The following day, early in the morning, Yvette went out alone to the place where Servigny had read her the history of the ants. She said to herself:
“I am not going away from this spot without having formed a resolution.”
Before her, at her feet, the water flowed rapidly, filled with large bubbles which passed in silent flight with deep whirlings. She already had summed up the points of the situation and the means of extricating herself from it. What should she do if her mother would not accept the conditions which she had imposed, would not renounce her present way of living, her set of visitors — everything and go and hide with her in a distant land?
She might go alone, take flight, but where, and how? What would she live on? By working? At what? To whom should she apply to find work? And, then, the dull and humble life of working-women, daughters of the people, seemed a little disgraceful, unworthy of her. She thought of becoming a governess, like young girls in novels, and of becoming loved by the son of the house, and then marrying him. But to accomplish that she must have been of good birth, so that, when the exasperated father should approach her with having stolen his son’s love, she might say in a proud voice:
“My name is Yvette Obardi.”
She could not do this. And then, even that would have been a trite and threadbare method.
The convent was not worth much more. Besides, she felt no vocation for a religious life, having only an intermittent and fleeting piety. No one would save her by marrying her, being what she was! No aid was acceptable from a man, no possible issue, no definite resource.
And then she wished to do something energetic and really great and strong, which should serve as an example: so she resolved upon death.
She decided upon this step suddenly, but tranquilly, as if it were a journey, without reflecting, without looking at death, without understanding that it is the end without recommencement, the departure without return, the eternal farewell to earth and to this life.
She immediately settled on this extreme measure, with the lightness of young and excited souls, and she thought of the means which she would employ. But they all seemed to her painful and hazardous, and, furthermore, required a violence of action which repelled her.
She quickly abandoned the poniard and revolver, which might wound only, blind her or disfigure her, and which demanded a practiced and steady hand. She decided against the rope; it was so common, the poor man’s way of suicide, ridiculous and ugly; and against water because she knew how to swim So poison remained — but which kind? Almost all of them cause suffering and incite vomitings. She did not want either of these things.
Then she thought of chloroform, having read in a newspaper how a young woman had managed to asphyxiate herself by this process. And she felt at once a sort of joy in her resolution, an inner pride, a sensation of bravery. People should see what she was, and what she was worth.
She returned to Bougival and went to a druggist, from whom she asked a little chloroform for a tooth which was aching. The man, who knew her, gave her a tiny bottle of the narcotic.
Then she set out on foot for Croissy, where she procured a second phial of poison. She obtained a third at Chaton, a fourth at Ruril, and got home late for breakfast.
As she was very hungry after this long walk, she ate heartily with the pleasurable appetite of people who have taken exercise.
Her mother, happy to see her so hungry, and now feeling tranquil herself, said to her as they left the table:
“All our friends are coming to spend Sunday with us. I have invited the Prince, the Chevalier, and Monsieur de Belvigne.”
Yvette turned a little pale, but did not reply. She went out almost immediately, reached the railway station, and took a ticket for Paris. And during all the afternoon, she went from druggist to druggist, buying from each one a few drops of chloroform. She came back in the evening with her pockets full of little bottles.
She began the same system on the following day, and by chance found a chemist who gave her, at one stroke, a quarter of a liter. She did not go out on Saturday; it was a lowering and sultry day; she passed it entirely on the terrace, stretched on a long wicker-chair.
She thought of almost nothing, very resolute and very calm. She put on the next morning, a blue costume which was very becoming to her, wishing to look well. Then looking at herself in the glass, she suddenly said:
“To-morrow, I shall be dead.” And a peculiar shudder passed over her body. “Dead! I shall speak no more, think no more, no one will see me more, and I shall never see anything again.”
And she gazed attentively at her countenance, as if she had never observed it, examining especially her eyes, discovering a thousand things in herself, a secret character in her physiognomy which she had not known before, astonished to see herself, as if she had opposite her a strange person, a new friend.
