Therese understood at once, and a smile came to her lips and eyes. They were passing near the porch, before the stone figures that wear sceptres and crowns.
“Let us go in,” she said.
He did not wish to go in. He declared that the door was closed. She pushed it, and slipped into the immense nave, where the inanimate trees of the columns ascended in darkness. In the rear, candles were moving in front of spectre-like priests, under the last reverberations of the organs. She trembled in the silence, and said:
“The sadness of churches at night moves me; I feel in them the grandeur of nothingness.”
“We must believe in something. If there were no God, if our souls were not immortal, it would be too sad.”
She remained for a while immovable under the curtains of shadow hanging from the arches. Then she said:
“My poor friend, we do not know what to do with this life, which is so short, and yet you desire another life which shall never finish.”
In the carriage that took them back he said gayly that he had passed a fine afternoon. He kissed her, satisfied with her and with himself. But his good-humor was not communicated to her. The last moments they passed together were spoiled for her always by the presentiment that he would not say at parting the thing that he should say. Ordinarily, he quitted her brusquely, as if what had happened were not to last. At every one of their partings she had a confused feeling that they were parting forever. She suffered from this in advance and became irritable.
Under the trees he took her hand and kissed her.
“Is it not rare, Therese, to love as we love each other?”
“Rare? I don’t know; but I think that you love me.”
“I, too, love you.”
“And you will love me always?”
“What does one ever know?”
And seeing the face of her lover darken:
“Would you be more content with a woman who would swear to love only you for all time?”
He remained anxious, with a wretched air. She was kind and she reassured him:
“You know very well, my friend, that I am not fickle.”
Almost at the end of the lane they said good-by. He kept the carriage to return to the Rue Royale. He was to dine at the club and go to the theatre, and had no time to lose.
Therese returned home on foot. Opposite the Trocadero she remembered what the old flower-woman had said: “One can see that you are young.” The words came back to her with a significance not immoral but sad. “One can see that you are young!” Yes, she was young, she was loved, and she was bored to death.
A DISCUSSION ON THE LITTLE CORPORAL