtains were moving; the window was probably ajar. There was a small table with books in the middle of the room. A large wardrobe of light wood, with three mirrored doors, reflected a small group of alabaster dancers placed in front of the fireplace. There were also a recliner with cushions, and two lounge chairs.  Charlotte saw her clothes neatly folded on one of those. She rose, and saw that she was wearing a large nightgown, its sleeves, trimmed with lace reached her fingertips. A pink ribbon tied the collar.  A blue band was securing her plaited hair.

On the side, a door opened and Séraphine entered and called:

"Ric, she's awake."

She heard him pushing his chair which almost fell down.  Immediately he was by her side:

"Are you feeling better, my darling?"

"Oh yes, I am."

"Séraphine, could you ask Eulalie to bring my tea in here?"

He sat on the bed and he kissed the girl:

"Charlotte, tonight you expressed such despair and I hope I’ll never see you like that again! It's true, that I wish all the joys that can come of you to be mine, and I love you with my heart, with my mind. Be sure of that, because if you have doubts, how can you consent to be mine? "

She turned purple, he turned his head and kissed her hand, then he leaned next to her on the pillow.

"My darling, I don't understand you but I won't torment you. Sonia was a young girl once, maybe she'll understand you better. Just tell me what you want, I would oblige, even if it's crazy, I want to see you so happy. Would you prefer if I didn't leave for Berlin?"

When she had fainted, he had called Séraphine, both had put her to bed, and let her sleep for a while. Then he had immediately telegraphed to Sonia and told that Charlotte was ill, and that he could not leave, instead he was asking his sister to come at once, if she did not receive any new message the next morning.

Charlotte said softly:

"Ric, you need to go. Sonia would have a bad opinion of me if I kept you here. You see it's nothing, I'm very tired, crazy, yes, crazy, so happy, it's too much for me I feel dizzy when I lean over the balcony. You're laughing, it's not very high, but I feel that I'm falling ... "

"... Into my arms, my little fairy."

The doorbell rang. It was the doctor whom Henri had called; he had just returned. He found Charlotte overworked and diagnosed a transient weakness that would disappear with some bedrest. He knew Miss Lethoré and advised the family to wait for her; he said that the young man could leave without worry. At the urging of Séraphine, Henry decided that he would do so and they would send a telegram to Sonia, if Charlotte was feeling better. In any case, she needed to stay at here until his return; the old lady was very happy:

"My child, you made her sick with your calculus and your science, you'll hear what Sonia says, and that upon returning you’ll find the girl well, for not touching your nasty books. "

She tucked the girl in and she arranged her pillows. Then it was Eulalie's turn to say good night, she had brought some sugar, some water, and a bell. She much preferred Charlotte to Miss Vera:

"Mr Henri, this tea, are you drinking it, or are you not drinking it?"

"No, thanks, it's cold."

"It's cold, it's not ..."

"Take it, Eulalie," said Séraphine, "and don't make any noise."

The two women left. Henry sat back on the bed, stroking Charlotte's hair; he gave her the little ring. The housekeeper was calling:

"My child, you must let your fiancée rest."

He shouted back:

"Yes, one moment!" and he turned towards Charlotte:

"See you tomorrow, darling. Get a good rest, be happy."

She leaned quite against him:

"My friend - beloved, beloved."

Séraphine called: 

"My child, my child come on now!"

Henri stood up; at the door, he paused again and blew a kiss again for his little soul.

She had asked for the lights not be extinguished. For some time, she touched the ring on her finger. Then she got out of bed for a better look under the lamp. She kissed the two little snake heads, they seemed to rely on one another with confidence, like us, Henri had said, our life.

Life! What has life given her since she was born into this world, without asking for it, same as the children of Armandine? Her family, her school, the world what had they all ever done for her? Nothing, less than nothing. Three months before, she had been wondering about the meaning of her existence and struggled to cope with her huge distress. Now she had a fortune, a home, a family and her misfortune was deeper, yet she was calm, she no longer resented nobody, she no longer wished never to have been born, because in her life there was Henri. She thought, no human creature had never suffered as much as she, and never known such happiness. There was only Henri and how he loved her! Why could not she be the way she would have liked to be.

Don’t think about it!

Tomorrow, she would live a few hours with him. She needed to be calm, and have loving and happy memories of her. He would suffer, but she saw that what she had wanted tonight was sheer madness. Nothing could change that she had lied to him, that whatever happiness they gave him was theft. She would write all this down for Sonia and Henri would weep without cursing her.