She said to herself: “It is I, in the mirror, there. How queer it is to look at oneself. But without the mirror we would never know ourselves. Everybody else would know how we look, and we ourselves would know nothing.”
She placed the heavy braids of her thick hair over her breast, following with her glance all her gestures, all her poses, and all her movements. “How pretty I am!” she thought. “Tomorrow I shall be dead, there, upon my bed.” She looked at her bed, and seemed to see herself stretched out, white as the sheets.
Dead! In a week she would be nothing but dust, to dust returned! A horrible anguish oppressed her heart. The bright sunlight fell in floods upon the fields, and the soft morning air came in at the window.
She sat down thinking of it. Death! It was as if the world was going to disappear from her; but no, since nothing would be changed in the world, not even her bedroom. Yes, her room would remain just the same, with the same bed, the same chairs, the same toilette articles, but she would be forever gone, and no one would be sorry, except her mother, perhaps.
People would say: “How pretty she was! that little Yvette,” and nothing more. And as she looked at her arm leaning on the arm of her chair, she thought again, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And again a great shudder of horror ran over her whole body, and she did not know how she could disappear without the whole earth being blotted out, so much it seemed to her that she was a part of everything, of the fields, of the air, of the sunshine, of life itself.
There were bursts of laughter in the garden, a great noise of voices and of calls, the bustling gaiety of country house parties, and she recognized the sonorous tones of M. de Belvigne, singing:
“I am underneath thy window, Oh, deign to show thy face.” She rose, without reflecting, and looked out. They all applauded. They were all five there, with two gentlemen whom she did not know.
She brusquely withdrew, annoyed by the thought that these men had come to amuse themselves at her mother’s house, as at a public place.
The bell sounded for breakfast. “I will show them how to die,” she said.
She went downstairs with a firm step, with something of the resolution of the Christian martyrs going into the circus, where the lions awaited them.
She pressed their hands, smiling in an affable but rather haughty manner. Servigny asked her:
“Are you less cross to-day, Mam’zelle?”
She answered in a severe and peculiar tone: “Today, I am going to commit follies. I am in my Paris mood, look out!”
Then turning toward Monsieur de Belvigne, she said:
“You shall be my escort, my little Malmsey. I will take you all after breakfast to the fete at Marly.”
There was, in fact, a fete at Marly. They introduced the two newcomers to her, the Comte de Tamine and the Marquis de Briquetot.
During the meal, she said nothing further, strengthening herself to be gay in the afternoon, so that no one should guess anything, — so that they should be all the more astonished, and should say: “Who would have thought it? She seemed so happy, so contented! What does take place in those heads?”
She forced herself not to think of the evening, the chosen hour, when they should all be upon the terrace. She drank as much wine as she could stand, to nerve herself, and two little glasses of brandy, and she was flushed as she left the table, a little bewildered, heated in body and mind. It seemed to her that she was strengthened now, and resolved for everything.
“Let us start!” she cried. She took Monsieur de Belvigne’s arm and set the pace for the others. “Come, you shall form my battalion, Servigny. I choose you as sergeant; you will keep outside the ranks, on the right. You will make the foreign guard march in front — the two exotics, the Prince, and the Chevalier — and in the rear the two recruits who have enlisted to-day. Come!”
They started. And Servigny began to imitate the trumpet, while the two newcomers made believe to beat the drum. Monsieur de Belvigne, a little confused, said in a low tone:
“Mademoiselle Yvette, be reasonable, you will compromise yourself.”
She answered: “It is you whom I am compromising, Raisine. As for me, I don’t care much about it. To-morrow it will not occur. So much the worse for you: you ought not to go out with girls like me.”
They went through Bougival to the amazement of the passers-by. All turned to look at them; the citizens came to their doors; the travelers on the little railway which runs from Ruril to Marly jeered at them. The men on the platforms cried:
“To the water with them!”
