“The servant came in with a light and broke the spell. All that night I lay awake and thought of how she had looked at me, with the colour coming slowly up in her cheeks—“It was three days before I plucked up courage to go again; and then I felt her eyes on me at once—she was making a ‘cat’s cradle’ with a bit of string, but I could see them stealing up from her hands to my face. And she went wandering about the room, fingering at everything. When her father called out: ’What’s the matter with you, Elie?’ she stared at him like a child caught doing wrong. I looked straight at her then, she tried to look at me, but she couldn’t; and a minute later she went out of the room. God knows what sort of nonsense I talked—I was too happy.
“Then began our love. I can’t tell you of that time. Often and often Dalton said to me: ’What’s come to the child? Nothing I can do pleases her.’ All the love she had given him was now for me; but he was too simple and straight to see what was going on. How many times haven’t I felt criminal towards him! But when you’re happy, with the tide in your favour, you become a coward at once....”
“Well, sir,” he went on, “we were married on her eighteenth birthday. It was a long time before Dalton became aware of our love. But one day he said to me with a very grave look:
“’Eilie has told me, Brune; I forbid it. She’s too young, and you’re—too old!’ I was then forty-five, my hair as black and thick as a rook’s feathers, and I was strong and active. I answered him: ’We shall be married within a month!’ We parted in anger. It was a May night, and I walked out far into the country. There’s no remedy for anger, or, indeed, for anything, so fine as walking. Once I stopped—it was on a common, without a house or light, and the stars shining like jewels. I was hot from walking, I could feel the blood boiling in my veins—I said to myself ‘Old, are you?’ And I laughed like a fool. It was the thought of losing her—I wished to believe myself angry, but really I was afraid; fear and anger in me are very much the same. A friend of mine, a bit of a poet, sir, once called them ‘the two black wings of self.’ And so they are, so they are...! The next morning I went to Dalton again, and somehow I made him yield. I’m not a philosopher, but it has often seemed to me that no benefit can come to us in this life without an equal loss somewhere, but does that stop us? No, sir, not often....
“We were married on the 30th of June 1876, in the parish church. The only people present were Dalton, Lucy, and Lucy’s husband—a big, red-faced fellow, with blue eyes and a golden beard parted in two. It had been arranged that we should spend the honeymoon down at their inn on the river. My wife, Dalton and I, went to a restaurant for lunch. She was dressed in grey, the colour of a pigeon’s feathers.” He paused, leaning forward over the crutch handle of his stick; trying to conjure up, no doubt, that long-ago image of his young bride in her dress “the colour of a pigeon’s feathers,” with her blue eyes and yellow hair, the little frown between her brows, the firmly shut red lips, opening to speak the words, “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.”