A Spring Afternoon in January

   It was three o'clock in the afternoon and in the middle of one of those January days that turned out to be one of those hesitant and golden days of spring. Inside the houses the fires were allowed to die down and the windows were opened to the mild air.  It seemed as though comfort, leisure, idle indifference had abandoned the houses to take their places in the open air in front of the houses and in the public gardens. People marched quickly through the house in order to get out, just as the day before they marched quickly along the street to get inside. It was the time of day when, the college students being obliged to go into their classrooms, one of them asked permission from the school master to leave the window open. Also, from the classroom, one could hear the distant footsteps of the students passing through the courtyard, halting for a moment to look at their school friends and trying to prolong their time outside. From his chair the school master waved to one of his colleagues who was going back into his classroom. And a looking-glass hidden in a napkin having caught a ray of sunlight sent it flickering over the walls of the classroom, leap over the chair and even onto the nose of the school master. No one wanted to do any work and the boys themselves inside the room had that joyful air as if it were the day before the holidays.
   They crossed the Tuileries. Men and women were out walking, slowly as if they had to make an effort to break through the surrounding air, happy as if had brushed against them in passing. And many of them had the contented and lazy look of people taking a bath. Up on the balconies of the houses on the rue de Rivoli haloes ascended to their summit like an annunciation and seemed to smile down from the heavens. At one window a ray of sunlight had streaked the window pane with its purple signature, like an immobile flash of lightning from the talented hand of a glass-maker. The pond in the Tuileries was only half thawed. But in between the sheets of ice the water was as blue as in springtime. They took the rue Boissy-d'Anglas which was in the shade, but on arriving in the Faubourg Saint-HonorĂ© they were forced to stumble into the sunshine that poured down over the ground in such abundance that its reflexion was blinding and forced Jean to hold his hand low over his brow in order to see in front of him. All the flower sellers had resumed their places at the corner of their shops in the open air, deserted the day before, now heaped up with primroses, lilac, hyacinths, stocks and cowslips. And at twenty paces away, as though one were entering their territory, under the mildest of skies, one inhaled so many perfumes permeated by the women, that it made one feel giddy.


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