E. and J. Goncourt
Third quarter of the XIX century, the era of the Second Empire, Paris. In the poorly furnished room is an old woman – Mademoiselle de Varandale. Near the bed on her knees stands her maid – Germini Laserte. Rejoicing at the recovery of the hostess, the servant embarks on memories – the young lady de Varandale is so much like her mother! And the mother of Germini died when her daughter was only five years old, and after her death the family’s life went wrong. The father drank, the elder brother became the breadwinner, one sister worked in service, another sewed at rich masters. But the father died, and after him the brother. The sisters went to work in Paris, where soon and sent to Germini. She was then fourteen years
old woman listens silently, comparing her life with the life of a servant. The sad memories overwhelm her…
As a child, Mademoiselle de Varandale, too, was deprived of parental affection: neither father nor mother, opera diva, did not care about her. On the eve of the revolution, the mother fled, leaving her husband with her daughter and son. During the Terror, the family lived under the vigilant fear of death. At the request of his father, who wanted to show loyalty to the regime, the revolutionary authorities carried out the civil ceremony of baptism over Mademoiselle de Varandale and called it Sempronia. The girl was the mainstay of the family: she stood in lines for bread, looked after her father and her brother. During the period of the Empire, when the financial situation of M. de Varandale improved, he still treated his daughter as a servant, did not consider it necessary to dress her and bring her out. Brother Sempronii went to America.
All the money Mr. de Varandale spent on the purchase of paintings, hoping then to sell them profitably. However, speculation failed: the masterpieces bought by him were in fact turned out to be gross forgeries. The ruined master de Varandale left for the province and settled in a small house, leaving his daughter to perform all the black work in it. When he
Shortly before his father’s death from America, the brother of Sempronia returned with his mulatto wife and two daughters. When M. de Varandale died, the sister from her heart offered her part of her small inheritance. Together they settled in Paris. Being jealous of her brother to her sister, his wife began to plague the unhappy old maid.
Then Mademoiselle de Varandale rented her own accommodation and resumed acquaintance with her relatives: “she hosted those to whom the Restoration regained influence and power, visited those who were left in shadow and poverty by new power”, and her life began to flow “on once and for all established order. ” If some of my friends had trouble, she immediately resorted and stayed in the house until there was a need for her help. She lived more than modestly, but she allowed herself the luxury of showering the acquaintances with sweets and seeing the joy in the childish faces in return.
The long-suffering life of the old maid taught her to neglect human weaknesses. She was cheerful in spirit, full of kindness, but devoid of the gift of forgiveness.
Years passed, the family of Mademoiselle de Varandale, all she loved, died, and the only place of her walks was the cemetery, where she took care of expensive graves…
Immersed in memories, Mademoiselle no longer listens to the maid. Therefore, we will continue the simple story of Germini Lacerta…
Having arrived in Paris, she works in a seedy cafe where waiters bite her. The girl begs the sisters to take her from there, but they do not want to listen to her. An elderly waiter, being alone with her, rapes her.
The shocked Germini begins to fear men. Soon she realizes that she is pregnant. Sisters in every possible way plague her, and the child is born dead. Germini is again given in the service, she is always hungry. Hardly dying of hunger, she gets to the former actor, and he begins to take care of her. But the actor soon dies, and Germini, exhausted in search of a place, finally arrives to Madame de Varandale, who just buried her maid.
At this time, Germini falls into deep piety, giving uncalled tenderness to his heart to a young kind-hearted priest. However, when the priest understands that the reverence of Germini is directed primarily to himself, he passes it on to another priest, and Germini does not go to church at all.
Family misfortunes send her thoughts into a different direction. Her sister is dying, and her husband, having left her sick three-year-old daughter, leaves the city. Germini hires an old woman, settles it with her niece in the house where Mademoiselle de Varandale lives, every free minute she runs to look after the baby and literally saves her from death. But then before leaving for Africa to Zhermini is her other sister and offers to pick up the girl: after all Germini can not take the child to her, because mademoiselle is old, and she needs peace, Germini should only give her niece money for the journey.
Arriving in Africa, my sister dies. Her husband sends plaintive letters, demanding money for the maintenance of the girl. Germini wants to quit everything and go to her niece, but suddenly learns that the girl has long since – after her sister – passed away. And Germini immediately forgets about his desire.
