M. Daburon did not return home on leaving Mademoiselle d’Arlange. All through the night he wandered about at random, seeking to cool his heated brow, and to allay his excessive weariness.
“Fool that I was!” said he to himself, “thousand times fool to have hoped, to have believed, that she would ever love me. Madman! how could I have dared to dream of possessing so much grace, nobleness, and beauty! How charming she was this evening, when her face was bathed in tears! Could anything be more angelic? What a sublime expression her eyes had in speaking of him! How she must love him! And I? She loves me as a father, she told me so,—as a father! And could it be otherwise? Is it not justice? Could she see a lover in a sombre and severe-looking magistrate, always as sad as his black coat? Was it not a crime to dream of uniting that virginal simplicity to my detestable knowledge of the world? For her, the future is yet the land of smiling chimeras; and long since experience has dissipated all my illusions. She is as young as innocence, and I am as old as vice.”
The unfortunate magistrate felt thoroughly ashamed of himself. He understood Claire, and excused her. He reproached himself for having shown her how he suffered; for having cast a shadow upon her life. He could not forgive himself for having spoken of his love. Ought he not to have foreseen what had happened?—that she would refuse him, that he would thus deprive himself of the happiness of seeing her, of hearing her, and of silently adoring her?
“A young and romantic girl,” pursued he, “must have a lover she can dream of,—whom she can caress in imagination, as an ideal, gratifying herself by seeing in him every great and brilliant quality, imagining him full of nobleness, of bravery, of heroism. What would she see, if, in my absence, she dreamed of me? Her imagination would present me dressed in a funeral robe, in the depth of a gloomy dungeon, engaged with some vile criminal. Is it not my trade to descend into all moral sinks, to stir up the foulness of crime? Am I not compelled to wash in secrecy and darkness the dirty linen of the most corrupt members of society? Ah! some professions are fatal. Ought not the magistrate, like the priest, to condemn himself to solitude and celibacy? Both know all, they hear all, their costumes are nearly the same; but, while the priest carries consolation in the folds of his black robe, the magistrate conveys terror. One is mercy, the other chastisement. Such are the images a thought of me would awaken; while the other,—the other—”