Yvette marched with a military step, holding Belvigne by the arm, as a prisoner is led. She did not laugh; upon her features sat a pale seriousness, a sort of sinister calm. Servigny interrupted his trumpet blasts only to shout orders. The Prince and the Chevalier were greatly amused, finding all this very funny and in good taste. The two recruits drummed away continually.
When they arrived at the fete, they made a sensation. Girls applauded; young men jeered, and a stout gentleman with his wife on his arm said enviously: “There are some people who are full of fun.”
Yvette saw the wooden horses and compelled Belvigne to mount at her right, while her squad scrambled upon the whirling beasts behind. When the time was up she refused to dismount, constraining her escort to take several more rides on the back of these children’s animals, to the great delight of the public, who shouted jokes at them. Monsieur de Belvigne was livid and dizzy when he got off.
Then she began to wander among the booths. She forced all her men to get weighed among a crowd of spectators. She made them buy ridiculous toys which they had to carry in their hands. The Prince and the Chevalier began to think the joke was being carried too far. Servigny and the drummers, alone, did not seem to be discouraged.
They finally came to the end of the place. Then she gazed at her followers in a peculiar manner, with a shy and mischievous glance, and a strange fancy came to her mind. She drew them up on the bank of the river.
“Let the one who loves me the most jump into the water,” she said.
Nobody leaped. A mob gathered behind them. Women in white aprons looked on in stupor. Two troopers, in red breeches, laughed loudly.
She repeated: “Then there is not one of you capable of jumping into the water at my desire?”
Servigny murmured: “Oh, yes, there is,” and leaped feet foremost into the river. His plunge cast a splash over as far as Yvette’s feet. A murmur of astonishment and gaiety arose in the crowd.
Then the young girl picked up from the ground a little piece of wood, and throwing it into the stream: “Fetch it,” she cried.
The young man began to swim, and seizing the floating stick in his mouth, like a dog, he brought it ashore, and then climbing the bank he kneeled on one knee to present it.
Yvette took it. “You are handsome,” said she, and with a friendly stroke, she caressed his hair.
A stout woman indignantly exclaimed: “Are such things possible!”
Another woman said: “Can people amuse themselves like that!”
A man remarked: “I would not take a plunge for that sort of a girl.”
She again took Belvigne’s arm, exclaiming in his face: “You are a goose, my friend; you don’t know what you missed.”
They now returned. She cast vexed looks on the passers-by. “How stupid all these people seem,” she said. Then raising her eyes to the countenance of her companion, she added: “You, too, like all the rest.”
M. de Belvigne bowed. Turning around she saw that the Prince and the Chevalier had disappeared. Servigny, dejected and dripping, ceased playing on the trumpet, and walked with a gloomy air at the side of the two wearied young men, who also had stopped the drum playing. She began to laugh dryly, saying:
“You seem to have had enough; nevertheless, that is what you call having a good time, isn’t it? You came for that; I have given you your money’s worth.”
Then she walked on, saying nothing further; and suddenly Belvigne perceived that she was weeping. Astounded, he inquired:
“What is the matter?”
She murmured: “Let me alone, it does not concern you.”
But he insisted, like a fool: “Oh, Mademoiselle, come, what is the matter, has anyone annoyed you?”
She repeated impatiently: “Will you keep still?”
Then suddenly, no longer able to resist the despairing sorrow which drowned her heart, she began to sob so violently, that she could no longer walk. She covered her face with her hands, panting for breath, choked by the violence of her despair.
Belvigne stood still at her side, quite bewildered, repeating: “I don’t understand this at all.”
But Servigny brusquely came forward: “Let us go home, Mam’zelle, so that people may not see you weeping in the street. Why do you perpetrate follies like that when they only make you sad?”
And taking her arm he drew her forward. But as soon as they reached the iron gate of the villa she began to run, crossed the garden, and went upstairs, and shut herself in her room. She did not appear again until the dinner hour, very pale and serious. Servigny had bought from a country storekeeper a workingman’s costume, with velvet pantaloons, a flowered waistcoat and a blouse, and he adopted the local dialect. Yvette was in a hurry for them to finish, feeling her courage ebbing. As soon as the coffee was served she went to her room again.