She was standing in front of the mirror. She looked at her own reflection: She was very pale, her eyes were sunken and had dark circles. Sonia probably had stood on this very spot looking at herself. Charlotte wanted to evoke her image, not that from the portrait, but the one whom she had become very kind and slow, always balanced. Henri would suffer, but he would have Sonia. This Sonia who had written so tenderly to the stranger who came to take away the heart of his brother. Sonia, everyone said about her: When we see her, we hope, as we hear her, we’re healed. Yet there were sores that even she could not heal: those we do not admit.

Sonia loved little children. Why was Charlotte not one of Sonia’s little children? Those poor children for whom they had sewed clothes? But would she have preferred to meet Sonia rather than her brother? No, not really: to be loved by him was such sweet joy. One day he would have small children of his own, Sonia would like that. He would rock the chair with another creature sitting in, to which he would say similar words with the same voice. Would she be like his poor little Charlotte?

Don’t think about it!

She lifted the curtain, opened the window. Like the study room, it also overlooked the Luxembourg gardens. When she leaned, Charlotte saw those windows. The windows were open and there was light. Now it was windy. Big black clouds in the sky, in between them some stars, Henry had taught her the name of the constellations, she knew about their color, and that all of them were worlds that were singing the glory of eternal life.

Life! How Henri loved life! He did not separate it from his Science, so maybe he would live only for this Science. Others had done he had told her the story, the great Newton. This idea calmed her down a bit.

A noise startled her. She leaned back. Henri was on the balcony and he was not moving. Would he come? She heard him close his shutters. She remained motionless for a few seconds, with her hands on her heart beating so fast that she was almost choking, then she thought that she might be too tired the tired and needed to get some sleep.

She lied down in the small bed and closed her eyes.

Don’t think about it!

How many other human beings such as Fifi  were without a bed? Who knows, maybe she would become like Fifi if she had not met Henri? A door opened, then another. He was coming, she was sure about that. He stopped at her door, she knew she would lose herself if he came inside and she would throw herself to his knees and tell him everything. Then she heard him walk and sobbed.

The outburst crisis lasted for a while, exhausted, she finally fell asleep at four o'clock, and woke up six o’clock.  She spent an hour washing her poor face in the en-suite bathroom, and she was unable to completely erase the traces of her tears.

She opened the window and went out on the balcony.

It was still windy, and the sky was all grey, certainly it was going to rain. Charlotte began to walk slowly. The shutters of the study room were still closed, but she saw that the living room windows were wide open. She went there. As she entered, she gave a slight scream scared. Henri, sitting in the Séraphine’s, looked surprised as he saw her.

He stood up, kissed her and made her sit in his seat:

"Why are you up so early, my little soul?"

"But it’s because you’re leaving."

"I'm leaving, indeed, but not now, and only if you’re feeling better, it doesn’t seem to be the case"

He had been sitting her since daybreak. He had not slept at all.

Usually when he came back from his fiancée’s, he would sit in his chair, which was not very suitable for get any sleep; so he ended it doing calculations often until the morning. After which, he slept until very late. Séraphine would let him do as he pleased, as. she felt that he was too tired.

The previous evening, he was reflecting while looking at the portrait of his sister. It looked like this mother that he had never known and whom he loved, he identifying the one with the other. He was thinking about how his maternal grandfather was quite harsh; yet, he had moved heaven and earth to find her daughter, and he did so for many years. How come Charlotte's parents were so uninterested in their daughter? They might have been depraved, or maybe because they were so depraved?

At that moment, a horrible idea, like a flash of lightning had crossed his mind: If Charlotte had not admitted the true reasons for running away? Her reticence, her sadness, her fear, her strange way of giving, her reticence.

Would he have loved Charlotte if he had realized she was not pure? Probably yes, perhaps differently. Love depends on how someone feels the about the object of their devotion – a variable crystallization variable, but once it’s fixed made and if the parameters are changed, then the disappointment can be terrible. Now Charlotte became a false infernal comedienne, a scary monster, and Henri could not forgive himself that such a thought occurred to him.

Nonetheless, he was left with a feeling of doubt. He tried not to think about it, and to convince himself that he was only suffering from anxiety. Then he went the door of his sister’s apartment of his sister to hear if Charlotte was sleeping, he wanted to come inside and tell her everything. He had felt obnoxious. She loved him, he was sure of that, why should he trouble her, had he not done too much today? She was exhausted and overworked, and she had suffered greatly from her former deprivation, so bravely borne, and the past was still so close. In these past few months, Henri had held her whole world in his hands. Sonia would certainly consent to visit the countryside. Really, they both needed Sonia to restore order in their crazy brains.

