Monsieur De Camors— Complete

Contents:
Author: Octave Feuillet

Chapter IX Love Conquers Philosophy

To M. de Camors, in principle it was a matter of perfect indifference whether France was centralized or decentralized. But his Parisian instinct induced him to prefer the former. In spite of this preference, he would not have scrupled to adopt the opinions of M. des Rameures, had not his own fine tact shown him that the proud old gentleman was not to be won by submission.

He therefore reserved for him the triumph of his gradual conversion. Be that as it might, it was neither of centralization nor of decentralization that the young Count proposed to speak to Madame de Tecle, when, at the appointed hour, he presented himself before her. He found her in the garden, which, like the house, was of an ancient, severe, and monastic style. A terrace planted with limetrees extended on one side of the garden. It was at this spot that Madame de Tecle was seated under a group of lime-trees, forming a rustic bower.

She was fond of this place, because it recalled to her that evening when her unexpected apparition had suddenly inspired with a celestial joy the pale, disfigured face of her betrothed.

She was seated on a low chair beside a small rustic table, covered with pieces of wool and silk; her feet rested on a stool, and she worked on a piece of tapestry, apparently with great tranquillity.

M. de Camors, an expert in all the niceties and exquisite devices of the feminine mind, smiled to himself at this audience in the open air. He thought he fathomed its meaning. Madame de Tecle desired to deprive this interview of the confidential character which closed doors would have given it.

It was the simple truth. This young woman, who was one of the noblest of her sex, was not at all simple. She had not passed ten years of her youth, her beauty, and her widowhood without receiving, under forms more or less direct, dozens of declarations that had inspired her with impressions, which, although just, were not always too flattering to the delicacy and discretion of the opposite sex. Like all women of her age, she knew her danger, and, unlike most of them, she did not love it. She had invariably turned into the broad road of friendship all those she had surprised rambling within the prohibited limits of love. The request of M. de Camors for a private interview had seriously preoccupied her since the previous evening. What could be the object of this mysterious interview? She puzzled her brain to imagine, but could not divine.

It was not probable that M. de Camors, at the beginning of their acquaintance, would feel himself entitled to declare a passion. However vividly the famed gallantry of the young Count rose to her memory, she thought so noted a ladykiller as he might adopt unusual methods, and might think himself entitled to dispense with much ceremony in dealing with an humble provincial.

Animated by these ideas, she resolved to receive him in the garden, having remarked, during her short experience, that open air and a wide, open space were not favorable to bold wooers.

M. de Camors bowed to Madame de Tecle as an Englishman would have bowed to his queen; then seating himself, drew his chair nearer to hers, mischievously perhaps, and lowering his voice into a confidential tone, said: "Madame, will you permit me to confide a secret to you, and to ask your counsel?"

She raised her graceful head, fixed upon the Count her soft, bright gaze, smiled vaguely, and by a slight movement of the hand intimated to him, "You surprise me; but I will listen to you."

"This is my first secret, Madame—I desire to become deputy for this district."

At this unexpected declaration, Madame de Tecle looked at him, breathed a slight sigh of relief, and gravely awaited what he had to say.

"The General de Campvallon, Madame," continued the young man, "has manifested a father’s kindness to me. He intends to resign in my favor, and has not concealed from me that the support of your uncle is indispensable to my success as a candidate. I have therefore come here, by the General’s advice, in the hope of obtaining this support, but the ideas and opinions expressed yesterday by your uncle appear to me so directly opposed to my pretensions that I feel truly discouraged. To be brief, Madame, in my perplexity I conceived the idea—indiscreet doubtless—to appeal to your kindness, and ask your advice—which I am determined to follow, whatever it may be."

"But, Monsieur! you embarrass me greatly," said the young woman, whose pretty face, at first clouded, brightened up immediately with a frank smile.

"I have no special claims on your kindness—on the contrary perhaps—but I am a human being, and you are charitable. Well, in truth, Madame, this matter seriously concerns my fortune, my future, and my whole destiny. This opportunity which now presents itself for me to enter public life so young is exceptional. I should regret very much to lose it; would you therefore be so kind as to aid me?"

"But how can I?" replied Madame de Tecle. "I never interfere in politics, and that is precisely what you ask me."

