MADAME CURIE BY EVE CURIE Part 1
直訳が、 Ｓ｜Ａ｜Ｂ｜、は、Ｖ｜Ｃ｜Ｄ｜。 となっていたら、
日本語としては、 Ｂ Ａ Ｓ は、 Ｄ Ｃ Ｖ。 ですが、直訳の語順でも理解できるように、頭を馴らしてください。
Ｓは、Ｖ｜Ｂ、Ｃ||Ｄ||｜Ｅ｜。 は、Ｓは、Ｅ Ｂ Ｄ Ｃ Ｖ。
MADAME CURIE キュリー夫人
BY EVE CURIE 作 イーブ・キュリー
TRANSLATED BY VINCENT SHEEAN 翻訳 ビンセント･シーアン
FIRST PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 1938 初版 1938年2月
PART ONE 第一部
01. MANYA マーニャ
02. DARK DAYS 暗黒の日々
03. ADOLESCENCE 青春時代
04. VOCATION 使命
05. GOVERNESS 家庭教師
06. THE LONG WAIT 永い待機
07. THE ESCAPE 脱出
PART TWO 第二部
08. PARIS パリ
09. FORTY ROUBLES A MONTH 月40ルーブル
10. PIERRE CURIE ピエール･キュリー
11. A YOUNG COUPLE 若い二人
12. THE DISCOVERY OF RADIUM ラジウムの発見
13. FOUR YEARS IN A SHED 倉庫での４年間
14. A HARD LIFE 困難な生活
15. A DOCTOR'S THESIS 博士論文
16. THE ENEMY 敵
17. EVERY DAY 日常
18. APRIL 19, 1906 1906年4月19日
PART THREE 第三部
19. ALONE 独り
20. SUCCESSES AND ORDEALS 成功と試練
21. WAR 戦争
22. PEACE − HOLIDAYS AT LARCOUEST 平和−ラルクエストでの休暇
23. AMERICA アメリカ
24. FULL BLOOM 開花
25. ON THE ILE SAINT-LOUIS サン･ルイ島にて
26. THE LABORATORY 研究所
27. THE END OF THE MISSION 使命の終わり
●The life of Marie Curie contains prodigies in such
number that one would like to tell her story like a legend.
●She was a woman; she belonged to an oppressed nation;
she was poor; she was beautiful.
A powerful vocation summoned her from her
motherland, Poland, to study in Paris, where she lived through years of poverty
There she met a man whose genius was akin to hers.
him; their happiness was unique.
By the most desperate and arid effort they
discovered a magic element, radium.
This discovery not only gave birth to a
new science and a new philosophy:
it provided mankind with the means of treating
a dreadful disease.
●At the moment when the fame of the two scientists
and benefactors was spreading through the world, grief overtook Marie:
husband, her wonderful companion, was taken from her by death in an instant.
But in spite of distress and physical illness, she continued alone the work that
had been begun with him and brilliantly developed the science they hud created
●The rest of her life resolves itself into a kind of perpetual
To the war wounded she gave her devotion and her health.
she gave her advice, her wisdom and all the hours of her time to her pupils, to
future scientists who came to her from all parts of the world.
mission was accomplished she died exhausted, having refused wealth and endured
her honours with indifference.
●It would have been a crime to add the
slightest ornament to this story, so like a myth.
I have not related a
single anecdote of which I am not sure.
I have not deformed a single essential phrase or so much as invented the colour of a dress.
The facts are as stated; the quoted word were actually pronounced.
●I am indebted to
my Polish family, charming and cultivated, and above all to my mother's eldest
sister, Mme Dluska, who was her dearest friend, for precious letters and direct
evidence on the youth of the scientist.
From the personal papers and short
biographical notes left by Marie Curie,
from innumerable official documents, the
narratives and letters of French and Polish friends whom I cannot thank enough,
and from the recollections of my sister Irene Joliot-Curie, of my
brother-in-law, Frederic Joliot and my own,
I have been able to evoke her more
●I hope that the reader may constantly feel, across the
ephemeral movement of one existence, what in Marie Curie was even more rare than
her work or her life:
the immovable structure of a character; the stubborn
effort of an intelligence;
the free immolation of a being that could give all
and take nothing, could even receive nothing;
and above all the quality of a
soul in which neither fame nor adversity could change the exceptional purity.
説明 私は読者に以下のことを感じ取っていただきたい、(1) 彼女の稀有なところ、(2) 彼女の動じない性格、(3) 彼女の不屈の努力、(4) 彼女の自己犠牲、(5) 名誉も逆境も変える事の出来なかった彼女の魂の全特性を。
●Because she had that soul, without the slightest sacrifice Marie Curie
rejected money, comfort and the thousand advantages that genuinely great men may
obtain from immense fame.
She suffered from the part the world wished her to
her nature was so susceptible and exacting that among all the attitudes
suggested by fame she could choose none:
neither familiarity nor mechanical
friendliness, deliberate austerity nor showy modesty.
●She did not know how to be famous. 彼女は、知らなかった｜いかにして有名になるかを｜。
●My mother was thirty-seven years old when I was born.
When I was big enough to know her well, she was already an aging woman who
had passed the summit of renown.
And yet it is the celebrated scientist who
is strangest to me - probably because the idea that she was a "celebrated
scientist" did not occupy the mind of Marie Curie.
それでも、著名な科学者なるものは、私の最も見知らぬものでした - 多分、彼女は、自分が「著名な科学者」であるという考えが、彼女の心の中になかったからでしょう。
It seems to me, rather,
that I have always lived near the poor student, haunted by dreams, who was Marya
Sklodovska long before I came into the world.
●And to this young girl
Marie Curie still bore a resemblance on the day of her death.
A hard and
long and dazzling career had not succeeded in making her greater or less, in
sanctifying or debasing her.
She was on that last day just as gentle,
stubborn, timid and curious about all things as in the days of her obscure
●It was impossible to inflict on her, without sacrilege, the
pompous obsequies which governments give their great men.
In a country
graveyard, among summer flowers, she had the simplest and quietest burial, as if
the life just ended had been like that of a thousand others.
have liked the gifts of a writer to tell of this eternal student - of whom
Einstein said: "Marie Curie is, of all celebrated beings, the only one whom fame
has not corrupted" - passing like a stranger across her own life, intact, natural
and very nearly unaware of her astonishing destiny.
私に、あればよかったのに｜作家の才能が｜この永遠の学徒の話をするための｜、 - この学徒について、アインシュタインは、語った、「マリー･キュリーは、すべての著名人の中で、名声が堕落させることのなかった唯一の人だ。」 - 彼女の驚くべき運命のことなど殆ど知らずに、無傷で、自然で、彼女の人生の傍を通り過ぎる見知らぬ人の様に(語る才能が)。
EVE CURIE. エーヴ･キュリー
●Deep silence invaded
the school building in Novolipki Street on Sundays.
Beneath the stone pediment,
carved in Russian letters with the words "High School for Boys," the
principal door was bolted and the columned vestibule looked like an abandoned
説明 ハイスクールは、中等学校。日本の中学は、jinior high school, 高校は、senior high school
Life had retired from the single storey of the long, low structure, from
its light-filled rooms where the desks of black wood were aligned, scratched by
penknives and cut with initials.
Nothing could be heard but the bells of the
Church of the Virgin, ringing for vespers, and, now and then, coming from the
street, the rattle of a cart or the lazily trotting horse of a droshky.
Behind the railing which bordered the courtyard the school's four lilac trees
bloomed, dusty and meager, and passers-by in their Sunday best turned with
surprise to catch a breath of the sugary scent.
It was hot, even though May was hardly ended. 暑かった、５月はまだ全然終わっていないというのに。
In Warsaw the sun is as tyrannous and intense as the frost. ワルシャワでは、太陽は、霜のように容赦なく強い。
●But something had disturbed this sabbatical peace. しかし、何かが、この安息の平和を乱した。
From the left wing of the
building, on the ground floor, where dwelt M. Vladislav Sklodovski, professor of
physics and under-inspector of the school, there came the muffled echo of
It sounded like hammer-strokes, without order or
then the rumble of a structure falling to pieces, saluted by sharp
then blows again. そしてまた、(ハンマーの)殴打の音。
And brief orders shouted in Polish: そして、短い命令｜ポーランド語で叫ばれた｜、
"Hela, I've run out of munitions!" 『ヘラ、弾がなくなった』
"The tower, Joseph! Aim at the tower!" 『塔よ、ジョゼフ。塔をねらって！』
"Manya, get out of the way!" 『マーニャ、どいて！』
"Why? I'm bringing you some cubes!" 『どして？ 積み木を持っていくとこよ。』
●A crash, the thunder of wooden blocks across the polished
floor, and the tower was gone.
The noise was doubled; projectiles flew, alighted. 騒音は、倍加。弾丸は、飛び、舞落ちる。
●The battle field was a huge square room with windows giving on
an inside courtyard of the Gymnasium.
Four children's beds occupied its corners, ４つの子供用ベッドが、その一角を占めていた、
and, between them, four children from five to nine years of age played
their game of war with shrieks and yells.
The peaceful uncle, a lover of
whist and patience, who had given the small Sklodovskis a building game for
Christmas, had certainly not foreseen the use to which his present would be put.
For some days Joseph, Bronya, Hela and Manya had obediently built castles,
bridges and churches according to the models they found in the big wooden box;
but the blocks and beams soon found their true destiny:
short columns of oak
formed an artillery, the small squares were bullets, and the young architects
had become field-marshals.
●Crawling on his belly across the floor,
Joseph was gaining ground, and moved his cannon methodically forward toward the
Even at the height of the battle his healthy child's face, with
its firm features underneath fair hair, kept the seriousness proper to an army
He was the eldest and the most learned of the four; he was also
the only man.
Around him were girls, nothing but girls, all dressed alike
and all wearing, over their Sunday clothes, little frilled collars and dark
●But, to be just, the girls fought well. しかし、公平になるなら、少女たちもよく戦った。
The eyes of
Hela, Joseph's ally, blazed with savage ardour.
Hela was mad with rage at her six and a half years; ヘラは、自分が６歳半であることに激怒していた。
she wanted to fling her blocks farther and harder; 彼女は、積み木を、もっと遠く、もっと強く投げたかった。
envied Bronya her eight years - Bronya the dimpled and dazzling creature whose
blonde hair whipped the air as she pranced about defending her troops, drawn up
between the two windows.
彼女は、ブローニャが８歳であることを羨んだ - ブローニャは、えくぼのある、まばゆいばかりの人で、２つの窓の間に陣取った彼女の軍隊を防御するために跳びはねながら、ブロンドの髪が空中を鞭打っていた。
●At Bronya's side a tiny aide-de-camp in a fancy
apron gathered up munitions, galloped from one battalion to another, and busied
herself mightily, her face aflame, her lips dry from having cried and laughed
●The child stopped in full flight and
allowed her apron, which she held clutched to her breast, to fall; a consignment
of blocks clattered to the floor.
説明 consignment は、委託、委託販売 の意味で使われますが、委託発送のための積み荷のことも指します。
"What's the matter?" 『どうしたの？』
the eldest of the young Sklodovskis, had just come into the room.
was not yet twelve she appeared, beside her younger brother and sisters, to be a
Her long, ash-blonde hair was thrown back to fall loosely on her
shoulders, She had a lovely, animated face and dreaming eyes of exquisite grey.
説明 ash-blond は、灰色がかった金髪
"Mother says you've been playing too long. You must stop now."
"But Bronya needs me . . . I'm the one that brings her blocks!"
"Mamma says you're to come now." 『ママが、いってるの、すぐいらっしゃいって。』
●After a moment's hesitation Manya took her
sister's hand and made a dignified exit.
It is hard to fight a war at the age of
five, and the little girl, at the end of her strength, was not altogether
unhappy to abandon the battle.
From the next room a gentle voice was calling her
by names like caresses: "Manya . . . Manyusya . . my Anciupecio ..."
Poland, diminutives and nicknames are very common.
The Sklodovskis had never
called Sophie, their eldest daughter, anything but "Zosia."
taken the place of Bronislava, Helen became "Hela," and Joseph "Jozio."
But none of them had received as many nicknames as Marya, the youngest and
best-loved in the house.
"Manya" was her ordinary diminutive, "Manyusya" a
name of affection, and "Anciupecio" a comic nickname dating from her earliest
"My Anciupecio, how mussed your hair is! And how red you are!"
●Delicate hands, too pale and too thin, tied the undone ribbons of the
apron and smoothed the short curls from the stubborn face of the future
Little by little, the child relaxed and was at peace. 少しずつ、その子はリラックスし、安らかな気持ちとなった。
●Manya had an infinite love for her mother. マーニャは、母に無限の愛をいだいていた。
It seemed to her that no other creature on
earth could be so graceful, so good or so wise.
●Mme Sklodovska was the
eldest daughter in a family of country squires.
Her father, Felix Boguski,
belonged to that small landowning nobility which has so many representatives in
Too poor to live on his own estate, he had to administer the property of
families more powerful than his own.
His marriage was romantic: 彼の結婚は、ロマンチックだった。
he fell in love
with an aristocratic young girl with no fortune but of nobler birth than his,
and carried her off to a secret marriage in spite of the protests of the
Years rolled on: the seducer became a timid, shivering old
man and his beloved a peevish grandmother. . . .
●Of their six children
Mme Sklodovska was certainly the most balanced and the most intelligent.
received a very good education in a private school in Warsaw, and, having
decided to devote herself to teaching, became a professor in the same school and
finally director of the institution.
When, in 1860, Professor Vladislav
Sklodovski asked her hand in marriage, he was choosing a very accomplished wife.
She had no money; but she was well-born, she was pious and she was active.
She had an assured career ahead of her. 彼女は、前途が保証されたキャリアを持っていた。
Moreover, she was a musician: さらに、彼女は、音楽家だった。
she could play
the piano and sing the ballads of the day in a ravishing languid voice.
●Last of all, she was very beautiful. 最後に、彼女は、非常に美しかった。
An exquisite photograph shows her to us at the time of
with her perfectly drawn face, her smooth and heavily
plaited hair, the marvellous arch of her brows, and the peaceful, secret look of
her grey eyes lengthened like the eyes of Egypt.
●It was what people
called a "very suitable" marriage;
the Sklodovskis were also part of that minor
nobility which the misfortunes of Poland had ruined.
The cradle of the clan,
Sklody, was an agglomeration of farms about a hundred kilometres north of
Several families, allied among themselves and originating at Sklody,
bore the name of Sklodovski:
according to a widespread custom, the lord of the
manor at some time in the past was supposed to have bestowed on his tenants the
right to adopt his coat of arms.
●The natural vocation of these families
was to cultivate the earth;
but in times of trouble the estates grew poorer and
were frittered away.
Though in the eighteenth century the direct ancestor of
Vladislav Sklodovski possessed several hundred acres and could lead a
and even his descendants lived like well-to-do farmers,
same was not true of Joseph, the young professor's father.
In his desire to
improve his own condition and to honour the name of which he was so proud, that
Sklodovski turned toward study;
and after a career made dramatic by wars and
revolutions, he is to be found directing the boys' school in an important town,
He was the first intellectual in the family. 彼は、この家族の最初の知識人であった。
●The Boguski and the
Sklodovski formed numerous households: six children here, seven there.
説明 here と there は、フランス語原文でも、ici と la となっています。
フランス語では、後にのべたほうが現在に近いので、celui-ci が、後者、celui-la が前者を指します。
すなわち、ici (こっち) は、後者、la (そっち) が、前者 を指します。
Farmers, school-teachers, a notary, a nun. . . . お百姓さん、学校の先生、公証人、尼さん. . . .
And then a few eccentric shadows appear: それに、何人か風変わりな影が、現れる：
one of Mme Sklodovska's brothers, Henryk Boguski, was an incurable dilettante
who believed himself to be gifted for the most perilous enterprises of genius.
And as for the reckless Zdzislav Sklodovski - the professor's brother
- that jolly
fellow who was successively a lawyer in Petersburg, a soldier in the Polish
insurrection, and an exile, a Provencal poet and doctor of law at Toulouse,
wavered perpetually between ruin and riches.
●On both sides of the family
hotheads and peaceable characters occur at once; men of judgment rub shoulders
●The parents of Marie Curie were among the
Her father, following his own father's example, went far in his
scientific studies at the University of Petersburg, and returned to Warsaw to
teach mathematics and physics.
Her mother successfully conducted a school to
which the best families of the town sent their daughters.
During eight years the
family lived at her school in Freta Street, on the first floor.
as the schoolmaster left the conjugal lodging - which gave on the courtyard with
balconies light as garlands from window to window - the rooms at the front of the
house echoed with the chatter of young girls waiting for their first class.
毎朝、校長が、夫婦の住まい (それは中庭に面していて、窓から窓に花飾りの様に軽いバルコニーがついていた) を出る時、家の前の教室は、一時間目のクラスを待つ若い娘たちのおしゃべりがこだましていた。
●But when, in 1868, Vladislav Sklodovski left the school where he had been
teaching to become professor and under- inspector at the high school in
Novolipki Street, his wife had to adapt herself to the new existence.
have been impossible for her to live in the apartment allotted them by her
husband's new position, keep her place as principal of the girls' school, and at
the same time bring up the five children she had brought into the world.
without regret Mme Sklodovska gave up her work at the boarding school and left
the Freta Street house where, some months before (November 7, 1867), she had
given birth to Marie Curie, little Manya.
後悔なくもなく、スクロドフスカ夫人は、寄宿学校での仕事を諦め、フレタ通りの家を去った、その家で、数ヵ月前 (1867年11月7日) に、マリー･キュリー、小っちゃなマーニャ を生んだのでした。
●"Now then, Anciupecio, are you asleep?" 『あら、アンチュペーチョ、ねてる？』
Manya, doubled up on a little hassock at her mother's feet,
shook her head.
"No, Mamma. I'm all right." 『ううん。ママ。へいきよ。』
●Once again Mme
Sklodovska ran her light fingers over the forehead of her youngest child.
familiar gesture was the sweetest Manya knew.
As far back as Manya could
remember she had never been kissed by her mother.
She could imagine no greater
happiness than to crouch near by, as close as possible to the pensive and
charming figure, and to feel confusedly, by almost imperceptible signs - a word, a
smile, an affectionate look - what immense tenderness watched over her young
彼女は、以上の喜びは想像できなかった｜物思いに沈んだ魅力的な人にできるだけ近く近づいてうずくまり、殆ど感知できないような徴 (言葉、微笑み、愛するまなざし) で、なんと広大なやさしさが、彼女の若い運命を見守ってくれているのか、わけがわからなくなりながらも感じること｜。
●She did not yet understand the cruel origin of these rites and
of the isolation to which her mother was condemned:
Mme Skiodovska was seriously ill. スクロドフスカ夫人は、思い病気にかかっていたのだ。
The first signs of tuberculosis had appeared when Manya was born,
the five years since then, in spite of care and consultation, the disease had
made certain progress.
But Mme Sklodovska, a courageous Christian, was
determined that nobody at home should notice her suffering more than she could
Dressed with neatness, ever high-spirited, she continued the life of a
busy housewife and gave the illusion of being well even though she imposed
strict rules on herself;
she would use only dishes reserved for herself, and
would never embrace her son or her daughters.
