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The Dream by Émile Zola
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By Emile Zola

Translated by Eliza E. Chase


During the severe winter of 1860 the river Oise was frozen over and the
plains of Lower Picardy were covered with deep snow. On Christmas Day,
especially, a heavy squall from the north-east had almost buried the
little city of Beaumont. The snow, which began to fall early in the
morning, increased towards evening and accumulated during the night;
in the upper town, in the Rue des Orfevres, at the end of which, as if
enclosed therein, is the northern front of the cathedral transept,
this was blown with great force by the wind against the portal of Saint
Agnes, the old Romanesque portal, where traces of Early Gothic could be
seen, contrasting its florid ornamentation with the bare simplicity of
the transept gable.

The inhabitants still slept, wearied by the festive rejoicings of the
previous day. The town-clock struck six. In the darkness, which was
slightly lightened by the slow, persistent fall of flakes, a vague
living form alone was visible: that of a little girl, nine years of age,
who, having taken refuge under the archway of the portal, had passed the
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