"Nevertheless, Madame, I pray you not to oppose me."

"Why should I oppose you?"

"Ah, Madame! You have a right more than any other person to be severe. My youth was a little dissipated. My reputation, in some respects, is not over-good, I know, and I doubt not you may have heard so, and I can not help fearing it has inspired you with some dislike to me."

"Monsieur, we lived a retired life here. We know nothing of what passes in Paris. If we did, this would not prevent my assisting you, if I knew how, for I think that serious and elevated labors could not fail happily to change your ordinary habits."

"It is truly a delicious thing," thought the young Count, "to mystify so spiritual a person."

"Madame," he continued, with his quiet grace, "I join in your hopes, and as you deign to encourage my ambition, I believe I shall succeed in obtaining your uncle’s support. You know him well. What shall I do to conciliate him? What course shall I adopt?—because I can not do without his assistance. Were I to renounce that, I should be compelled to renounce my projects."

"It is truly difficult," said Madame de Tecle, with a reflective air— "very difficult!"

"Is it not, Madame?"

Camors’s voice expressed such confidence and submission that Madame de Tecle was quite touched, and even the devil himself would have been charmed by it, had he heard it in Gehenna.

"Let me reflect on this a little," she said, and she placed her elbows on the table, leaned her head on her hands, her fingers, like a fan, half shading her eyes, while sparks of fire from her rings glittered in the sunshine, and her ivory nails shone against her smooth brow. M. de Camors continued to regard her with the same submissive and candid air.

"Well, Monsieur," she said at last, smiling, "I think you can do nothing better than keep on."

"Pardon me, but how?"

"By persevering in the same system you have already adopted with my uncle! Say nothing to him for the present. Beg the General also to be silent. Wait quietly until intimacy, time, and your own good qualities have sufficiently prepared my uncle for your nomination. My role is very simple. I cannot, at this moment, aid you, without betraying you. My assistance would only injure you, until a change comes in the aspect of affairs. You must conciliate him."

"You overpower me," said Camors, "in taking you for my confidante in my ambitious projects, I have committed a blunder and an impertinence, which a slight contempt from you has mildly punished. But speaking seriously, Madame, I thank you with all my heart. I feared to find in you a powerful enemy, and I find in you a strong neutral, almost an ally."

"Oh! altogether an ally, however secret," responded Madame de Tecle, laughing. "I am glad to be useful to you; as I love General Campvallon very much, I am happy to enter into his views. Come here, Marie?" These last words were addressed to her daughter, who appeared on the steps of the terrace, her cheeks scarlet, and her hair dishevelled, holding a card in her hand. She immediately approached her mother, giving M. de Camors one of those awkward salutations peculiar to young, growing girls.

"Will you permit me," said Madame de Tecle, "to give to my daughter a few orders in English, which we are translating? You are too warm—do not run any more. Tell Rosa to prepare my bodice with the small buttons. While I am dressing, you may say your catechism to me."

"Yes, mother."

"Have you written your exercise?"

"Yes, mother. How do you say ’joli’ in English for a man?" asked the little girl.

"Why?"

"That question is in my exercise, to be said of a man who is ’beau, joli, distingue.’"

"Handsome, nice, and charming," replied her mother.

"Very well, mother, this gentleman, our neighbor, is altogether handsome, nice, and charming."

"Silly child!" exclaimed Madame de Tecle, while the little girl rushed down the steps.

M. de Camors, who had listened to this dialogue with cool calmness, rose. "I thank you again, Madame," he said; "and will you now excuse me? You will allow me, from time to time, to confide in you my political hopes and fears?"

"Certainly, Monsieur."

He bowed and retired. As he was crossing the courtyard, he found himself face to face with Mademoiselle Marie. He gave her a most respectful bow. "Another time, Miss Mary, be more careful. I understand English perfectly well!"

Mademoiselle Marie remained in the same attitude, blushed up to the roots of her hair, and cast on M. de Camors a startled look of mingled shame and anger.

"You are not satisfied, Miss Mary," continued Camors.

"Not at all," said the child, quickly, her strong voice somewhat husky.

M. Camors laughed, bowed again, and departed, leaving Mademoiselle Marie in the midst of the court, transfixed with indignation.

