When I awoke on the morrow in a state of exhaustion, all the incidents of the previous night appeared to me as a dream. I began to think that Edmee’s suggestion of becoming my wife had been a perfidious trick to put off my hopes indefinitely; and, as to the sorcerer’s words, I could not recall them without a feeling of profound humiliation. Still, they had produced their effect. My emotions had left traces which could never be effaced. I was no longer the man of the day before, and never again was I to be quite the man of Roche-Mauprat.
It was late, for not until morning had I attempted to make good my sleepless night. I was still in bed when I heard the hoofs of M. de la Marche’s horse on the stones of the courtyard. Every day he used to come at this hour; every day he used to see Edmee at the same time as myself; and now, on this very day, this day when she had tried to persuade me to reckon on her hand, he was going to see her before me, and to give his soulless kiss to this hand that had been promised to myself. The thought of it stirred up all my doubts again. How could Edmee endure his attentions if she really meant to marry another man? Perhaps she dared not send him away; perhaps it was my duty to do so. I was ignorant of the ways of the world into which I was entering. Instinct counselled me to yield to my hasty impulses; and instinct spoke loudly.
I hastily dressed myself. I entered the drawing-room pale and agitated. Edmee was pale too. It was a cold, rainy morning. A fire was burning in the great fire-place. Lying back in an easy chair, she was warming her little feet and dozing. It was the same listless, almost lifeless, attitude of the days of her illness. M. de la Marche was reading the paper at the other end of the room. On seeing that Edmee was more affected than myself by the emotions of the previous night, I felt my anger cool, and, approaching her noiselessly, I sat down and gazed on her tenderly.
“Is that you, Bernard?” she asked without moving a limb, and with eyes still closed.
Her elbows were resting on the arms of her chair and her hands were gracefully crossed under her chin. At that period it was the fashion for women to have their arms half bare at all times. On one of Edmee’s I noticed a little strip of court-plaster that made my heart beat. It was the slight scratch I had caused against the bars of the chapel window. I gently lifted the lace which fell over her elbow, and, emboldened by her drowsiness, pressed my lips to the darling wound. M. de la Marche could see me, and, in fact, did see me, as I intended he should. I was burning to have a quarrel with him. Edmee started and turned red; but immediately assuming an air of indolent playfulness, she said:
“Really, Bernard, you are as gallant this morning as a court abbe. Do you happen to have been composing a madrigal last night?”