He shook his head.
‘I am done for—’ he murmured, and his head sank.
‘Are you so weak, then?’ I took his hand. ‘Are you so weak? Look at me.’
He obeyed, and his wet eyes met mine. In that precious moment I lived.
‘I don’t know,’ he said.
’You could not have looked at me if you had not been strong, very strong,’ I said firmly. ’You told me once that you had a house near Fontainebleau. Have you still got it?’
‘I suppose so.’
‘Let us go there, and—and—see.’
‘I should like to go,’ I insisted, with a break in my voice.
‘My God!’ he exclaimed in a whisper, ‘my God!’
I was sobbing violently, and my forehead was against the rough stuff of his coat.
And one morning, long afterwards, I awoke very early, and the murmuring of the leaves of the forest came through the open window. I had known that I should wake very early, in joyous anticipation of that day. And as I lay he lay beside me, lost in the dreamless, boyish, natural sleep that he never sought in vain. He lay, as always, slightly on his right side, with his face a little towards me—his face that was young again, and from which the bane had passed. It was one of the handsomest, fairest faces in the world, one of the most innocent, and one of the strongest; the face of a man who follows his instincts with the direct simplicity of a savage or a child, and whose instincts are sane and powerful. Seen close, perfectly at rest, as I saw it morning after morning, it was full of a special and mysterious attraction. The fine curves of the nostrils and of the lobe of the ear, the masterful lines of the mouth, the contours of the cheek and chin and temples, the tints of the flesh subtly varying from rose to ivory, the golden crown of hair, the soft moustache. I had learned every detail by heart; my eyes had dwelt on them till they had become my soul’s inheritance, till they were mystically mine, drawing me ever towards them, as a treasure draws. Gently moving, I would put my ear close, close, and listen to the breath of life as it entered regularly, almost imperceptibly, vivifying that organism in repose. There is something terrible in the still beauty of sleep. It is as though the spiritual fabric hangs inexplicably over the precipice of death. It seems impossible, or at least miraculous, that the intake and the expulsion upon which existence depends should continue thus, minute by minute, hour by hour. It is as though one stood on the very confines of life, and could one trace but one step more, one single step, one would unveil the eternal secret. I would not listen long; the torture was too sweet, too exquisite, and I would gently slide back to my place.... His hand was on the counterpane, near to my breast—the broad hand of the pianist, with a wrist of incredible force, and the