(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The difference in the way Fanny and Jane wait for a letter from Farou, who is in Paris, points up the contrast between their personalities. The beautiful, heavy-set Fanny, whose dark Mediterranean beauty had long ago won Farou’s devotion, sleeps on the sofa, while Jane, a thin, nervous, ash-blond woman nearly thirty years old, stands weeping quietly on the veranda. Fanny’s stepson, Jean, awakes her when the letter arrives. Farou writes enthusiastically about a young lady who is obviously his new mistress. Fanny is amazed at Jane’s violent reaction to this news and wonders why, despite her companion’s affection and indispensability, she does not regard Jane as a close friend.

Fanny’s and Jane’s lives quicken with Farou’s return. Jane is happy, busy taking dictation as Farou works on his play. To Fanny, Farou’s roaring voice and the murmur of the bees sounds in the heat like the office of the Mass. Farou’s immense presence completely absorbs them. When Fanny is alone with him, it is clear that she both depends upon him and supports him. He is her one love, and in this knowledge she is proud. Farou and his son are uneasy when together. Jean has developed an unhappy passion for Jane, and he watches her and Farou very closely. When Jane goes for a walk, he climbs into the lime tree to see where she went.

Farou’s establishment dates from a time before his plays had become successful. At one point, Jean had contracted typhus, Farou’s last play had failed, and the secretary had left. Then Jane arrived; she nursed Jean, worked for Farou, and established an easy relationship of affection and respect with Fanny. After the crisis passed, Jane begged to stay, and the Farous were glad to keep her on as a secretary for Farou and a companion for Fanny.

Soon afterward, the family leaves for their first summer in the Franche-Comté, and they are now spending their second summer there. During the hot days, Fanny, whose intelligence is more an emotional awareness than an intellectual penetration, cannot consider Jean and his father objectively. The household revolves around Farou, and they all rejoice when he sells a play. Their practical dependence on Jane continues. Jean’s restlessness increases, and at last he wins Farou’s unwilling permission to leave France for South America after the summer.

Once, when Jean and Fanny are on the balcony and hear Jane and Farou talking in the garden, Jean leaps to the wall to watch them. Fanny joins him. Both are suddenly aware of the intimate nature of Jane’s relationship with Farou. When Farou returns to the balcony, Fanny feels nothing but unaltered devotion toward him. Only later does she feel vulnerable, even indignant that she should have been pulled into one of Farou’s affairs. This realization, however, does not significantly alter her feelings for Jane.

Fanny sleeps little that night. At dawn she hears Jane moving about. Fanny realizes...

(The entire section is 1205 words.)