“The gentleman isn’t in,” answered a servant.
This seemed to him a good omen. He went upstairs.
She was not disturbed at his approach; on the contrary, she apologised for having neglected to tell him where they were staying.
“Oh, I divined it!” said Leon.
He pretended he had been guided towards her by chance, by, instinct. She began to smile; and at once, to repair his folly, Leon told her that he had spent his morning in looking for her in all the hotels in the town one after the other.
“So you have made up your mind to stay?” he added.
“Yes,” she said, “and I am wrong. One ought not to accustom oneself to impossible pleasures when there are a thousand demands upon one.”
“Oh, I can imagine!”
“Ah! no; for you, you are a man!”
But men too had had their trials, and the conversation went off into certain philosophical reflections. Emma expatiated much on the misery of earthly affections, and the eternal isolation in which the heart remains entombed.
To show off, or from a naive imitation of this melancholy which called forth his, the young man declared that he had been awfully bored during the whole course of his studies. The law irritated him, other vocations attracted him, and his mother never ceased worrying him in every one of her letters. As they talked they explained more and more fully the motives of their sadness, working themselves up in their progressive confidence. But they sometimes stopped short of the complete exposition of their thought, and then sought to invent a phrase that might express it all the same. She did not confess her passion for another; he did not say that he had forgotten her.
Perhaps he no longer remembered his suppers with girls after masked balls; and no doubt she did not recollect the rendezvous of old when she ran across the fields in the morning to her lover’s house. The noises of the town hardly reached them, and the room seemed small, as if on purpose to hem in their solitude more closely. Emma, in a dimity dressing-gown, leant her head against the back of the old arm-chair; the yellow wall-paper formed, as it were, a golden background behind her, and her bare head was mirrored in the glass with the white parting in the middle, and the tip of her ears peeping out from the folds of her hair.
“But pardon me!” she said. “It is wrong of me. I weary you with my eternal complaints.”
“No, never, never!”
“If you knew,” she went on, raising to the ceiling her beautiful eyes, in which a tear was trembling, “all that I had dreamed!”
“And I! Oh, I too have suffered! Often I went out; I went away. I dragged myself along the quays, seeking distraction amid the din of the crowd without being able to banish the heaviness that weighed upon me. In an engraver’s shop on the boulevard there is an Italian print of one of the Muses. She is draped in a tunic, and she is looking at the moon, with forget-me-nots in her flowing hair. Something drove me there continually; I stayed there hours together.” Then in a trembling voice, “She resembled you a little.”