The little Sklodovskis knew very
little about her dreadful disease:
short attacks of dry coughing, which they
heard from one room to the next;
a desolate shadow on their father's face; 父の顔のさびしい影、
the short phrase, "Restore our mother's health," which, for some time past, had
been added to their evening prayer....
●The young woman rose and
gently put aside the childish hands that clung to her.
"Let me go, Manyusya ... I have things to do." 『行かせて、マーニャ、ご用があるの。』
"May I stay here? I may I read?" 『ここに居ていい？ ご本読んでていい？』
"I wish you would go into the garden instead. It's so beautiful today!"
●A very special timidity reddened Manya's cheeks when she broached the
subject of reading:
the year before, in the country, Bronya, finding it
extremely boring to have to learn the whole alphabet by herself, had taken it
into her head to make her sister an experiment in education, to "play teacher"
For several weeks the little girls had amused themselves by arranging,
in what was often enough an arbitrary order, their letters cut out of cardboard.
いく週間か、少女たちは、楽しんだ｜厚紙から切り出したアルファベットを並べて (しばしば十分でたらめのならびでしたが) ｜。
Then, one morning, while Bronya was faltering out a very simple reading lesson
to her parents, Manya grew impatient, took the opened book from her hands, and
read aloud the opening sentence on the page.
At first, flattered by the silence
that surrounded her, she continued this fascinating game, but suddenly panic
One look at the stupefied faces of M. and Mme Sklodovski, another at
Bronya's sulky stare, a few unintelligible stammers, an irrepressible sob - and
instead of the infant prodigy there was only a baby of four, crying in a doleful
voice through her tears:
"Beg - pardon! Pardon! I didn't do it on
purpose. It's not my fault - it's not Bronya's fault!
It's only because it was so easy!" とってもやさしかったからだもの。』
●Manya had suddenly conceived, with despair, that she might
perhaps never be forgiven for having learned to read.
memorable session the child had grown familiar with her letters;
and if she did
not make remarkable progress it was owing to the adroit diplomacy of her
parents, who constantly avoided giving books to her.
Like prudent pedagogues,
they were afraid of the precocity of their little girl,
and every time she put
out her hand toward one of the big-lettered albums that abounded in the house, a
voice suggested: "You'd better play with your blocks. . . . Where is your doll?
. . . Sing us a song, Manya."
そして、マーニャが、その家に沢山あった大きな文字の本の一つに手を差し伸べるといつも、声がすすめた、 『積み木であそんだら... お人形さんは、どこ... 歌をうたって、マーニャ...』
Or else, as today: "I wish you would go into the
●Manya cast a speculative eye in the direction of the
door through which she had entered a while before.
The rumble of blocks on the
floor and the cries that came almost unmuffled through the partition proved that
she had small chance of finding a walking companion there.
There was no hope in
the direction of the kitchen, either:
a steady chatter and the crash of poker
and stove lid announced that the servants were preparing the evening meal.
"I'll look for Zosia." 『ゾーシャを捜すわ。』
"If you like." 『そうね。』
"Zosia . . . Zosia!" 『ゾーシャ、ゾーシャ！』
●Hand in hand the two sisters went through the narrow yard where, every
day, they had played hide-and-seek and blindman's buff;
passing the school
buildings they reached a big level garden guarded by its gate of worm-eaten
●A faint smell of the earth, of countryside, was exhaled from the
meagre grass and walled-in trees,
"Zosia, are we going to Zwola pretty soon?" 『ゾーシャ、私達は、ズヴォーラにすぐいくの？』
"Not yet - not until July. But can you remember
●Manya, with her astonishing memory, could recollect it all:
the stream in which
she and her sisters had paddled for hours at a time last suimmer. . . .
mud cakes they had secretly kneaded, spattering their dresses and aprons with
blackish spots, and as secretly put out to dry in the sun on a board known only
to themselves. . . .
The old lime tree which was sometimes climbed by as many as
seven or eight conspirators at a time, cousins and friends; they used to lift
her, too, the "little one" whose arms and legs were not long enough. . . .
main branches were padded with cabbage leaves, cold and crackling;
cabbage leaves among the smaller branches they cooled their provisions of
gooseberries, of tender raw carrots, of cherries . . .
●And at Marki, the
torrid granary where Joseph used to go to learn his multiplication tables, and
where they tried to bury Manya under the moving grain. . . .
And old Father
Skrzypovski, who made his whip crack so brilliantly when he drove the "break"!
And Uncle Xavier's horses . . . そして、グザヴィエおじさんの馬
●Every year the children had intoxicating
holidays in the country.
The fact was that in this vast family only one
branch had become city dwellers;
the Sklodovskis had numerous relations on the
In each province there were some Sklodovskis and some Boguskis who
cultivated a little of the Polish earth,
and even though their houses were not
sumptuous, they all had room enough to take in the professor and his family
during the fine weather.
In spite of her family's modest revenue, Manya was
saved a knowledge of the dull holidaymaking of the cheap "summer resorts"
frequented by the inhabitants of Warsaw.
In summer this daughter of
intellectuals became - or perhaps became again, in accordance with the deepest
instinct of her race - a hardy little peasant.
"Let's run. I'll bet I can
get to the end of the garden before you!"
Zosia cried, taking her role as
"mother" with becoming seriousness.
"I don't want to run. I want you to
tell me a story."
●Nobody - not even the professor or his wife - could tell a
story like Zosia.
Her imagination added extraordinary touches, like the
brilliant variations of a virtuoso, to every anecdote or fairy tale.
also composed short comedies, which she performed with spirit in front of her
astonished sisters and brother.
Zosia' s gifts as author and actress had quite
subjugated Manya, who giggled and shuddered by turns as she listened to
adventures so fantastic that their thread was not always easy for a baby of five
●The girls turned back toward the house. 二人は、家の方に向きを変えた。
As they drew nearer
to the high school the elder instinctively slowed down and lowered her voice.
The story she was making up and declaiming was not finished: even so, Zosia cut
The children walked silently past the windows in the right wing of the
school all veiled by the same stiff lace curtains.
●Behind those windows
lived the person whom the Sklodovski family most feared and detested:
director of the Gymnasium, the man who represented, within the walls of that
school, the government of the Tsar.
●It was a cruel fate, in the year
1872, to be a Pole, a "Russian subject," and to belong to that vibrant
intelligentsia whose nerves were so near the surface;
説明 神経が表面近くにある は、敏感な という意味だと思います。
among them revolt was ever
brooding, and they suffered more painfully than any other class in society from
the servitude imposed upon them.
●Exactly a century before, greedy
sovereigns, the powerful neighbours of a greatly weakened state, had decided
Three successive partitions had dismembered it into fragments
which became officially German, Russian and Austrian.
On several occasions the
Poles rose against their oppressors:
they succeeded only in strengthening the
bonds that held them prisoners.
After the failure of the heroic revolution of
1831 the Tsar Nicholas dictated severe measures of reprisal in Russian Poland.
The patriots were imprisoned and deported in a body; their property was
confiscated. . . .
●In 1863 another attempt and another catastrophe:
rebels had nothing but spades, scythes and clubs to oppose to the Tsarist
Eighteen months of desperate struggle - and in the end the bodies of the
insurgent leaders swung from five gibbets on the ramparts of Warsaw.
18か月のやぶれかぶれの闘争 - そしてついに、反乱軍の指導者たちの体が、ワルシャワの城壁の上の５台のさらし絞首台に吊るされた。
●Since then everything had been done to enforce the obedience of a Poland that
refused to die.
While the convoys of chained rebels made their way toward the
snows of Siberia, a flood of policemen, professors and minor functionaries was
let loose over the countryside.
Their mission? 彼らの使命は？
To keep watch over the Poles, to
wear down their religion, suppress suspicious books and newspapers, and abolish
the use of the national language little by little - in a word, to kill the soul of
●But in the other camp resistance was quick to organise.
説明 in the other camp は、フランス語原文でも、dans l'autre camp です。
Disastrous experience had proved to the Poles that they had no chance of
reconquering their liberty by force, at least for the moment.
Their task was,
therefore, to wait - and to thwart the dangers of those who wait, cowardice and
それ故、彼らの仕事は、待つことだった - そして、待つ人の危険、臆病と落胆、を阻止することだった。
●The battle, therefore, had changed ground. それ故、戦いは、場所を変えた。
were no longer those warriors armed with scythes who charged the Cossacks and
died saying (like the celebrated Louis Narbutt): "What happiness to die for my
The new heroes were the intellectuals, the artists, priests,
school-teachers - those upon whom the mind of the new generation depended.
Their courage consisted in forcing themselves to be hypocrites, and in
supporting any humiliation rather than lose the places in which the Tsar still
tolerated them and from which they could secretly influence Polish youth and
guide their compatriots.
●Thus beneath the affectations of politeness a
profound antagonism existed between conqueror and conquered throughout the
Polish schools - between the harassed teachers and the spying principals, the
Sklodovskis and the Ivanovs.
●The Ivanov who reigned over the school in
Novolipki Street was particularly detestable.
Without pity for the fate of his
subordinates who had been forced to teach the children of their own country in
the Russian language, he would pass with them from honeyed compliments to the
In his zeal, Ivanov, who was an ignorant man, would review the
compositions of day pupils, looking for the "Polish-isms" which occasionally
slipped out in the work of little boys.
His relations with Professor Sklodovski
had grown singularly cold after the day when the latter, in defence of one of
his pupils, had calmly replied:
●"M. Ivanov, if that child made a
mistake, it was certainly only a slip....
It happens that you, too, write
Russian incorrectly at times - and indeed fairly often.
I am convinced that you do
not do it deliberately, any more than the child does."
●The professor was
talking to his wife of this same Ivanov when Zosia and Manya, returning from
their walk, slipped into their father's study.
●"Do you remember the Mass
that the second-year boys had celebrated at church last week 'for the granting
of their most ardent prayer'?
They had got up a collection among themselves to
pay the cost,
and they wouldn't tell the priest what this extraordinary prayer
Well, little Barzynski confessed the whole thing to me yesterday:
learned that Ivanov's little girl had typhoid fever,
and in their hatred for the
principal, they had a Mass said to bring about his child's death!
If the poor
priest had known that, he would be in despair at having taken such a
responsibility in spite of himself!"
●M. Sklodovski was delighted with
but his wife, a more fervent Catholic than he, would not laugh at
She bent over her work, which was singularly rough:
with shoemaker's knife
and awl Mme Sklodovska was making shoes.
One of her special characteristics was
to find no task unworthy of her.
Since her pregnancies and her illness had
obliged her to stay indoors she had learned the cobbler's trade,
the shoes that the children wore out so quickly cost no more than the price of
the leather in them.
It was not so easy to get along. . . , (生活を)やっていくのは、そんなに簡単ではなかったのです...
is for you, Manyusya. See how fine your feet are going to look in them!"
●Manya watched the long hands cutting out a sole and managing the sticky
Near by, her father had just settled himself comfortably in his
It would have been pleasant to climb up on his knees and
make a mess of his big necktie, knotted with such care;
or to pull the nut-brown
beard that framed his rather heavy face and his kind smile.
●But the talk
of the grown-ups was too boring:
"Ivanov . . . the police ... the Tsar . . .
deportation ... a plot . . . Siberia..."
『イヴァノフ... 警察... 皇帝... 国外追放... 陰謀... シベリア...』
Every day since she had come into
the world Manya had heard the same phrases to which she obscurely attached some
sort of fearful significance.
By instinct she withdrew from them, holding off
the moment when she would have to understand.
●Isolating herself in deep
childish dreams, the infant turned away from her parents and the murmur of their
affectionate conversation, cut now and then by the sharp noise of the hammer on
a nail, the squeak of the scissors on leather.
With her nose in the air Manya
wandered about the room and stopped, like a boulevard idler, to admire the
objects which were especially dear to her.
●This workroom was the finest
room in the family lodging or at any rate the most interesting to Manya.
French mahogany desk, the Restoration armchairs covered by an indestructible
red velvet, filled her with respect.
How clean and shining the furniture was! この家具は、なんて綺麗で輝いているんだ。
One day, when Manya grew older and went to school, she would have a place at one
end of the long ministerial desk with many drawers, Professor Sklodovski's desk
around which the children assembled in the afternoon to do their work.
●Manya was not attracted by the majestic portrait of a bishop - framed in heavy
gold and attributed in the family, but only in the family, to Titian - which
decorated the wall at the end.
Her admiration was reserved for the bright green
malachite clock, fat and brilliant, which stood on the desk, and for the round
table one of their cousins had brought from Palermo the year before.
represented a checkerboard, and each square on it was made of a different kind
of veined marble.
●The little girl avoided the stand which held a blue
cup and saucer of Sevres china ornamented by a medallion of Louis XVIII's
good-natured face - she had been told a thousand times not to touch it, and in
consequence regarded it with terror -
and finally stopped before the dearest of
●One, hung on the wall, was a precision barometer mounted in
oak, with its long gilt pointers glittering against the white dial;
days the professor regulated and cleaned it minutely in front of his attentive
●The other was a glass case with several shelves laden with
surprising and graceful instruments, glass tubes, small scales, specimens of
minerals and even a gold-leaf electroscope. . . .
Professor Sklodovski used to
take these objects into his classroom, but since the government had reduced the
hours devoted to science, the glass case was always shut.
not imagine what these fascinating trinkets were.
One day, straining on the tips
of her toes, she was contemplating them with bliss when her father simply told
her their name: "Phy-sics app-a-ra-tits."
ある日、精一杯つま先立ちしながら、マーニャが無上の喜びでこれらを眺めていると、父は、その名前を教えてくれた、『物 理 学 実 験 機 器』
●A funny name. へんてこな名前。
not forget it - she never forgot anything and, as she was in high spirits, she
sang the words in tune.
●"Marya Sklodovska." マリア･スクロドフスカ
"Tell us about Stanislas Augustus." 『スタニスワフ・アウグスト について語ってごらん』
"Stanislas Augustus Poniatovski was elected King of Poland in 1764.
intelligent and very cultivated, the friend of artists and writers.
understood the defects that were weakening the kingdom and tried to remedy the
disorders of the State.
Unfortunately, he was a man without courage ..."
●The schoolgirl who stood up in her place - in the third row it was, near one
of the big windows that looked out over the snow-covered lawns of the Saxony
Garden - looked much the same as her comrades as she recited her lesson in a
clear, assured voice.
女学生｜立ち上がっていた｜その場で - 第三列でした、それは、サクソニー庭園の雪に覆われた芝生の上を見渡す大きな窓の一つの近くで -｜、は、彼女の仲間たちと全く同じに見えました｜彼女が澄んだ自信のある声で学課を復唱している時｜。
Boarding-school uniform of navy-blue serge with steel
buttons and a well-starched white collar imprisoned the figure of the
And Anciupecio's short curls, always in disorder, where were
A tight braid, tied with narrow ribbon, pulled the curly hair back
behind the tiny, perfect ears and made the willful little face seem almost
Another braid, thicker and darker, had replaced Hela's ringlets.
Hela sat at the next desk. ヘラが隣の机に座っていた。
Strict costume, severe coiffure: that was the rule in Mile
Sikorska's "private school"
●The teacher in the chair had no frivolous
Her black silk corsage and whalebone collar had never been
and Mile Antonina Tupalska had not the slightest pretension to
She had a heavy, brutal, ugly face, which nevertheless appealed to the
Mile Tupalska - currently nicknamed "Tupsia" - was not only teacher of
arithmetic and history, but also exercised the functions of sturdy
チュパルスカ嬢 - 今は『チュプシア』とあだ名されています - は、数学と歴史の教師であるだけでなく、学習監理官の役も果たしていた。
in that capacity she had been obliged to act with vigour,
sometimes, against the independent spirit and stubborn character of the little
●However, there was much affectionate kindness in the look
she bent on Manya.
How could she not be proud of this brilliant pupil, two years
younger than her classmates, who seemed to find nothing difficult and was
invariably first in ciphering, first in history, first in literature, German,
French and catechism?
●Silence reigned in the classroom - and even
something a bit more than silence.
沈黙が、教室を支配していた - いや沈黙をより少し超えた何物かが。
These history lessons took place in an
atmosphere of passionate fervour.
The eyes of twenty-five motionless, exalted
little patriots and the rough countenance of Tupsia reflected their earnest
And, speaking of a sovereign dead many years ago, it was with
singular fire that Manya stated in her chanting voice:
was a man without courage . . ."
●The unattractive schoolmistress and her
too serious pupils, to whom she was actually teaching the history of Poland in
Polish, had the mysterious look of accomplices in conspiracy.
この魅力的でない先生と、余りに真面目な生徒たち - この子たちに彼女は、実際にポーランドの歴史をポーランド語で教えていたのです - は、共謀中の共犯者のような不思議な面持ちをしていました。
suddenly, like accomplices, they were all startled into silence:
clatter of an electric bell had been heard from the landing.
●Two long rings, two short ones. ベルの音が、長く二つ、短く二つ。
●The signal set up an instant agitation, mute but
Tupsia, on the alert, hastily gathered up the books spread out on the
swift hands had piled up the Polish books and papers from the desks and
dumped them into the aprons of four lively schoolgirls who disappeared with
their load through the little door that led to the dormitory of the boarders.
sound of chairs being moved, of desk-lids opened and stealthily closed. . . .
The four school-girls, breathless, returned to their places.
And the door to the vestibule opened slowly. そして、入口のドアが、ゆっくりと開いた。
●On the threshold, laced into his fine uniform - yellow pantaloons and a blue tunic with shiny buttons
- appeared M. Hornberg,
inspector of private boarding-schools in the city of Warsaw.
入口には、立派な制服 (黄色のズボンと光るボタンのついた青のチュニック) に引き締められて、ホルンベルク氏が登場、ワルシャワ市の私立寄宿学校視察官だ。
He was a thick fellow, sheared in German fashion; 彼は、太っちょな男で、髪はドイツ風に刈られていた。
his face was plump and his eyes piercing
behind their gold-rimmed glasses.
●Without saying a word, the inspector
looked at the pupils.
And near him, apparently unmoved, the director who
accompanied him, Mile Sikorska, looked at them too but with secret anxiety.
The delay had been so short today. 遅延時間が、今日は、余りに短かった。
The porter had just had time to sound the agreed
signal when Hornberg, going ahead of his guide, reached the landing and plunged
into the classroom.
Was everything in order? すべては、順調だろうか？
●Everything was in order. すべては、順調だった。
Twenty-five little girls bent over their work, thimble on finger, making
impeccable buttonholes in squares of stuff unravelled at the edges.
spools of thread lay about on the empty desks.
And Tupsia, with purple face and veins which showed in her forehead, held on the table in front of her a volume properly printed in orthodox letters. . . .
●"These children have two hours of sewing each week, Mr. Inspector," the directress said calmly.
●Hornberg had advanced toward the teacher.
"You were reading aloud. What is the book, mademoiselle?"
"Krylov's Fairy Tales. We began them to-day."
●Tupsia had answered with perfect calm.
Bit by bit her cheeks were regaining their natural colour.
