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that is better than nothing. I am certain I could never marry a man who would forbid me to go to church, and I would be glad to have my husband accompany me as often as possible.
On this morning I suddenly saw Jean sitting at a short distance from us. I was delighted to see him there. I knew St. Philip's was not his parish church, and I thought he had come intentionally at the same hour with us, to reassure me on the subject of his religious sentiments. From that moment my thoughts began to wander. I found it impossible to continue to read. My thoughts would stray to Jean. He looked very dignified, his head erect, his hands crossed on the top of his cane and his eyes fixed on the altar. He rose and sat down as the others. Suddenly a vexing question tormented me: "Of what was Jean thinking with that correct and impenetrable countenance? Of what was my brother thinking a few steps from him?" Evidently they were not praying; they were far away in thought. And a real melancholy came upon me. I had never till this moment comprehended the hypocrisy that distinguishes the majority of young men. They perform the formalities of religion without having any real religious feeling. They come to the mass, a flower in their button-hole, sit decorously, bow to their friends right and left at the church door, and that is all. Some of the young men bring their lorgnettes with them and discreetly use them when it is safe to do so. Why are men so indifferent to their duty? I am sure my brother rises and retires without even making the sign of the cross. Papa, my dear papa, seldom comes to the mass. I know he is very busy, but if he wished to come he could find the time, especially Sundays, when he does not go to the office. Still papa must have some faith, or my mama would never have married him. He has brought us up in a Christian way
and he never allows any one to attack Christianity in his presence. He gives a great deal of money to charity, and I believe he is as good and true as any priest. So can one then act as a Christian without being one? I must stop, for if I go on I shall be sitting in judgment on my my relatives, and I have no right to do that.
All this is rather terrifying. It is too much for me; and after all am I not tormenting myself uselessly on Jean's account? I remember the Abbé Maximin wrote, "The young man is a believer."
So the worst that could happen would be that he might be like papa about religious matters. Another reason why I have been inattentive to-day is because I have been constantly saying to myself: "This is the church where you will be married. There is the place where you will stand before the altar in your white gown, and Jean will be at your side in black. There will be a greater crowd than there is at this mass." I closed my eyes, but I could still see the whole scene, the flowers, the friends, the two Swiss guards in their fine costumes. Ah! that will be the most important and wonderful day of my life. I shiver only to think of it. I envy those who can get married in some little chapel with no spectatorsjust the priest and themselves. Ah! that would be charming, with just a little clandestine and mysterious air about it, as if one were marrying in an epoch of danger, in the time of a revolution. To-day one cannot take a husband without all Paris being invited.
I was lost in these reflections, when a voice startled me: "For the poor of the parish, if you please." I opened my eyes. It was Edmond, the tall, thin Swiss, with the alms basin. I dropped ten sous in it. Then came another voice, soft and low: "For the support of the church, if you please." When they approached Jean I saw he gave
to both, just as I did, and that is very meritorious in a young man!
Have I the strength to write what has happened to-day? Oh! I must, for it suffocates me! But I must write very fast, without choosing my words. I feel that if I stopped one moment I should begin to weep, and then I could not go on.
Yesterday, on leaving me, Jean said: "Mlle. Therese, I am very sorry and annoyed, but it will be impossible for me to come to-morrow."
Without giving me time to speak, he went on: "One of my intimate friends. a college mate, lives at Versailles. He writes that he is in trouble and begs me to do him a service. He wants me to spend to-morrow with him, when he will disclose his enbarrassment. you think I should go?"
"Most certainly," I said at once; and he thanked me. He expressed great regret at being deprived of the great pleasure of my company for the next twenty-four hours. He pressed my hand in parting with greater warmth than ever. That was yesterday.
This morning after breakfast some one happened to mention the Garde Meublé. I do not know how it came up. I said I had never visited them, but they must be a fine sight.
"Magnificent," said papa. "Why don't you go to-day with your mother? That would make a fine excursion." "Oh, I'm too fatigued," said mama. "She can go with Henriette."
So it was arranged. Henriette grumbled, as usual, when she was told, but she was delighted at heart, and we started forth.
It was a clear day, with a high wind, just like a sea breeze. We crossed the Champs Elysées and went over the bridge to the Quay D'Orsay. I had never been there, and it seemed like
going into the country. There was a long promenade with enormous trees on either side, great houses that looked deserted and not a soul to be seen. I could not have imagined such a lovely spot near Paris.
And now I have to write something which costs me dear. In reading what I have written I see that I have lingered, evaded, done all that was possible to retard telling what I would give a great deal never to have seen. We were walking through the vast deserted allée, and Henriette was telling me some story of that quarter, where she said she would not live "for an empire," when I noticed about sixty feet from us, leaning against the parapet, a man and a woman. They were both young and she leaned on his arm.
I could not see their faces at first. The woman was tall, slender and blonde; the man of medium height.
In spite of myself I thought, "It's curious, but his figure is like Jean's." At that moment he moved, he turned around. It was Jean!
Ah! without doubt they believed themselves entirely alone. They talked with as much tranquillity as if they had been in a boudoir. They walked on slowly. It seemed to me I must be dreaming that they were phantoms. All at once the woman took her hand from Jean's arm, and burying her face in her handkerchief, began to weep. She walked on still weeping. The wind, more furious than ever, tossed about the branches of the great trees, and seemed to wail around us.
I do not know how I managed not to utter any word or exclamation. Somehow, though I was so astounded and overcome, I still felt that this was something that required great calmness and presence of mind. Whenever I have had terrifying thoughts, such as that papa and mama must die some day, I have felt the same icy chill freeze my blood.
Henriette is fortunately near-sighted, and she saw nothing.
