Adrienne Mesurat lives with her father, a retired writing master, and Germaine, her disabled older sister, in a small, ugly villa in the country town of La Tour l’Eveque. The routine of the household is simple, for Antoine Mesurat lives only to indulge his own quiet tastes. Three meals a day, his morning and evening walks, his favorite newspaper, an occasional game of trente-et-un—these are his pleasures. In his tranquilly stubborn manner, he is a complete domestic tyrant, and the idea that his daughters might be unhappy with their lot never crosses his mind.
There was a time when callers came to the villa, for the Mesurats owned enough property to attract young men of the district. Old Mesurat, however, considers his daughters superior to the sons of provincial tradesmen and lawyers and laughs complacently at their proposals of marriage. Finally, the visits cease. In the uneventful round of Adrienne’s days, the strange passerby in the street, the local gossip her father brings back from his walks, and the succession of tenants who each summer rent the Villa Louise on the corner become items for speculation and comment. Matters would have gone on indefinitely if Adrienne did not, in the summer of her seventeenth year, fall suddenly in love.
She is gathering flowers beside a country road when a carriage passes her. She sees in it a slight man of middle age, who half lifts his hat as the vehicle goes by. Adrienne recognizes him as Dr. Maurecourt, a recent arrival in the town. Because he notices her, a feeling of gratitude and adoration fills her. For the rest of the summer, she walks the same road every day, but the doctor never rides that way again.
At last, Adrienne hits upon another plan. Each night, after Germaine goes to her room and Mesurat settles in the parlor for his evening nap, she steals out of the house. From the corner on which the Villa Louise stands, she can see the front of the Maurecourt dwelling, and the sight of its lighted windows give her a deep feeling of happiness. Once she sees Maurecourt on the street. Later, she feels that she must see him again at any cost. One day, while cleaning, she discovers that she can also watch his house from the window of Germaine’s room. As often as possible, she goes there and sits, hoping to see him enter or leave by his front door.
Germaine, surprising Adrienne in her bedroom, becomes suspicious. That night, the older sister is awake when Adrienne returns quietly from her evening vigil. Mesurat, informed of what happened, orders Adrienne to play cards with him after dinner the next day. Under her father’s suspicious gaze, she plays badly. He becomes enraged and accuses her of stealing out nightly to meet a lover. From that time on, she is allowed to leave the house only when she goes walking with her father. Again she sees Maurecourt on the street. Thinking that if she were hurt he be called to attend her, she thrusts her arms through the windowpane. Her father and sister bandage her cuts, much to her despair.
Germaine’s sickness grows worse. Refusing to acknowledge her serious condition, Mesurat insists that she get up for her meals. One morning, after he berates her at breakfast, Germaine confides her intention of leaving home, and she borrows five hundred francs from Adrienne’s dower chest to pay her fare to a convent hospital. Adrienne is glad to see her sister go; she hopes to occupy the room from which she can watch Maurecourt’s house. Mesurat, surprised and furious, is puzzled about how Germaine arranged for her flight and where she secured money for her train fare.
In June, Madame Legras becomes the new tenant of Villa Louise. Adrienne and her father meet the summer visitor at a concert, and Madame Legras invites the young girl to visit. After Germaine’s departure, Adrienne goes to see her new neighbor. Madame Legras is affable but prying. Confused by questions about a possible lover, Adrienne has a strange attack of dizziness.
That night, Mesurat...
(The entire section is 1,178 words.)