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Mauprat eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 382 pages of information about Mauprat.

XXII

How shall I describe to you what I felt at the unexpected sight of Gazeau Tower?  I had seen it but twice in my life; each time I had taken part in a painfully stirring scene there.  Yet these scenes were as naught beside the one awaiting me on this third encounter; there must be a curse on certain places.

I fancied I could still see the blood of the two Mauprats sprinkled on the shattered door.  Their life of crime and their tragic end made me shudder at the violent instincts which I felt in myself.  I was filled with a horror of my own feelings, and I understood why Edmee did not love me.  But, as if yonder deplorable blood had power to stir a fatal sympathy, I felt the wild strength of my passion increasing in proportion as my will made greater efforts to subdue it.  I had trampled down all other passions; scarcely a trace of them remained in me.  I was sober; if not gentle and patient, I was at least capable of affection and sympathy; I had a profound sense of the laws of honour, and the highest respect for the dignity of others.  Love, however, was still the most formidable of my enemies; for it was inseparably connected with all that I had acquired of morality and delicacy; it was the tie that bound the old man to the new, an indissoluble tie, which made it almost impossible for me to find the golden mean between reason and passion.

Standing before Edmee, who was about to leave me behind and on foot; furious at seeing her escape me for the last time (since after the insult I had just offered her she would doubtless never run the risk of being alone with me again), I gazed on her with a terrible expression.  I was livid; my fists were clinched.  I had but to resolve, and the slightest exertion of my strength would have snatched her from her horse, thrown her to the ground and left her at the mercy of my desires.  I had but to let my old savage instincts reign for a second and I could have slaked, extinguished the fires which had been consuming me for seven years.  Never did Edmee know the danger her honour ran in that minute of agony, and never have I ceased to feel remorse for it; but God alone shall be my Judge, for I triumphed, and this was the last evil thought of my life.  In this thought, moreover, lay the whole of my crime; the rest was the work of fate.

Filled with fear, I suddenly turned my back on her and, wringing my hands in despair, hastened away by the path which had brought me thither.  I cared little where I went; I only knew that I had to tear myself away from perilous temptations.  It was a broiling day; the odour of the woods seemed intoxicating; the mere sight of them was stirring up the instincts of my old savage life; I had to flee or fall.  With an imperious gesture, Edmee ordered me to depart from her presence.  The idea that any danger could possibly threaten her except from myself naturally did not come into my head or her own.  I plunged

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