She heard the merry voices beneath her window. The Chevalier was making equivocal jokes, foreign witticisms, vulgar and clumsy. She listened, in despair. Servigny, just a bit tipsy, was imitating the common workingman, calling the Marquise “the Missus.” And all of a sudden he said to Saval: “Well, Boss?” That caused a general laugh.
Then Yvette decided. She first took a sheet of paper and wrote:
“Bougival, Sunday, nine o’clock in the evening.
“I die so that I may not become a kept woman.
Then in a postscript:
“Adieu, my dear mother, pardon.”
She sealed the envelope, and addressed it to the Marquise Obardi.
Then she rolled her long chair near the window, drew a little table within reach of her hand, and placed upon it the big bottle of chloroform beside a handful of wadding.
A great rose-tree covered with flowers, climbing as high as her window, exhaled in the night a soft and gentle perfume, in light breaths; and she stood for a moment enjoying it. The moon, in its first quarter, was floating in the dark sky, a little ragged at the left, and veiled at times by slight mists.
Yvette thought: “I am going to die!” And her heart, swollen with sobs, nearly bursting, almost suffocated her. She felt in her a need of asking mercy from some one, of being saved, of being loved.
The voice of Servigny aroused her. He was telling an improper story, which was constantly interrupted by bursts of laughter. The Marquise herself laughed louder than the others.
“There is nobody like him for telling that sort of thing,” she said, laughing.
Yvette took the bottle, uncorked it, and poured a little of the liquid on the cotton. A strong, sweet, strange odor arose; and as she brought the piece of cotton to her lips, the fumes entered her throat and made her cough.
Then shutting her mouth, she began to inhale it. She took in long breaths of this deadly vapor, closing her eyes, and forcing herself to stifle in her mind all thoughts, so that she might not reflect, that she might know nothing more.
It seemed to her at first that her chest was growing larger, was expanding, and that her soul, recently heavy and burdened with grief, was becoming light, light, as if the weight which overwhelmed her was lifted, wafted away. Something lively and agreeable penetrated even to the extremities of her limbs, even to the tips of her toes and fingers and entered her flesh, a sort of dreamy intoxication, of soft fever. She saw that the cotton was dry, and she was astonished that she was not already dead. Her senses seemed more acute, more subtle, more alert. She heard the lowest whisper on the terrace. Prince Kravalow was telling how he had killed an Austrian general in a duel.
Then, further off, in the fields, she heard the noise of the night, the occasional barkings of a dog, the short cry of the frogs, the almost imperceptible rustling of the leaves.
She took the bottle again, and saturated once more the little piece of wadding; then she began to breathe in the fumes again. For a few moments she felt nothing; then that soft and soothing feeling of comfort which she had experienced before enveloped her.
Twice she poured more chloroform upon the cotton, eager now for that physical and mental sensation, that dreamy torpor, which bewildered her soul.
It seemed to her that she had no more bones, flesh, legs, or arms. The drug had gently taken all these away from her, without her perceiving it. The chloroform had drawn away her body, leaving her only her mind, more awakened, more active, larger, and more free than she had ever felt it.
She recalled a thousand forgotten things, little details of her childhood, trifles which had given her pleasure. Endowed suddenly with an awakened agility, her mind leaped to the most diverse ideas, ran through a thousand adventures, wandered in the past, and lost itself in the hoped-for events of the future. And her lively and careless thoughts had a sensuous charm: she experienced a divine pleasure in dreaming thus.
She still heard the voices, but she could no longer distinguish the words, which to her seemed to have a different meaning. She was in a kind of strange and changing fairyland.
She was on a great boat which floated through a beautiful country, all covered with flowers. She saw people on the shore, and these people spoke very loudly; then she was again on land, without asking how, and Servigny, clad as a prince, came to seek her, to take her to a bull-fight.
