Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

est you. The young men, then, do not see enough of the young girls. The society of women, of young and gay women, is necessary to them; you can imagine that? Then it happens, sometimes, when they are bored with this state of things, that they meet other women, who have more freedom, with whom they can talk and walk, and make parties of pleasure."

"I understand," I could not help saying, "a kind of French-Americans." "Not precisely," he said, "but they unconventional comrades, good fellows, as you might say.”

are

I wished to profit by my opportunity to instruct myself, so I asked my brother many questions.

"But these women, to be mistress of their time and clothes, so independent, they can have no father or mother?"

"Oftentimes not," he answered, "but that makes no difference."

"Are there many of this sort of women in Paris?"

"Oh,-some."

"Do you know any?"

"No; but I have friends who know them."

"Are they pretty?"

"Very often."

"And intelligent?"

"When they are homely."

"Ah, well, it must be for one of these women that I hear from time to time that some young man has ruined himself."

"Yes, that happens sometimes."

"I think I understand. These are the women that no young girl or young married woman could receive at her home."

"Exactly, my dear! For this reason it is customary for a young man who is about to be married to break off all relations with them."

"Is that true? Can you assure me that this is the custom?"

"Upon my sacred honor; and you can

readily understand that when one bids adieu for the last time it is not exactly --cheerful."

I did not let him finish. "Oh! I can understand that they do not enjoy it; but then if they are so fond of amusement, they ought to be good natured, and they can readily forget."

He did not answer.

And while we both remained silent I thought of many things. I could no longer feel very angry at Jean for having known this woman. His life till now had not been very gay alone with his father.

Just then the servant came in to say Gaston's horse was saddled, and I watched him mount and ride away.

VII.

Since the incident on the Quay D'Orsay Jean is not the same. I feel that he has a secret trouble. As our interviews become more frequent and intimate on account of our approaching marriage, he has a very worried and disturbed appearance. Sometimes he stops in the middle of a sentence, and his glance often seems to evade mine. More than once I have wished to question him, and the foolish desire makes my heart beat. I never would dare! What could I say? Only this evening, when we were in mama's room looking at the wedding presents which have begun to come, he seized me by the hands and drew me down in a seat beside him.

"Therese!" he cried in an agitated voice, "you are no longer the same with me. Something troubles you; you seem restless and distressed."

"Oh, no!"

"Don't deny it! When you speak to me you often stop in the middle of a sentence without finishing it, and when I look you in the eyes you turn away." Imagine hearing him reproach me with exactly the same peculiarities I

have observed in him! I was so astounded I could not answer.

Have I

He insisted. "You have some secret trouble! You must tell me! hurt your feelings in any way? Have I offended you? Is there anything about me that displeases you? Speak, I implore you!"

At each of his questions I shook my head, not wishing to say "yes" or "no," and feeling very much embarrassed.

He leaned so near that his face near ly touched mine, and I could see his clear eyes, as tranquil as eyes that have nothing to conceal, fixed upon me.

I gazed into those eyes as if I would read the heart of Jean and discover whether I was his only love. I felt with terror, "He is going to explain! It is inevitable! Grant, O God, that he may be candid! Oh, let me not discover in him another falsehood!"

In fact I was so terrified that I rose nervously and tried to speak gayly. "You are dreaming. Come, let us go back. They will think we have eloped with the presents."

Then-how did it happen? I do not exactly know. I wished to speak and not to speak. I had on one hand an ardent desire that Jean should know all that troubled me, and on the other that he should never know it. I was 80 frightened and nervous that I burst into laughter when I had a real desire to weep. And I heard with stupor a voice that did not seem mine at all, speaking these words, "Ah, well, accused, answer! What were you doing, one afternoon about ten days ago, on the banks of the Seine, with a blonde young woman?"

I had no sooner pronounced these words than I burst into tears. I was so dizzy and shaken that I would have fallen if Jean had not caught me in his

arms.

