She laughed, “I am always frank. Say on.”
“Well, then. I have loved you from the first day I ever saw you. Can you have any doubt of this?”
She responded, laughing, with something of her former tone of voice.
“Great goose! what ails you? I knew it from the very first day!”
Saval began to tremble. He stammered out: “You knew it? Then . . .”
“Then—what did you think? What—what—what would you have answered?”
She broke into a peal of laughter. Some of the juice ran off the tips of her fingers on to the carpet.
“I? Why, you did not ask me anything. It was not for me to declare myself!”
He then advanced a step toward her.
“Tell me—tell me . . . . You remember the day when Sandres went to sleep on the grass after lunch . . . when we had walked together as far as the bend of the river, below . . .”
He waited, expectantly. She had ceased to laugh, and looked at him, straight in the eyes.
“Yes, certainly, I remember it.”
He answered, trembling all over:
“Well—that day—if I had
been—if I had
been—venturesome—what would you have done?”
She began to laugh as only a happy woman can laugh, who has nothing to regret, and responded frankly, in a clear voice tinged with irony:
“I would have yielded, my friend.”
She then turned on her heels and went back to her jam-making.
Saval rushed into the street, cast down, as though he had met with some disaster. He walked with giant strides through the rain, straight on, until he reached the river bank, without thinking where he was going. He then turned to the right and followed the river. He walked a long time, as if urged on by some instinct. His clothes were running with water, his hat was out of shape, as soft as a rag, and dripping like a roof. He walked on, straight in front of him. At last, he came to the place where they had lunched on that day so long ago, the recollection of which tortured his heart. He sat down under the leafless trees, and wept.
A SISTER’S CONFESSION
Marguerite de Therelles was dying. Although she was-only fifty-six years old she looked at least seventy-five. She gasped for breath, her face whiter than the sheets, and had spasms of violent shivering, with her face convulsed and her eyes haggard as though she saw a frightful vision.
Her elder sister, Suzanne, six years older than herself, was sobbing on her knees beside the bed. A small table close to the dying woman’s couch bore, on a white cloth, two lighted candles, for the priest was expected at any moment to administer extreme unction and the last communion.
The apartment wore that melancholy aspect common to death chambers; a look of despairing farewell. Medicine bottles littered the furniture; linen lay in the corners into which it had been kicked or swept. The very chairs looked, in their disarray, as if they were terrified and had run in all directions. Death—terrible Death—was in the room, hidden, awaiting his prey.