And then, again, his love for Agatha tormented him. He had thought to pique her by a show of indifference himself, but he found that this plan did not answer: it was evident, even to him, that Agatha was not vexed by his silence, his altered demeanour, and sudden departure. He had miscalculated her character, and now found that he must use other means to rouse the affection in her heart, without which he felt, at present, that he could not live happily. He thought that she could not have seen with indifference the efforts he was making in the cause which she loved so well; and he determined to throw himself at her feet before he started for Saumur, and implore her to give him a place in her affections, while her heart was softened by the emotions, which the departure of so many of her friends, on the eve of battle, would occasion.
Agatha had had but little conversation with him since his last arrival at Durbelliere, but still she felt that he was about to propose to her. She shunned him as much as she could; she scrupulously avoided the opportunity which he anxiously sought; she never allowed herself to be alone with him; but she was nevertheless sure the evil hour would come; she saw it in his eye as they sat together at their meals—she heard it in the tones of his voice every time he spoke. She knew from his manner that he was preparing himself for the interview, and she also knew that he would not submit tamely to the only answer she could bring herself to give him.
“Marie,” said she to her cousin, on the Saturday evening, “I am in the greatest distress, pray help me, dearest. I am sure you know what ails me.”
“In distress, Agatha, and wanting help from me!—you that are wont to help all the world yourself! But I know, from your face, you are only half in earnest.”
“Indeed, and indeed, I never was much more so. I never was more truly in want of council. Can you not guess what my sorrow is?”
“Not unless it is, that you have a lover too much?—or perhaps you find the baker’s yeast runs short?”
“Ah, Marie, will you always joke when I am serious!”
“Well then, Agatha, now I am serious—is it that you have a lover too much?”
“Can any trouble be more grievous?”
“Oh, dear, yes! ten times worse. My case is ten times worse: and alas, alas! there is no cure for that.”
“Your case, Marie?”
“Yes, my case, Agatha—a lover too few!”
“Ah, Marie, do not joke with me tonight. I want your common sense, and not your wit, just now. Be a good, dear girl, and tell me what I shall say to him. I know he will not go to Saumur before—before he has proposed to me.”
“Then, in the name of common sense, dear Agatha, tell him the truth, whatever it may be.”
“You know I do not—cannot love him.”
“Nay, I know nothing. You have not said yet who ‘him’ is—but I own I can give a guess. I suppose poor Adolphe Denot is the man you cannot love? Poor Adolphe! he must be told so, that is all.”