Then he reviewed his whole theatrical life, his early triumphs, the golden wreath from the subscribers at Alencon, his marriage to this “sainted woman,” and he pointed to the poor creature who stood by his side, with tears streaming from her eyes, and trembling lips, nodding her head dotingly at every word her husband said.
In very truth, a person who never had heard of the illustrious Delobelle could have told his history in detail after that long monologue. He recalled his arrival in Paris, his humiliations, his privations. Alas! he was not the one who had known privation. One had but to look at his full, rotund face beside the thin, drawn faces of the two women. But the actor did not look so closely.
“Oh!” he said, continuing to intoxicate himself with declamatory phrases, “oh! to have struggled so long. For ten years, fifteen years, have I struggled on, supported by these devoted creatures, fed by them.”
“Papa, papa, hush,” cried Desiree, clasping her hands.
“Yes, fed by them, I say—and I do not blush for it. For I accept all this devotion in the name of sacred art. But this is too much. Too much has been put upon me. I renounce the stage!”
“Oh! my dear, what is that you say?” cried Mamma Delobelle, rushing to his side.
“No, leave me. I have reached the end of my strength. They have slain the artist in me. It is all over. I renounce the stage.”
If you had seen the two women throw their arms about him then, implore him to struggle on, prove to him that he had no right to give up, you could not have restrained your tears. But Delobelle resisted.
He yielded at last, however, and promised to continue the fight a little while, since it was their wish; but it required many an entreaty and caress to carry the point.
It was a great misfortune, that sojourn of the two families at Savigny for a month.
After an interval of two years Georges and Sidonie found themselves side by side once more on the old estate, too old not to be always like itself, where the stones, the ponds, the trees, always the same, seemed to cast derision upon all that changes and passes away. A renewal of intercourse under such circumstances must have been disastrous to two natures that were not of a very different stamp, and far more virtuous than those two.
As for Claire, she never had been so happy; Savigny never had seemed so lovely to her. What joy to walk with her child over the greensward where she herself had walked as a child; to sit, a young mother, upon the shaded seats from which her own mother had looked on at her childish games years before; to go, leaning on Georges’s arm, to seek out the nooks where they had played together. She felt a tranquil contentment, the overflowing happiness of placid lives which enjoy their bliss in silence; and all day long her skirts swept along the paths, guided by the tiny footsteps of the child, her cries and her demands upon her mother’s care.