●As if absent-mindedly, Hornberg opened the lid of the nearest desk. Nothing. Not a paper, not a book.
●After having carefully finished off the stitch and fastened their needles in the cloth, the girls interrupted their sewing.
They sat motionless with crossed arms, all alike in their dark dresses and white collars; and the twenty-five childish faces, suddenly grown older, wore a forbidding expression which concealed fear, cunning and hatred.
●M. Hornberg, accepting the chair offered him by Mile Tupalska, seated himself heavily,
●"Please call on one of these young people."
●In the third row Marya Sklodovska instinctively turned her frightened little face toward die window.
A prayer rose in her: "Please God, make it spmebody else. . . - Not me. . . . Not me."
●But she knew very well that the choice would fall upon her.
She knew that she was almost always chosen for the government inspector's questioning, since she was the most knowledgeable and since she spoke Russian perfectly.
●At the sound of her name she straightened up. She felt very warm no, she felt cold.
A dreadful shame seized her by the throat.
●"Your prayer," snapped M. Hornberg, whose attitude showed his indifference and boredom.
●Manya recited "Our Father" correctly, in a voice without colour or expression.
One of the subtlest humiliations the Tsar had discovered was to make the Polish children say their Catholic prayers every day in Russian.
Thus, while pretending to respect their faith, he was able to profane what they reverenced.
"Name the Tsars who have reigned over our Holy Russia since Catherine II."
"Catherine II, Paul I, Alexander I, Nicholas I, Alexander II."
●The inspector was satisfied.
This child had a good memory.
And what a marvellous accent!
She might have been born in St. Petersburg.
"Tell me the names and titles of the members of the Imperial family."
"Her Majesty the Empress, His Imperial Highness the Ccsarevitch Alexander, His Imperial Highness the Grand Duke . . ."
●At the end of the enumeration, which was long, Hornberg smiled faintly.
This was excellent, he thought.
The man could not see, or did not wish to see, Manya's suffering, her features hardened by the effort she made to dissimulate her rebellion.
"What is the title of the Tsar in the scale of dignities?"
"And my title what is it?"
●The inspector took pleasure in these hierarchic details, more , important to his way of thinking than arithmetic or spelling.
For his own simple pleasure he asked again:
"Who rules over us?"
●To conceal the fire of their eyes, the directress and the superintendent stared hard at the registers they held before them.
As the answer did not come quickly enough, Hornberg, annoyed, asked again in louder tones:
"Who rules over us?"
"His Majesty Alexander II, Tsar of All the Russias," Manya articulated painfully.
Her face had gone white.
●The session was over. The functionary rose from his chair, and after a brief nod, moved off to the next room, followed by Mile Sikorska.
Then Tupsia raised her head.
"Come here, my little soul."
●Manya left her place and came up to the schoolmistress, who, without saying a word, kissed her on the forehead.
And suddenly, in the classroom that was coming to life again, the Polish child, her nerves at an end, burst into tears.
"The inspector came to-day! The inspector came!"
●The excited children gave the news to their mothers and their nyanyas who were waiting for them when school was over.
Groups of muffled-up little girls and grown persons thickened by their fur coats scattered rapidly on the pavements covered by the year's first snow.
They spoke in undertones: any idle passer-by, any loiterer staring at a show window might perhaps be an informer for the police.
●Hela was telling the story of the morning to Mme Michalovska Aunt Lucia who had come to meet the two sisters.
"Hornberg questioned Manya, and she answered very well, but then she cried. It seems that the inspector had no criticism to make in any class."
●The exuberant Hela whispered and chattered away, but Manya walked along beside her aunt silently.
Even though several hours had passed since her examination by the inspector, the little girl was still troubled by it.
She hated these sudden
panics, these humiliating exhibitions in which one had to tell lies, always
lies. . . .
Because of Hornberg's visit she felt the sadness of her life more heavily to-clay.
Could she even remember having been a care-free baby?
Successive catastrophes had stricken the Sklodovski household, and the last four years seemed to Manya like a bad dream.
●First there was the departure of Mme Sklodovska, with Zosia, for Nice.
It was explained to Manya that "after her cure Mamma will be quite well."
When the child saw her mother again, a year later, she could hardly recognise the ageing woman already marked by fate. ...
●Then, in the autumn of 1873, there bad been the dramatic day of their return from the holidays.
Arriving with his family, M. Sklodovski had found an official envelope on his desk: by order of the authorities his salary was reduced and his lodging as a functionary taken away from him, along with his title of underinspector. It was oiBcial disgrace.
Principal Ivanov was avenging himself cruelly on a subordinate who was not servile enough. Pie had won the brittle.
●Thereafter the Sklodovskis moved several times, to find themselves finally installed in a corner apartment at the crossing of Novolipki and Carmelite streets;
and their existence, once so peaceful and sweet, gradually suffered the changes brought about by straitened circumstances.
The professor took two or three boarders at first then five, eight, ten. lie gave lodging, food and private instruction to these young boys, chosen from among his pupils.
The house was transformed into a noisy barracks and intimacy vanished from the family life.
●This arrangement had become necessary not only because of M. Sklodovski's lowered position and the sacrifices he had to make to pay for his wife's treatment on the Riviera, but being led into risky speculation by a wretched brother-in-law who was financing a "marvellous" steam mill the poor man, ordinarily so prudent, had lost the thirty thousand roubles which represented his savings; and ever after, tormented by regret and troubled for the future, he mourned over them;
in an excess of scruple he accused himself constantly of having made his family poor and deprived his daughters of their marriage portions.
●But it was in January 1876, just two years earlier, that Manya had made sudden brutal acquaintance with unhappincss. One of the boarders had contaminated Bronya and Zosia with typhus.
What horrible weeks! In one room the mother tried to control her spasms of coughing; in another, the two little girls shook and moaned with fever.
●One Wednesday the professor came to take Joseph, Hela and Manya to their eldest sister for the last time.
Zosia, dressed in white, was stretched out on the bier, her face bloodless and as if smiling, her hands folded, marvellously beautiful in spite of her close-cropped head.
●It was Manya's first encounter with death.
It was the first funeral she ever followed, dressed in a drab little bkck coat, while Bronya, convalescent, was weeping into her pillow, and Mmc Sklodovska, too weak to go out, dragged herself from window to window to pursue with her eyes the coffin of her child as it slowly passed down Carmelite Street.
●"We're going to have a little walk, children. I must go and buy some apples before the worst of the cold begins."
●The excellent Aunt Lucia led her nieces at a brisk pace across the Saxony Garden, nearly deserted on this November afternoon.
She seized any pretext to press her nieces into taking the air, away from the confined quarters where their consumptive mother lay.
If the contagion touched them ! Hela looked healthy, but Manya was so pale and so depressed.
●Leaving the Garden, the trio entered the old quarter of Warsaw, in which Manya had been born. Here the streets were much more diverting than in the new town.
Under great sloping roofs, white-covered, the houses in Stare Miasto Square showed their gtey fronts covered with a thousand sculptured ornaments: cornices, saints' faces, the figures of animals serving as signs for inns or shops.
●In the icy air the church bells answered one another on several tones.
These churches awoke the whole departed childhood of Marya Sklodovska.
Her baptism had taken place in that of St. Mary, her first communion in that of the Dominicans a memorable day, dominated by the oath Manya and her cousin Henrietta had sworn not to touch the Host with their teeth. . . .
The girls came often to St. Paul's Church, to listen to the Sunday sermons in German.
●Nove Miasto Square, empty and windswept, was also familiar to Manya:
her family had lived there for a year after leaving the Gymnasium.
Every day the child went with her mother and sisters to the Chapel of Our Lady, a strange and ravishing church whose square tower and main body, all stairs of red stone worn away by the centuries, twisted crookedly up the crest which overlooked the river.
●On a signal from Aunt Lucia the girls went in again to-day.
A few steps into the shadows beyond the narrow Gothic doorway and Manya was on her knees, trembling.
It was bitter for her to come here without Zosia, who had gone for ever, and without her mystic mother, tortured by suffering, on whom God seemed to have no pity.
●Once again Manya's prayer rose to the God in which she believed.
She asked Jesus with passion and despair to grant life to the being she loved most in the world.
She offered to the Lord her own existence: in order to save Mme Sklodovska, she was ready to die.
Bent down near her, Aunt Lucia and Hela prayed in low voices.
●They met again outside the church and began the descent of the uneven steps which led down to the water.
The Vistula, spreading enormously before them, did not seem to be in good humour.
Its yellowish water swept round the sandbanks which formed pale islets in the middle of the river and beat against the irregular shore encumbered with floating baths and rafts for washing clothes.
The long grey paddle-boats on which happy crowds of young people used to go in summer lay there motionless and disarmed.
The river's animation was concentrated about the "galleys" with apples.
There were two of them: two great pinnaces, narrow and pointed, weighted down almost to the water's edge.
●The master, buried in his sheepskins, pushed aside annfuls of straw to show his merchandise.
Under this soft litter, which protected them from the frost, the hard red shining apples made a brilliant cargo.
There were hundreds, thousands, piled up even with the hull.
They came from the upper Vistula, from the fine town of Kazmierz, and it took them days and days to come down this far.
●"I want to pick out our apples!" Hela cried; and, quickly imitated by Manya, she put down her muff and wriggledL her schoolgirl's bag from her shoulder.
●Nothing was more sure to enliven the girls than this expedition, every bit of which they adored.
They took the apples one by one, turning them back and forth carefully; those which passed inspection were thrown into a big wicker basket.
If there were any rotten ones, you threw them with all your might into the Vistula, and you watched their little round vermilion wreck go down.
When the basket was full you left the boat, holding in your hand a finer apple than any of the others.
It was cold and crackly under the teeth, and it was exquisite to crunch it while Aunt Lucia debated over the payment and pointed out, among the spotty-faced urchins who hung about the neighbourhood, those whom she judged worthy to carry the precious provision home.
●Five o'clock. After tea the servants cleared the long table in the dining-room and lighted the petroleum suspension lamp. The hour of work had come.
The board pupils grouped themselves by twos and threes in the rooms where they lived.
The son and daughters of the professor remained in the dining-room, transformed into a study, and opened their papers and books.
After a few minutes there arose, from everywhere and nowhere, the obsessing chant which for years remained the leitmotiv of life in that house.
●It was always the same children who could not keep from drawling aloud their Latin verses, their history dates or the statements of their problems.
In every corner somebody was grumbling, somebody was struggling hard. How difficult everything was!
Many a time the professor was obliged to calm the despair of some hopeful scholar who understood a demonstration perfectly when it was made in his own language, but who, in spite of every effort, was incapable of understanding it in Russian, the official language and even more incapable of repeating it.
●Little Manya knew none of this anguish.
Her memory was such that her comrades, hearing her faultless recitation of a poem they had seen her read no more than twice, thought at once of a trick, and accused her of learning verses secretly.
She finished her tasks long before the others, and often, out of natural kindliness or lack of something else to do, she would extricate one of her companions from the embarrassment and difficulty of a theorem.
●But what she preferred was to install herself with a book at the big table, as she did to-night well propped up on her elbows, her hands on her forehead, her thumbs closing her ears as protection from Hela, who had never been able to run through a lesson without shouting at the top of her voice.
The precaution was superfluous, for after a bit the little girl, fascinated by her reading, completely lost consciousness of what was happening around her.
●This gift of absorption, the only oddity in a healthy child, afforded great amusement to her sisters and friends.
A dozen times, with the boarders for accomplices, Bronya and Hela had organised a terrific hubbub around their avidly reading sister without even getting her to raise her eyes.
●To-day they wanted to try something really good; the presence of Henrietta Michalovska, Aunt Lucia's daughter, had aroused their evil demons.
They crept forward on their toes and began to build a scaffolding of chairs about the motionless Manya, lost in her reading.
Two chairs on each side, one behind, two others on top of the first three, and one at the summit crowning the edifice. . . .
They retired in silence, and pretended to work. Then they waited.
●They had to wait a long time.
The child noticed nothing: neither the whispers nor the stifled laughter nor the shadow of the chairs above her head.
For half an hour she remained like that, threatened, without knowing it, by the unstable pyramid.
When her chapter was finished, she closed her book, lifted her head and everything collapsed with the noise of a cataclysm.
Chairs danced across the floor; Hela shrieked with joy;
Bronya and Henrietta leaped nimbly into defensive positions, for a counter-attack was to be feared.
●But Manya remained unmoved.
She did not know how to be angry, but neither could she be amused at a trick which had frightened her.
Her ash-grey eyes expressed the stupor of a sleep-walker suddenly jerked out of her dream.
She rubbed her left shoulder, which a chair had struck a bit roughly, picked up het book and took it into the next room.
Passing in front of the "big girls" she said just two words:
●A calm verdict, wiih which the "big girls" were not very satisfied.
●These moments of total absent-mindedness were perhaps the only ones in which Manya found again the wonder-struck quality of her earliest childhood.
She read, pell-mell, poetry and scholastic manuals, adventure stories and technical works borrowed from her father's library.
●And thus she put away from her, for brief moments at a time, the dark phantoms: she forgot Russian spies and the visits of Hornbcrg.
She forgot her father's face, crushed by his miserable tasks, and the perpetual tumult of the house, and the black dawns when, still half asleep, she had to get up from her moleskin divan so that the boarders could have their breakfast in the dining-room, which was also a dormitory for the Sklodovski children.
●She forgot her terrors: terror of the oppressor, religious terrors, terror of illness and death.
Instinctively she tried to escape from a "climate" too heavy for her.
●They were fleeting respites.
As soon as she regained consciousness everything came back to her at once and first of all the dull, constant sadness created in the house by the illness of her mother.
The patient, once so beautiful, was now hardly more than a shadow.
And in spite of the comforting words with which the grown-ups attempted to deceive her, Manya felt clearly that her ecstatic admiration, her great love and the ardour of her prayers would not be strong enough to prevent the horrible thing that was drawing near.
●Mme Sklodovska, too, thought of the inevitable. She took care to* see that the event found her ready without upsetting the existence of the house.
On May 9th, 1878, she asked the doctor to make way for the priest.
The priest alone was to know the final anguish of her Christian soul, her grief at leaving her beloved husband to care for four children, her anxiety for the future of the youthful beings she must now abandon, for little Manyusya who was only ten. . . ,
●In front of her family she allowed herself to show only a face of peace, to which the last hours had restored an extreme graciousness.
She died as she had wanted to die, without delirium or disorder.
Her husband, fcer son and her daughters watched beside her bed in the tidy room.
And her long, pathetic grey eyes, already dulled by death, fixed themselves in turn on each of the five ravaged faces, as if the dying woman wished to ask their pardon for causing them so much pain.
●She found energy enough to say farewell to each one. Weakness was slowly overcoming her.
The spark of life that remained permitted only one more gesture and one more speech.
The gesture was a sign of the cross; seized with a terrible trembling, her hand sketched it in the air to bless them all.
The words her last she murmured in one breath, looking at the husband and children from whom she took her leave: "I love you."
●Dressed in black once more, Manya, worn with grief, wandered miserably about the apartment in Carmelite Street.
She could not get used to the fact that Bronya occupied the dead woman's room;
that only Hela and herself now slept on the moleskin divans; that a housekeeper, hastily engaged by the professor, came every day to give orders to the servants, decide on the food for the boarders, and vaguely oversee the children's dressing.
M. Sklodovski devoted all his free hours to his orphaned children.
But he could care for them only in an awkward, touching way the care of a man.
●Manya learned that life was cruel.
Cruel for the race, cruel for the individual. . . .
●Zosia was dead.
Mme Sklodovska was dead.
Deprived of her mother's tenderness and the protection of her eldest sister, the child grew older, without once complaining, in partial abandonment.
She was proud but she was not resigned.
And when she knelt in the Catholic church where she was used to going with her mother, she experienced the secret stir of revolt within her.
She no longer invoked with the same love that God who had unjustly inflicted such terrible blows, who had slain what was gay or fanciful or sweet around her.
●THERE appears to be a moment of expansion, a sort of maximum, in the history
of every family. Mysterious reasons force a generation to distinguish itself
from others by abundance of gifts, magnificent excess of vitality, beauty,
This moment had arrived for the Sklodovski family, in spite of the tribute it had just paid to unhappiness. Death, carrying off Zosia,had taken a hostage from among five ardent and intelligent children. But the others, the four young people born of a consumptive mother and an intellectual worn out by work, carried an invincible force within them. They were to conquer adversity, to disdain all obstacles and to become, all four, exceptional human beings.
They were a superb spectacle, this sunny morning in the spring of 1882, gathered for breakfast around the t*ible. Hcla was sixteen, tall and graceful, incontestably the "beauty of the family." Bronya had golden hair and the face of an opened flower; Joseph, the eldest, displayed the lines of a Nordic athlete in his student's uniform.
And as for Manya. ... It must be admitted th.it she had taken on weight, and that her well-fitted uniform outlined a figure which was not exactly thin. Since she was the youngest, she was also, for the moment, the least beautiful. But she had an animated and pleasing face, and had th9 light, clear eyes and hair and skin of Polish women.
Only the two younger girls wore uniform now: Hek was still in blue, like a faithful child of the Sikorska school, but Manya was dressed in maroon, since she had become, at fourteen years of age, one of the most brilliant pupils of a government Gymnasium the same Gymnasium where Bronya, the eldest of the three sisters, had finished her studies last year by winning a gold medal and a great deal of glory.
Bronya was no longer a schoolgirl she was a "young lady." Sh^ had taken over the management of the house, replacing the housekeepers who had often been unpleasant. She kept the books, watched over the boarders those eternal boarders who changed only their faces and names and woie her hair up and her skirts long like a grown person, with a bustle and a train and a multitude of little buttons.
Joseph had been awarded a gold medal like Bronya's when he left the boys' high school. Envied and admired by his sisters, the young man was studying at the Faculty of Medicine. How lucky they thought him! Already tormented by intellectual ambition, the three Sklodovski girls grumbled at the rule forbidding women to enter the University of Warsaw; and they listened in rapt attention to their brother's stones of student life in the "Tsar's University" mediocre though it was where the teachers were ambitious Russians and subservient Poles.
But the conversation never made them lose a mouthful. Bread, butter, cream and jam disappeared as if by magic.
"Joseph, to-night is dancing school and we need you to be our escort," said Hcla, mindful of serious things. "Do you think my dress will do, Bronya, if it's well ironed?"
"As you have no other one, it'll have to do," said Bronya philosophically. "We'll look it over at three o'clock, when you come home."
"Your dresses arc very pretty," Manya affirmed.
"Oh, you don't know anything about it. You're too young."
The quartet was breaking up. Bronya cleared the table, Joseph vanished with his papers under his arm, and Hela and Manya made oft" for the kitchen helter-skelter.
"My bread and butter, please. . . . My serdclki. . . . Where has the butter got to?"
In spite of their copious breakfast the young ladies were still preoccupied with food. The lunch they were to eat at school at the eleven-o'clock recess went into cloth bags: bread, an apple, and a pair of those wonderful Polish sausages called serdelki.
Manya tied up her lunch and flung her schoolbag over her shoulder.
"Hurry up! You'll be late for your appointment!"