A few moments later Marie threw herself into the arms of her mother, weeping bitterly, and told her, through her tears, of her cruel mishap.

Madame de Tecle, in using this opportunity of giving her daughter a lesson on reserve and on convenance, avoided treating the matter too seriously and even seemed to laugh heartily at it, although she had little inclination to do so, and the child finished by laughing with her.

Camors, meanwhile, remained at home, congratulating himself on his campaign, which seemed to him, not without reason, to have been a masterpiece of stratagem. By a clever mingling of frankness and cunning he had quickly enlisted Madame de Tecle in his interest. From that moment the realization of his ambitious dreams seemed assured, for he was not ignorant of the incomparable value of woman’s assistance, and knew all the power of that secret and continued labor, of those small but cumulative efforts, and of those subterranean movements which assimilate feminine influence with the secret and irresistible forces of nature. Another point gained-he had established a secret between that pretty woman and himself, and had placed himself on a confidential footing with her. He had gained the right to keep secret their clandestine words and private conversation, and such a situation, cleverly managed, might aid him to pass very agreeably the period occupied in his political canvass.

Camors on entering the house sat down to write the General, to inform him of the opening of his operations, and admonish him to have patience. From that day he turned his attention to following up the two persons who could control his election.

His policy as regarded M. des Rameures was as simple as it was clever. It has already been clearly indicated, and further details would be unnecessary. Profiting by his growing familiarity as neighbor, he went to school, as it were, at the model farm of the gentleman-farmer, and submitted to him the direction of his own domain. By this quiet compliment, enhanced by his captivating courtesy, he advanced insensibly in the good graces of the old man. But every day, as he grew to know M. de Rameures better, and as he felt more the strength of his character, he began to fear that on essential points he was quite inflexible.

After some weeks of almost daily intercourse, M. des Rameures graciously praised his young neighbor as a charming fellow, an excellent musician, an amiable associate; but, regarding him as a possible deputy, he saw some things which might disqualify him. Madame de Tecle feared this, and did not hide it from M. de Camors. The young Count did not preoccupy himself so much on this subject as might be supposed, for his second ambition had superseded his first; in other words his fancy for Madame de Tecle had become more ardent and more pressing than his desire for the deputyship. We are compelled to admit, not to his credit, that he first proposed to himself, to ensnare his charming neighbor as a simple pastime, as an interesting adventure, and, above all, as a work of art, which was extremely difficult and would greatly redound to his honor. Although he had met few women of her merit, he judged her correctly. He believed Madame de Tecle was not virtuous simply from force of habit or duty. She had passion. She was not a prude, but was chaste. She was not a devotee, but was pious. He discerned in her at the same time a spirit elevated, yet not narrow; lofty and dignified sentiments, and deeply rooted principles; virtue without rigor, pure and lambent as flame.

Nevertheless he did not despair, trusting to his own principles, to the fascinations of his manner and his previous successes. Instinctively, he knew that the ordinary forms of gallantry would not answer with her. All his art was to surround her with absolute respect, and to leave the rest to time and to the growing intimacy of each day.

There was something very touching to Madame de Tecle in the reserved and timid manner of this ’mauvais sujet’, in her presence—the homage of a fallen spirit, as if ashamed of being such, in presence of a spirit of light.

Never, either in public or when tete-a-tete, was there a jest, a word, or a look which the most sensitive virtue could fear.

This young man, ironical with all the rest of the world, was serious with her. From the moment he turned toward her, his voice, face, and conversation became as serious as if he had entered a church. He had a great deal of wit, and he used and abused it beyond measure in conversations in the presence of Madame de Tecle, as if he were making a display of fireworks in her honor. But on coming to her this was suddenly extinguished, and he became all submission and respect.

Not every woman who receives from a superior man such delicate flattery as this necessarily loves him, but she does like him. In the shadow of the perfect security in which M. de Camors had placed her, Madame de Tecle could not but be pleased in the company of the most distinguished man she had ever met, who had, like herself, a taste for art, music, and for high culture.

Thus these innocent relations with a young man whose reputation was rather equivocal could not but awaken in the heart of Madame de Tecle a sentiment, or rather an illusion, which the most prudish could not condemn.