The streets were filled with passers-by, who were talking, and she heard conversations which did not astonish her, as if she had known the people, for through her dreamy intoxication, she still heard her mother’s friends laughing and talking on the terrace.
Then everything became vague. Then she awakened, deliciously benumbed, and she could hardly remember what had happened.
So, she was not yet dead. But she felt so calm, in such a state of physical comfort, that she was not in haste to finish with it — she wanted to make this exquisite drowsiness last forever.
She breathed slowly and looked at the moon, opposite her, above the trees. Something had changed in her spirit. She no longer thought as she had done just now. The chloroform quieting her body and her soul had calmed her grief and lulled her desire to die.
Why should she not live? Why should she not be loved? Why should she not lead a happy life? Everything appeared possible to her now, and easy and certain. Everything in life was sweet, everything was charming. But as she wished to dream on still, she poured more of the dream-water on the cotton and began to breathe it in again, stopping at times, so as not to absorb too much of it and die.
She looked at the moon and saw in it a face, a woman’s face. She began to scorn the country in the fanciful intoxication of the drug. That face swung in the sky; then it sang, it sang with a well-known voice the alleluia of love.
It was the Marquise, who had come in and seated herself at the piano.
Yvette had wings now. She was flying through a clear night, above the wood and streams. She was flying with delight, opening and closing her wings, borne by the wind as by a caress. She moved in the air, which kissed her skin, and she went so fast, so fast, that she had no time to see anything beneath her, and she found herself seated on the bank of a pond with a line in her hand; she was fishing.
Something pulled on the cord, and when she drew it out of the water, it bore a magnificent pearl necklace, which she had longed for some time ago. She was not at all astonished at this deed, and she looked at Servigny, who had come to her side — she knew not how. He was fishing also, and drew out of the river a wooden horse.
Then she had anew the feeling of awaking, and she heard some one calling down stairs. Her mother had said:
“Put out the candle.” Then Servigny’s voice rose, clear and jesting:
“Put out your candle, Mam’zelle Yvette.”
And all took up the chorus: “Mam’zelle Yvette, put out your candle.”
She again poured chloroform on the cotton, but, as she did not want to die, she placed it far enough from her face to breathe the fresh air, while nevertheless her room was filled with the asphyxiating odor of the narcotic, for she knew that some one was coming, and taking a suitable posture, a pose of the dead, she waited.
The Marquise said: “I am a little uneasy! That foolish child has gone to sleep leaving the light on her table. I will send Clemence to put it out, and to shut the balcony window, which is wide open.”
And soon the maid rapped on the door calling: “Mademoiselle, Mademoiselle!” After a moment’s silence, she repeated: “Mademoiselle, Madame the Marquise begs you to put out your candle and shut the window.”
Clemence waited a little, then knocked louder, and cried:
As Yvette did not reply, the servant went away and reported to the Marquise:
“Mademoiselle must have gone to sleep, her door is bolted, and I could not awaken her.”
Madame Obardi murmured:
“But she must not stay like that,”
Then, at the suggestion of Servigny, they all gathered under the window, shouting in chorus:
“Hip! hip! hurrah! Mam’zelle Yvette.”
Their clamor rose in the calm night, through the transparent air beneath the moon, over the sleeping country; and they heard it die away in the distance like the sound of a disappearing train.
As Yvette did not answer the Marquise said: “I only hope that nothing has happened. I am beginning to be afraid.”
Then Servigny, plucking red roses from a big rosebush trained along the wall and buds not yet opened, began to throw them into the room through the window.
At the first rose that fell at her side, Yvette started and almost cried out. Others fell upon her dress, others upon her hair, while others going over her head fell upon the bed, covering it with a rain of flowers.
The Marquise, in a choking voice, cried: “Come, Yvette, answer.”
Then Servigny declared: “Truly this is not natural; I am going to climb up by the balcony.”
But the Chevalier grew indignant.
“Now, let me do it,” he said. “It is a great favor I ask; it is too good a means, and too good a time to obtain a rendezvous.”
