A story by Marcel Aymé, translated by Karen Reshkin
Copyright 2002, All rights reserved

"What will people think?" she said. "What will everyone take us for, I ask you-the neighbors and the shopkeepers, even my cousin Leopold? I hope you're proud of yourself. It's simply ridiculous. You'll see, we haven't heard the last of this."

Mme. Duperrier was a fine woman, highly devout and full of moral decency, but the vanity of earthly things was not yet apparent to her. Like so many people whose good intentions get derailed by the little things in life, she believed that it was more important to be esteemed by her landlady than by her creator. Within a week, her fear of being questioned about the halo by some neighbor or one of the shopkeepers began to sour her character. Over and over, she tried to tear off the circle of white light that shone around her husband's head, but with no more success than if she'd tried to seize a sunbeam in her fingers; she couldn't budge that disc by so much as a hair's breadth. The halo encircled the top of her husband's forehead right at the hairline and came well down the nape of his neck, dipping slightly over his right ear, which gave it a rakish air.

This foretaste of divine ecstasy didn't make Duperrier forget his duty to look after his wife's peace of mind. He himself was too discreet and modest not to take these fears seriously. God's gifts, especially when they seem a bit gratuitous, often fail to receive the respect they deserve, and people tend to see a scandal all too easily. Duperrier endeavored as much as possible to try not to arouse attention wherever he went. He regretfully abandoned the derby hat which he believed was indispensable attire for him as an accountant and took to wearing a large, light-colored felt hat whose broad brim exactly covered the halo; this meant that he had to wear his hat tilted back in an offhanded-looking way. Dressed this way, his appearance presented nothing altogether unusual to people on the street. True, the brim of his hat had a certain phosphorescence, but in daylight it looked as if it were just the lustrous sheen of the felt. At work, Duperrier managed to escape the attention of both the staff and the manager. In the little shoe factory in Menilmontant where he worked as an accountant, his office was a small, glassed-in room between two workshops, and his isolation spared him from any prying questions. He resolved to keep his hat on at all times, and no one was curious enough to ask him why.

All these precautions still didn't allay his wife's anxiety. It seemed to her that Duperrier's halo was already a topic of gossip among the neighbors. Her distressing apprehension meant she could now only go out in Rue Gabrielle with utmost caution, fear gripping her heart and wrenching her gut. She constantly thought she heard laughter bursting forth behind her as she passed by. This good woman had never wanted anything more than to fit in with a social class that worships the happy medium; such a flagrant anomaly as the one afflicting Duperrier was rapidly taking on the proportions of a catastrophe. Its absurdity was what really made it so monstrous in her eyes. Nothing would convince her to accompany her husband outdoors. Evenings and Sunday afternoons, which they used to spend out walking or with their friends, they now spent alone together, in an intimacy that became more strained every day. They spent the long hours of free time between meals in the oak-paneled dining room. Mme. Duperrier, unable to knit a single stitch, sat nursing her bitterness at the sight of this halo. Duperrier generally kept himself occupied with inspirational reading, and sometimes felt as though he were touched by the wings of angels. The blissful expression on his face added to her irritation. Sometimes, though, he gave her a look full of concern, which she would return with such hateful reprobation in her eyes that it would stir in him a twinge of remorse-one which was wholly incompatible with his gratitude to heaven, and which in turn caused him a sort of remorse feedback.

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