And, alas! the atonement would never free her from the load of self-condemnation. She had elected to pay with her life for her treason against him and his family. She would be arraigned before a tribunal which would inevitably condemn her. Oh! the pity of it all!
One moment’s passionate emotion, a lifelong superstition and mistaken sense of duty, and now this endless misery, this terrible atonement of a wrong that could never be undone.
And she had never loved him!
That was the true, the only sting which he knew now; it rankled more than her sin, more than her falsehood, more than the shattering of his ideal.
With a passionate desire for his safety, she had sacrificed herself in order to atone for the material evil which she had done.
But there was the wreck of his hopes and of his dreams!
Never until now, when he had irretrievably lost her, did Deroulede realise how great had been his hopes; how he had watched day after day for a look in her eyes, a word from her lips, to show him that she too —his unattainable saint—would one day come to earth, and respond to his love.
And now and then, when her beautiful face lighted up at sight of him, when she smiled a greeting to him on his return from his work, when she looked with pride and admiration on him from the public bench in the assemblies of the Convention—then he had begun to hope, to think, to dream.
And it was all a sham! A mask to hide the terrible conflict that was raging within her soul, nothing more.
She did not love him, of that he felt convinced. Man like, he did not understand to the full that great and wonderful enigma, which has puzzled the world since primeval times: a woman’s heart.
The eternal contradictions which go to make up the complex nature of an emotional woman were quite incomprehensible to him. Juliette had betrayed him to serve her own sense of what was just and right, her revenge and her oath. Therefore she did not love him.
It was logic, sound common-sense, and, aided by his own diffidence where women were concerned, it seemed to him irrefutable.
To a man like Paul Deroulede, a man of thought, of purpose, and of action, the idea of being false to the thing loved, of hate and love being interchangeable, was absolutely foreign and unbelievable. He had never hated the thing he loved or loved the thing he hated. A man’s feelings in these respects are so much less complex, so much less contradictory.
Would a man betray his friend? No—never. He might betray his enemy, the creature he abhorred, whose downfall would cause him joy. But his friend? The very idea was repugnant, impossible to an upright nature.
Juliette’s ultimate access of generosity in trying to save him, when she was at last brought face to face with the terrible wrong she had committed, that he put down to one of those noble impulses of which he knew her soul to be fully capable, and even then his own diffidence suggested that she did it more for the sake of his mother or for Anne Mie rather than for him.