“You are free if you love me—It is the rain against the windows,” said he, seeing Madame de Bergenheim anxiously listening again. They kept silent for a moment, but could hear nothing except the monotonous whistling of the storm.
“To be loved by you and not to blush!” said she, as she gazed at him lovingly. “To be together always, without fearing that a stroke of lightning might separate us! to give you my heart and still be worthy to pray! it would be one of those heavenly delights that one grasps only in dreams—”
“Oh! dream when I shall be far from you; but, when I am at your feet, when our hearts beat only for each other, do not evoke, lest you destroy our present happiness, that which is beyond our power. Do you think there are bonds which can more strongly unite us? Am I not yours? And you, yourself, who speak of the gift of your heart, have you not given it to me entirely?”
“Oh! yes, entirely! And it is but right, since I owe it to you. I did not understand life until the day I received it from your eyes; since that minute I have lived, and I can die. I love you! I fail to find words to tell you one-tenth of what my heart contains, but I love you—”
He received her in his arms, where she took refuge so as to conceal her face after these words. She remained thus for an instant, then arose with a start, seized Octave’s hands and pressed them in a convulsive manner, saying in a voice as weak as a dying woman’s:
“I am lost!”
He instinctively followed Clemence’s gaze, which was fastened upon the glass door. An almost imperceptible movement of the muslin curtain was evident. At the same moment, there was a slight noise, a step upon the carpet, the turning of the handle of the door, and it was silently opened as if by a ghost.
Madame de Bergenheim tried to rise, but her strength failed her, she fell on her knees, and then dropped at her lover’s feet. The latter leaped from the divan with out trying to assist her, stepped over the body stretched before him, and drew his poniard out of his pocket.
Christian stood upon the threshold of the door silent and motionless.
There was a moment of terrible silence. Only the eyes of the two men spoke; those of the husband were fixed, dull, and implacable; those of the lover sparkled with the audacity of despair. After a moment of mutual fascination, the Baron made a movement as if to enter.
“One step more and you are a dead man!” exclaimed Gerfaut, in a low voice, as he clutched the handle of his poniard.
Christian extended his hand, replying to this threat only by a look; but such an imperative one that the thrust of a lance would not have been as fearful to the lover. Octave put his poniard in its sheath, ashamed of his emotion in the presence of such calm, and imitated his enemy’s scornful attitude.