They were as gay as children. They laughed, said tender nothings, played, ate lemons, oranges, and other fruits piled up near-them on painted plates. Her lips, half-open, showed her brilliant teeth. She asked, with coquettish anxiety, if he were not disillusioned after the beautiful dream he had made of her.
In the caressing light of the day, for the enjoyment of which he had arranged, he contemplated her with youthful joy. He lavished praise and kisses upon her. They forgot themselves in caresses, in friendly quarrels, in happy glances.
He asked her how a little red mark on her temple had come there. She replied that she had forgotten; that it was nothing. She hardly lied; she had really forgotten.
They recalled to each other their short but beautiful history, all their life, which began upon the day when they had met.
“You know, on the terrace, the day after your arrival, you said vague things to me. I guessed that you loved me.”
“I was afraid to seem stupid to you.”
“You were, a little. It was my triumph. It made me impatient to see you so little troubled near me. I loved you before you loved me. Oh, I do not blush for it!”
He gave her a glass of Asti. But there was a bottle of Trasimene. She wished to taste it, in memory of the lake which she had seen silent and beautiful at night in its opal cup. That was when she had first visited Italy, six years before.
He chided her for having discovered the beauty of things without his aid.
“Without you, I did not know how to see anything. Why did you not come to me before?”
He closed her lips with a kiss. Then she said:
“Yes, I love you! Yes, I never have loved any one but you!”
A MEETING AT THE STATION
Le Menil had written: “I leave tomorrow evening at seven o’clock. Meet me at the station.”
She had gone to meet him. She saw him in long coat and cape, precise and calm, in front of the hotel stages. He said only:
“Ah, you have come.”
“But, my friend, you called me.”
He did not confess that he had written in the absurd hope that she would love him again and that the rest would be forgotten, or that she would say to him: “It was only a trial of your love.”
If she had said so he would have believed her, however.
Astonished because she did not speak, he said, dryly:
“What have you to say to me? It is not for me to speak, but for you. I have no explanations to give you. I have not to justify a betrayal.”
“My friend, do not be cruel, do not be ungrateful. This is what I had to say to you. And I must repeat that I leave you with the sadness of a real friend.”
“Is that all? Go and say this to the other man. It will interest him more than it interests me.”