The Ten Weeks, 19 January, There Are Many Things That Are Hard to Understand

The next day was moving from classroom to athletic field as Madame Seignet sat in the faculty lounge, looking at the Paris-Match she had extracted from her box.
“Classes going well?” a voice asked. She turned up from her reading to find it was Hancock.
“Very,” she replied. He sat down next to her. “And yours?”
“They’re okay. Hopefully the guys are warming up for tennis practice. We’re travelling to Dillman-Arnold this Friday with the girls.”
“That shouldn’t be much of a challenge for either team,” Seignet observed.
“After our performance against University, I’m not so sure about the guys. But we’ll see. . .does Madeleine des Cieux still help you with your elementary—excuse me, primary school students?”
“Oh, yes,” Seignet replied. “She is very dependable. I know she takes a lot of kidding from her fellow students about her costumes, but the children enjoy it. And they learn French much more easily.”
“Have you ever discussed with her the incident last week?”
“You mean concerning the blind girl?”
“Yeah.”
“Very little,” Seignet replied. “I know she is very distressed about the whole thing. Not about the girl—evidently she and her mother are very happy, along with Madeleine’s father—but about the difficulties she has experienced here. Her visit to the Headmaster was very hard—there are many things about it I do not understand.”
“Do you believe that Madeleine actually healed the girl?”
Seignet gave Hancock a long, stern look. “Monsieur Hancock, there are many complexities in this situation that you, being an American, cannot understand.”
“You’re a Communist, aren’t you?”
“That’s one of those complexities,” Seignet came back. “I am a Socialist. My husband is a Communist. Both of our families were active in these parties. That is why they did not approve of our marriage. That is one reason why we are here—it is easier when no one knows, and obviously you are one of those that do not.”
“So what is Madeleine? And her family?” Hancock asked, ploughing on.
“Frankly, I think that her father is a monarchist. His family was ruined during the Revolution. I think that it is entrenched in his family tradition. Had his ancestors been in power in the last century, Dreyfus would have died on Devil’s Island rather than return. That is why Pierre’s father—and Pierre—lived so long outside the country—they are, in reality, emigrés rather than simply expatriates. You only need to visit his office to see the reality of this.
“As for Madeleine, she is in reality a rather naïve young woman. Sometimes it bothers me to think of her trying to live in this world, but I have also learned that she is very stubborn and strong willed when it is important to her, and that is very significant for her survival. She has been a delight to have as as student and as a assistant. I could not ask for better. So we do not discuss things such as this, but we work together on what we can and enjoy life in the meanwhile.”
“But. . .you surely don’t believe in this healing thing, do you?” Hancock asked.
“I do not believe in God,” Seignet replied. “My husband does not either. Madeleine is very different; her Catholic faith is very important to her. I do not understand this. However, I have not heard a reasonable explanation of what happened this time last week other than that whatever Madeleine did to the girl made it possible for her to see. And, honestly, the more our school direction attempts to punish Madeleine for it, the stupider they will look. They do not understand that Monsieur des Cieux’s office is not Port-Royal. Madeleine will be gone in a few months and, unless they continue to discuss the matter, it will be forgotten.”
“Do you think she’s been influenced by that Stanley girl?”
Seignet thought for a second. “In some ways, perhaps. That relationship has always bothered me.”
“So you knew about it all along?” Hancock asked, surprised.
“Of course,” Seignet replied.
“But you knew it compromised her position on the tennis team.”
“I am not the tennis police. That is a job for others. Madeleine should be allowed to choose her friends. And there is a positive side to this—her friendship with Carla has enabled her to see a different world than the one she inhabits in this school. It is more than many of our students experience—it would do them good.”
“But. . .she is so withdrawn. And she totally lacks any relationship with the opposite sex, at least this year. That’s unhealthy.”
“Madeleine’s idea about this is conditioned by her church,” Seignet explained. “Moreover she is thinking about making a profession, so perhaps she wants to remain unencumbered.”
“What kind of profession?” Hancock queried in a puzzled way.
Seignet sighed in desperation. “She has considered becoming a nun, as you would say.”
“You’re kidding? I’m surprised that the kids don’t hassle her about that.”
“She doesn’t discuss it much. I’m not sure how serious she is. Personally I can’t see her doing that, even with her moral sensibilities. However, no matter what her intentions are, I do not feel it is good for me to attempt to change her mind. Besides, there is too much of an obsession—even for a modern person—in sex in this school. It is the difference between Communism and the left in Verecunda.”
“And how is that?” Hancock asked.
“Marx and Engels wrote that the workers had nothing to lose but their chains,” Seignet said. “Here, they—and the elites—lose their clothes.”
Hancock was put to silence for a few seconds. “Then I suppose you wouldn’t suggest to her that she join the new Life Identification Society being organised at Point Collina.”
“Of course not,” Seignet abruptly replied. “Besides, what is the need for it here?”
“I’m late for tennis,” Hancock said, arose, and walked out of the lounge, while Seignet gazed at his departure with amusement. That amusement increased when she heard a roaring sound from outside and turned to the window.
It is raining very hard outside, she said to herself, looking at the deluge fill the streets and tennis courts.

Leave a Reply