Hela scoffed, getting ready in her turn.
"No, no, it's only half-past eight. Good-bye!"
On the stairs she passed two of her father's boarders who, although with less haste than herself, were making their way also to school.
Gymnasium, boarding school, day school ... the youth of Manya Sklodovska was completely obsessed by such words. M. Sklodovski taught in a Gymnasium, Bronya had just left the Gymnasium, Manya was going to a Gymnasium, Joseph to the university, Hela to Mile Sikorska's boarding school. Even their home was, in its way, a sort of school. Manya must have grown to imagine the universe as an immense school where there were only teachers and pupils and where only one ideal reigned: to learn.
The boarders had become a little more bearable after the family left dreary Carmelite Street and installed itself in Leschen Street.
The building was charming; the fagade had style, there was a tranquil courtyard where grey pigeons cooed, and there were balconies hung with Virginia creeper. And the apartment of the first floor was spacious enough for the Sklodovskis to have four rooms of their own, away from the boys.
Its broad pavements bordered by substantial houses made Leschen Street very "respectable." That is to say, it was guiltless of Slavic picturesqueness. On the contrary, in the near-elegance of the quarter everything evoked the West, from the Calvinist church opposite the house to the columned French building in Rymanska Street, evidence of the adoration Napoleon had inspired in Poland an adoration which endures to the present time.
Her bag on her back, Manya hastened to reach the "Blue Palace," the residence of the Counts Zamoyski. Avoiding the grille and the principal entrance she went through to an oldish courtyard guarded by a bronze lion. Then she stopped short; the courtyard was empty.
An affectionate voice hailed her.
"Don't run off, Manyusya dear . . . Kazia is coming down.*'
"Oh, thanks, madatne! Good morning, madamel"
From one of the windows on the lower floor Mme Przyborovska, wife of Count Zamoyski's librarian, her dark hair smoothly drawn back under a thick crown of braids, looked with friendly eyes on the round-cheeked and lively young Sklodovska who had been her daughter's best friend for two years.
"You must come and have tea with us this afternoon. I'll make you some pac^kl and that chocolate ice that you love!"
"Of course you've got to come to tea!" Kazia cried, bolting down the stairs and seizing her friend by the arm. "We must hurry, Manya, we're late."
' "Yes. I was just about to lift the lion's ring!"
Manya came to pick Kazia up every morning under the porch of her house. When Manya found nobody at the meeting- place she lifted the heavy ring which the bronze lion bore in his maw and turned it back over the animal's nose before going on to school.
Kazia, seeing the ring, learned that Manya had already been and gone, and that she would have to hurry if she wanted to catch up.
Kazia was very charming; cheerful and high-spirited, she was a happy little creature whose excellent parents did their best to spoil her. M. and Mme Przyborovski did likewise by Manya, whom they treated as one of their own daughters in an effort to make her forget that she was motherless. But by many little details in the appearance of the two girls in brown dresses it was easy to tell that one was a petted child, whose attentive mother brushed her hair and tied her ribbons every morning, while the other, at fourteen and a half years of age, was growing up in a house where nobody had time to bother about her.
Arm in arm the girls passed along narrow Zabia Street. They had not seen each other since tea on the day before, and they had a thousand urgent matters to discuss. Their thousand bits of gossip nearly all had to do with their Gymnasium in Krakovsky Boulevard a Russian school which, having been destined at first for the children of Germans in government service, kept its Germanic discipline and traditions.
It had been a great change, after Mile Sikorska's profoundly Polish seminary for young ladies, to become the pupil of an official institution governed by the Russifying spirit. It was a necessary change since the imperial Gymnasia were the only ones which bestowed recognised diplomas but Manya and Kazia avenged themselves on it by making all manner of fun of their teachers from Russia, as well as of the boring Pastor Meding, their German teacher, and above all of Mile Mayer, the detested and detestable superintendent of studies.
"Mayer," a tiny, dark woman with greasy hair, who wore silent spy's slippers, was the declared enemy of Manya Sklodovska. She reproached Manya with everything: her stubborn character and the "scornful srnile" with which, according to Mayer's story, Manya received the most wounding criticism.
"That Sklodovska! It's no use talking to her it's just like throwing peas against a wall!" the superintendent groaned.
She was particularly annoyed by Manya's curly hair, which she declared * 'disordered and ridiculous"; with many a heavy stroke of the brush she tried to straighten out the rebellious locks and transform the Pole into a Gretchen with tight braids. Useless!
After a few minutes the light, capricious curls would break out again about the young face, and Manya's too innocent gaze was fixed with singular insistence upon the superintendent's shining braids.
"I forbid you to look at me like that!" Mayer sputtered. "You mustn't look down at me!"
In a fit of impertinence one day Manya, who was a head taller than Mayer, replied: "The fr.ct is that 1 can't do anything else."
War went on, day after cuy, between the sour old m:;id and the fractious pupil. The worst of the storms had taken place the year before. Mile Mayer, coming into the classroom unexpectedly, had found Manya and Kr.zia dancing with joy among the desks to celebrate the assabsination of Tsar Alexander II, whose sudden death had just plunged the empire into mourning. ^
One of the most melancholy results of political constraint is the spontaneous ferocity it develops among the oppressed. Manya and Kazia felt such rancours as free human beings -never know. Even though they were by nature tender and generous, they lived in accordance with a particular morality the slave morality which turns hatred into a virtue and obedience into cowardice.
By reaction, the adolescents threw themselves with passion into whatever they were permitted to love. They reverenced handsome young M. Glass, who taught them mathematics, and M. Slosarski, professor of natural sciences. They were Poles accomplices. Even with regard to the Russians there were shades of feeling.
What was one to think, for example, of the mysterious M. Mikieszin, who, wishing to recompense a pupil who had made great progress, silently handed her a copy of the poems of Nekrasov, a revolutionary writer? The surprised students perceived brief movements from the enemy's camp, signals of solidarity. In Holy Russia all were not faithful to the Tsar. . . .
In Manya's class Polish, Jewish, Russian and German girls sat side by side without serious disagreement. Their common youth and the excitement of school rivalry smoothed out, for the time being, their differences of race and thought. To see them help each other in their work and play together during recesses one might even have believed that they enjoyed perfect mutual understanding.
But as soon as school was over each one returned to her language, her patriotism and her religion. The Polish girls, more arrogant than the others because they were the persecuted, went off in tight little groups and met one another afterwards at tea parties to which it would have been impossible to ask a Russian or a German.
Their intransigence was not without secret troubles. Everything seemed guilty to them, from the involuntary friendship they might feel for a foreign girl to the pleasure they experienced in spite of themselves at hearing lessons in science or philosophy from the mouth of the oppressor at receiving that "official" education which they thought worthy of hatred.
The summer before, Manya had written to Kazia a moving and timid confession filled with shame:
"Do you know, Kazia, in spite of everything, I like school.
Perhaps you will make fun of me, but nevertheless I must tell you that I like it, and even that I love it. 1 can realise that now. Don't go imagining that I miss it! Oh no; not at all. But the idea that I am going back soon does not depress me, and the two years 1 have left to spend there don't seem as dreadful, as painful and long as they once did. . . ."
The Saxony Garden along with Lazienki Park, where she passed many of her leisure hours was one of Manya's favourite spots in that city which she was to call, for years to come, "my beloved little Warsaw."
Passing the iron grille, Manya and Kazia followed the avenue which led to the palace. Up to two months ago they had played the ancient game of trailing their rubbers in the large mud-puddles along the way: enough, that is, to get them wet up to the edges, but not enough to immerse them altogether and dampen their shoes. When springtime came, they went back to other games which, in spite of their simplicity, caused uproarious amusement. Example: the game of "green."
"My French copy-book is nearly finished," Manya would begin in placid tones.
"Would you like to come with me to buy a new one? I saw some very pretty ones with green covers . . ."
But Kazia was on guard. At the word "green" she suddenly thrust at Manya a little piece of green velvet she had hidden in her pocket, and thus avoided paying a forfeit. Manya, vexed, seemed to abandon the game and turned the conversation towards the history lesson one of their teachers had dictated to them yesterday, in which it was mentioned that Poland was a province and the Polish language a dialect, and that the Poles had caused the Tsar Nicholas I, who loved them so much, to die of grief over their ingratitude. . . .
"Just the same, the poor man was embarrassed when he told us such horrors. Did you notice how he looked away, and that awful face of his?"
"Yes. He went absolutely green" Kazia ventured, trying to look as if she was thinking of something else. But at once she saw a young chestnut leaf of tender green shaken under her nose.
Groups of children made mud-pies or chased their hoops. Manya and Kazia, choking with laughter over their game, passed on beneath the slender columns of the Pakce of Saxony and almost ran across the great square. Suddenly Manya cried:
"But we've passed the iponument We must go back at once!"
Kazia turned without a word. The giddy pair had just committed an unpardonable offence. In the middle of the Saxony Square was a pompous obelisk surrounded by four lions and bearing, in orthodox letters, the words: "To the Poles faithful to their Sovereign." This tribute from the Tsar to those Poles who had betrayed their country and made themselves allies of the oppressor was an object of disgust to the patriots, and their tradition was to spit every time they passed the monument. If, by inadvertence, one failed to observe this custom, one had to go back and make good the omission.
With their duty in this respect duly accomplished, the two girls returned to their talk.
"They're dancing at home this evening," Manya said. "Arc you coming to watch them?"
"Yes. Oh, Manyusya, when shall we have the right to dance, too? We're such good waltzers already 1" Kazia complained impatiently.
When? Not until school was over and the girls had "come out."
They were only allowed to practise among themselves and to learn the lancers, the polka, the mazurka and the oberek from the school ballet master. Relegated to little chairs at the side, they were also present when the young people of a few friendly families gathered for dancing lessons once a week in the Sklodovskis' house.
But before they could expect their turn to come, they must pass more months in the Gymnasium which now rose before them in the avenue; the great, bald, three-storeyed building stood over against the exquisite Chapel of the Visitation, twisted and ornate, a fragment of the Italian Renaissance lost among severer edifices.
Their comrades were already plunging into the archway. There was the little blue-eyed Wulf girl, and Anya Rottert, the flat-nosed German who was the best in the class after Manya; and Iconic Kunicka. . . .
But what was the matter with Kunicka? Her eyes were swollen with tears; and she, who was always so neatly dressed, seemed to have had her clothes thrown at her to-day.
Manya and Kazia ceased smiling and ran toward their friend.
"What's the matter? What has happened to you, Kunicka?"
Kunicka's delicate face was colourless. The words passed her lips with difficulty.
"It's my brother. ... He was in a plot. ... He was denounced. . . . We haven't known where he was for three days/'
Stifled by sobs, she added:
"They are going to hang him to-morrow."
The other two girls, horror-struck, surrounded the unlucky one with their questions and their support; but the sharp voice of Mile Mayer broke in with brief orders:
"Come, come, young ladies, enough of your chatter. Hurry up."
Stunned with shock, Manya made her way slowly toward her place. Just now she had been dreaming of music and dances.
Now, while the first phrases of a geography lesson to which she was not attending rumbled in her ears, she saw the ardent young face of the condemned boy and the scaffold, the hangman, the rope. . . .
That night, instead of going to the dancing lesson, six girls of fifteen kept silent watch in Leonie Kunicka's narrow room.
Manya, Hela and Bronya came with Kazia and her sister Ula to wait for the dawn with their comrade.
They mingled their rebellion and their tears. They took humble and tender care of their friend, convulsed as she was with grief; they bathed her swollen eyes, obliged her to drink a little hot tea. The hours passed somehow, so fast, so slow, for the six children of whom four still wore their school uniform.
When the pallor of dawn, accentuating their own pallor, came to mark the moment of the end, they fell on their knees and said a last prayer, their hands concealing their young faces full of terror.
One gold medal, two gold medals, three gold medals in the Sklodovski family. . . . The third was for Manya and marked the end of her secondary studies on June izth, 1883.
In stifling heat the list of rewards was read. Speeches and the flourish of trumpets, the congratulations of the teachers; a limp shake of the hand from M. Apushtin, grand master of education in Russian Poland, answered by a last curtsy from Manya.
In her black dress of ceremony with a bunch of tea roses pinned at the waist, little Sklodovska said her farewells and swore she would write to her friends every week; then, laden with Russian prize books which she loudly declared to be "horrible" (as it was her last day, what did she risk?), she left the school in Krakovsky Boulevard for ever, escorted by her father whom her success had overwhelmed with pride.
Manya had worked very hard and very well. M. Sklodovski decided that she was to go to the country for a year before choosing her means of livelihood.
A year's holiday! . . . One might be tempted to imagine the child of genius, obsessed by an early vocation, studying scientific books in secret. But such was not the case. In the course of the mysterious passage called adolescence, while her body was transformed and her face grow finer, Manya suddenly became kzy.
Abandoning the school books, she tasted, for the first and last time in her life, the intoxication of idleness.
A rural interlude occurs here in the story of the professor's daughter. "I can't believe geometry or algebra ever existed," she writes to Kazia. "I have completely forgotten them." She was staying far from Warsaw and school, with relations in the country who welcomed her for weeks at a time in exchange for vague lessons to be given to their children, or for a tiny payment of board; and she gave herself up to the sweetness of being alive.
How care-free she was! How young and happy, suddenly so much younger than in the dark days of her childhoodl Between an excursion and a nap she barely had energy enough to describe her beatitude in letters beginning "My dear little devil" or "Kazia, my heart":
Manya to Kazia:
I may say that aside from an hour's French lesson with a lictle boy I don't do a thing, positively not a thing for I have even abandoned the piece of embroidery that I had started ... I have no schedule. I get up sometimes at ten o'clock, sometimes at four or five (morning, not evening!). 1 read no serious books, only harmless and absurd little novels. . . . Thus, in spite of the diploma conferring on me the dignity and maturity of a person who has finished her studies, I feel incredibly stupid. Sometimes I laugh all by myself, and I contemplate my state of total stupidity with genuine satisfaction.
We go out in a band to walk in the woods, we roll hoops, we play battledore and shuttlecock (at which I am very bad!), crosstag, the game of Goose, and many equally childish things. There have been so many wild strawberries here that one could buy a really sufficient amount for a few^mny and by that I mean a big plateful heaped high. Alas, the season is overl . . . But I am afraid that when I get back my appetite will be unlimited and ray voracity alarming.
We swing a lot, swinging ourselves hard and high; we bathe, we go fishing with torches for shrimps. . . . Every Sunday the horses are harnessed for the trip in to Mass, and afterward we pay a visit to the vicarage. The two priests are clever and very witty, and we get enormous amusement from their company.
I was at Zwola for a few days. There was an actor there, M. Kotarbinski, who delighted us. He sang so many songs and recited so many verses, concocted so many jokes and picked so many gooseberries for us, that on the day of his departure we made him a great wreath of poppies, wild pinks and cornflowers;
and just as the carriage was starting off we flung it at him with shouts of "Vivtit! Vivatl M. Kotarbinski!" He put the wreath on his head immediately, and it seems that afterward he carried it in a suitcase all the way to Warsaw. Ah, how gay life is at Zwola!
There are always a great miny people, and a freedom, equality and independence such as you can hardly imagine. . . . On our journey back Lancet barked so much that we didn't know what was to become of us. ...
Lancet played an important part in the lives of the Sklodovskis.
If he had been properly trained the brown pointer might have become a respectable hunting dog. But Manya, her two sisters, and Joseph had given him a disastrous upbringing. Cuddled, kissed and over-fed, Lancet became an enormous beast whose dictatorship weighed on the whole &mily. He spoiled the furniture, upset vases of flowers, devoured food that was not intended for him, leaped upon every guest in sign of welcome, and then tore to bits whatever hats or gloves had been imprudently left about in the hall. So many virtues had earned him the adoration of his owners, who disputed the privilege of taking their despot on holiday every summer.
During her year of laziness, during which Manya's intellectual ardour seemed to drowse, the young girl was seized by a passion which was to last as long as her life: the passion for the country. Observing the changes of the seasons, first in one province and then in another, she was constantly discovering new beauties in that Polish earth over which her family was scattered, At Zwola it was peaceable country where nothing arrested the gaze, nothing but the round horizon which seemed farther away than anywhere else in the world. At Zawieprzyce, where Uncle Xavicr lived, there were about fifty thoroughbred horses in the fields around the estate a regular stock farm. Dressed in breeches of doubtful elegance, borrowed from her cousins, Manya learned to gallop and trot beautifully, and became a horse-woman.
But nothing exceeded her enchantment when she saw the Carpathians. Like a true child of the plains she was struck with wondering stupor at the snowy glittering summits and the stiff black firs. She was never to forget those ascents by footpaths carpeted with bilberries, or the mountaineers' cottages where every object was a masterpiece of sculptured wood, or the pure and icy little lake hemmed in by peaks at the top, with its exquisite name "The Eye of the Sea/'
It was not far from there, on the frontier of Galicia, that Manya was to pass the winter in the noisy family of her Uncle Zdzislav, a notary at Skalbmierz. The master of the house was a jovial fellow, his wife was beautiful, and their three daughters lived for laughter.
How could Manya be bored in such company? Every week the arrival of a new guest or the approach of a feast-day gave the signal for a burst of commotion. The grown people dressed game for the feast and the young girls made cakes, .or else, in the seclusion of their rooms, hastily sewed ribbons on to the motley costumes that would serve to disguise them at the next kulig.
The kulig was by no means only a ball. It was a dizzying, magic journey in the full excitement of carnival. Two sleighs went ofl in the evening over the snow with Manya Sklodovska and her three cousins, masked and dressed as Cracow peasant girls, huddled under the covers. Young men in picturesque rustic dress escorted them on horseback, brandishing torches. Other torches twinkled through the fir-trees, and the cold night was filled with rhythm; the musicians' sleigh came up, bringing four little Jews from the village, mad and charming creatures who for the next two nights and days would wring from their fiddles the intoxicating tunes of the waltz, the krakoviak and the mazurka, tunes caught up in chorus by the whole crowd. The little Jews would play until three, five, ten other sleighs, answering thdr call, had found them in the night. In spite of jolting and sliding down dizzy slopes of ice they never missed a stroke of the bow, and they would lead the fantastic night dance in triumph to the first stop.
The shouting crowd then left the sleighs to pound on the door of a sleeping house, where the master duly pretended to be surprised. A few minutes later the musicians were perched on a table and the ball began, lighted by torches and lanterns while the food prepared long in advance emerged on the sideboard. Then, at a given signal, the place was emptied; emptied of masques, inhabitants, food, horses, sleighs, everything, arid the farandole, longer and thicker than before, slid across the forest toward another house, and another and still another, acquiring new recruits at each stop. The sun rose and set. The fiddlers had just time enough to get their breath and to sleep a little in any convenient barn, mixed pell-mell with the exhausted dancers. But nevertheless when the army of sleighs stopped on the second night, jingling and clanking and pawing, in front of the largest house of the neighbourhood, where the real ball was to be held, the little Jews attacked their first krakoviak with a conquering fortissimo while the others took their places for the marvellous iigure dance.
