Therese replied with an uneasiness she did not try to conceal:
“As for that, my dear, do not ask me. I have already told you my opinion.”
“But, darling, you have said that only men are wrong to marry. I can not take that advice for myself.”
Madame Martin looked at the little boyish face and head of Miss Bell, which oddly expressed tenderness and modesty.
Then she embraced her, saying:
“Dear, there is not a man in the world exquisite and delicate enough for you.”
She added, with an expression of affectionate gravity:
“You are not a child. If some one loves you, and you love him, do what you think you ought to do, without mingling interests and combinations that have nothing to do with sentiment. This is the advice of a friend.”
Miss Bell hesitated a moment. Then she blushed and arose. She had been a little shocked.
“I kiss your feet because they have come!”
Saturday, at four o’clock, Therese went, as she had promised, to the gate of the English cemetery. There she found Dechartre. He was serious and agitated; he spoke little. She was glad he did not display his joy. He led her by the deserted walls of the gardens to a narrow street which she did not know. She read on a signboard: Via Alfieri. After they had taken fifty steps, he stopped before a sombre alley:
“It is in there,” he said.
She looked at him with infinite sadness.
“You wish me to go in?”
She saw he was resolute, and followed him without saying a word, into the humid shadow of the alley. He traversed a courtyard where the grass grew among the stones. In the back was a pavilion with three windows, with columns and a front ornamented with goats and nymphs. On the moss-covered steps he turned in the lock a key that creaked and resisted. He murmured,
“It is rusty.”
She replied, without thought “All the keys are rusty in this country.”
They went up a stairway so silent that it seemed to have forgotten the sound of footsteps. He pushed open a door and made Therese enter the room. She went straight to a window opening on the cemetery. Above the wall rose the tops of pine-trees, which are not funereal in this land where mourning is mingled with joy without troubling it, where the sweetness of living extends to the city of the dead. He took her hand and led her to an armchair. He remained standing, and looked at the room which he had prepared so that she would not find herself lost in it. Panels of old print cloth, with figures of Comedy, gave to the walls the sadness of past gayeties. He had placed in a corner a dim pastel which they had seen together at an antiquary’s, and which, for its shadowy grace, she called the shade of Rosalba. There was a grandmother’s armchair; white chairs; and on the table painted cups and Venetian glasses. In all the corners were screens of colored paper, whereon were masks, grotesque figures, the light soul of Florence, of Bologna, and of Venice in the time of the Grand Dukes and of the last Doges. A mirror and a carpet completed the furnishings.