And, exhuming their youth with every sentence, they said to each other:
"Do you remember?"
They saw once more the college playground, the chapel, the parlour, the fencing-school at the bottom of the staircase, the faces of the ushers and of the pupils—one named Angelmare, from Versailles, who used to cut off trousers-straps from old boots, M. Mirbal and his red whiskers, the two professors of linear drawing and large drawing, who were always wrangling, and the Pole, the fellow-countryman of Copernicus, with his planetary system on pasteboard, an itinerant astronomer whose lecture had been paid for by a dinner in the refectory, then a terrible debauch while they were out on a walking excursion, the first pipes they had smoked, the distribution of prizes, and the delightful sensation of going home for the holidays.
It was during the vacation of 1837 that they had called at the house of the Turkish woman.
This was the phrase used to designate a woman whose real name was Zoraide Turc; and many persons believed her to be a Mohammedan, a Turk, which added to the poetic character of her establishment, situated at the water’s edge behind the rampart. Even in the middle of summer there was a shadow around her house, which could be recognised by a glass bowl of goldfish near a pot of mignonette at a window. Young ladies in white nightdresses, with painted cheeks and long earrings, used to tap at the panes as the students passed; and as it grew dark, their custom was to hum softly in their hoarse voices at the doorsteps.
This home of perdition spread its fantastic notoriety over all the arrondissement. Allusions were made to it in a circumlocutory style: “The place you know—a certain street—at the bottom of the Bridges.” It made the farmers’ wives of the district tremble for their husbands, and the ladies grow apprehensive as to their servants’ virtue, inasmuch as the sub-prefect’s cook had been caught there; and, to be sure, it exercised a fascination over the minds of all the young lads of the place.
Now, one Sunday, during vesper-time, Frederick and Deslauriers, having previously curled their hair, gathered some flowers in Madame Moreau’s garden, then made their way out through the gate leading into the fields, and, after taking a wide sweep round the vineyards, came back through the Fishery, and stole into the Turkish woman’s house with their big bouquets still in their hands.
Frederick presented his as a lover does to his betrothed. But the great heat, the fear of the unknown, and even the very pleasure of seeing at one glance so many women placed at his disposal, excited him so strangely that he turned exceedingly pale, and remained there without advancing a single step or uttering a single word. All the girls burst out laughing, amused at his embarrassment. Fancying that they were turning him into ridicule, he ran away; and, as Frederick had the money, Deslauriers was obliged to follow him.
They were seen leaving the house; and the episode furnished material for a bit of local gossip which was not forgotten three years later.
They related the story to each other in a prolix fashion, each supplementing the narrative where the other’s memory failed; and, when they had finished the recital:
"That was the best time we ever had!" said Frederick.
"Yes, perhaps so, indeed! It was the best time we ever had," said Deslauriers.
— Gustave Flaubert; A Sentimental Education