An excerpt from "Boule de Suif"
She looked agitated and downcast as she advanced timidly towards her fellow travelers, who all, with one movement, turned away their heads as if they had not seen her. The count, with a dignified movement, took his wife by the arm and drew her away from this contaminating contact.
The poor thing stopped short, bewildered; then gathering up her courage she accosted the wife of the manufacturer with a humble "Good Morning, Madame." The other merely replied with an impertinent little nod, accompanied by a stare of outraged virtue. Everybody seemed suddenly extremely busy, and they avoided her as if she had brought the plague in her skirts. They then precipitated themselves into the vehicle, where she arrived the last and by herself, and resumed in silence the seat she had occupied during the first part of the journey.
They affected not to see her, not to recognize her; only Madame Loiseau, glancing around at her with scorn and indignation, said half audibly to her husband, "It’s a good thing that I am not sitting beside her!"
The heavy conveyance jolted off, and the journey was resumed.
No one spoke for the first little while. Boule de Suif did not venture to raise her eyes. She felt incensed at her companions, and at the same time deeply humiliated at having yielded to their persuasions, and let herself be sullied by the kisses of this Prussian into whose arms they had hypocritically thrust her.
The countess was the first to break the uncomfortable silence. Turning to Madame Carré-Lamandon, she said, "You know Madame d’Etrellers, I think?"
"Oh, yes; she is a great friend of mine."
"What a charming woman!"
"Fascinating! So truly refined; very cultivated, too, and an artist to the tips of her fingers — she sings delightfully, and draws to perfection."
The manufacturer was talking to the count, and through the rattle of the crazy windowpanes one caught a word here and there; shares — dividends — premium — settlement day — and the like. Loiseau, who had appropriated an old pack of cards from the inn, thick with the grease of five years’ rubbing on dirty tables, started a game of bezique with his wife. The two Sisters pulled up the long rosaries hanging at their waists, made the sign of the cross, and suddenly began moving their lips rapidly, faster and faster, hurrying their vague babble as if for a wager; kissing a medal from time to time, crossing themselves again, and then resuming their rapid and monotonous murmur.
Cornudet sat motionless — thinking.
At the end of the three hours’ steady traveling Loiseau gathered up his cards and remarked facetiously, "It’s turning hungry." His wife then produced a parcel, which she untied, and brought out a piece of cold veal. This she cut up into thin, firm slices, and both began to eat. "Supposing we do the same?" said the Countess, and proceeded to unpack the provisions prepared for both couples. In one of those oblong dishes with a china hare upon the cover to indicate that a roast hare lies beneath, was a succulent selection of cold viands — brown slices of juicy venison mingled with other meats. A delicious square of Gruyère cheese wrapped in newspaper still bore imprinted on its dewy surface the words "Latest News."
The two Sisters brought out a sausage smelling of garlic, and Cornudet, plunging his hands into the vast pockets of his loose greatcoat, drew up four hard-boiled eggs from one and a big crust of bread from the other. He peeled off the shells and threw them into the straw under his feet, and proceeded to bite into the egg, dropping pieces of the yolk into his long beard, from whence they shone out like stars.
In the hurry and confusion of the morning Boule de Suif had omitted to take thought for the future, and she looked on, furious, choking with mortification, at these people all munching away so placidly. A storm of rage convulsed her, and she opened her mouth to hurl at them the torrent of abuse that rose to her lips, but she could not speak, suffocated by her indignation.
Nobody looked at her, nobody thought of her. She felt herself drowning in the flood of contempt shown towards her by these respectable scoundrels who had first sacrificed her and then cast her off like some useless and unclean thing. Then her thoughts reverted to her great basket full of good things which they had so greedily devoured – the two fowls in their glittering coat of jelly, her patties, her pears, her four bottles of claret, and her fury suddenly subsided like the breaking of an overstrung chord and she felt that she was on the verge of tears. She made the most strenuous efforts to overcome it - straightened herself up and choked back her sobs as children do, but the tears would rise. They glittered for a moment on her lashes, and presently two big drops rolled slowly over her cheeks. Others gathered in quick succession like water dripping from a rock and splashed onto the ample curve of her bosom. She sat up very straight, her eyes fixed, her face pale and rigid, hoping that nobody would notice.
But the Countess saw her and nudged her husband. He shrugged his shoulders as much as to say, "What can you expect? It is not my fault."
Madame Loiseau gave a silent chuckle of triumph and murmured, "She is crying over her shame." The two Sisters had resumed their devotions after carefully wrapping up the remnants of their sausages.
Then Cornudet, while digesting his eggs, stretched his long legs under the opposite seat, leaned back, smiled like a man who has just thought of a capital joke, and began to softly whistle the "Marseillaise."
The faces clouded; the people’s anthem seemed unpleasing to his neighbors; they became nervous — irritable — looking as if they were ready to throw back their heads and howl like dogs at the sound of a barrel organ. He was perfectly aware of this, but did not stop. From time to time he hummed a few of the words:
They drove at a much quicker pace today, the snow being harder; and all the way to Dieppe, during the long, dull hours of the journey, through all the jolting and rattling of the conveyance, in the falling shades of evening and later in the profound darkness of the carriage he continued with unabated persistency his vengeful and monotonous whistling; forcing his wearied and exasperated fellow travelers to follow the song from end to end and to remember every word that corresponded to each note.
And Boule de Suif wept on, and at times a sob which she could not repress broke out between two stanzas in the darkness.