Libertines offer to vulgar women an attraction which surprises, but which springs from a reprehensible curiosity. To a woman of society they offer another, more noble yet not less dangerous—the attraction of reforming them. It is rare that virtuous women do not fall into the error of believing that it is for virtue’s sake alone such men love them. These, in brief, were the secret sympathies whose slight tendrils intertwined, blossomed, and flowered little by little in this soul, as tender as it was pure.

M. de Camors had vaguely foreseen all this: that which he had not foreseen was that he himself would be caught in his own snare, and would be sincere in the role which he had so judiciously adopted. From the first, Madame de Tecle had captivated him. Her very puritanism, united with her native grace and worldly elegance, composed a kind of daily charm which piqued the imagination of the cold young man. If it was a powerful temptation for the angels to save the tempted, the tempted could not harbor with more delight the thought of destroying the angels. They dream, like the reckless Epicureans of the Bible, of mingling, in a new intoxication, the earth with heaven. To these sombre instincts of depravity were soon united in the feelings of Camors a sentiment more worthy of her. Seeing her every day with that childlike intimacy which the country encourages—enhancing the graceful movements of this accomplished person, ever self-possessed and equally prepared for duty or for pleasure—as animated as passion, yet as severe as virtue—he conceived for her a genuine worship. It was not respect, for that requires the effort of believing in such merits, and he did not wish to believe. He thought Madame de Tecle was born so. He admired her as he would admire a rare plant, a beautiful object, an exquisite work, in which nature had combined physical and moral grace with perfect proportion and harmony. His deportment as her slave when near her was not long a mere bit of acting. Our fair readers have doubtless remarked an odd fact: that where a reciprocal sentiment of two feeble human beings has reached a certain point of maturity, chance never fails to furnish a fatal occasion which betrays the secret of the two hearts, and suddenly launches the thunderbolt which has been gradually gathering in the clouds. This is the crisis of all love. This occasion presented itself to Madame de Tecle and M. de Camors in the form of an unpoetic incident.

It occurred at the end of October. Camors had gone out after dinner to take a ride in the neighborhood. Night had already fallen, clear and cold; but as the Count could not see Madame de Tecle that evening, he began only to think of being near her, and felt that unwillingness to work common to lovers—striving, if possible, to kill time, which hung heavy on his hands.

He hoped also that violent exercise might calm his spirit, which never had been more profoundly agitated. Still young and unpractised in his pitiless system, he was troubled at the thought of a victim so pure as Madame de Tecle. To trample on the life, the repose, and the heart of such a woman, as the horse tramples on the grass of the road, with as little care or pity, was hard for a novice.

Strange as it may appear, the idea of marrying her had occurred to him. Then he said to himself that this weakness was in direct contradiction to his principles, and that she would cause him to lose forever his mastery over himself, and throw him back into the nothingness of his past life. Yet with the corrupt inspirations of his depraved soul he foresaw that the moment he touched her hands with the lips of a lover a new sentiment would spring up in her soul. As he abandoned himself to these passionate imaginings, the recollection of young Madame Lescande came back suddenly to his memory. He grew pale in the darkness. At this moment he was passing the edge of a little wood belonging to the Comte de Tecle, of which a portion had recently been cleared. It was not chance alone that had directed the Count’s ride to this point. Madame de Tecle loved this spot, and had frequently taken him there, and on the preceding evening, accompanied by her daughter and her father-in-law, had visited it with him.

The site was a peculiar one. Although not far from houses, the wood was very wild, as if a thousand miles distant from any inhabited place.

You would have said it was a virgin forest, untouched by the axe of the pioneer. Enormous stumps without bark, trunks of gigantic trees, covered the declivity of the hill, and barricaded, here and there, in a picturesque manner, the current of the brook which ran into the valley. A little farther up the dense wood of tufted trees contributed to diffuse that religious light half over the rocks, the brushwood and the fertile soil, and on the limpid water, which is at once the charm and the horror of old neglected woods. In this solitude, and on a space of cleared ground, rose a sort of rude hut, constructed by a poor devil who was a sabot-maker by trade, and who had been allowed to establish himself there by the Comte de Tecle, and to use the beech-trees to gain his humble living. This Bohemian interested Madame de Tecle, probably because, like M. de Camors, he had a bad reputation. He lived in his cabin with a woman who was still pretty under her rags, and with two little boys with golden curls.

