The Dream

Emile Zola
The Dream

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Title: The Dream
Author: Emile Zola
Release Date: December, 2005 [EBook #9499] [Yes, we are more than
one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on October 6,

Edition: 10
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by Dagny, John Bickers, and Roger Proctor

Translated by Eliza E. Chase

During the severe winter of 1860 the river Oise was frozen over and the
plains of Lower Picardy were covered with deep snow. On Christmas
Day, especially, a heavy squall from the north-east had almost buried
the little city of Beaumont. The snow, which began to fall early in the
morning, increased towards evening and accumulated during the night;
in the upper town, in the Rue des Orfevres, at the end of which, as if
enclosed therein, is the northern front of the cathedral transept, this was
blown with great force by the wind against the portal of Saint Agnes,
the old Romanesque portal, where traces of Early Gothic could be seen,
contrasting its florid ornamentation with the bare simplicity of the
transept gable.
The inhabitants still slept, wearied by the festive rejoicings of the
previous day. The town-clock struck six. In the darkness, which was
slightly lightened by the slow, persistent fall of flakes, a vague living
form alone was visible: that of a little girl, nine years of age, who,

having taken refuge under the archway of the portal, had passed the
night there, shivering, and sheltering herself as well as possible. She
wore a thin woollen dress, ragged from long use, her head was covered
with a torn silk handkerchief, and on her bare feet were heavy shoes
much too large for her. Without doubt she had only gone there after
having well wandered through the town, for she had fallen down from
sheer exhaustion. For her it was the end of the world; there was no
longer anything to interest her. It was the last surrender; the hunger that
gnaws, the cold which kills; and in her weakness, stifled by the heavy
weight at her heart, she ceased to struggle, and nothing was left to her
but the instinctive movement of preservation, the desire of changing
place, of sinking still deeper into these old stones, whenever a sudden
gust made the snow whirl about her.
Hour after hour passed. For a long time, between the divisions of this
double door, she leaned her back against the abutting pier, on whose
column was a statue of Saint Agnes, the martyr of but thirteen years of
age, a little girl like herself, who carried a branch of palm, and at whose
feet was a lamb. And in the tympanum, above the lintel, the whole
legend of the Virgin Child betrothed to Jesus could be seen in high
relief, set forth with a charming simplicity of faith. Her hair, which
grew long and covered her like a garment when the Governor, whose
son she had refused to marry, gave her up to the soldiers; the flames of
the funeral pile, destined to destroy her, turning aside and burning her
executioners as soon as they lighted the wood; the miracles performed
by her relics; Constance, daughter of the Emperor, cured of leprosy;
and the quaint story of one of her painted images, which, when the
priest Paulinus offered it a very valuable emerald ring, held out its
finger, then withdrew it, keeping the ring, which can be seen at this
present day. At the top of the tympanum, in a halo of glory, Agnes is at
last received into heaven, where her betrothed, Jesus, marries her, so
young and so little, giving her the kiss of eternal happiness.
But when the wind rushed through
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