It was then that a young man dressed in embroidered white wool made haste to invite the best of the dancers, a vigorous girl of sixteen called Manya Sklodovska, who, in her velvet jacket, puffed sleeves of lawn and long ribbons of every colour falling from her coronet of young wheat, looked like a mountain kss in festival raiment.
Naturally Manya shared her enthusiasm with Kazia.
I have been to a kulig. You can't imagine how delightful it is, especially when the clothes are beautiful and the boys arc well dressed. My costume was very pretty. . . . After this first kulig there was another, at which I had a marvellous time. There were a great many young men from Cracow, very handsome boys who danced so well I It is altogether exceptional to find such good dancers. At eight o'clock in the morning we danced the last dance a white mazurka.
A climax had to come to this enchanted leisure.
In July 1884, just after Manya's return to the apartment in Warsaw, a lady came to see M. Sklodovski. It was the Comtcsse de Fleury, a Polish woman married to a Frenchman and once a pupil of Mme Sklodovska. Since the professor's younger daughters had no plans for their holidays, she suggested, why should they not come to spend two months at her house in the country?
This happened on Sunday [Manya wrote to Kazia], and on Monday evening we were gone, Mela and I: we had been notified by telegraph that the carnage would meet us at the station. We have now been at Kempa for several weeks and I ought to give you an account of our existence here but as I haven't the courage, I shall only say that it is marvellous. Kempa is at the junction of the Narev and Biebrza rivers which is to say that there is plenty of water for swimming and boating, which delights me. I am learning to row I am getting on quite well and the bathing is ideal. We do everything that comes into our heads, we sleep sometimes at night and sometimes by day, we dance, and we run to such follies that sometimes we deserve to be locked up in an asylum for the insane. . . .
Manya hardly exaggerated. A breeze of innocent mr.dncss stirred all summer long over that beautiful house set between the curves of two smooth, shining rivers. From the window of their room the little Sklodovskis could see greenery and water without limit, and the gentle banks, bordered with poplar and willow, over which the swollen current so often rose to fill the fields with an immense sheet of water where the sun was reflected.
Hela and Manya had quickly taken command of the troop of boys and girls who lived at Kcmpa. The masters of the house had adopted a most original attitude: when they were together they sermonised, censured and pretended to be acting with vigour against the excessive spirits of the young; but separately husband and wife had both become the secret accomplices of the guilty ones, to whom they contributed active co-operation and complete indulgence.
What were they to do to-day, for instance? Go riding? Walk in the woods, gather mushrooms or whortleberries? Too tame by farl Manya asked Jan Moniuszko, Mme de Fleury's brother, to go on an errand to the neighbouring town. In his absence, helped by the others, she would succeed in hanging everything the young man's room contained from the big rafters in the ceiling: the bed, the table, the chairs, his luggage, his clothes and all. Then poor Moniuszko would have to struggle, on his return, against his aerial furniture in the dark. . . . And what sort of wonderful tea was this, prepared for guests of distinction? A tea party from which the "children" were excluded? Intolerable! Seizing the moment when the visitors were exploring the garden, the "children" devoured the pastries and good things, carried off what they could not stuff into themselves, placed before the devastated table a hastily constructed straw man representing the Count de Fleury when he had eaten well, and took flight. . . .
Where were the delinquents to be found, that day or any other day during the summer? Every time they committed a crime they vanished like phantoms. When they were supposed to be in their rooms they were stretched out on the grass in the depths of the park; when they were supposed to be out walking they were in the cellar, emptying a basket of big gooseberries stolen from the kitchen; and if there seemed to be an unusual amount of order at five in die morning, it was because the house was deserted; Manya, Hela and their followers had chosen sunrise as the time to bathe in the river. There was only one means of collecting them together, and that was to announce a celebration, charades or a dance. The Comtesse de FJieury employed this means as often as possible: in eight weeks she organised three balls, two garden patties, excursions and boating trips.
Her husband and she found their recompense for such liberal hospitality. They had the adoration of the wild young creatures, their comradeship and confidence, and the spectacle of their marvellous joy a joy which, in its wildest extravagance, remained singularly pure.
They also experienced the surprises prepared for them by the young people: for the fourteenth anniversary of their marriage, two delegates presented them with an enormous decorative crown of vegetables weighing forty pounds and invited them to sit under a cleverly draped canopy. In solemn silence the youngest of the girls gravely recited a poem written for the occasion.
The poem was Manya's work. She composed it striding up and down her room, in the fire of inspiration. It ended as follows:
For JY. 'Louis* Day
We expect a picnic ',
Ask some boys for us,
One boy for etich of us 9
So that, following your example.
We may climb as soon as possible
As soon as possible
Up the sicps of the altar.
The prayer was not unanswered. The Fleurys immediately announced a grand ball. The mistress of the house gave her orders for cakes, candles and garlands of flowers, and Manya and Hela worked upon their dresses for the night of nights.
It was not easy for the poor girls to be exquisite: they had only two dresses a year, one for dancing and one for ordinary wear, made for them by a little daily dressmaker. The two sisters reckoned up their combined fortunes and made their decisions, Even though the tulle which covered Manya's dress was frayed, the foundation of blue satin was still in good condition. They must go into the town and buy the cheapest blue tarlatan they could find, to take the place of the defaulting tulle; it had to be draped on that indestructible foundation. And then, what with a ribbon here and a knot there, and some new shoes of russet leather, there was nothing left to do but pick flowers from the garden for their waists and roses for their hair.
On St. Louis* night, while the musicians were tuning their instruments and Hcla, astonishingly beautiful, was already fluttering about the festive house, Manya took one last look at herself in the glass. All was wcl! the stiff, smart tarlatan, the fresh flowers near her face, and those fine new shoes; those shoes which she was to throw in a corner at dawn because she had danced too much and their soles had ceased to exist. . . .
Many years later my mother sometimes evoked those happy rays for me. I looked at her tired face, worn out by nearly half a century of care and immense toil. And I thanked the destiny xvhich, before it dictated this woman's austere and inexorable summons, had allowed her to follow by sleigh after the wildest hdigs, and to use up her shoes of russet leather in one night of dancing.
I HAVE attempted to show Manya Skiodovska, child and adolescent, in her
studies and at play. She was healthy, honest, sensitive and gay. She had a
loving heart. She was, as her teachers said, "remarkably gifted"; she was a
brilliant student. But on the whole no startling characteristic distinguished
her from the children who grew up with her: nothing had yet indicated her
Here is another portrait: that of the youn^ girl. It is a graver one. Some beloved figures had vanished from Manya's life, to be kept alive only by her tender memory for years to come. Her friendships, too, were changing little by little; the boarding school, the high school had ceased to exist as had the bonds of comradeship, so strong in appearance, which fell away with the daily familiarity that had maintained them. Manya's destiny was to define itself between two persons whom she valued and admired, two beings full of kindness, understanding and honour, who happened to be her nearest relations her father and her elder sister.
Now I should like to show Manya, between these two friends, building the future in her sturdy head. But whereas most humans do their wishing on a scale altogether disproportionate, how very humble even in its apparent audacity was the dream of the girl who was to become Marie Curie!
In September, still giddy from a v/hole year's roaming, Manya took the road to Warsav/ again, to the family's new lodging near the Gymnasium where she had lived in her childhood.
The desertion of Leszno Street for Novolipki was justified by a notable change in the living conditions of the Skiodovskis. As age drew on, the professor, without giving up his teaching at the high school, decided to take no more board pupils. Manya and her family were installed in a smaller apartment now, more intimate and also poorer. The surroundings and the company were made for reflection and work.
Those who met M. Sklodovski for the first time found him severe in manner. Thirty years of teaching in secondary schools had given the plump little man a certain solemnity, and a thousand details of his appearance revealed the perfect government official: his dark clothes, always most carefully brushed, his precise gestures and his sententious speech. Every action of his life was performed with method. If he composed a letter its sentences were logical and its handwriting orderly. If he took the children on an excursion during the holidays nothing was left to chance. An itinerary worked out in advance led them punctually to the places most deserving of their attention, and, as they walked, the professor commented eloquently upon the charm of a landscape or the historic interest of a monument.
Manya never even noticed these small peculiarities of the pedag )guc. She loved her father tenderly: he was her protector, her master. And she was not far from believing that he possessed universal knowledge.
It was true that M. Sklodovski knew everything, or nearly everything. In what country of Europe nowadays could one find an obscure schoolmaster with such erudition? The poor man, father of a family, balancing his budget with the greatest difficulty, had found leisure to develop his scientific knowledge by going through publications which he procured by considerable effort. It seemed to him quite natural to keep up with the progress of chemistry and physics, just as it was natural to know Greek and Latin and to speak English, French and German (as well as, of course, Polish and Russian); to translate the finest works of foreign authors into his native language in prose or verse; and, in his idle moments, to compose poetry which he carefully transcribed into his student's notebook wkh the black and green cover: "To my friends," "Toast for a marriage," "To my former pupils." . . ,
Every Saturday for years past M. Sklodovski, his son and his three daughters had passed the whole evening together in the pursuit of literature. They chattered around the steaming tea in an otherwise silent house. The old man recited poetry or read aloud, and his children listened to him with rapture: the professor with his receding hair, his thick, placid face lengthened by a neat little grey beard, had a remarkable talent for speech. Saturday after Saturday the masterpieces of the past were brought to Manya in this way by a familiar voice. In the old days that voice had told iiry tales, read stories of travel, or initiated her into David Coppi r field * which M. Sklodovski translated into Polish without a hitch as he read from the English text. Now, in the same voice, a little broken by innumerable hours of teaching in the high school, he interpreted for the four attentive young people the finest writings of those romantic authors who were the poets of servitude and revolt in Poland: Slovackt, Krasinski, Mickiewicz.
Turning the pages of worn volumes, some of which forbidden by the Tsar had been printed secretly, the reader scanned the heroic outbursts of Messer Thaddeus or the mournful verses of Kordyan.
Manya was never to forget those evenings. Thanks to her father she lived in an intellectual atmosphere of rare quality known to few girls of her age. She *was attached by powerful bonds to the man who made such touching efforts to render her life interesting and attractive. In her anxious affection she could guess the inner torments beneath M. Sklodovski's apparent serenity: the sadness of a widower who had never consoled himself, the gloom of a harassed official condemned to subordinate kinds of work, and the remorse of a scrupulous creature who could never forgive himself for that risky speculation which had swallowed up his modest fortune.
Sometimes, when his self-control failed, the poor man allowed a complaint to escape him.
"How could I have lost that money? I, who wanted to give you all the most brilliant educations, to send you abroad and let you travel! I have ruined it all. I have no money and I can't help you Before long I shall be on your hands myself. What is to become of you?"
The professor would sigh with anguish and turn toward his children, unconsciously asking them for those happy protests and assertions by which they were wont to comfort htm. They were all grouped beneath the high oil lamp in the little study enlivened by affectionately tended green plants. Four stubborn heads, four courageous smiles, looked back at him, and in all those shining eyes, which ranged from periwinkle-blue to ashen-grey, could be seen the same ardour and the same hope:
"We are young. We are strong. We will succeed."
M. Sklodovski's terrors are easy to understand. That year, upon which their whole future depended, the situation of the young people was far from brilliant.
The problem was simple: the head of the family was barely able to pay for rent, food and a servant on his slender salary, which was soon to be succeeded by an even slenderer pension. Joseph, Bronya, Hela and Manya would have to earn their living.
The first idea that came to these children of two teachers was naturally that of giving lessons. "Medical student will do private tutoring." Or (another advertisement): "Lessons in arithmetic, geometry, French, by young lady with diploma. Moderate fees."
The Sklodovskis entered the ranks of the hundreds of young intellectuals who were looking for work in Warsaw.
It was an ungrateful job. Before she was seventeen Manya had learned to know the fatigues and humiliations that attended it: the long walks across town, in rain and cold; the rcfractorv or la?.y pupils; the parents who made one wait for ever in draughty halls ("Tell Mile Sklodovska to wait; my daughter will be there in a quarter of an hour!"), or who, out of sheer giddiness, forgot to pay the few roubles they owed one at the end of the month those roubles so anxiously expected, that one had counted on having that very morning!
The winter advanced. In Novolipki Street life was dull and each day resembled the one before.
Nothing new at home [Manya wrote]. The plants arc healthy, the azaleas are in flower, Lancet sleeps on the carpet. Gucia, the seamstress, is making over my dress, which 1 have dyed; it will be suitable and very pretty. Bronya's dress is finished and looks very nice. I have written to nobody; 1 have so little time, and even less money, A person who knew of us through friends came to inquire about lessons; Bronya told her a half-rouble an hour, and the visitor ran away as if the house had caught fire. . . .
It might be supposed that Manya was at this time a young lady without a dowry, active and sensible, whose only interest was in building up her list of pupils. The supposition would be untrue. She had bravely accepted the toilsome life of giving private lessons, by necessity; but she had another life, passionate and secret. Like every Pole of her place and time she was exalted by dreams.
There was one dream common to all the youths: the dream of nationhood. In their projects for the future, the desire to serve Poland took precedence of personal ambition, of marriage and of love. One would dream of violent struggle and would organise conspiracies at the risk of his life; another would dream of action by means of controversy; still another would take refuge in mystic dreaming for the Catholic religion was also a resource, a force of resistance against the Orthodox oppressor.
The mystic dream no longer dwelt in Manya. By tradition and convention she remained a practising Christian, but her faith had been shaken by Mme Sklodovska's death; little by little it had now evaporated. She had felt the dominion of her pious mother profoundly, but for six or seven years she had been living under the influence of her father, a lukewarm Catholic, a free thinker without acknowledging it. From the devoutness of her childhood there remained only vague aspirations, the unconscious wish to adore something very high and very great.
And even though she had among her friends some revolutionary patriots, to whom she lent her passport in time of danger, Manya did not indulge the alternative dream of taking part in assassinations, throwing bombs at the Tsar's carriage or at the governor of Warsaw. There was a powerful movement just starting, among the intelligentsia to which the young girl belonged, to discard and forget all vain chimeras sterile regrets and disordered impulses toward independence. For them only one thing counted: to work, to build up a magnificent intellectual capital for Poland, and to develop the education of the poor, whom the authorities deliberately maintained in darkness.
The philosophical doctrines of the period gave this national progressionism a special direction. For some years past the positivism of Comte and Spencer had instigated new ways of thinking in Europe. At the same time the work of Pasteur, Darwin and Claude Bernard had endowed the exact sciences with immense prestige. At Warsaw as elsewhere even more than elsewhere intellectual fashion grew away from the romantic spirit; it disdained the world of art and sensibility for a while; and the young people, inclined by their age to downright judgments, suddenly pkced chemistry and biology above literature and deserted the writer's cult for that of the scientist.
In free countries this current of ideas was allowed to develop publicly; but such was not the case in Poland, where every manifestation of independence of mind was regarded with suspicion. The new theories made their way and spread by underground routes.
It was soon after her return to Warsaw that Manya Sklodovska allied herself with some ardent positivists. A woman, Mile Piasecka, assumed great influence over her. She was a highschool teacher of twenty-six or twenty-seven, thin and fair, of an appealing ugliness: she was in love with a student named Norblin, lately expelled from the university for his political activity, and she was passionately interested in the modern doctrines.
At first timid and untrusting, before long Manya was conquered by her friend's bold ideas. Along with her sister Bronya and the latter 's good friend Marya Rakovska, she was admitted to sessions of the "Floating University"; which is to say, to lessons io anatomy, natural history and sociology, given by benevolent teachers to young people who wished to extend their culture. The sittings took place in secret, at Mile PiasecLa's house or in some other private dwelling. The disciples gathered to the number of eight or ten at a time and took notes: they passed pamphlets and articles from one to the other; at the slightest noise they trembled, for if they had been discovered by the police it would have meant prison for all of them. '
I have a lively memory of that sympathetic atmosphere of social and intellectual comradeship [Marie Curie was to write fprty years later]. The means of action were poor and the results obtained could not be very considerable; and yet I persist in believing that the ideas that then guided us are the only ones which can lead to true social progress. We cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individual. Toward this end, each of us must work toward his own highest development, accepting at the same time his share of responsibility in the general life of humanity our particular duty being to help those to whom we feel we can be most useful.
The aim of the Floating University was not only to carry on the instruction of young people just out of the secondary schools. In their turn the students were to become educators. Stimulated by Mile Piasecka, Manya was to give lessons to women of the poor. She began by reading aloud to the employees of a dressmaking establishment and got together a little library of books in Polish, volume by volume, for the use of the working women.
How is one to imagine the fervour of this girl of seventeen? Her childhood had been passed before mysterious divinities, the physics apparatus in her father's study; even before the sciences had been made * 'fashionable' ' M. Sklodovski had transmitted his passionate curiosity to her. But that world was not enough for impetuous Manya; she plunged eagerly into other sections of the the world's knowledge; she grasped at Auguste Comte and social evolution; she dreamed no longer of mathematics or chemistry alone, but wished to reform the established order and enlighten the masses of the people. . . . With her advanced ideas and her generous soul she was, in the pure sense of the word, a Socialist; but at the same time she did not join the group of Socialist students which existed in Poland. Her liberty of judgment made her fear the party spirit, and her love of country kept her out of Marxian internationalism. Before everything and above everything she wanted to serve her country.
She did not yet know that the time would come when she must choose between these dreams. She had confounded, in the same exaltation, her patriotic feeling, her humanitarian ideas and her intellectual aspirations.
By some miracle she remained charming in the midst of such doctrines and such excitements. The strict, high-minded education she had received, the example of the modest creatures who had watched over her youth, protected her from excess. There was a cool and moderate dignity in her nature, an innate gravity that accompanied her enthusiasm not to say her passion. We shall never see her affect any snobbishness of revolt or bad manners. She will never even have the wish to light an innocent cigarette.
When her tutoring in the town and her clandestine courses in anatomy left her some respite she locked herself in her room. But the day of the "harmless and absurd little novels" had passed. Now she was devouring Dostoevsky and Goncharov and Boleslav Pros' The Emancipated ^ in which she found the portrait of her kind, of all the little Polish girls who had gone mad for culture. Her notebook reflects the inner life of an over-eager young being, bewildered by the diversity of her gifts: for ten pages we find pencil drawings which painstakingly illustrate La Fontaine's fables; then German and Polish poetry, a fragment of Max Nordau on "The Conventional Lie"; Krasinski, Slovacki, Heine.
Three pages from Kenan's Life of JMUS; "Nobody ever made the interest of Humanity predominate in his life over worldly vanity as He did . . ."; Russian philosophical essays; a passage from Louis Blanc, a page of Brandes, and again drawings, flowers, animals; then Heine again; and Musset, Sully Prudhomme and Francois Coppee, trans lated by Manya into Polish verse.
For what contradictionsl the "emancipated girl" who in her disdain for frivolity had just cut her fair hair almost to the roots, sighed in secret and copied verses at great length, charming and more than a little dim:
If I told you, dark one with blue eyes, that I love you,
Who knows what you would say?
Manya took good care, one imagines, to keep her stern comrades from knowing that she appreciated Adieu Su^pn or Tbt Broken Vate* She barely admitted it to herself. Severely dressed, her face made strangely childish by the short curls which, instead of accentuating her personality, had transformed her into a little girl, she hurried from meeting to meeting, she argued and glowed.