All the rest, who thought the young girl was joking, cried: “We protest! He shall not climb up.”
But the Marquise, disturbed, repeated: “And yet some one must go and see.”
The Prince exclaimed with a dramatic gesture:
“She favors the Duke, we are betrayed.”
“Let us toss a coin to see who shall go up,” said the Chevalier. He took a five-franc piece from his pocket, and began with the Prince.
“Tail,” said he. It was head.
The Prince tossed the coin in his turn saying to Saval: “Call, Monsieur.”
Saval called “Head.” It was tail.
The Prince then gave all the others a chance, and they all lost.
Servigny, who was standing opposite him, exclaimed in his insolent way: “PARBLEU! he is cheating!”
The Russian put his hand on his heart and held out the gold piece to his rival, saying: “Toss it yourself, my dear Duke.”
Servigny took it and spinning it up, said: “Head.” It was tail.
He bowed and pointing to the pillar of the balcony said: “Climb up, Prince.” But the Prince looked about him with a disturbed air.
“What are you looking for?” asked the Chevalier.
“Well, — I— would — like — a ladder.” A general laugh followed.
Saval, advancing, said: “We will help you.”
He lifted him in his arms, as strong as those of Hercules, telling him:
“Now climb to that balcony.”
The Prince immediately clung to it, and. Saval letting him go, he swung there, suspended in the air, moving his legs in empty space.
Then Servigny, seeing his struggling legs which sought a resting place, pulled them downward with all his strength; the hands lost their grip and the Prince fell in a heap on Monsieur de Belvigne, who was coming to aid him. “Whose turn next?” asked Servigny. No one claimed the privilege.
“Come, Belvigne, courage!”
“Thank you, my dear boy, I am thinking of my bones.”
“Come, Chevalier, you must be used to scaling walls.”
“I give my place to you, my dear Duke.”
“Ha, ha, that is just what I expected.”
Servigny, with a keen eye, turned to the pillar. Then with a leap, clinging to the balcony, he drew himself up like a gymnast and climbed over the balustrade.
All the spectators, gazing at him, applauded. But he immediately reappeared, calling:
“Come, quick! Come, quick! Yvette is unconscious.” The Marquise uttered a loud cry, and rushed for the stairs.
The young girl, her eyes closed, pretended to be dead. Her mother entered distracted, and threw her self upon her.
“Tell me what is the matter with her, what is the matter with her?”
Servigny picked up the bottle of chloroform which had fallen upon the floor.
“She has drugged herself,” said he.
He placed his ear to her heart; then he added:
“But she is not dead; we can resuscitate her. Have you any ammonia?”
The maid, bewildered, repeated: “Any what, Monsieur?”
“Yes, Monsieur.” “Bring them at once, and leave the door open to make a draft of air.”
The Marquise, on her knees, was sobbing: “Yvette! Yvette, my daughter, my daughter, listen, answer me, Yvette, my child. Oh, my God! my God! what has she done?”
The men, frightened, moved about without speaking, bringing water, towels, glasses, and vinegar. Some one said: “She ought to be undressed.” And the Marquise, who had lost her head, tried to undress her daughter; but did not know what she was doing. Her hands trembled and faltered, and she groaned:
“I cannot, — I cannot — ”
The maid had come back bringing a druggist’s bottle which Servigny opened and from which he poured out half upon a handkerchief. Then he applied it to Yvette’s nose, causing her to choke.
“Good, she breathes,” said he. “It will be nothing.”
And he bathed her temples, cheeks, and neck with the pungent liquid.
Then he made a sign to the maid to unlace the girl, and when she had nothing more on than a skirt over her chemise, he raised her in his arms and carried her to the bed, quivering, moved by the odor and contact of her flesh. Then she was placed in bed. He arose very pale.
“She will come to herself,” he said, “it is nothing.” For he had heard her breathe in a continuous and regular way. But seeing all the men with their eyes fixed on Yvette in bed, he was seized with a jealous irritation, and advanced toward them. “Gentlemen,” he said, “there are too many of us in this room; be kind enough to leave us alone, — Monsieur Saval and me — with the Marquise.”