Charlotte loved him; she spoke so softly in the park! He tried to think about that and nothing else, and he was deeply moved. Now that he saw her looking so tormented, his doubts came back with the same burning sensation as before.  They had all coordinated, and they were terrible and relentless, like truth. He almost surrounded to it, but resisted and was annoyed. He put his hands on the shoulders of the girl.

Very tired, quite distraught, she was sitting with lowered eyelids, red and swollen, her face looked as pale as wax.

"My sweet darling, have your black butterflies flown away? Have you slept with the thought of Sonia? If we take a little heed to the things around us, you must feel appeased. Tonight I came to your door to see if you needed anything, but I thought you were dreaming of her and maybe I should not disturb you. How are you feeling, Charlotte? "

"Very well."

"Is this true? What do I need to do, my little soul?"

She shook his hand:

"But you need to go, yes really, go. Yesterday I was crazy."

She spoke quickly in a jerky voice, she was holding back her tears, making a tremendous effort to keep her eyes fixed on her beloved, trying to smile; but she saw only through a fog, otherwise his pallor might have terrified her.

Henri explained that he was going to send a telegram to Sonia, and he asked Eulalie to prepare a cup of milk, but in the meantime, Charlotte needed to return to her room and go back to bed.

"But I want to go with you to the station and, and be with you."

"Well, my little soul, we’ll lunch together, and I'll ask Eulalie to go back with you."

"Eulalie will come with us, we won’t be alone?"

"Letting you come back her on your own in that state?  Do you want me to die of worry, my darling?"

This idea of Eulalie between them broke Charlotte’s heart. She would  not be with Henri on her own when he left. Perhaps forever. The train was only at one o’clock, but she was thinking not thinking straight. She had planned to take the omnibus back to her home, there she would write to Sonia, put the letter and enclose the ring in a small box, address it to miss Lethoré, personally so that Sonia before no one opened it, and give it to the concierge. After what would she do? Die. The water always terrified her; the memory of Mathilde Porcher and Notre Dame towers haunted her. You were dead before you reached the ground, you felt nothing, Mom and Mr. Porcher had often talked about it together.

Dying was excruciating, maybe she would lock herself in her home, and wait, maybe Henri would come and look for her.

Charlotte had neither reason nor strength, only one single fixed idea: to finish, remained as a small flickering flame in her brain. Now that she realized that she would not be alone for a minute until Henri came back, everything died inside her. 

"You are so pale, my darling, you’re very ill."

She stood up, threw herself at him and kissed him while, sobbing. Henri kissed her, then pulled away and put his hands to her shoulders:

"Charlotte, I beg your pardon, yesterday, we both were not very worthy. This is because you are hiding something from me, and you make me suffer horribly oh! Sit down, my little soul, let’s talk about it. "

"No, yes, yes, Ric, I lied to you, I am not worthy, I don’t deserve to be loved, I ... I ..."

"You're crazy, Charlotte, tell me you're crazy."

She pulled back, he held her by the wrists. Fell on her knees, she was struggling, pulling, she threw herself back, while stammering incoherently: my father, mother, and others things that he could not hear properly. He did not know himself what he was doing, he only understood that she wanted to run away with no explanation, he tried to help her up, to reassure her, to speak to her, to call her, his voice was hoarse:

"My darling, my darling"

His foot caught in the chair. He was thrown forward against the front of the door window. The unexpected pain was so intense that he let her go. As soon as he got up, he saw her on the railing of the balcony, and he uttered a frightful cry: Charlotte! Other cries echoed on the street.

Her legs were broken when they picked her up. The doctor asked people to leave them alone, adding that it wouldn’t be long. Charlotte, lying in  Sonia’s bed,  opened her eyes and looked at Henry. Sitting next to her, he was pale and quiet. That did he think of her? What did he understand? He was speaking to her, promising her that Sonia was coming soon, and that the cure would always love whatever may be the truth that she would tell him it would vanish at the sight of her tenderness like a phantom of the night. When someone came, he asked: Sonia? and realizing that it was not her, he looked as Charlotte saying "My darling, she's coming." People came asking questions and they did not get any answer. Séraphine  and Eulalie were in tears and begged them to wait. Henri only left Charlotte’s side to get her a drink. . She was terribly thirsty. He kissed her lips and said:

"My darling, don’t go away, don’t worry, I love you, you’re my life."

Then she seemed happy and tried to smile her although she suffered horribly. A continual buzzing filled his ears; it sounded like ringing bells pealing, but it was only the Mémaine’s song and Henri who spoke about living endless days in Clary.

She and died about five o’clock in the afternoon, and Henri stayed by her bedside for the entire evening and the night, until Sonia’s arrival:

"Sonia, I want to know, I want to understand why she died."