If she recited poetry in front of her friends she chose the exhortations of Asnyk, who was not a great artist but had written works inspired by such sympathetic fire that they became the Credo of the group:
Look for the clear light of Truth;
Look for unknown new roads . . .
Even when marts sight is keener far than now,
Divine wonder will never fail hint . . .
Every age has its own dreams,
Leave, then, the dreams of yesterday;
You - take the torch of knowledge^
Perform a new work among the labours of the centuries
And build the palace of the future. . . .
Even when she presented Marya Rakovska with her photograph, standing beside Bronya in an affectionate attitude, she did not fail to make the gift a sort of profession of faith by writing across the picture this definite statement:
"To an ideal positivist from two positive idealists/'
Our two "positive idealists" passed many hours together attempting to draw up a plan of their future lives. Unfortunately, neither Asnyk nor Brcndes could point out a means of obtaining higher education for them in a city where the university was closed to women; nor could those authors supply a magic formula for getting rich quickly on lessons at half a rouble an hour.
And Manya ? s generous heart grieved. There was the instinct of a Newfoundland dog in the child, youngest of her family; she felt responsible for her father's future, for the future of her elders.
Joseph and Hcla, luckily, gave her no cause for worry; the young man was going to be a doctor, and the lovely, stormy Hela, hesitating between a teacher's profession a*id a career as a singer, sang at the top of her voice and acquired diplomas and refused offers of marriage all at the same time.
But Bronyal How could Bronya be helped? Ever since she had left school four years ago all the cares of the household had fallen upon her. By dint of buying food, inventing menus and presiding at the preparation of preserves, she had become a remarkable housekeeper and she was in despair at being only that. Manya understood the torments of her elder sister, whose great secret wish was to go to Paris and study medicine, then to return to Poland and practise in the country. The poor girl had saved a little money, but it cost so much to go abroad! How many months or years would she have to wait?
Manya was so made that her sister's visible anxiety and discouragement became her constant preoccupation, in which her own ambition was forgotten. She forgot that she, too, fascinated by the promised land, had often dreamed of traversing the thousands of miles that separated her from the Sorbonne, there to quench the thirst for knowledge that was her essential characteristic, and of bringing back the precious learning to her work as an educator in Warsaw, among her beloved Poles.
If she took Bronya's career so to heart, it was because finer bonds than those of blood attached her to the girl whose exquisite affection had given her maternal support since the death of Mme Sklodovska. In a very united family these two had chosen to prefer each other. Their natures were singularly complementary;
the elder, bv her experience and her practical sense, overawed Manya, who submitted to her all the little problems of daily life;
the younger, at once more fiery and more timid, was for Bronya a marvellous young companion in whom love was enriched by a feeling of gratitude, by the vague notion of an indebtedness.
One day when Bronya was scribbling away at a piece of paper, counting how much money she had or rather how much she lacked Manya made a direct attack.
"I have reflected a lot just lately. 1 have also talked to Father. And I think I've found out a way."
A way ?"
Manya came nearer to her sister; what she had to say and get accepted was delicate; she would have to weigh her words with prudence*
"Let's see. With what ydu have saved, how many months could you live in Paris?"
"I have enough to pay my journey and one year's expenses at the Faculty," Bronya answered quickly. "But the medical course lasts five years, you know very well."
"Yes. But you understand, Bronya, that with lessons at half a rouble a time we shall never be able to do it."
"Well, we could make an alliance. If we keep on struggling separately, each on her own account, neither of us can ever get away. Whereas on my system you can take the train in the autumn in a few months/'
"Manya, you are mad!"
"No. To start with, you will spend your own money. After that I'll arrange to send you some; Father too. And at the same time I'll be piling up money for my own future studies. When you are a doctor, it will be my turn to go. And then you will help me."
Bronya's eyes filled with tears. She felt the greatness of the offer; but one point remained obscure in Manya 's programme.
"I don't understand. You don't hope to make enough money for your own support and part of mine and then still more to save, do you?"
"Exactly that," said Manya casually. "That's where my system comes in. I am going to get a job as governess in a family. With board, lodging and laundry all free, I shall have four hundred roubles a year in wages, perhaps more. You see how that will settle everything."
"Manya . . . little Manyusya ..."
It was not the choice of position that moved Bronya: like a good idealist she shared her sister's scorn for social prejudices. No; it was the idea that Manya could condemn herself for years to cruel waiting in an unattractive profession so that she, Bronya, could begin her studies immediately. She resisted.
"Why should I be the first to go? Why not the other way round? You are so gifted probably more gifted than I am. You would succeed very quickly. Why should I go?"
"Oh, Bronya, don't be stupid! Because you are twenty and I'm seventeen. Because you've been waiting for hundreds of years and I've got lots of time. That's what Father thinks too;
it is only natural that the elder should go first. When you have your practice you can bury me in gold in fact, I count on it.
We're doing something intelligent at last, something that will work . . ."
One morning in September, i88>, a silent young girl was awaiting her turn in the reception room of an employment agency. She had put on the severer of her two dresses. Her fair curls, which she had allowed to grow again for several months, were pinned in place more or less firmly under her black hat.
A governess even a positivist! ought not to wear her hrJr short: a governess had to be correct, commonplace, and look like everybody else. . . .
The door opened. A thin woman with a discouraged face passed through the vestibule and gave Manya a farewell gesture as she went out. A colleague. They had fallen into tolk a while ago, seated side by side on the cane-bottomed chaits which formed the only furniture in the place, and they had wished each other good luck.
Manya got up. She felt timid suddenly. Her hand tightened mechanically over a thin bundle of papers and letters.
In the next room a fat lady was seated behind a tiny desk.
"What is your business, mademoiselle?"
"I am looking for a place as governess."
"You have references?"
"Yes. I have already given lessons. Here are some recommendations from the parents of my pupils. Here is my diploma."
The directress of the agency examined Manya's documents with a professional eye. Her attention was caught; she raised her head and considered the girl with a little more interest.
"You have a perfect command of German, Russian, French, Polish and English?"
"Yes, madame. English not so well as the others. . . . But I can teach the material required on the oflicial school lists.
I left my high school with the gold medal."
"Ah! And how much money do you require?"
"Four hundred roubles a year, and my living."
"Four hundred," the lady repeated without expression. "Who are your parents?"
"My father is a teacher in the secondary schools."
"Very well. I shall make the usual inquiries. I may have something for you. But how old are you, by the way?"
"Seventeen/* said Manya; then she blushed and added very quickly, with an encouraging smile: "But I shall be eighteen soon."
The lady drew up the applicant's form in an impeccable "English" script:
Marya Sklodovska, goc,d references y capable ', wants place as governess.
Salary: four hundred roubles ay ear.
She returned Manya's papers.
"Thank you, mademoiselle. I shall write to you if anything turns up."
DEAR Henrietta," Manya wrote to her cousin Michalovska on December roth, 1885, "since we separated my existence has been that of a prisoner. As you know, I found a place with the B-- 's, a family of lawyers. I shouldn't like my worst enemy to live in such a hell. In the end , my relations with Mme B-- had become so icy that J could not endure it any longer and told her so. Since she was exactly as enthusiastic about me as I was about her, we understood each other marvellously well.
"It was one of those
rich houses where they speak French when there is company a chimney-sweeper's
kind of French where they don't pay their bills for six months, and where they
fling money out of the window even though they economist pettily on oil for the
lamps. They have five servants. They pose as liberals and, in reality, they are
sunk in the darkest stupidity. And last of all, although they speak in the most
sugary tones, slander and scandal rage through their talk slander which leaves
not a rag on anybody. ... I learned to know the human race a little better by
being there. I learned that the characters described in novels really do exist,
and that one must not enter into contact with people who have been demoralised
The picture is without indulgence. Coming from a creature so devoid of malice, it suggests how naive and full of illusions was Manya. In placing herself with a well-to-do Polish family chosen by hazard she had had the hope of finding pleasant children and anderstanding parents. She was ready to attach herself and to love.
Her disappointment was severe.
The letters the young governess was to write make us feel, indirectly, the distinction of the environment she had been obliged to leave. In her circle of intellectuals Manya had met people of small ability, but she had scarcely ever seen any of low or calculating spirit, any without honour. She had never heard an ugly or vulgar word at home. Family quarrels or spiteful chatter would have inspired horror in the Sklodovski household. Every time the girl met with stupidity, pettiness or vulgarity, we can perceive her astonishment and revolt.
Strange paradox: the high quality of Manya's youthful companions and their lively intelligence may be taken as explaining the secret of a haunting enigma. How was it that nobody discovered the extraordinary vocation, the genius, of this young girl? Why had she not been sent to study in Paris, instead of being allowed to seek employment as a governess?
Living among exceptional beings, with three young people who carried off diplomas and medals, who were brilliant, ambitious and ardent for work like herself, the future Marie Curie did not seem remarkable. In an intellectually narrow circle, surprising gifts are soon shown; they provoke astonishment and comment; but here, under the same roof, Joseph, Bronya, Hela and Manya were all growing up, rivalling one another in aptitude for knowledge. Thus it came about that nobody neither the old nor the young recognised in one of these children the signs of a great mind;
nobody was touched by its first radiations. There was no suspicion that Manya might be of a different essence from her brother and sisters, and she had no idea of it herself.
When she compared herself to her relatives her modesty approached humility. But in the middle-class families to which her new profession introduced her there was no disguising her superiority. This was evident even to Manya' s own eyes, and she became aware of it with some pleasure. The girl counted the privileges of birth and wealth as nothing; envy was never to touch her; but she was proud of her origin and of the training she had received. Through the judgments which we shall see her pass upon her employees there pierces the point of scorn and of an innocent pride.
Philosophical instruction on the human race, or upon "people demoralised by wealth," was not the only sort Manya received from her first experience. She learned that the plan, once explained to Bronya needed serious revision.
Manya had hoped, by taking a place in Warsaw, to earn respectable sums of money without condemning herself to painful exile. To remain in the city was a mitigation of the sentence: it meant staying near home and being able to go every day and talk for a bit with her father. It meant keeping up contact with her friends of the Floating University and being able perhaps to attend a few evening courses.
But those who have the taste for sacrifice within them cannot stop at half-immolations. The lot the young girl had chosen was still not arid enough: she could not earn enough money, and above all she spent too much. Her salary, frittered away in little daily purchases, left her with insignificant savings at the end of the month. She had yet to prepare herself to subsidise Bronya, who had gone to Paris with Marya Rakovska and was living in poverty in the Latin Quarter. And then, too, M. Sklodovski's retirement was drawing near. Soon the old man would need help. What was she to do?
Manya did not hesitate for long. She had heard of a good post as governess in the country two or three weeks ago. No sooner said than done. She would accept the distant province, the leap into the unknown. It would be years of separation from those she loved, total isolation. What did that matter? The salary was good, and in that forgotten village the expenses were reduced practically to nothing.
"And I love the open air so much!" Manya told herself. "Why didn't I think of it sooner?"
She informed her cousin of her decision:
I shall not be free long, for I have decided, after some hesitation, to accept a place in the country to-morrow to begin in January.
It is in the Government of Plock, and pays five hundred roubles a year dating from the first of January. It is the same post that was suggested to me some time ago, which I let slip. The family are not satisfied with their governess and now they are asking for me.
It is quite possible, for that matter, that I shall please them no better than the other one.
The first of January, 1886, the day of her departure for the journey in the dreary cold, was to remain one of the cruellest dates of Manya's existence. She had bravely said good-bye to her father. She had repeated her new address for him:
Mile Marya Sklodovska,
In Care of M. and Mme Z.>
She had climbed into the railway carnage. For one more moment she could see the stocky outline of the professor, for one more moment she smiled. Then suddenly, as she sat down on the bench in the carriage, she felt the pressure of solitude. Alone she was all alone, for the first time in her life.
The girl of eighteen was abruptly seized by panic. In the train which was carrying her heavily toward a strange house and family Manya shivered with shyness and terror. Supposing her new employers were like the old ones? Suppose M. Sklodovski were to fall ill in her absence? Would she ever see him again? Had she not done a thoroughly foolish thing? Torturing questions assailed the girl as she crouched near the window of the compartment looking out through her tears she dried them with her hand, but they always came back at vast plains hushed beneath the snow in the filling day.
Three hours in the train were followed by four hours in a sleigh over very straight roads in the majestic silence of winter night.
M. and Mme Z., estate administrators, farmed part of the lands of the Princes Czartoryski, one hundred kilometres north of Warsaw.
When she arrived at the door of their house on an icy night Manya, broken with fatigue, could barely see, as in a dream, the great stature of the master of the household, his wife's dim face, and the intense stares of the children fixed upon her with sparkling curiosity.
The governess was received with hot tea and friendly words.
Then, going up to the first floor, Mme Z. showed Mayna her room and left her there in the company of her poor luggage.
Matya to her cousin Henrietta, February 3, 1886:
I have now been with M. and Mme Z. for one month; so I have had time to acclimatise myself in the new post. Up to now all has gone well. The Z.s arc excellent people. I have made friends with their eldest daughter, Bronka, which contributes to the pleasantness of my life. As for my pupil, Andzia, who will soon be ten, she is an obedient child, but very disorderly and spoiled. Still, one can't require perfection. . . .
In this part of the country nobody works; people think only of amusing themselves; and since we in this house keep a little apart from the general dance, we are the talk of the countryside. One week after my arrival they were already speaking of me unfavourably because, as I didn't know anybody, 1 refused to go to a ball at Karvacz, the gossip centre of the region. I was not sorry, for M. and Mme Z. came back from that ball at one o'clock the next afternoon. I was glad to have escaped such a test of endurance, especially as I am not feeling at all strong just now.
There was a ball here on Twelfth Night. I Was treated to the sight of a certain number of guests worthy of the caricaturist's pencil, and enjoyed myself hugely. The young people here are most uninteresting. Some of the girls are so many geese who never open their mouths, the others are highly provocative. It appears that there are some others, more intelligent. But up to now my Bronka (Mile Z.) seems to me a rare pearl both in her good sense and in her understanding of life.
I have seven hours of work a day: four with Andzia, three with Bronka. This is rather a lot, but it doesn't matter. My room is upstairs. It is big, quiet and agreeable. There is a whole collection of children in the Z. family: three sons in Warsaw (one at the university, two in boarding schools). In the house there are Bronka (eighteen years old), Andzia (ten), Stas who is three, and Maryshna, a little girl of six months. Stas is very funny. His nyanya told him God was everywhere. And he, with his little face agonised, asked: "Is He going to catch me? Will He bite me?"
He amuses us all enormously.
Manya interrupted her letter, put her pen down on the writing desk she had installed near the long window, and braving the cold in her woollen dress, went out on the balcony. The view offered her there still had the gift of making her kugh. Wasn't it comic to set out for an isolated country house, imagining rural landscapes in advance, with prairies and forests , and then, on opening the casement of her room for the first time, to perceive a tall, aggressive factory chimney which, shutting off and dirtying the sky, spat opaque plumes of black smoke?
There was not a field or a coppice for miles around: nothing but sugar beet and again sugar beet, filling the great monotonous plain.
In the autumn these pale earthy beetroots, piled up in bullock carts, slowly converged on the factory to be made into sugar. The peasants sowed, hoed and reaped for the factory. The huts of the little village of Krasiniec were crowded near these dreary red brick buildings. And the river itself was the slave of the factory, entering limpid and departing soiled, its surface charged with a dark, sticky scum.
Monsieur Z., an agriculturist of repute, familiar with new techniques, controlled the farming of two hundred acres of beet root. He was a wealthy man: he owned a great part of the shares in the sugar factory. And in his house, as in the others, the factory was the object of preoccupation.
There was nothing on the grand scale about this. The factory, however absorbing it seemed, was only an enterprise of average importance like dozens of others in the provinces. The Szczuki estate was small: two hundred acres, in that country of vast estates, are nothing. The Z.s were well off but not rich. And although their house was more attractive than the neighbouring farms, it would be impossible, with the best will in the world, to call it a chateau. It was a rather old-fashioned villa, one of those great low buildings with sloped roofs overhanging walls of dull stucco, pergolas covered with Virginia creeper and verandas all glassed in and full of draughts.
One concession only was made to beauty: the pleasure garden, which became very pretty in summer with its lawn, its shrubbery and its croquet ground sheltered by a row of well cut ash trees.
On the other side of the house there was an orchard, and farther on the four red roofs of the barns, stables and cattle sheds where forty horses and sixty cows were lodged.
Beyond that, as far as the horizon, was nothing but loam for beetroot.
"Well, I haven't done so badly/' Manya told herself as she shut the window. "The factory isn't beautiful, certainly. But just the same it's because of it that this provincial hole is a little more animated than some others. People often come from Warsaw and others go there. There arc engineers and directors at tiie sugar factory; that is pleasant enough. One can borrow books and reviews there. Mme Z. has a bad temper; but she is not at ail a bad woman. If she doesn't always treat me, the governess, with tact, that's no doubt because she was once a governess herself, and fortune came to her a bit too quickly. Her husband is charming, her elder daughter is an angel, her children are tolerable. I ought to think myself very lucky."
After warming her hands before the immense stove in shining porcelain which filled one of the alcoves of the room from iloor to ceiling, Manya went back to her correspondence until such time as an imperious call, "Mademoiselle Marya!" might inform her, through walls and doors, that her employers had need of her.
A governess all alone might be expected to write many letters, if only to receive answers with news from the town. As the weeks and months went by, at regular intervals Manya gave her relatives an account of the various events of her existence, in which humble tasks alternated with hours of fc 'company" and pleasures which were part of her work. She wrote to her father, to Joseph and to Hela; to her dear Bronya; to Kazia Przyborovska, her school friend. To her cousin Henrietta, who was now married and living m Lvov but had remained a fierce positivist, she freely confided some graver reflections: her discouragement and her hope:
Manya to Henrietta, April ^th, 1886:
I am living as it is customary to live in my position. I give my lessons and 1 read a little, but it isn't easy, for the arrival of new guests constantly upsets the normal employment of my time.
Sometimes this irritates me a great deal, since my Andfcia is one of those children who profit enthusiastically by every interruption of work, and there is no way of bringing her back to reason afterwards. To-day we had another scene because she did not want to get up at the usual hour. In the end I was obliged to take her calmly by the hand and pull her out of bed. I was boiling inside.
You can't imagine what such little things do to me: such a piece of nonsense can make me ill for several hours.
But I had to get the better of her. . . .
. . . Conversation in company? Gossip and then more gossip.
The only subjects of discussion are the neighbours, dances and parties. So far as dancing is concerned, you could look far before you would find better dancers than the young girls of this region.
They all dance perfectly, lliey are not bad creatures, for that matter, and certain ones are even intelligent, but their education has done nothing to develop their minds, and the stupid, incessant parties here have ended by frittering their wits aw?y. As for the young men, there are few nice ones who are even a bit intelligent.
. . . For the girls and boys alike, such words as "positivism" or "the kbour question" are objects of aversion supposing they have ever heard the words, which is unusual. The Z. household is relatively cultivated. M. Z. is an old-fashioned man, but full of good sense, sympathetic and reasonable. His wife is rather difficult to live with, but when one knows how to take her she is quite nice. I think she likes me well enough.
