From Book 4: Breaking into Sainte-Anne

            I pulled her along with me then. An idea, Yvonne had given me an idea. Yvonne followed me all the way to the rue Fontaine, a long walk. “Are we going to see Aube?” she asked eagerly. I nodded and we entered the familiar foyer and went up the steps to Breton’s apartment. Aube was a little over two years old now, a beautiful, blond, angelic little terror. She ran around the Surrealist table in the Cyrano bellowing and hitting the men on their heads with baguettes. Whenever anyone swore, she repeated it at the top of her lungs. When she wanted to she could disrupt the session, shrieking so loudly that no one, not even her father, got a word in. I thought it the perfect counterpoint to Breton’s lecture at the Research Bureau. One evening, while the Surrealists sat at their table at the Deux Magots, Breton flung a finger at the Church at Saint-Germain-des-Prés and warned the child, “If you don’t stop interrupting me, we’re going to take you to church!”

            “Wanna go!” the little girl had yelled back. “I wanna go to church! Take me churchy-church, WIGHT NOW!”

            “Oh, nice going, Breton. If she goes to church, you go with her alone,” grumbled an increasingly critical Paul Éluard. “Surrealism’s Lion nursing a baby Christian!”

            And Breton had replied, “She needs a bath. There is the baptismal fount.”

            “We’ll tell Aube my news,” I told Yvonne. “She’ll yell, ‘Fwog!’ and bash your uncle in the head with a baguette.” Yvonne hiccupped into giggles and I knocked at Breton’s door. There was no reply. We waited for a few minutes, then knocked again. Again there was silence. Yvonne stepped up to the door and kicked it. No light shone through the crack beneath, but Breton often kept the lights off to save money.

            “Forget it,” said a man’s voice from the shadows. “He’s not there.” I whirled around and grasped Yvonne’s hand, drawing her away from the voice. A figure stepped from the darkness and I pulled Yvonne behind me. “He and Jacqueline are in Mexico with and Diego Rivera and Trotsky,” said the voice. “Aube’s with André and Rose Masson in Lyons-la-Forêt.” The man stepped into the light.

            Recognizing the face of Paul Éluard, I let out my breath in relief. “I thought you were a burglar! What were you doing, lurking there?” He didn’t reply. I looked at him closely. “What’s the matter with you?”

            “Nothing,” snapped Éluard. Without another word he turned from us and walked down the stairs. He circled round and round down the staircase with an angry look while Yvonne and I watched him. Then he stomped across the grimy tiles of the foyer and pushed open the front door. His footsteps echoed in the street.

            “Éluard!” I yelled, inspired. I ran down the stairs after him and Yvonne’s feet clattered behind me. “Éluard, stop!” Through the door I saw him turn back to me again. I stopped to let Yvonne to catch up with me. “I need your help, Éluard; I need your fucking help, man.” I motioned desperately to him.

            He stood in the street with that crisp stare, but I cocked my head for him to come back to the deserted foyer. With a long, martyred sigh, he did. “I was coming,” I told him while clasping Yvonne’s hand, “to ask Breton about his time in the Fourth Fever Ward. Austria’s fallen and this is just the beginning. County after country will fall. Even if France doesn’t, what if food is rationed?” Éluard looked blank, and then realization dawned on his face. “I wanted to ask Breton what he knew about locked ward procedures, but he’s not here so I need your help.”

            “What are you planning?” Éluard gasped. He reminded me so of Breton although his head was thinner, more oval, and his eyes were brighter, more intense. Age had given him a receding hairline and a stubborn tuft of hair clung to his forehead, but in a certain light he and Breton had the same nose, the same lips, although he still had that lopsided face. He was not as large as Breton but he stood as tall as me. “If you mean what I think you mean, I’m in!”

            “We’ll need more men,” I told him. “Landis will do it. Desnos would of course, but he’s been such a wreck lately that—”

            “Oh, use your head, Weidmann. Desnos would never forgive us if we left him out.” Éluard lowered his voice, his eyes on Yvonne. He drew me aside to speak more privately. “Besides, Desnos has bribed two nurses. He’s been smuggling Artaud treats and paper, and bringing back his letters—Lacan denies Artaud writes but he does. In fact, Desnos is headed there tonight, after dark. It’s perfect!”

            I turned and squeezed Yvonne’s hand. “Let’s go home. Aube is safe near the coast, so you don’t have to worry. Let’s tell your parents the good news.” I straightened up and told Éluard in a whisper, “We’ll meet tonight at the Dôme. I’ll be there at dusk, wearing dark clothes. And I’ll tell the others.”

            Éluard grasped my hand and pumped it. “Cat-burglar, I’ll be there!”

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