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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 635 pages of information about The Old Wives' Tale.
human dignity.  And it seemed to her as if she had not previously been quite certain whether she could not love him, but that now she was quite certain.  She was close to him.  She saw the wounds of a soul that could not hide its wounds, and she resented the sight.  She was hard.  She would not make allowances.  And she revelled in her hardness.  Contempt—­a good-natured, kindly, forgiving contempt—­that was the kernel of the sympathy which exteriorly warmed her!  Contempt for the lack of self-control which had resulted in this swift degeneration of a man into a tortured victim!  Contempt for the lack of perspective which magnified a mere mushroom passion till it filled the whole field of life!  Contempt for this feminine slavery to sentiment!  She felt that she might have been able to give herself to Chirac as one gives a toy to an infant.  But of loving him ...!  No!  She was conscious of an immeasurable superiority to him, for she was conscious of the freedom of a strong mind.

“I wanted to tell you,” said he, “I am going away.”

“Where?” she asked.

“Out of Paris.”

“Out of Paris?  How?”

“By balloon!  My journal ...!  It is an affair of great importance.  You understand.  I offered myself.  What would you?”

“It is dangerous,” she observed, waiting to see if he would put on the silly air of one who does not understand fear.

“Oh!” the poor fellow muttered with a fatuous intonation and snapping of the fingers.  “That is all the same to me.  Yes, it is dangerous.  Yes, it is dangerous!” he repeated.  “But what would you ...?  For me ...!”

She wished that she had not mentioned danger.  It hurt her to watch him incurring her ironic disdain.

“It will be the night after to-morrow,” he said.  “In the courtyard of the Gare du Nord.  I want you to come and see me go.  I particularly want you to come and see me go.  I have asked Carlier to escort you.”

He might have been saying, “I am offering myself to martyrdom, and you must assist at the spectacle.”

She despised him yet more.

“Oh!  Be tranquil,” he said.  “I shall not worry you.  Never shall I speak to you again of my love.  I know you.  I know it would be useless.  But I hope you will come and wish me bon voyage.”

“Of course, if you really wish it,” she replied with cheerful coolness.

He seized her hand and kissed it.

Once it had pleased her when he kissed her hand.  But now she did not like it.  It seemed hysterical and foolish to her.  She felt her feet to be stone-cold on the floor.

“I’ll leave you now,” she said.  “Please eat your soup.”

She escaped, hoping he would not espy her feet.

II

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