If you could only see my exemplary conduct I I go to church every Sunday and holiday, without ever pleading a headache or a cold to get out of it. 1 hardly ever speak of higher education for women. In a general way 1 observe, in my talk, the decorum suitable to my position.
At Easter 1 am going to Warsaw for a few days. Everything inside me so leaps with joy at the thought that 1 have difficulty restraining wild ciics of happiness. . . .
It was all very well for ironic Manya to describe her "exemplary conduct," but there was a daring and original character in her which couW not long tolerate the conventional life. The "positive idealist" was always there, eager to be useful, to fight.
One day when she met some little peasants in the muddy road, boys and girls miserably dressed, with bold faces under their hempen hair, Manya conceived a plan. Why should she not put into practice, in this small world of Szczuki, those progressive ideas which were so dear to her? Last year she had dreamed of "enlightening the people." Here was an excellent opportunity.
The village children were for the most part illiterate. If any of them had been to school at any time, they had only learned the Russian alphabet there. How fine it would be to create a secret course in Polish, to awaken these young brains to the beauty of the national language and history!
The governess submitted her idea to Mile Z., who was immediately taken with it and decided to assist.
"Think it over carefully," said Manya, to calm her enthusiasm.
"You know that if we are denounced we shall be sent to Siberia."
But nothing is more contagious than courage: in the eyes of Bronka Z., Manya saw ardour and resolution. There was only the authorisation of the head of the family to be obtained, and they could begin their discreet propaganda in the peasant huts.
Manya to Henrietta, September $rd, 1886:
... I could have had a holiday this summer, but I didn't know where to go, so I stayed at Szczuki. I did not want to spend the money to go to the Carpathians. I have many hours of lessons with Andzia, I read with Bronka, and I work an hour a day with the son of a workman here, whom I am preparing for school. Besides this, Bronka and I give lessons to some peasant children for two hours a day. Jt is a class, really, for we have ten pupils. They work with a very good will, but just the oame our task is sometimes difficult.
What consoles me is that the results get better gradually, or even quite quickly. Thus I have pretty full days and I also teach myself a little or a lot, working alone. . . .
Manya to Hinrietta, December, 1886:
. , . The number of my peasant pupils is now eighteen.
Naturally they don't all come together, as I couldn't manage it, but even as it is they take two hours a day. On Wednesdays and Saturdays I am with them a little longer as many as five hours consecutively. Of course this is only possible because my room is on the firot floor and has a separate entrance on the stairway to the court-yard thus, since this work doesn't keep me from my obligations to the Z.s, I disturb nobody. Great joys and great consolations come to me from these little children. . . .
Thus it was not enough for Manya to listen to Andzia droning out her lessons, to work with Bronka and to keep Julek who was back from Warsaw and had been turned over to her from going to sleep over his books. When all that was done, the dauntless girl went up to her room and waited until a noise of boots on the stairs, mingling with the shuffle of bare feet, announced the arrival of her disciples. She had borrowed a pine table and some chairs so that they could practise their writing comfortably. She had taken enough from her savings to buy them some copybooks and the pens which the numbed little fingers managed with such difficulty.
When seven or eight young peasants were installed in the big room with chalked walls, Manya and Bronka Z. were barely able to maintain order and rescue the unhappy pupils who, sniffling and snorting with anguish, could not spell a difficult word.
These sons and daughters of servants, farmers and factory workers, who pressed round Manya's dark dress and fair hair, were not always well washed. They did not smell nice. Some of them were inattentive and sullen. But in most of their bright eyes appeared a naive and violent desire to accomplish, some day, those fabulous acts: reading and writing. And when this humble end was achieved, when the big black letters on white paper suddenly took on meaning, the young girl's heart contracted at the noisy, prideful triumph of the children and the wondering admiration of their illiterate parents who sometimes stationed themselves at the end of the room to watch the lessons. She thought of all this good will wasted, and of the gifts that perhaps lay hidden in these baulked and defrauded creatures. Before their sea of ignorance she felt disarmed and feeble.
THE little peasants never suspected that "Mile Marya" often
meditated darkly upon her own ignorance. They did not know that their young
teacher's dream was to become a pupil again, and that she would like to be
learning instead of teaching.
To think that at this very minute, when Manya at her window was once more contemplating the carts that brought beetroot to the factory, there were thousands and thousands of young people in Berlin, Vienna, Petersburg and London who were listening to lessons and lectures, who were working in laboratories, museums and hospitals! To think, above all, that inside the famous Sorbonne they were teaching biology, mathematics, sociology, chemistry and physics!
Marya Sklodovska wanted to study in France more than in any other country. The prestige of France dazzled her. In Berlin and Petersburg the oppressors of Poland reigned; but in France liberty was cherished, all feelings and all beliefs were respected, and there was a welcome for the unhappy and the hunted, no matter whence they came. Was it true, was it even possible, that some day she might take the train for Paris that this great happiness might be given her?
She had lost all hope of it. The first twelve months of a stifling provincial life had undermined the illusions of a girl who, in spite of her intellectual passions and her dreams, was by no means given to the pursuit of phantoms. When she stopped to consider, Manya saw before her a clear situation which was apparently without issue. In Warsaw there was her father, who would soon have need of her. In Paris there was Bronya, who nust be helped for years more before she could earn a penny. And on the estate of Szczuki there was herself, Manya Sklodovska, governess. The project of amassing a capital, which once had seemed practical to her, now made her smile. It was a childish plan. One does not escape from a place like Szczuki.
It is fine to see, in the despondency of this creature of genius, that she was not invulnerable that, far from preserving an inhuman confidence, she suffered and grew discouraged like any other girl of nineteen. It is fine to see her contradict herself and, in the very moment when she claims to have renounced everything, struggle with ferocious heroism against her own burial. It was indeed an all-powerful instinct that made her sit every night at her desk, reading volumes of sociology and physics borrowed from the factory library, or perfecting her knowledge of mathematics by correspondence with her father.
The task was so ungrateful that it is astonishing to see Manya persevere in it. All alone in that country house, she was without direction or advice. She felt her way, almost by sheer chance, through the mazes of the knowledge she wanted to acquire, as summarily explained to her by out-of-Jate handbooks. In her moments of dismay she resembled her little peasants when they despaired of ever learning to read and threw their alphabets away;
but nevertheless, with a peasant's stubbornness, she pursued her effort.
Literature interested me as much as sociology and science [she was to write forty years later]. Still, during these years of work, as I tried gradually to discover my true preferences, I finally turned toward mathematics and physics.
These solitary studies were? encompassed with difficulty. The scientific education I had received at school was very incomplete much inferior to the programme for the baccalaureate in France.
I tried to complete it in my own way, with the help of books got together by sheer chance. The method was not efficacious, but I acquired the habit of independent work and 1 learned a certain number of things which were to be useful to me later. . . .
She described one of these days in a letter from SsczukL
Manya to Henrietta, December, 1886:
. . . With all I have to do, there are days when I am occupied from eight to half-past eleven and from two to half-past seven without a moment's rest. From half-past eleven to two there are a walk and lunch. After tea, I read with Andzia if she has been good, and if not we talk, or else I take my sewing, which by the way I also have by me during the lessons. At nine in the evening I take my books and go to work, if something unexpected does not prevent it ... I have even acquired the habit of getting up at six so that I work more but I can't always do it. A very nice old man, Andzia's godfather, is staying here just now, and Mme Z. asked me to ask him to teach me how to play checkers to amuse him. I also have to make a fourth at cards, and that drags me away from my books.
At the moment I am reading:
(1) Daniel's Physics, of which I have finished the first volume;
(2) Spencer's Sociology, in French;
(3) Paul Bers* Lessons on Anatomy and Physiology y in Russian.
I read several things at a time: the consecutive study of a single subject would wear out my poor little head, which is already much overworked. When I feel myself quite unable to read with profit, I work problems of algebra or trigonometry, which allow no lapses of attention and get me back into the right road.
My poor Bronya writes from Paris that they are giving her a lot of difficulty with her examinations, that she is working hard, and that her health is causing a certain amount of worry.
. . . My plans for the future? I have none, or rather they arc so commonplace and simple that they arc not worth talking about.
I mean to get through as well as I can, and when I can do no more, say farewell to this base world. The loss will be small, and regret for me will be short as short as for so many others.
These are my only plans now. Some people pretend that in spite of everything I am'obliged to pass through the kind of fever called love. This absolutely does not enter into my plans. If I ever had any others, they have gone up in smoke; I have buried them; locked them up; sealed and forgotten them for you know that walls are always stronger than the heads which try to demolish them. . . .
These vague thoughts of suicide, this disappointed and sceptical sentence about love, call for explanation.
The explanation is simple and very ordinary. It could be called "the romance of a poor young girl." Numerous sentimental
novels have recounted stories exactly like it.
The beginning of the story is that Manya Sklodovska had grown pretty. She did not yet possess the exquisite unreality revealed by her portraits of a few years later; but the chubby adolescent had changed into a fresh, graceful girl, with lovely skin and hair, fine wrists and slender ankles. Although her face was neither regular nor perfect, it attracted attention by the wilful curve of the mouth and by her ash grey eyes, sunk deep under her brows, and made bigger by the surprising intensity of her gaze.
When the eldest son of M. and Mme Z., Casimir, came back from Warsaw to Szczuki for his holidays, he found in the house a governess who could dance marvellously, row and skate; who was witty and had nice manners; who could make up verses as easily as she rode a horse or drove a carriage; who was different how totally, mysteriously different! from all the young ladies of his acquaintance. He fell in love with her. And Manya, Manya who hid a vulnerable heart beneath her revolutionary doctrines, was enamoured of him, the handsome, agreeable student.
She was not yet nineteen. He was only a little older. They made their plans to marry. . . .
There seemed to be nothing against this union. It was true that Manya was, at Szczuki, only "Mile Marya," the children's governess. But everybody there regarded her with affection: Monsieur Z. took long walks with her across the fields, Mme Z. mothered hor and Bronka adored her. The Z s had always treated her with particular courtesy: on several occasions they had invited her father, brother and sisters to stay with them. On her birthday they gave her flowers and presents.
It was therefore without too much apprehension, indeed almost with confidence, that Casimir Z. asked his parents if they approved of his engagement.
The answer was not slow in coming. Father fell into a rage, Mother almost fainted. He, Casimir, their favourite child, to marry this girl who hadn't a penny, who was obliged to work "in other people's houses"? He who could marry the richest and best-born girl of the neighbourhood to-morrow! Had he gone mad?
In one instant the social barriers went up, insurmountable, in a house where it had been a point of pride to treat Manya as a friend.
The fact that the girl was of good family, that she was cultivated, brilliant and of irreproachable reputation, the fact that her father was honourably known in Warsaw none of this counted against six implacable little words: one docs not marry a governess.
Apostrophised, shaken and preached at, the student felt his resolutions melt within him. lie had little character. He was afrajd of reproaches and anger. And Manya, lacerated by the scorn of creatures inferior to herself, withdrew into awkward coldness and a nervous silence. She had made up her mind; she would never again give a thought to the vanished idyll.
But love is like ambition: a decree of death will not kill it.
Manya could not take the step cruel but clear of leaving Szczuki. She did not want to worry her father; and above all she could not afford the luxury of giving up such a good post; now that Bronya's savings were a mere memory it was she, Manya, who had to help her father pay her elder sister's expenses at the Faculty of Medicine. She sent her sister fifteen roubles every month and sometimes twenty nearly half her salary. \Vhere could she iind another such salary? There had been no direct explanation between the Z.s and herself, no painful discussion. It was better to swallow her pride and stay at Szczuki, as if nothing had happened.
Life resumed its way thereafter just as it had been before. Manya gave her lessons, scolded Andzia, shook Juleh who was put to sleep by the slightest intellectual work and continued her work among the little peasants. She studied chemistry as always, making fun of herself and shrugging her shoulders at her own useless perseverance. She played, draughts and rhyming games, went to dances, took walks in the open air. . . .
In winter [she was to write later], the vast snow-covered plains were not without charm, and we made long trips in the sleigh.
At times we could hardly make out the road.
"Don't lose the trail!" I cried to the driver. He answered: "We are in the exact middle of it," or "Don't be afraid 1" and then we turned over. Such catastrophes only added to the gaiety of our excursions.
... I remember also the marvellous snowhouse we built one year when the snow was very high in the field. We could sit down in it and from there contemplate the immense white expanse, tinted with rose. . . .
Unhappy in love, disappointed in her intellectual dream and materially very hard up for by the time she had helped this one and that there was nothing left Manya attempted to forget her fate, the rut in which she felt herself stuck for ever. She turned toward her family, not to ask their help and not even to express her bitterness: in each of her letters she poured out advice and offered her support. She wanted them to have full lives.
Manya to Joseph, March 9^, 1887:
... I think that if you borrowed a few hundred roubles you could remain in Warsaw instead of burying yourself in the provinces. First of all, my dear little brother, don't be angry if I write something stupid; remember that I am telling you sincerely what I think, as we have always agreed. . . . You see, darling, everybody says that to work in a small town would prevent you from developing your culture and doing research. You would be thrust into a hole and would have no career at all. Without a pharmacy, without a hospital or books, one gets very dull, in spite of the best resolutions. And if that happened to you, darling, you will not be surprised to hear that I should suffer enormously, for now that I have lost the hope of ever becoming anybody, all my ambition has been transferred to Bronya and you. You two, at least, must direct your lives according to your gifts. These gifts which, without any doubt, do exist in our family must not disappear; they must come out through one of us. The more regret I have for myself the more hope I have for you. . . .
Perhaps you will make fun of me, or else shrug your shoulders at such a lecture. I am not in the habit of speaking or writing to you in such a tone. But this comes from the depths of my heart and I have thought it for a long time, since you first began your studies.
And think, too, what a joy it will be for Father to have you near him! He loves you so much he loves you more than all of the rest of us. Imagine, if Hela married M. B. and you went away from Warsaw, what would become of our poor father all alone! He would be very sad. Whereas this way you would live together, and it would be perfect. Only, just in the spirit of economy, don't forget to save a little corner for the rest of us in case we should come back.
Many a to Henrietta [who bad just given birth to a dead child], April 4, 1887:
. . . What suffering it must be for a mother to go through so many trials for nothing! If one could only say, with Christian resignation: "God willed it and His will be done!" half of the terrible bitterness would be gone. Alas, that consolation is not for everybody. I see how happy are the people who admit such explanations. But, strangely enough, the more I recognise how lucky they are the less 1 can understand their faith, and the less I feel capable of sharing their happiness.
. . . Forgive me these philosophical reflections: they are caused by your complaint against the backward and conservative spirit of the town where you live. Do not judge it too hardly, for social and political conservatism usually comes from religious conservatism, and the latter is a happiness even though for us it has become incomprehensible. So far as I am concerned, I should never voluntarily contribute toward anybody's loss of faith. Let everybody keep his own faith, so long as it is sincere. Only hypocrisy irritates me and it is as wide-spread as true faith is rare. ... I hate hypocrisy. But I respect sincere religious feelings when I meet them, even if they go with a limited state of mind. . . .
Many a to Jtsepb, May zotb, 1887:
... I still don't know if my pupil, Andzia, is going to take hef examinations, but I am in torment over them already. Her attentiveness and memory are so uncertain. ... It is the same thing with Julck. To try teaching them is truly to build on sand, because when they learn one thing they have already forgotten what one taught them the day before. At times this is a sort of torture. Also I am very much afraid for myself: it seems to me all the time that T am getting terribly stupid the days pass so quickly and I make no noticeable progress. Even with the village children I had to interrupt my lessons because of the Masses of the month of Mary. StilL it seems to me that I don't require a great deal to be content: I only want to get the conviction that I am being of some use. . . .
Later on she says of Hela, whose engagement to marry had just been broken:
I can imagine how Hela's self-respect must have suffered.
Truly, it gives one a good opinion of men! If they don't want to marry poor young girls, let them go to the devil ! Nobody is asking them for anything. But why do they offend by troubling the peace of an innocent creature?
... If something consoling could only come through you! I often ask myself how your business is going, and if you don't regret having remained in Warsaw. To tell the truth, 1 oughtn't to torment myself over it, as you will certainly come out all right:
I firmly believe that. There are always more petty annoyances with the babas* but I, even 1, keep a sort of hope that 1 shall not disappear completely into nothingness. . . ,
*Babas : In Polish, a mocking word for women.
Many a to Henrietta^ December iofb, 1887:
. . . Don't believe the report of my approaching marriage; it is unfounded. This tale has been spread about the countryside and even at Warsaw; and though this is not my fault, 1 am afraid ii may bring me trouble. My plans for the future are modest indeed: my dream, for the moment, is to have a corner of my own where I can live with my father. The poor man misses me a lot; he would like to have me at home; he longs for me! To get my independence again, and a place to live, I would give half my life. 'Ihercfore, if the thing is at all possible, I shall leave Szojuki which can't be clone, in ^ny case, for some time 1 shall install myself in Warsaw, take a post as teacher in a girls' school and make up the rest of the money 1 need by giving lessons. It is all 1 want. Life does net deserve to be worried over. . . .
Manja to Joseph, March 18,1888:
Dear little Jozio, I am going to stick the last stamp T possess on this letter, and since 1 have litci jlJy not a penny not one! 1 shall probably not write to you again until the holidays, unless by some charcc a stamp should fall into my lunds.
The real purpose of this letter was to wish you a happy birthday, but if I am late it is only because of the lack of money and stamps which afilicts me dreadfully and I've never yet learned to ask for them.
. . . My darling Jozio, if you only knew how I sigh and long to go to Warsaw for only a few days! 1 say nothing of my clothes, which are worn out and need care but my soul, too, is worn out.
Ah, if I could cxtiact myself for just a few days from this icy atmosphere of criticism, from the perpetual guard over my own words, the expression in my face, my gestures! ... I need that as one needs a cool bath on a torrid day. I have many reasons, besides, for wanting such a change.
It has been a long time since Bronya wrote to me. No doubt she, too, has no stamp. . . . If you can manage to sacrifice one, I beg you to write to me. Write to me, well and long, everything that happens at home; for in Father's and Hela's letters there are nothing but laments, and I ask myself if everything really is so bad; and I am in torment; and to these worries there are added quantities of worries I have here, of which I could speak but 1 don't want to. If I only didn't have to think of Bronya I should present my resignation to the Z.s this very instant and look for another post, even though this one is so well paid.
Many a to her friend Kazia [who hadjttst announced her engagement, and with whom Many a was soon going to stay for a few days]. October 25, 1888:
. . . Nothing you could ever confide in me could ever seem excessive or ridiculous. How could I, your chosen little, sister, not take to heart everything that concerns you, as if it were my own?
As for me, I am very gay and often I hide my deep lack of gaiety under laughter. This is something I learned to do when I found out that crcatuivs who feel as keenly as 1 do, and are unable to change this characteristic of their nature, have to dissimulate it at least as much as possible. But do you think it is eilicicio-js, or good for anything? Not at all ! Most often the vivacity of my temperament runs away with me gradually, and then well, one says things that one regrets, and with more ardour than is necessary.
