We returned to Sainte-Severe at the expiration of Edmee’s period of mourning. This was the time that had been fixed for our marriage. When we had quitted the province where we had both experienced so many bitter mortifications and such grievous trials, we had imagined that we should never feel any inclination to return. Yet, so powerful are the recollections of childhood and the ties of family life that, even in the heart of an enchanted land which could not arouse painful memories, we had quickly begun to regret our gloomy, wild Varenne, and sighed for the old oaks in the park. We returned, then, with a sense of profound yet solemn joy. Edmee’s first care was to gather the beautiful flowers in the garden and to kneel by her father’s grave and arrange them on it. We kissed the hallowed ground, and there made a vow to strive unceasingly to leave a name as worthy of respect and veneration as his. He had frequently carried this ambition to the verge of weakness, but it was a noble weakness, a sacred vanity.
Our marriage was celebrated in the village chapel, and the festivities were confined to the family; none but Arthur, the abbe, Marcasse, and Patience sat down to our modest banquet. What need had we of the outside world to behold our happiness? They might have believed, perhaps, that they were doing us an honour by covering the blots on our escutcheon with their august presence. We were enough to be happy and merry among ourselves. Our hearts were filled with as much affection as they could hold. We were too proud to ask more from any one, too pleased with one another to yearn for greater pleasure. Patience returned to his sober, retired life, resumed the duties of “great judge” and “treasurer” on certain days of the week. Marcasse remained with me until his death, which happened towards the end of the French Revolution. I trust I did my best to repay his fidelity by an unreserved friendship and an intimacy that nothing could disturb.
Arthur, who had sacrificed a year of his life to us, could not bring himself to abjure the love of his country, and his desire to contribute to its progress by offering it the fruits of his learning and the results of his investigations; he returned to Philadelphia, where I paid him a visit after I was left a widower.
I will not describe my years of happiness with my noble wife; such years beggar description. One could not resign one’s self to living after losing them, if one did not make strenuous efforts to avoid recalling them too often. She gave me six children; four of these are still alive, and all honourably settled in life. I have lived for them, in obedience to Edmee’s dying command. You must forgive me for not speaking further of this loss, which I suffered only ten years ago. I feel it now as keenly as on the first day, and I do not seek to find consolation for it, but to make myself worthy of rejoining the holy comrade of my life in a better world after I have completed my period of probation in this. She was the only woman I ever loved; never did any other win a glance from me or know the pressure of my hand. Such is my nature; what I love I love eternally, in the past, in the present, in the future.