He spoke in a tone which was dry and full of authority.
Madame Obardi had grasped her lover, and with her head uplifted toward him she cried to him:
“Save her, oh, save her!”
But Servigny turning around saw a letter on the table. He seized it with a rapid movement, and read the address. He understood and thought: “Perhaps it would be better if the Marquise should not know of this,” and tearing open the envelope, he devoured at a glance the two lines it contained:
“I die so that I may not become a kept woman.”
“Adieu, my dear mother, pardon.”
“The devil!” he thought, “this calls for reflection.” And he hid the letter in his pocket.
Then he approached the bed, and immediately the thought came to him that the young girl had regained consciousness but that she dared not show it, from shame, from humiliation, and from fear of questioning. The Marquise had fallen on her knees now, and was weeping, her head on the, foot of the bed. Suddenly she exclaimed:
“A doctor, we must have a doctor!”
But Servigny, who had just said something in a low tone to Saval, replied to her: “No, it is all over. Come, go out a minute, just a minute, and I promise you that she will kiss you when you come back.” And the Baron, taking Madame Obardi by the arm, led her from the room.
Then Servigny, sitting-by the bed, took Yvette’s hand and said: “Mam’zelle, listen to me.”
She did not answer. She felt so well, so soft and warm in bed, that she would have liked never to move, never to speak, and to live like that forever. An infinite comfort had encompassed her, a comfort the like of which she had never experienced.
The mild night air coming in by velvety breaths touched her temples in an exquisite almost imperceptible way. It was a caress like a kiss of the wind, like the soft and refreshing breath of a fan made of all the leaves of the trees and of all the shadows of the night, of the mist of rivers, and of all the flowers too, for the roses tossed up from below into her room and upon her bed, and the roses climbing at her balcony, mingled their heavy perfume with the healthful savor of the evening breeze.
She drank in this air which was so good, her eyes closed, her heart reposing in the yet pervading intoxication of the drug, and she had no longer at all the desire to die, but a strong, imperious wish to live, to be happy — no matter how — to be loved, yes, to be loved.
Servigny repeated: “Mam’zelle Yvette, listen to me.”
And she decided to open her eyes.
He continued, as he saw her reviving: “Come! Come! what does this nonsense mean?”
She murmured: “My poor Muscade, I was so unhappy.”
He squeezed her hand: “And that led you into a pretty scrape! Come, you must promise me not to try it again.”
She did not reply, but nodded her head slightly with an almost imperceptible smile. He drew from his pocket the letter which he had found on the table:
“Had I better show this to your mother?”
She shook her head, no. He knew not what more to say for the situation seemed to him without an outlet. So he murmured
“My dear child, everyone has hard things to bear. I understand your sorrow and I promise you — ”
She stammered: “You are good.”
They were silent. He looked at her. She had in her glance something of tenderness, of weakness; and suddenly she raised both her arms, as if she would draw him to her; he bent over her, feeling that she called him, and their lips met.
For a long time they remained thus, their eyes closed.
But, knowing that he would lose his head, he drew away. She smiled at him now, most tenderly; and, with both her hands clinging to his shoulders, she held him.
“I am going to call your mother,” he said.
She murmured: “Just a second more. I am so happy.”
Then after a silence, she said in a tone so low that it could scarcely be heard: “Will you love me very much? Tell me!”
He kneeled beside her bed, and kissing the hand she had given him, said: “I adore you.” But some one was walking near the door. He arose with a bound, and called in his ordinary voice, which seemed nevertheless a little ironical: “You may come in. It is all right now.”
The Marquise threw herself on her daughter, with both arms open, and clasped her frantically, covering her countenance with tears, while Servigny with radiant soul and quivering body went out upon the balcony to breathe the fresh air of the night, humming to himself the old couplet:
“A woman changeth oft her mind:
Yet fools still trust in womankind.”
This web edition published by:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:11