I write with some bitterness, Kazia, but you see. . . . You tell me you have just lived through the happiest week of your life; and I, during these holidays, have been through such weeks as you will never know. There were some very hard days, and the only thing that softens the memory of them is that in spite of everything I came through it all honestly, with my head high. (As you sec, I have not yet renounced, in life, that carriage which brought me Mile Mayer's hatred of old.)
. . . You will say, Kazia, that I am growing sentimental. Don't be afraid. I shall not fill into a sin so foreign to my nature only, I have become very nervous recently. Some people have done all they could to bring this about. Nevertheless I shall be as gay and free as ever when 1 come to you. What a lot of things we have to say to each othcrl I shall bring along some chains for our mouths, as otherwise we should never get to bed until dawn. Will your mother give us lemonade and chocolate ices as she used to do?
Mutya to Jwph, October, 1888:
1 look sadly at my calendar: this day has cost me five stamps, not counting letter paper. Thus I shall soon have nothing to say to you!
Think of it: I am learning chemistry from a book. You can imagine how little I get out of that, but what can 1 do, as I have no place to make experiments or do practical work?
Bronya has sent me a little album from Paris. It is^v
Many a to Henrietta, November 25, 1888:
I have fallen into black melancholy because our daily panions are dreadful west winds, with embellishments of rain, flood and mud. To-day the sky is a little more clement, but the wind roars in the chimney. There isn't a trace of ice, and the skates hang sadly in the cupboard. You arc probably unaware th it in our provincial hole the frost and the advantages it brings us are at least as important as a discussion between conservatives and progressives in your Galicia. . . . Don't conclude from this that your stories bore me: on the contrary, it is a real satisfacton for me to learn that there exist some regions and some geographic areas in which people move and even think. While you are living at the centre of the movement, my existence strangely resembles that of one of those slugs which haunt the dirty water of our river.
Luckily I hope to get out of this lethargy soon.
I wonder if, when you 'see me, you will judge that the years I have just passed among humans have done me good or not. Everybody says that I have changed a great deal, physically and spiritually, during my stay at Sxczuki. This is not surprising. I was barely eighteen when I came here, and what have I not been through! There have been moments which I shall certainly count among the most cruel of my life ... I feel everything very violently, with a physical violence, and then I give myself a shaking, the vigour of my nature conquers, and it seems to me that I am coming out of a nightmare. . . . First principle: never to let one's self be beaten down by persons or by events.
1 count the hours and days that separate me from the holidays i id my departure to my own people. There is also the need of new Lnpressions; the need of change, of movement and life, which seizes me sometimes with such force that I want to fling myself into the greatest follies, if only to keep my life from being eternally the same. Fortunately, 1 have so much work to do that these attacks seize me pretty rarely. It is my last year here; and I must therefore wot 1; all the harder, so that the children's examinations will go well
THREE years had passed since "Mile Marya" became a governess.
Three montonous years they were: much work and no money, some few little pleasures, one grief But now, by small imperceptible stages, the tragic immobility of the young girl's existence was beginning to stir. In Paris, in Warsaw and at Szczuki certain events, small in appearance, modified the play of the mysterious game in which Manya's lot was decided.
M. Sklodovski, having obtained his pension, started out in search of lucrative employment. He wanted to try to help his daughters. In April, 1888, he accepted the most arduous and ungrateful of posts: the directorship of a reform school at Studzieniec, not far from Warsaw. The atmosphere, the surroundings, everything was unpleasant there everything but the comparatively high salary, from which the good nun instantly set aside a monthly sum for Bronya.
The first thing Bronya did was to direct Manya not to send her any more money. The second was to ask her father to hold eight roubles out of the forty roubles he g,ive her every month eight roubles destined to repay, little by little, the sums she had received from her little sister. From that moment Manya's fortune, starting from zero, began to increase.
The medical student's letters brought other news from Paris.
She was working. She was passing her examinations with success.
And she was in love: in love with a Pole, Casimir Dluski, her comrade in study, brilliant with charm and good qualities, whose only awkward peculiarity was that he was forbidden to live in Russian Jpoiand and was threatened \vith deportation to Siberia if he returned there.
At Szczuki, Manya's task was approaching its end. After St. John's Day in 1889 the Z.s would no longer need her services.
Naturally, she would have to find another place. The young governess already had one in view, with some rich industrialists of Warsaw, the F.s. It would be a change, at any rate the change that Manya called for so eagerly.
Many a to Kazia, March 13, 1889:
In five weeks it will be Easter. . . . For me it is a very important date, as my future will be decided then. Besides the post with the F.s, I am offered another. J am hesitating between the two and don't know what to do.
... I think only of Easter! My head is so full of plans that it seems aflame. I don't know what is to become of me. You see, your Manya will be, to the end of her days, a flighty-head of flighty- heads. . . .
Good-bye to Szczuki and the beet fields! With friendly smiles a bit too friendly on both sides Manya took her leave of the Z.s. Liberated, she reached Warsaw and breathed the air of her native town with delight. Then she was off again, on the train to Zoppot, a dismal Baltic beach where she would join her new employers.
Manya to Kazia, July 14, 1889:
. . . My journey went off all right, in spite of my tragic presentiments. . . . Nobody robbed me, or even tried to; I did not take the wrong train at any of my five changes, and 1 ate up all my serdelki: only the rolls and the caramels were too much for me.
Along the way I had benevolent protectors who made everything easy for me. For fear that they would carry their amiability so far as to eat my provisions, I didn't show them my serdelki.
M. and Mme F. were waiting at the station for me. They are very nice, and I have been attracted to the children. Everything will therefore be all right as indeed it must be.
Life was not very amusing in the Schultz Hotel at that summer resort wncre, Manya wrote, "one sees the same people all the time, around the Kurhaus, where they speak only of dresses and other equally interesting things. It is cold, everybody stays at home: Mme F., her husband, her mother and they are in such temper that I should like to hide in a mouscholc, if I could"
But soon afterward employers, children and governess returned to Warsaw, where they installed themselves for the winter.
1 he year to come was to be a comparatively pleasing interval for the young girl Mme F. was very beautiful, very elegant, very rich.
She had furs art! jewels. 1 here were some dresses by Worth in her wardrobe, and her portrait in evening dress hung in the salon.
During this time Manya became acquainted, as a spectator, with the frivolous and charming things wealth can olTer a spoiled woman things that she was never to possess. First and last meeting with luxury! It was made agreeable by Mme F.'s graciousness; that lady, attracted by the "exquisite Mile Sklodovska," sang Manya's praises and required her to be present at all the tea parties, all the dances.
Suddenly, one day, the thunderbolt: the postman brought a letter from Paris. It was a hurried letter on squared paper, which IVonya had scribbled between two sessions in the operating theatre; therein the generous girl offered Manya hospitality in her new home for the coming year.
Brmya to Manya, March, 1890:
... If everything goes as we hope, I shall surely be able to marry when the holidays begin. My fiance will be a doctor by then, and I shall have only my last examination to pass. We shall stay another year in Paris, during which time I shall finish my examinations, and then we shall come buck to Poland. I see nothing in our plans that is not reasonable. Tell me if you think I am not right. Remember that I am twenty-four which is nothing but he is thirty-four, which is more serious. It would be absurd to wait any longer.
. . And now, you my little Manya: you must make something of your life sometime. If you can get together a few hundred roubles this year you can come to Paris next year and live with us, where you will find board and lodging. It is absolutely necessary to have a few hundred roubles for your fees at the Sorbonne. The first year you will live with us. For the second and third, when we arc no longer there, I swear Father will help you in spite of the devil. You must take this decision; you have been waiting too long. 1 guarantee that in two years you will have your master's degree. Think about it, get the money together, put it in a safe place, and don't lend it. Perhaps it would be better to change it into francs right away, for the exchange is good just now, and later it might fall. . . .
One might think that the enthusiastic Manya would have answered her sister at once to say that she was exultant with happiness and was coming; but not at all. Years of exile and loneliness, instead of souring this extraordinary gitL had made her over-scrupulous. Her sacrificial demon could make her capable of deliberately missing her destiny. Because she had promised to live with her father; because she wanted to help her sister I Icla and her brother Joseph, Manya no longer wished to go. And this is how she answered Bronya's invitation:
Manya to Bronya, March 12, 1890 [from Warsaw]:
Dear Bronya, 1 have been stupid, 1 am stupid and I shall remain stupid all the days of my life, or rather, to translate into the current style: 1 have never been, am not and shall never be lucky. I dreamed of Paris as of redemption, but the hope of going there left me a long time ago. And now that the possibility is offered me, 1 do not know what to do, ... I am afraid to speak of it to Father: I believe our plan of living together next year is close to his heart, and he clings to it; I want to give him a little happiness in his old age. On the other hand, rny heart breaks when I think of ruining my abilities, which must have been worth, anyhow, something. 1 here is also the fact that J promised Hela to take her back home in a year, and to find her a post in Warsaw. You have no idea how sorry I felt for her! She will always be the minor child of the family, and 1 feel it i^ my duty to watch over her the poor little thing needs it so. ...
But you, Bronya, 1 beg of you, take charge of Joseph's interests with all your energy, and, even if it seems to you that it is not your part to solicit help from that Mme S., who can extricate him, conquer the feeling. After all, the Bible says literally: "Knock and it shall be opened to you." Even if you are forced to sacrifice a little of your self-esteem, what does that matter? An affectionate request can offend nobody. How well I should know how to write that letter! You must explain to the lady that there is no question of a large sum, only of a few hundred roubles, so that Joseph can live in Warsaw and study and practise; that his future depends on it; that without this help such wonderful abilities will be ruincJ. . . . Tn ? word, you must write all that, and at length;
for, darling Broojczka, if you simply ask her to lend the money, she will not tiike the business to heart: that is not the way to succeed. And even if you have the feeling of being a nuisance, what of it? What's the difference, so long as the end is achieved?
And besides, is it such a big request? Aren't people often greater nuisances than that? With this help Joseph can become useful to society, whereas if he leaves for the provinces he is lost.
I bore you with Jlcla, Joseph and Father, and with my own wrecked future. My heart is so black, so sad, that I feel how wrong I am to speak of all this to you and to poison your happiness, for you are the only one of us all who has had what they call luck.
Forgive me, but, you see, so many things hurt me that it is hard for me to finish this letter gaily.
1 embrace you tenderly. The next time I shall write more cheerfully and at greater length but to-day I am exceptionally unhappy in this world. Think of me with tenderness perhaps I shall be able to feel it even here.
Bronya insisted, argued. Unfortunately, she lacked the decisive argument: she was too poor to pay the travelling expenses of her young sister and to put her authoritatively into the train. Finally it was decided that when Manya had finished her engagement with Mme F. she would remain still another year in Warsaw. She would live with her father, recently freed from his work at Studzieniec; she would complete her savings by giving lessons; and thereafter she would go.
After the torpor of the provinces and the agitated gaieties of the F.'s, Manya returned to the climate that was dear to her: a lodging of her own, the presence of old Professor Sklodovski, and conversations interesting enough to stimulate her mind.
The Floating University again opened its mysterious doors to her.
And incomparable pleasure, major event! Manya, for the first time in her life, penetrated into a laboratory.
It was at 66 Krakovsky Boulevard, at the end of a court-yard planted with lilacs: a tiny building on one floor receiving light from Lilliputian windows. One of Manya's cousins, Joseph Boguski^ there directed what was pompously called "The Museum of Industry and Agriculture." This title, wilfully pretentious and vague, was only a front to present to the Russian authorities. A museum would not arouse suspicion. Nothing prevented the teaching of science to young Poles behind the windows of a museum.
I had little time for work in this laboratory [Marie Curie was to write]. I could generally get there only in the evening after dinner, or on Sunday, and 1 was left to myself. 1 tried to reproduce various experiments described in the treatises on physics or chemistry, and the results were sometimes unexpected. From time to time a little unhoped-for success would come to encourage me, and at other times I sank into despair because of the accidents or failures due to my inexperience. But on the whole, even though I learned, to my cost, that progress in such matters is neither rapid nor easy, I developed my taste for experimental research during these first trials.
Coming home late at night, regretfully leaving electrometers, test-tubes and accurate balances, Manya undressed and lay down on her narrow bed. But she could not sleep. An exaltation different from all those she had known kept her from sleep. 1 ler vocation, for so long uncertain, had flashed into life. She was summoned to obey a secret order. She was suddenly in a hurry, whipped onward.
When she took the test-tubes of the Museum of Industry and Agriculture into her fine; clever hands Manya returned, as if by magic, to the absorbing memories of her childhood, to her father's physics apparatus, motionless in its glass case, with which, in the old days, she had always wanted to play. She had taken up the thread of her life again.
Though her nights were feverish her days were peaceful in appearance. Manya concealed the furious impatience that possessed her. She wished her father to be happy and at peace during these last months of intimacy. She busied herself with her brother's marriage; she looked for a position for Hela. And then, too, perhaps a more selfish care kept her from fixing the date of her departure: she thought she still loved Casimir Z. Even though she felt herself driven toward Paris by an imperious power, she could not contemplate an exile of several years without anguish.
In September 1891, while Manya was on holiday at Zakopane in the Carpathians, where she was to meet Casimir Z., M. Sklodovski explained the situation to Bronya:
Manya had to stay at Zakopane and will not return until the 15th, because of a bad cough and influenza which, the local doctor says, might drag along all winter if she does not get rid of it there.
1 he little rascal! It must be partly her fault, as she has always made fun of all precautions and has never deigned to adapt her raiment to the atmospheric conditions. She has written me that she was very gloomy; 1 am afraid her grief, and the uncertainty of her situation, may undermine her. Moreover, she has a secret about her future, of which she is to speak to me at length, but only on her return. To tell the truth, I can well imagine what it has to do with, and I don't myself know whether I should be glad or sorry.
If my foresight is accurate, the same disappointments, coming from the same persons who have already caused them to her, are awaiting Manya. And yet if it is a question of building a life according to her own feeling, and of making two people happy, that is worth the trouble of facing them, perhaps. But the fact is that 1 know nothing. . . .
Your invitation to Paris, which fell upon her in such unexpected fashion, has given her a fever and added to her disorder. I feel the power with which she wills to approach that source of science, towards which she aspires so much. But the present conditions are less favourable, and, above all, if Manya does not come back to me completely cured, I should oppose her departure, because of the hard conditions she would find herself in during the winter in Paris without speaking of all the rest of it, and without even taking account of the fact that it would be very painful to me to separate from her, for this last consideration is obviously secondary. I wrote to her yesterday, and tried to raise her spirits. If she remained in Warsaw, even if she could find no lessons, I should certainly have a bit of bread for her and for myself for a year.
I learned with great joy that your Casimir is doing well. How funny it would be if each of you had a Casimir!
Dear M. Sklodovski! In his heart of hearts he had no desire to see his Manya, his favourite, depart for the adventure of the great world. He would vaguely have preferred something to keep her in Poland: a marriage with Casimir Z., for instance.
But at Zakopane, between two walks in the mountains, an explanation took place between the two young people. As the student confided his hesitations and fears to her for the hundredth time, Manya, unable to bear any more, pronounced the sentence that burned her bridges:
"If you can't sec a way to clear up our situation, it is not for me to teach it to you."
During this long but somewhat tepid idyll Manya showed herself, as Professor Sklodovski was to say later, "proud and haughty."
The girl had broken the feeble link that still held her. She stopped trying to control her hurry. She counted up all the hard years of boiling patience through which she had just lived. It was eight years since she had left the Gymnasium, six years since she had gone out as a governess. She was no longer the adolescent who saw her whole life before her. In a few weeks she would be twenty-four.
Suddenly she cried out: she called to Bronya for help.
Manya to Bronya, September 23, 1891:
. . . Now, Bronya, I ask you for a definite answer. Decide if you can really take me in at your house, for I can come now. I have enough to pay all my expenses. If, therefore, without depriving yourself of a gre<it deal, you could give me my food, write to me and say so. It would be a, great happiness, as that would restore me spiritually after the cruel trials 1 have been through this summer, which will have an influence on my whole life but, on the other hand, I do not wish to impose myself on you.
Since you are expecting a child, perhaps I might be useful to you. In any case, write and let me know. If my coming is just p< ssible, tell me, and tell me what entrance examinations I must pass, and what is the latest date at which I can register as a student. I am so nervous at the prospect of my departure that I can't speak of anything else until I get your answer. I beg of you, then, write to me at once, and I send all my love to both of you. You can put me up anywhere; I shall not bother you; I promise that I shall not be a bore or create disorder. I implore you to answer me, but very frankly.
If Bronya did not reply by telegram it was because telegrams were a ruinous luxury. If Manya did not fling herself into the first train it was because she had to organise the great departure first, with parsimonious economy. She spread out on the table all the roubles she possessed, and to them her father, at the last moment, added a little sum which for him was an important one. And she began her calculations.
So much for the passport, so much for the railway. It would be sheer flightiness to take a third-class ticket from Warsaw to Paris the cheapest way in Russia and France. There existed in Germany thank God! railway carriages of the fourth class, without compartments, almost as bare as freight cars: a bench on each of the four sides and an empty space in the middle where, seated on a folding chair, one was not badly off.
Practical Bronya's recommendation was not forgotten: to take along everything necessary to life, so as to have no unforeseen expenses in Paris. Manya's mattress, her bedclothes, her sheets and towels, would leave long in advance, by freight. Her linen, made of strong cloth, her clothes, her shoes and her two hats were collected on a couch near which unique and gorgeous purchase! gaped the big wooden trunk, brown and bulging, very rustic but very solid, on which the girl had lovingly had painted her initials in broad black letters: M.S.
With the mattress gone and the trunk registered, there remained all sorts of awkward packets for the traveller, her companions on the journey: food and drink for three days on the train, the folding chair for tne German carriage, books, a little bag of caramels, a quilt. . . .
It was only after she had lodged these burdens in the net of the compartment and reserved her place on the narrow, hard bench that Manya stepped down to the platform again. How young she looked in her big threadbare coat, with her fresh cheeks and grey eyes which sparkled to-day with unwonted fever!
Suddenly moved, tormented again by scruples, she kissed her father and overwhelmed him with tender, timid words which were almost excuses:
"I shall not be away long. . . . Two years, three years at the longest. As soon as I have finished my studies, and passed a few examinations, I'll come back, and we shall live together and never be separated again. . . . isn't that right?"
"Yes, my little Manyusya," the professor murmured in a rather hoarse voice, clnsping the girl in his arms. "Come back quickly. Work hard. Good luck!"
In the night pierced with whistles and the clank of old iron the fourth-class carriage was passing across Germany. Crouched down on her folding chair, her legs mufHcd up, her luggage which she carefully counted from time to time piled close around her, Manya tasted her divine joy. She mused upon the past, upon this magic departure for which she had waited so long. She tried to imagine the future. In her humility she thought that she would soon be back again in her native town, that she would find a snug little place as teacher there. . . .
She was far, very far, from thinking that when she entered this train she had at last chosen between obscurity and a blazing light, between the pettiness of equal days and an immense life.