Sonia had sought answers without knowing where her enquiries would lead and only to occupy the mind of her poor child. Thanks to the Armandine’s kindness, she had met Martha, and Martha had replied:

"No, ma'am, Charlotte has never had another lover apart your brother, he knows something, I guess. She didn’t have much luck with him the poor little mite. If you’re asking me to speak otherwise, forget about it!"

"No, Miss, we seek the truth, because we don’t know anything, and we need it because we do not believe in evil for the sake of evil. If we were to learn that the misfortune of the one I already called my sister was larger than we presumed, our memory of her will still be dear, but our pain would be increased. Thank you for your frank honesty. My brother is downstairs. I'll get him. Could you tell him what you’ve just told me? He is still very poorly, In the name of who you love I beg you: have pity on him. "

Sonia was not mistaken. Martha was good and she was very kind, but she did not know anything, and understood nothing. Armandine also said that Charlotte has never had any other male friend except for Mr Henri, who had been very nice:

"Yes, ma'am, you can count on what I say, Charlotte wasn’t a lying little girl, but she had her pride. Your brother was too good, too learned, I could tell, when he explained to my boy. She never felt worthy of him. Come on, there’re many things in this world which we can’t explain. Why did my Lili suffer from heart trouble, when nobody in my family was? Don’t look: you won’t find you’re together with your brother, stay together."

"Ric, you know this young woman, Lucie, used to know Charlotte when she was a child. I found her thanks to Armandine. We need to look at your poor Charlotte’s family that your poor Charlotte to look, I realised that the ways when I saw the mother."

"Who hounded us, insulted us, Sonia, who wanted to get us arrested despite your letters, mine, yet the evidence. Oh pity those people who don’t know how to love, suffer nothing, and who full of hate."

"The poor woman, she would like to think of us as murderers, but I saw that she was upset when I told her that Charlotte didn’t want to marry you. She became pale and she forbid us to talk to the father."

"Yes, Charlotte feared her father: he drank Watch out for him, my dear poor Sonia . Ask him why they abandoned her, left her all alone, alone, a little soul Maybe she had a lover...? Did her mother not tell you say that? "

"No dear, you know that I don’t believe that, it’s possible because Charlotte never lived elsewhere except Rue Flocon. The concierge recognized you and said that she never saw anyone else. "

"That night when she was ill, I had thought about that but when I saw her, with her eyes that never left me as if I were their last light, then I realized that she loved me. I thought maybe before me she had another relationship, and had a bad experience so she was afraid to commit again. And when I loved her, she didn’t dare to confide in me. Do you think the same?"

"Calm down my dear boy, something like this is possible, but ..."

"If you had loved me less if I had been like the others, she would still be alive, and I would suffer less at the thought that another ..."

"Calm down. She would have become like Martha and you like .... this fool who lost her without realizing. You don’t want that."

"I'm very calm."

"Listen to me, my boy, if I had not been in love it, I would have suffered less, but would I understand how you feel now and cry with you? I don’t regret anything Here's the truth and I'm sure you’ll see that she died for nothing. There are lies, hypocrisy, false modesty, our conventions, our prejudices. They are deaf, blind, stupid and dangerous and we won’t demolish them in one day.”

"Sonia, you know!"

"Yes maybe, calm down, I didn’t want to say it too fast, calm down I saw her father .... Listen to me, you will remember that beautiful face that your sweet Charlotte had when she was dying and when you kissed her and you could see that she was happy. she loved you, she loved you, don’t doubt, my boy, and she was happy. You need to know only Truth can give us affordable joys; no matter how long they last, eternity holds within the fleeting moments.  You believed in her, you went to her with a light heart, you were surprised that so many unfortunate souls turned her away. You were young, my boy, you will never turn away, you won’t lose anything from your soul. Believe me, like Truth, your Charlotte was simple, naive and pure. She was distraught because she didn’t want you to doubt her, and she left this world thinking of you. You were the only one, the delight of her poor life. you will work, Ric, you'll always be good. you owe it to her. From the pain that you feel, you’ll find the desire to stay on the right path."

Truth, one infinite, elusive and changing, truth of Science. You exist for fallible humans seeking you and escape those you who caught you; you, who are not and who are the life, worthy of all the names, likely of all forms; for you, I picked these flowers which chance has placed along my path. All, those who loved you, those who ignored you, were born into your greatness; all for them suffered and they will sleep with your peace. I did not know how to put them together well, nor was I able to judge each one according to thy justice alone, but I was granted  the joy of trying with piety and your hope.