He held me awkwardly, poor fellow, for he was trembling and agitated, while he stammered:

"The Seine?-a woman-Oh, that—” I raised my head and said, “Yes, Jean, I was there and saw you!"

He did not ask any details. He simply said "Ah.”

And we remained silent for a mo ment, I weeping upon his breast, he speechless and distressed; while my brother in the next room was playing the Marseillaise with one finger, "The Day of Glory Has Arrived." I shall never forget that moment.

I wiped my eyes at last and demanded, "Have you nothing to say to me now?"

He made a discouraged gesture. Oh! he looked very sorrowful, and gazed at me with the utmost tenderness.

"No! What can I say, because it is true. Besides, I am not free to justify myself. You are a young girl-my betrothed."

He hesitated, "You are still my betrothed, Therese."

"Certainly, mon ami!"

At this answer he could not repress a cry of surprise and joy. He seemed transfigured by happiness.

"You are mine still, mine forever, in spite of-in spite of that."

"Why, yes!"

"You have not spoken of it to your parents?"

"No; why should I tell your secrets?" "Oh, Therese, I will never have any secrets from you."

"But you have a secret already, and we are not yet married." "Shall I explain everything to you?" I stopped him.

"No, explain nothing, if you can swear to me that you love me alone, that in being betrothed to me, in marrying me, you have no one else in your heart. I love you enough, Jean, not to ask anything more!"

I sat down and Jean dropped on his knees at my feet.

"I swear to you that I love you," he cried; "I adore you. I love and adore

only you. I will tell you everything in five days, when we are starting on our dear wedding journey."

As I was still silent, he went on in a lower voice. Ah! how he spoke! What touching, tender, noble, delicate and charming things he said. I felt a sensation of pleasure so intense that I seemed to breathe his words in like a perfume, instead of hearing them. If one of the novelists I like best, an Octave Feuillet, should have found himself behind the door, and taken note of all, he would have had a love scene for a romance better than he had ever used before.

To this hour I still hear those precious words. They sound in my ears always. They echo in my room, and I feel sure they will sing themselves in my dreams. I know that he loves me with all his heart. All that I ever dreamed and hoped my lover would say, he has said. I felt when he knelt at my feet that I loved him so much I was rather glad to have something to pardon.

He has promised me that he will do all I desire. We will be constantly together, at home and abroad, on horseback, in long rides through the country. We will make all sorts of excursions together. And his voice trembled when he said he hoped he should die first, that he might not have the anguish of surviving me. He has promised to give up cards and to go to church with me every Sunday. He has promised all that I asked, and all that I did not ask, and much that it seems impossible for him to do. But he was very good and I love him!

When he had finished he drew me to him gently and leaning down impressed a kiss upon my forehead.

At that moment there was a sound of steps. Mama and papa entered. "Ah, well, I hope you have had enough time to examine the presents." Рара glanced at the table as he spoke.

"Misericorde! The packages were not opened!"

VIII.

I am to be married to-morrow!

I try to be calm, to be at ease, but I cannot! In spite of myself, I am far from being the same as on other days. I say constantly, "Can you believe it, Therese, it is to-morrow, to-morrow!" I cannot control my thoughts. This is the last night I shall spend in my pretty room as a careless young girl. They say that in moments of danger a panorama of one's whole life passes before the mind's eye. Well! I am in full health and youth, yet I seem to see tonight all my life. I see myself a mere baby on papa's knee, listening to the tick of his watch. I see the convent and my school friends and my first communion. Oh, how happy and tranquil I was that year! I was better than I am to-day; without vanity I think I was nearly perfect. Then I remember my debût, and how my first ball made my heart beat and filled my head with dreams. Then I saw Jean, and loved him. This morning before the justice I promised to be his wife, and to-morrow morning in the church I shall take him for the second time with all my heart. He will be my husband! will be finished, and it will be irrevocable!

