“You will despise me.” She smiled superbly. “Yes, you will never believe that I have sacredly loved you; I shall be disgraced, I know that. Women never imagine that from the depths of our mire we raise our eyes to heaven and truly adore a Marie. They assail that sacred love with miserable doubts; they cannot believe that men of intellect and poesy can so detach their soul from earthly enjoyment as to lay it pure upon some cherished altar. And yet, Marie, the worship of the ideal is more fervent in men then in women; we find it in women, who do not even look for it in us.”
“Why are you making me that article?” she said, jestingly.
“I am leaving France; and you will hear to-morrow, how and why, from a letter my valet will bring you. Adieu, Marie.”
Raoul left the house after again straining the countess to his heart with dreadful pressure, leaving her stupefied and distressed.
“What is the matter, my dear?” said Madame d’Espard, coming to look for her. “What has Monsieur Nathan been saying to you? He has just left us in a most melodramatic way. Perhaps you are too reasonable or too unreasonable with him.”
The countess got into a hackney-coach and was driven rapidly to the newspaper office. At that hour the huge apartments which they occupied in an old mansion in the rue Feydeau were deserted; not a soul was there but the watchman, who was greatly surprised to see a young and pretty woman hurrying through the rooms in evident distress. She asked him to tell her where was Monsieur Nathan.
“At Mademoiselle Florine’s, probably,” replied the man, taking Marie for a rival who intended to make a scene.
“Where does he work?”
“In his office, the key of which he carries in his pocket.”
“I wish to go there.”
The man took her to a dark little room looking out on a rear court-yard. The office was at right angles. Opening the window of the room she was in, the countess could look through into the window of the office, and she saw Nathan sitting there in the editorial arm-chair.
“Break in the door, and be silent about all this; I’ll pay you well,” she said. “Don’t you see that Monsieur Nathan is dying?”
The man got an iron bar from the press-room, with which he burst in the door. Raoul had actually smothered himself, like any poor work-girl, with a pan of charcoal. He had written a letter to Blondet, which lay on the table, in which he asked him to ascribe his death to apoplexy. The countess, however, had arrived in time; she had Raoul carried to her coach, and then, not knowing where else to care for him, she took him to a hotel, engaged a room, and sent for a doctor. In a few hours Raoul was out of danger; but the countess did not leave him until she had obtained a general confession of the causes of his act. When he had poured into her heart the dreadful elegy of his woes, she said, in order to make him willing to live:—