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Old Servien, in his working jacket, stepped up to the bed; then, creeping away again on tip-toe:
"He is asleep, Monsieur Garneret, he is asleep. The doctor tells us he is saved. He is a very good doctor! _You_ know that yourself, for he is your friend, and it was you brought him here. You have been our saviour, Monsieur Garneret."
And the bookbinder turned his head away to wipe his eyes, walked across to the window, lifted the curtain and looked out into the sunlit street.
"The fine weather will quite set him up again. But we have had six terrible weeks. I never lost heart; it is not in the nature of things that a father should despair of his son's life; still, you know, Monsieur Garneret, he has been very ill.
"The neighbours have been very good to us; but it was a hard job nursing him in this cursed cellar. Just think, Monsieur Garneret, for twenty days we had to keep his head in ice."
"You know that is the treatment for meningitis."
The bookbinder came up confidentially to Garneret. He scratched his ear, rubbed his forehead, stroked his chin in great embarrassment.
"My poor lad," he got started at last, "is in love, passionately in love. I have found it out from the things he said when he was delirious. It is not my way to interfere with what does not concern me; but as I see the matter is serious, I am going to ask you, for his own good, to tell me who it is, if you know her."
Garneret shrugged his shoulders:
"An actress! a tragedy actress! pooh!"
The bookbinder pondered a moment; then:
"Look you, Monsieur Garneret, I acted for the best in my poor boy's interest, but I blame myself. I tell myself this, the education I gave him has disqualified him for hard work and practical life.... An actress, you say, a tragedy actress? Tastes of that sort must be acquired in the schools. Those times he was attending his classes, I used to get hold of his exercise books after he had gone to bed and read whatever there was in French. It was my way of checking his work; because, ignoramus as he may be, a man can see, with a little common sense, what is done properly and what is scamped. Well, Monsieur Garneret, I was terrified to find in his themes so many high-flown ideas; some of them were very fine, no doubt, and I copied out on a paper those that struck me most. But I used to tell myself: All these grand speeches, all these histories, taken from the books of the ancient Romans, are going to put my lad's head in a fever, and he will never know the truth of things. I was right, my dear Monsieur Garneret; it is school learning, look you, has made him fall in love with a tragedy actress----"
Jean Servien raised himself up in bed.
"Is that you, Garneret? I am very glad to see you."
Then, after listening a moment:
"Why, what is that noise?" he asked.
Garneret told him it was Mont Valérien firing on the fortifications. The Commune was in full swing.
"Vive la Commune!" cried Jean Servien, and he dropped his head back on the pillow with a smile.
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