He was a stranger in the neighborhood, and the woman was said not to be his wife. He was very taciturn, and his features seemed fine and determined under his thick, black beard.

Madame de Tecle amused herself seeing him make his sabots. She loved the children, who, though dirty, were beautiful as angels; and she pitied the woman. She had a secret project to marry her to the man, in case she had not yet been married, which seemed probable.

Camors walked his horse slowly over the rocky and winding path on the slope of the hillock. This was the moment when the ghost of Madame Lescande had risen before him, and he believed he could almost hear her weep. Suddenly this illusion gave place to a strange reality. The voice of a woman plainly called him by name, in accents of distress—"Monsieur de Camors!"

Stopping his horse on the instant, he felt an icy shudder pass through his frame. The same voice rose higher and called him again. He recognized it as the voice of Madame de Tecle. Looking around him in the obscure light with a rapid glance, he saw a light shining through the foliage in the direction of the cottage of the sabot-maker. Guided by this, he put spurs to his horse, crossed the cleared ground up the hillside, and found himself face to face with Madame de Tecle. She was standing at the threshold of the hut, her head bare, and her beautiful hair dishevelled under a long, black lace veil. She was giving a servant some hasty orders. When she saw Camors approach, she came toward him.

"Pardon me," she said, "but I thought I recognized you, and I called you. I am so much distressed—so distressed! The two children of this man are dying! What is to be done? Come in—come in, I beg of you!"

He leaped to the ground, threw the reins to his servant, and followed Madame de Tekle into the interior of the cabin.

The two children with the golden hair were lying side by side on a little bed, immovable, rigid, their eyes open and the pupils strangely dilated— their faces red, and agitated by slight convulsions. They seemed to be in the agony of death. The old doctor, Du Rocher, was leaning over them, looking at them with a fixed, anxious, and despairing eye. The mother was on her knees, her head clasped in her hands, and weeping bitterly. At the foot of the bed stood the father, with his savage mien—his arms crossed, and his eyes dry. He shuddered at intervals, and murmured, in a hoarse, hollow voice: "Both of them! Both of them!" Then he relapsed into his mournful attitude. M. Durocher, approached Camors quickly. "Monsieur," said he, "what can this be? I believe it to be poisoning, but can detect no definite symptoms: otherwise, the parents should know— but they know nothing! A sunstroke, perhaps; but as both were struck at the same time—and then at this season—ah! our profession is quite useless sometimes."

Camors made rapid inquiries. They had sought M. Durocher, who was dining with Madame de Tecle an hour before. He had hastened, and found the children already speechless, in a state of fearful congestion. It appeared they had fallen into this state when first attacked, and had become delirious.

Camors conceived an idea. He asked to see the clothes the children had worn during the day. The mother gave them to him. He examined them with care, and pointed out to the doctor several red stains on the poor rags. The doctor touched his forehead, and turned over with a feverish hand the small linen—the rough waistcoat—searched the pockets, and found dozens of a small fruit-like cherries, half crushed. "Belladonna!" he exclaimed. "That idea struck me several times, but how could I be sure? You can not find it within twenty miles of this place, except in this cursed wood—of that I am sure."

"Do you think there is yet time?" asked the young Count, in a low voice. "The children seem to me to be very ill."

"Lost, I fear; but everything depends on the time that has passed, the quantity they have taken, and the remedies I can procure."

The old man consulted quickly with Madame de Tecle, who found she had not in her country pharmacy the necessary remedies, or counter-irritants, which the urgency of the case demanded. The doctor was obliged to content himself with the essence of coffee, which the servant was ordered to prepare in haste, and to send to the village for the other things needed.

"To the village!" cried Madame de Tecle. "Good heavens! it is four leagues—it is night, and we shall have to wait probably three or four hours!"

Camors heard this: "Doctor, write your prescription," he said: "Trilby is at the door, and with him I can do the four leagues in an hour—in one hour I promise to return here."

"Oh! thank you, Monsieur!" said Madame de Tecle.

He took the prescription which Dr. Durocher had rapidly traced on a leaf of his pocketbook, mounted his horse, and departed.

