Julius by Daphne du Maurier

Book: Julius by Daphne du Maurier Read Free Book Online
Authors: Daphne du Maurier
father’s knee, the child who lay crushed, flesh to flesh, in the jolting truck from Paris, the child who whimpered and loved and stretched out his hands.
    Père smiled, and his last note was like a note of defiance flung into the air, bearing him away to nothing and to no one, and as he went he took with him something that would never come again, the lost boy, the frightened happy child - he took something of Julius himself - something that was tremulous, and pitiful, and young.

Part Two

Youth (1875-1890)
    T he hot sun shone through the drawn curtains, it forced an entrance through all the glass window panes and the curtain-stuff into the little book-room, dark and silent, and the sun cast golden patterns on the carpet and caught the leather bindings of the books in a sudden circle of light. There was no sound except for the steady scratching of a pen, irritating and harsh, and ever and again the little dry cough of Moïse Metzger as he paused to dip his pen in the ink, and to balance his spectacles more firmly on his nose.
    Julius glanced up from his book and watched him, the pursed lips above the long beard now streaked with grey, the lines that ran from his nose to his mouth, the high, placid forehead that never wrinkled in anger, the round shoulders bent over the manuscript he was writing, heedless of the hot sun that would make its way in, caring nothing for the close fusty atmosphere of the room.
    Julius loosened his collar and ran his hands through his hair. He sighed heavily and moved in his chair to attract the Rabbin’s attention, but either Moïse Metzger did not choose to hear him or he was deaf, for the old man continued his writing and gave no sign to prove that he had heard. Julius fluttered the leaves of his book, the Hebrew writing stared up at him as though they were no longer words of beauty but so much nonsense calculated to rouse fury in the heart of a boy, and slowly and stealthily Julius drew a thin paper book from beneath the cover of his Hebrew History, a book shabby from constant use, the pages crinkled and dirty, the lettering, Principles of Mathematics , almost obliterated by the tell-tale marks of sweetmeats and chocolates. He opened the book at random and began to jot down calculations with the stub of a pencil. ‘Marcel Hibert owes five francs and fifty centimes, borrowed by him the first of June. Interest at the rate of ten per cent a week, fifty-five centimes; three weeks brings it to one franc sixty, making in all to-day, the twenty-first of June, seven francs ten centimes that he owes. Pierre Falco borrowed two francs a fortnight ago, he can only pay three per cent, his father is poor and keeps him short, that makes eleven sous interest, or two francs sixty - total of both borrowings nine francs seventy centimes. If I do not press Pierre for one more week his interest will bring sum up to ten francs ... With ten francs much can be done; I can bargain with Ahèmed for those two carpets when he is tipsy, and get them at a low price, say fifteen francs for the two, and then sell them up at Mustapha as genuine for thirty francs each - sixty minus fifteen, forty-five francs. Forty-five francs profit and almost something for nothing ...’
    Julius mopped his forehead with his handkerchief, and fanned himself with his book. He looked at the chink in the curtains that betrayed the sun, and he could picture the glare upon the white houses and the cobbled twisting streets, the hard glaze of the blue sky, and the intolerable burning heat that he loved.
    Finally the old man closed the book and laid aside his spectacles. ‘That will do for to-day,’ he said. ‘We must not tax the brain beyond its strength. Go and rest yourself.’
    Julius went from the room, laughing under his breath. At fifteen he was tall and slim, with Paul Lévy’s face, Paul Lévy’s narrow hips, and his long beautiful hands, but his shoulders and chest were broad like Jean Blançard’s had been, and he carried his head

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