Noah's Child

Noah's Child by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt Read Free Book Online

Book: Noah's Child by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt Read Free Book Online
Authors: Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt
the darkness. When he reached the Villa Jaune, he went inside and I heard the scrape of keys as he locked up.
    Finding myself locked out of the boarding house − now, that was something I hadn’t thought of! The building stood before me, upright, compact, dark and hostile. The cold and the hours of waiting had drained my strength. What was I going to do? Not only would everyone discover, come morning, that I’d spent the night outside, but where was I going to sleep now? Would I even still be alive in the morning?
    A hand came down on to my shoulder.
    â€˜Come on, get inside quickly!’
    I jumped automatically. Rudy eyed me up and down with a pitying expression.
    â€˜When I didn’t see you come up after Father Pons I realized you had a problem.’
    Even though he was my godfather and was unbelievably tall and I had to make his life difficult if I wanted to maintain my authority . . . I threw myself into his arms and − for the time it took to shed a few tears − accepted that I was seven years old.
    In break time the following day I told Rudy what I had discovered. With a knowing nod, he pronounced his diagnosis:
    â€˜Black market! Like everyone else, he’s trading on the black market. That’s all it is.’
    â€˜What’s he getting in that bag?’
    â€˜Well, food of course!’
    â€˜Why doesn’t he bring the bag back here then?’
    Rudy floundered at this obstacle.
    â€˜And why does he spend a couple of hours in the chapel without any lights on?’ I went on. ‘What’s he doing?’
    Rudy ran his fingers through his thick hair as if trying to pluck an answer from it.
    â€˜I don’t know, do I? . . . Maybe he eats what’s in the bag!’
    â€˜Father Pons eats for two hours and he’s still that thin? And everything in that huge bag? Do you really think so?’
    â€˜No.’
    During the day I watched Father Pons at every opportunity. What mystery was he hiding? He was so good at behaving normally that I ended up being afraid of him. How could he be so good at pretending? How could he put everyone off the scent like that? The duplicity was horrible! And what if he was the devil in a cassock?
    Before the evening meal Rudy bounded over to me gleefully.
    â€˜I’ve got it: he’s in the Resistance. He must have a radio transmitter hidden in the old chapel. Every evening he’s given information and transmits it.’
    â€˜You’re right!’
    I liked that idea straight away because it saved Father Pons, rehabilitating the hero who had come for me when I was with the de Sullys.
    At dusk Father Pons organized a game of dodgeball in the yard. I decided not to play so that I could properly admire him: free, kind, laughing, surrounded by the children he had saved from the Nazis. There was nothing evil emanating from him. Only his goodness shone through. It was blindingly obvious.
    *
    I slept a little better in the days that followed. I had, in fact, hated the nights ever since I arrived at the school. There, in that iron bed, between the chill sheets, beneath our dormitory’s imposing ceiling, lying on a mattress so thin my bones knocked against the metal bed springs, and despite sharing the room with thirty classmates and a prefect, I felt more alone than ever.
    I dreaded falling asleep, I even wouldn’t allow myself to, and while this struggle went on I didn’t like my own company at all. Worse than that, it disgusted me. I really was worthless, a flea, more insignificant than a cowpat. I railed at myself and scolded myself, promising myself terrible punishments: ‘If you let yourself go, you’ll have to give away your best marble, your red agate, to the boy you hate the most. I know, to Fernand!’ But, despite my threats, I still succumbed . . . whatever precautions I took, I woke in the morning with my hips stuck to a warm wet patch with a heavy smell of cut hay, at first enjoying the feel

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