The highroad was fortunately not far distant. When he reached it he rode like the phantom horseman.

It was nine o’clock when Madame de Tecle witnessed his departure—it was a few moments after ten when she heard the tramp of his horse at the foot of the hill and ran to the door of the hut. The condition of the two children seemed to have grown worse in the interval, but the old doctor had great hopes in the remedies which Camors was to bring. She waited with impatience, and received him like the dawn of the last hope. She contented herself with pressing his hand, when, breathless, he descended from his horse. But this adorable creature threw herself on Trilby, who was covered with foam and steaming like a furnace.

"Poor Trilby," she said, embracing him in her two arms, "dear Trilby— good Trilby! you are half dead, are you not? But I love you well. Go quickly, Monsieur de Camors, I will attend to Trilby"—and while the young man entered the cabin, she confided Trilby to the charge of her servant, with orders to take him to the stable, and a thousand minute directions to take good care of him after his noble conduct. Dr. Durocher had to obtain the aid of Camors to pass the new medicine through the clenched teeth of the unfortunate children. While both were engaged in this work, Madame de Tecle was sitting on a stool with her head resting against the cabin wall. Durocher suddenly raised his eyes and fixed them on her.

"My dear Madame," he said, "you are ill. You have had too much excitement, and the odors here are insupportable. You must go home."

"I really do not feel very well," she murmured.

"You must go at once. We shall send you the news. One of your servants will take you home."

She raised herself, trembling; but one look from the young wife of the sabot-maker arrested her. To this poor woman, it seemed that Providence deserted her with Madame de Tecle.

"No!" she said with a divine sweetness; "I will not go. I shall only breathe a little fresh air. I will remain until they are safe, I promise you;" and she left the room smiling upon the poor woman. After a few minutes, Durocher said to M. de Camors:

"My dear sir, I thank you—but I really have no further need of your services; so you too may go and rest yourself, for you also are growing pale."

Camors, exhausted by his long ride, felt suffocated by the atmosphere of the hut, and consented to the suggestion of the old man, saying that he would not go far.

As he put his foot outside of the cottage, Madame de Tecle, who was sitting before the door, quickly rose and threw over his shoulders a cloak which they had brought for her. She then reseated herself without speaking.

"But you can not remain here all night," he said.

"I should be too uneasy at home."

"But the night is very cold—shall I make you a fire?"

"If you wish," she said.

"Let us see where we can make this little fire. In the midst of this wood it is impossible—we should have a conflagration to finish the picture. Can you walk?

"Then take my arm, and we shall go and search for a place for our encampment."

She leaned lightly on his arm, and took a few steps with him toward the forest.

"Do you think they are saved?" she asked.

"I hope so," he replied. "The face of Doctor Durocher is more cheerful."

"Oh! how glad I am!"

Both of them stumbled over a root, and laughed like two children for several minutes.

"We shall soon be in the woods," said Madame de Tecle, "and I declare I can go no farther: good or bad, I choose this spot."

They were still quite close to the hut, but the branches of the old trees which had been spared by the axe spread like a sombre dome over their heads. Near by was a large rock, slightly covered with moss, and a number of old trunks of trees, on which Madame de Tecle took her seat.

"Nothing could be better," said Camors, gayly. "I must collect my materials."

A moment after he reappeared, bringing in his arms brushwood, and also a travelling-rug which his servant had brought him.

He got on his knees in front of the rock, prepared the fagots, and lighted them with a match. When the flame began to flicker on the rustic hearth Madame de Tecle trembled with joy, and held out both hands to the blaze.

"Ah! how nice that is!" she said; "and then it is so amusing; one would say we had been shipwrecked.

"Now, Monsieur, if you would be perfect go and see what Durocher reports."

He ran to the hut. When he returned he could not avoid stopping half way to admire the elegant and simple silhouette of the young woman, defined sharply against the blackness of the wood, her fine countenance slightly. illuminated by the firelight. The moment she saw him:

"Well!" she cried.

"A great deal of hope."

"Oh! what happiness, Monsieur!" She pressed his hand.

"Sit down there," she said.

