He was silent for a moment.
“Here,” he continued, “she has found another creature, with whom she seems to have some strange understanding. It is a poor idiotic peasant-girl, who, in spite of her ugliness and stupidity, loved a man, a mason. The mason was willing to marry her, as she had some property. Poor Genevieve was happy for a year; she dressed in her best to dance with her lover on Sunday; she comprehended love; in her heart and soul there was room for that one sentiment. But the mason, Dallot, reflected. He found a girl with all her senses, and more land than Genevieve, and he deserted the poor creature. Since then she has lost the little intellect that love developed in her; she can do nothing but watch the cows, or help at harvesting. My niece and this poor girl are friends, apparently by some invisible chain of their common destiny, by the sentiment in each which has caused their madness. See!” added Stephanie’s uncle, leading the marquis to a window.
The latter then saw the countess seated on the ground between Genevieve’s legs. The peasant-girl, armed with a huge horn comb, was giving her whole attention to the work of disentangling the long black hair of the poor countess, who was uttering little stifled cries, expressive of some instinctive sense of pleasure. Monsieur d’Albon shuddered as he saw the utter abandonment of the body, the careless animal ease which revealed in the hapless woman a total absence of soul.
“Philippe, Philippe!” he muttered, “the past horrors are nothing!—Is there no hope?” he asked.
The old physician raised his eyes to heaven.
“Adieu, monsieur,” said the marquis, pressing his hand. “My friend is expecting me. He will soon come to you.”