Near the house of mademoiselle is a dairy shop, bought by the countrywoman Germini, a fat and talkative mother, Jupeillon. Germini often goes to her – to buy food and remember her native land. Soon she begins to spend all her free time there, travels with her mistress to her son, who studies at the boarding school for “children of the common people and illegitimate children.” When mother Zhippion falls ill, Zhermini visits the child herself, carries him gifts and buys clothes. Fat Zhupiyon is pleased: she has got a gift servant, who also spends her own money on her child.
But here’s the guy, Jupeill comes out of the guesthouse. Jermini’s motherly feelings for the young idler gradually turn into a love passion. Taking advantage of the fact that the service of mademoiselle is not burdensome, she spends all day in the dairy, admiring her handsome man. “Stinging and sassy,” Jupeillon is ready to trail behind every pretty face, Having mastered Germini, he is quickly fed up with her. All who are not too lazy amused over the novel “old woman” Germini. Until recently, Germini was the most respected servant in the quarter, and now any trader considers it his duty to foist her rotten goods, confident that she will not complain to the hostess, for she carefully conceals from her all her adventures.
Pursuing the love of a brazen youngster, Germini sells his few jewels, buys his workshop and furnishes it. Accepting this gift, Jupillon does not even find words of gratitude.
From Jupeillon, a daughter is born to Germini. Hiding this event from the hostess, she arranges a daughter in the city from the wet nurse and every Sunday, along with Jupipion goes to her. Suddenly, the news comes that the child is sick. Afraid that mademoiselle will reveal her secret, Germini waits for the end of the week. Procrastination is fatal: the child dies.
Germini falls into a dull despair. When the first grief passes, she begins to drink, carefully concealing it from Madame de Varandale.
Unable to withstand the treachery of his lover, Germini admits in all his mother. She, of course, takes her son’s side, and when Germini timidly asks her to return the money spent on the workshop, she is accused of trying to “buy” a poor boy and ruin his life.
Germini breaks with the dairy and recovers for all her adversity at mademoiselle: she bites her, leads the economy through her sleeves. A lonely old woman tolerates everything, because she has long been looking at Germini as a “man who will ever close her eyes.” She is ready to comfort the maid, but, not knowing anything about her life outside the house, can not help her.
Jupeillon draws lots. To pay off the soldier, money is needed. Mother and son decide to circle Germini around her finger and force her to fork out. Met Jermie on the street, Jupillion pretends that she is only at a quarrel with his mother, and he himself is still very nice to her. He leads her to the milky, mother Jupipion pours crocodile tears, while Germini is silent, but from the sight of her Jupeill becomes frightened.
A week later, Germini returns, carrying in the scarf collected for pennies money. She borrowed from all those who could only, and is now in bondage to the entire block, because her salary is barely enough to pay interest. She understands that Jupeillon does not like her, but the thought that he will fall on the battlefield, horrifies her.
Germini herself is surprised how low she fell, but she can not help herself: she is ready to do everything to keep Jupeillon, who has become her lover again, solely because of money, for her purse is always at his service. Germini drinks, mademoiselle lies, and, despite the “almost reverential feeling” she feels for her mistress, she steals from her money, confident that she will hardly find the loss. Germini dresses in rags, wilts, stupefies before her eyes, turns into a “rasputehu”, and Juppion throws it.
All overflowing with her love unhappy woman suddenly concentrates on mademoiselle. She again becomes a smart and intelligent servant. However, the idea that the landlady finds out about her debts torments her; no less suffering suffers her and the lust of the body.
Unable to withstand a loving longing, she comes into contact with a shalope-master. He, having decided that Zhermini has savings, invites her to marry him. Germini refuses to part with mademoiselle, and the lover throws it. Lured by lust, at night she wanders through the streets and gives herself to the first person to meet. Unintentionally she encounters Jupipion, and her former passion flares up in her with renewed vigor. But her health is finally undermined, and she is seriously ill. And yet she continues to work, for she is afraid that all her sins will immediately swim out if the hostess hires another maid. Finally, she gets so ill that she is taken to the hospital. The landlady visits her, takes care of her. And then one day mademoiselle comes to Germini, and she is asked to identify the corpse.
To the shocked death of the servant mademoiselle, creditors with Jermini’s receipts begin to flock. In paying the debts of the deceased, Madame de Varandale finds out about the unknown side of her maid’s life. From surprise and anger the old maid becomes ill. But gradually her anger passes, there is only pity. She goes to the cemetery, finds a common grave and kneels where, along with other poor people, the sad remains of Germini are now buried. “… Fate wished the body of the sufferer to remain underground as homeless as her heart was on earth.”