He sat down on a rock contiguous to hers, and replied to her eager questions. He repeated, in detail, his conversation with the doctor, and explained at length the properties of belladonna. She listened at first with interest, but little by little, with her head wrapped in her veil and resting on the boughs interlaced behind her, she seemed to be uncomfortably resting from fatigue.

"You are likely to fall asleep there," he said, laughing.

"Perhaps!" she murmured—smiled, and went to sleep.

Her sleep resembled death, it was so profound, and so calm was the beating of her heart, so light her breathing.

Camors knelt down again by the fire, to listen breathlessly and to gaze upon her. From time to time he seemed to meditate, and the solitude was disturbed only by the rustling of the leaves. His eyes followed the flickering of the flame, sometimes resting on the white cheek, sometimes on the grove, sometimes on the arches of the high trees, as if he wished to fix in his memory all the details of this sweet scene. Then his gaze rested again on the young woman, clothed in her beauty, grace, and confiding repose.

What heavenly thoughts descended at that moment on this sombre soul—what hesitation, what doubt assailed it! What images of peace, truth, virtue, and happiness passed into that brain full of storm, and chased away the phantoms of the sophistries he cherished! He himself knew, but never told.

The brisk crackling of the wood awakened her. She opened her eyes in surprise, and as soon as she saw the young man kneeling before her, addressed him:

"How are they now, Monsieur?"

He did not know how to tell her that for the last hour he had had but one thought, and that was of her. Durocher appeared suddenly before them.

"They are saved, Madame," said the old man, brusquely; "come quickly, embrace them, and return home, or we shall have to treat you to-morrow. You are very imprudent to have remained in this damp wood, and it was absurd of Monsieur to let you do so."

She took the arm of the old doctor, smiling, and reentered the hut. The two children, now roused from the dangerous torpor, but who seemed still terrified by the threatened death, raised their little round heads. She made them a sign to keep quiet, and leaned over their pillow smiling upon them, and imprinted two kisses on their golden curls.

"To-morrow, my angels," she said. But the mother, half laughing, half crying, followed Madame de Tecle step by step, speaking to her, and kissing her garments.

"Let her alone," cried the old doctor, querulously. "Go home, Madame. Monsieur de Camors, take her home."

She was going out, when the man, who had not before spoken, and who was sitting in the corner of his but as if stupefied, rose suddenly, seized the arm of Madame de Tecle, who, slightly terrified, turned round, for the gesture of the man was so violent as to seem menacing; his eyes, hard and dry, were fixed upon her, and he continued to press her arm with a contracted hand.

"My friend!" she said, although rather uncertain.

"Yes, your friend," muttered the man with a hollow voice; "yes, your friend."

He could not continue, his mouth worked as if in a convulsion, suppressed weeping shook his frame; he then threw himself on his knees, and they saw a shower of tears force themselves through the hands clasped over his face.

"Take her away, Monsieur," said the old doctor.

Camors gently pushed her out of the but and followed her. She took his arm and descended the rugged path which led to her home.

It was a walk of twenty minutes from the wood. Half the distance was passed without interchanging a word. Once or twice, when the rays of the moon pierced through the clouds, Camors thought he saw her wipe away a tear with the end of her glove. He guided her cautiously in the darkness, although the light step of the young woman was little slower in the obscurity. Her springy step pressed noiselessly the fallen leaves— avoided without assistance the ruts and marshes, as if she had been endowed with a magical clairvoyance. When they reached a crossroad, and Camors seemed uncertain, she indicated the way by a slight pressure of the arm. Both were no doubt embarrassed by the long silence—it was Madame de Tecle who first broke it.

"You have been very good this evening, Monsieur," she said in a low and slightly agitated voice.

"I love you so much!" said the young man.

He pronounced these simple words in such a deep impassioned tone that Madame de Tecle trembled and stood still in the road.

"Monsieur de Camors!"

"What, Madame?" he demanded, in a strange tone.

"Heavens!—in fact-nothing!" said she, "for this is a declaration of friendship, I suppose—and your friendship gives me much pleasure."

He let go her arm at once, and in a hoarse and angry voice said— "I am not your friend!"

"What are you then, Monsieur?"

Her voice was calm, but she recoiled a few steps, and leaned against one of the trees which bordered the road. The explosion so long pent up burst forth, and a flood of words poured from the young man’s lips with inexpressible impetuosity.