It

It is late, and every one is asleep in this house except myself. But I know Jean is not sleeping. He is awake and thinking of me. Oh, Jean, I think I am not deluding myself. I feel I have depths of tenderness in my nature. I trust, ah, I hope, I shall fill your ideal of a wife!

Five minutes ago I went on tiptoe into the salon, where all my bridal attire is arranged for to-morrow. In that place where Jean courted me, that Hittle favorite corner by the screen, which heard all, my wedding gown was

spread out on two chairs in the shadow

of the great palm. I gazed at it a long time, till it seemed more real than my self, till

"This weight and size, this heart and eyes,

Seemed touched and turned to finest air."

It seemed to me as if that were the real Therese, who was going away, who was leaving her childhood's home, and was sleeping her last night in that beautiful snowy robe! And I bade adieu to this Therese!

Henri Lavedan.

ONE OF THE GRAND ARMY.

The plague has claimed another English victim in Surgeon-Major Evans, Professor of Pathology in the Calcutta Medical College. He is thought to have contracted the disease while engaged in a post-mortem examination, and so died at his post in quite as true a sense as the members of the Wilson Patrol or those of the 21st Lancers who fell at Omdurman.-Pall Mall Gazette, March 14th.

[blocks in formation]

A SUMMER TRIP TO CHINESE THIBET.

There are many summer trips that are a joy in the remembering, but a trip to Chinese Thibet had never fallen to the lot of any European woman before. And it was the more delightful,

perhaps, because we never thought of anything of the kind when we started. It was very hot in Chung King, the beautiful business centre of China's westernmost province, Szechuan, too hot, we thought. So, while we yet could, we secured four bearer chairs, with blue cotton awnings six yards long over each, after the manner of this windless province, and with bath-towels to bind round our heads and sun-hats, and dark glasses and all that following that is necessary, whenever one travels in China, of between twenty and thirty men, we were carried for a fortnight through the rich agricultural districts and salt wells and petroleum springs, on through the white wax country to the sacred mountains of the West. To these pilgrimages were made long before Buddha was, and pilgrims go in crowds still every day, all the year round, the Chinese in the summer time and the Thibetans and the wild tribes in the winter. Mount Omi is over ten thousand feet high, with a precipice said to be a mile sheer from its summit, from which you look down upon the overflowing rivers of China, and then turning north see, as if set upon a table for you to admire, the snowy giants of Thibet. We saw the glory of Buddha from the edge of the precipice, a circular rainbow on the clouds below, and our shadow in the midst, which the pious pilgrim, kneeling on the edge with outstretched arms, takes to be Puhsien riding upon his elephant as he came up from India. We saw the bright lights

will o' the wisps, we supposedsparkling out from all the mountain side at night, and said to be the lamps of Kiating coming up to be lighted. We also saw sunrises and sunsets, springing out of bed before daybreak to catch glimpses of those glorious snowy mountains of Thibet, with the great glaciers glittering on their sides. But we also saw, too, many wonderful cloud effects. Night after night the mountain resounded with thunder, generally below us, while lightning played continuously. And the worst of living on a mountain summit is that it is such a climb to come back again when you go out. Our quarters were not too uncomfortable, but one small room for living and sleeping in, without a window to open, like a back room in a Canadian log-hut, makes one restless after a time.

We thought we would gently wander on to another sacred mountain, whose flat top was a very striking feature in the landscape. So we went down into what is called the Wilderness, where there are wild cattle and

wild men, and wandered on, passing along by the boundary of the unconquered Lolos and up the most magnificent ravine I have seen or can imagine, down which a torrent had swept but a week before from the Sai King or Dry Prayerbooks Mountain, to which we were bound, drowning twenty-six people in one hamlet alone. We saw the sole survivor selling cakes, and she struck us as possibly wearing on her own person all the jewelry of the village, so bedizened was she. Climbing the Sai King was rather a formidable affair. But for the guidance of a young priest who lived on the top, and who, we found afterwards, had lately bought it all with funds col

« AnteriorContinuar »