“I have said before that I grieve to pain you; but I cannot speak a falsehood. Were it to save us both from instant death, I could not say that I love you in the sense you mean.”
“Oh, Agatha! I do not ask you to love me—that is not to love me now; if you will only say that your heart is not for ever closed against my prayers, I will leave you contented.”
“I can say nothing which would give you any hope of that which can never happen.”
“And that is all I am to expect from you in return for as true a love as man ever bore to woman?”
“I cannot make you the return you wish. I can give you no other answer.”
“Well, Agatha, so be it. You shall find now that I can be calm, when my unalterable resolve requires it. You shall find that I am a man; at any rate, you shall not again have to tell me that I am despicable,” and he curled his upper lip, and showed his teeth in a very ferocious manner. “You shall never repeat that word in regard to Adolphe Denot. Should kind fortune favour my now dearest wish, you will soon hear that my bones are whitening under the walls of Saumur. You will hear that your des-pi-ca-ble lover,” and he hissed out the offending word, syllable by syllable, between his closed teeth, “has perished in his attempt to be the first to place the white flag of La Vendee above the tri-colour. If some friendly bullet will send me to my quiet home, Adolphe Denot shall trouble you no longer,” and as he spoke the last few words, he softened his voice, and re-assumed his sentimental look; but he did not remain long in his quiet mood, for he again became furious, as he added: “But if fortune should deny me this boon, if I cannot find the death I go to seek, I swear by your own surpassing beauty, by your glorious unequalled form, that I will not live without you. Death shall be welcome to me,” and he raised his hands to heaven, and then dashed them against his breast. “Oh! how dearly welcome! Yes, heroic death upon the battlefield shall calm this beating heart—shall quell these agonized pangs. Yes, Agatha, if fortune be but kind, death, cold death, shall soon relieve us both; shall leave you free to bestow upon a colder suitor the prize you have refused to my hot, impatient love; but if,” (and here he glanced very wildly round him), “my prayers are not heard, if after Saumur’s field, life be still left within my body’s sanctuary, I will return to seize you as my own, though hosts in armour try to stop my way. I will not live without you. I will not endure to see another man aspire to the hand which has been refused to me. Adieu, Agatha, adieu! I trust we shall meet no more; in thinking of me, at any rate, your memory shall not call me despicable,” and he rushed out of the door and down stairs, without waiting to hear whether Agatha intended making any answer to this poetical expression of his fixed resolution.
In the commencement of his final harangue, Agatha had determined to hear him quietly to the end; but she had not expected anything so very mad as the exhibition he made. However, she sat quietly through the whole of it, and was glad that she was spared the necessity of a reply.