"What I am I know not! I no longer know whether I am myself—if I am dead or alive—if I am good or bad—whether I am dreaming or waking. Oh, Madame, what I wish is that the day may never rise again—that this night would never finish—that I should wish to feel always—always—in my head, my heart, my entire being—that which I now feel, near you—of you —for you! I should wish to be stricken with some sudden illness, without hope, in order to be watched and wept for by you, like those children—and to be embalmed in your tears; and to see you bowed down in terror before me is horrible to me! By the name of your God, whom you have made me respect, I swear you are sacred to me—the child in the arms of its mother is not more so!"

"I have no fear," she murmured.

"Oh, no!—have no fear!" he repeated in a tone of voice infinitely softened and tender. "It is I who am afraid—it is I who tremble—you see it; for since I have spoken, all is finished. I expect nothing more —I hope for nothing—this night has no possible tomorrow. I know it. Your husband I dare not be—your lover I should not wish to be. I ask nothing of you—understand well! I should like to burn my heart at your feet, as on an altar—this is all. Do you believe me? Answer! Are you tranquil? Are you confident? Will you hear me? May I tell you what image I carry of you in the secret recesses of my heart? Dear creature that you are, you do not—ah, you do not know how great is your worth; and I fear to tell you; so much am I afraid of stripping you of your charms, or of one of your virtues. If you had been proud of yourself, as you have a right to be, you would be less perfect, and I should love you less. But I wish to tell you how lovable and how charming you are. You alone do not know it. You alone do not see the soft flame of your large eyes—the reflection of your heroic soul on your young but serene brow. Your charm is over everything you do—your slightest gesture is engraven on my heart. Into the most ordinary duties of every-day life you carry a peculiar grace, like a young priestess who recites her daily devotions. Your hand, your touch, your breath purifies everything—even the most humble and the most wicked beings—and myself first of all!

"I am astonished at the words which I dare to pronounce, and the sentiments which animate me, to whom you have made clear new truths. Yes, all the rhapsodies of the poets, all the loves of the martyrs, I comprehend in your presence. This is truth itself. I understand those who died for their faith by the torture—because I should like to suffer for you—because I believe in you—because I respect you—I cherish you— I adore you!"

He stopped, shivering, and half prostrating himself before her, seized the end of her veil and kissed it.

"Now," he continued, with a kind of grave sadness, "go, Madame, I have forgotten too long that you require repose. Pardon me—proceed. I shall follow you at a distance, until you reach your home, to protect you—but fear nothing from me."

Madame de Tecle had listened, without once interrupting him even by a sigh. Words would only excite the young man more. Probably she understood, for the first time in her life, one of those songs of love— one of those hymns alive with passion, which every woman wishes to hear before she dies. Should she die because she had heard it? She remained without speaking, as if just awakening from a dream, and said quite simply, in a voice as soft and feeble as a sigh, "My God!" After another pause she advanced a few steps on the road.

"Give me your arm as far as my house, Monsieur," she said.

He obeyed her, and they continued their walk toward the house, the lights of which they soon saw. They did not exchange a word—only as they reached the gate, Madame de Tecle turned and made him a slight gesture with her hand, in sign of adieu. In return, M. de Camors bowed low, and withdrew.

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Chicago: Octave Feuillet, "Chapter IX Love Conquers Philosophy," Monsieur De Camors— Complete, ed. Burton, Isabel, Lady, 1831-1896 and trans. Hogarth, C. J. in Monsieur De Camors—Complete (New York: T. Nelson, 1900?), Original Sources, accessed July 17, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3WHHKLICJSNEC7H.

MLA: Feuillet, Octave. "Chapter IX Love Conquers Philosophy." Monsieur De Camors— Complete, edited by Burton, Isabel, Lady, 1831-1896, and translated by Hogarth, C. J., in Monsieur De Camors—Complete, New York, T. Nelson, 1900?, Original Sources. 17 Jul. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3WHHKLICJSNEC7H.

Harvard: Feuillet, O, 'Chapter IX Love Conquers Philosophy' in Monsieur De Camors— Complete, ed. and trans. . cited in 1900?, Monsieur De Camors—Complete, T. Nelson, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 17 July 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3WHHKLICJSNEC7H.