The supper and wine were so good, indeed, that I was not long in getting tipsy, according to the Roche-Mauprat custom. I even saw they aided and abetted, in order to make me talk, and show at once what species of boor they had to deal with. My lack of education surpassed anything they had anticipated; but I suppose they augured well from my native powers; for, instead of giving me up, they laboured at the rough block with a zeal which showed at least that they were not without hope. As soon as I was able to leave my room I lost the feeling of ennui. The abbe was my inseparable companion through the whole first day. The length of the second was diminished by the hope they gave me of seeing Edmee on the morrow, and by the kindness I experienced from every one. I began to feel the charm of these gentle manners in proportion as I ceased to be astonished at them. The never-failing goodness of the chevalier could not but overcome my boorishness; nay, more, it rapidly won my heart. This was the first affection of my life. It took up its abode in me side by side with a violent love for his daughter, nor did I even dream of pitting one of these feelings against the other. I was all yearning, all instinct, all desire. I had the passions of a man in the soul of a child.
At last, one morning after breakfast, Mr. Hubert took me to see his daughter. When the door of her room was opened I felt almost suffocated by the warm-scented air which met me. The room itself was charming in its simplicity; the curtains and coverings of chintz, with a white ground. Large china vases filled with flowers exhaled a delicate perfume. African birds were sporting in a gilded cage, and singing their sweet little love songs. The carpet was softer to the feet than is the moss of the woods in the month of March. I was in such a state of agitation that my eyes grew more and more dim every moment. My feet caught in one another most awkwardly, and I kept stumbling against the furniture without being able to advance. Edmee was lying on a long white chair, carelessly fingering a mother-of-pearl fan. She seemed to me even more beautiful than before, yet so changed that a feeling of apprehension chilled me in the middle of my ecstasy. She held out her hand to me; I did not like to kiss it in the presence of her father. I could not hear what she was saying to me—I believe her words were full of affection. Then, as if overcome with fatigue, she let her head fall back on the pillow and closed her eyes.
“I have some work to do,” said the chevalier to me. “Stay here with her; but do not make her talk too much, for she is still very weak.”
This recommendation really seemed a sarcasm. Edmee was pretending to be sleepy, perhaps to conceal some of the embarrassment that weighed on her heart; and, as for myself, I felt so incapable of overcoming her reserve that it was in reality a kindness to counsel silence.