I made her turn suddenly, saying I was cold. She grumbled, "That's the way. I wanted you to bring a warm wrap. Now you'll have a chill." I did not speak, but hurried her on as fast possible. I did not dare to look back once. I would have been glad to have run, and I wished the distance twice as long. I was in such a state of excitement that I would have been glad to have walked many miles before going home. But, whatever the distance, I saw them always, those two! They were clearly pictured before me: she weeping, her handkerchief pressed to her eyes; and he, my betrothed, talking to her, shaking his head as one who reprimands or gives moral advice. Now what did all this mean? Why had he lied to me? Who was this woman? I have been asking myself these questions ever since, and I do not find any answer, or at least I do not find any that satisfies me. Certainly he has done something wrong, since he lied about it and concealed it. Still it seems too monstrous to think that Jean is guilty. I cannot help excusing him and defending him, even against my own suspicions.
But I ought to understand the truth. It seems to me this is my right. Who was this woman? Not a relative, probably a friend, a person he knows. But what kind of a friend? Is it some one he loves, or whom he has loved? Oh, no, no! But he seemed to try and console her, and one only consoles the people one loves. And why did she weep? What was her sorrow? And why did they have a rendezvous in that deserted place?
One thing is certain: the woman who was so agitated was not indifferent to Jean. Although I saw them but a moment it seemed to me that their attitude was at the same time intimate and embarrassed. There was some af
fection between them, there is no doubt of that. Then I thought, he does not love me alone. He has said to this other woman the same tender words he has said to me. He has looked at her with the same loving glances; perhaps he has even given her a ring like mine! Oh, what nonsense, what abominable nonsense I write! For such a trifle, for something that may be explained quite naturally, should I suspect a man who has chosen me, whom I have accepted and who will be my husband in fifteen days? Still I am troubled, miserable, but I have said nothing at home. I have been careful not to speak, lest. something irreparable should come of
It seems to me that silence is best. It must be that I love Jean a little, since I tremble at the thought of my parents knowing anything compromising about him, which might possibly hinder our wedding. What a terrible thing if such a catastrophe should occur when I have gone through so much and all is arranged. Oh! I have done well to be silent, although if I must absolutely speak to some one, there is my brother. Gaston is not very serious and he is two years younger, but he seems older in many respects. He has more knowledge of the world, and of young men especially. Decidedly, I think I will confide in him, and he will tell me his ideas. But I wish I had seen the face of that woman. She is capable of being pretty-the wretch!
This morning I told everything to Gaston! When I went into his room at nine o'clock he was just ready to take his daily ride on horseback. He was sitting with his law books around him on the table, for he is working hard for his first examination.
"Good morning," he said; "you see I'm pegging away at the law. I'd rather be on horseback."
I leaned over to kiss him and I upset one of the great books. Under it was a novel of Guy de Maupassant wide open. This author is not forbidden to Gaston.
"Well," he said, laughing, "I have to glance at that once in a while or I should be snoring. But don't speak of it to papa. And what brings you here?"
"I wanted to speak to you alone, only you must promise to keep it a secret!" "I swear it; what's the matter?" He left the table quickly and seated himself on the edge of the bed. fixed his eyes on me with an eager and curious gaze, and I felt that he was not a discreet person to confide in. I grew all at once frightened, paralyzed; I regretted my coming and saying so much. I tried to reassure myself, to think of other things as I gazed distractedly Iabout the room.
I must confess right here that my brother's room has often given me a vague uneasiness which I can hardly explain, but which I have felt. I never feel at ease there as I do in my own room. I seem to be in some forbidden place, where the furniture, and the cupboards, which are always locked, conceal a little mystery. There is a penetrating odor of tobacco in the room. The whips, the books and papers, the cards of the races, all speak to me of a life different from mine; and when Gaston opens and shuts a drawer quickly there are glimpses of photographs of which he never says a word. Even on ordinary days this makes me a little nervous, but this morning it was much worse, and I truly passed some very disagreeable moments before commencing my story.
At last I took courage and told him all. I pictured to him my seeing the young woman and Jean in that deserted place, and my astonishment, sorrow and anguish. I told it rapidly, in a low voice, pell-mell, not daring to stop. While Gaston listened I could read his
impressions without great difficulty, and he did not seem in the least indignant. He seemed in reality to follow my story with an eager relish, with shining eyes, and a sort of secret gaiety. I interested him; I might almost say I amused him. At least it is certain that he did not look distressed, and he forgot to say the least word of pity or sympathy.
When I finished with an "Ah, well," accompanied by a great sigh, he jumped up, exclaiming, "And is this all? Ah! my poor little sister, you are not in the least fin-de-siécle!" He strode through the room with long steps, his head erect, and his arms raised as if taking the very ceiling to witness my poor little childish nature, so foolish and timid.
"What! torment yourself about that?" I was dumbfounded at his attitude. "You don't expect me to be joyful, do you?" I faltered. "Jean lied to me! He told me he was going to Versailles to see a friend-"
"And I think he would have done jolly well to have gone there," interrupted my brother. "Ah! he was not adroit!"
"Why do you say he was not adroit?"
"Because, my dear, it was not adroit to say one thing and do another, and then get pinched."
"Pinched! From your employing such a word you show that you believe him guilty, you too! Tell me candidly what you think. It will be a secret between us two. It was something wrong, was it not? Tell me the worst! I shall suffer, but it is better to know the worst!"
"You are crazy, Therese! There is nothing to alarm you! Why do you think he is a criminal because he takes a promenade on the banks of a river with some one else?"
"With some one who weeps!"
"All the better! That proves that
Jean did not go there for his own pleasure."
"Oh! you can offer excuses, but that does not make it more natural. When you remember we are to be married in eight days, don't you think this alarming?"
"Not the least in the world!"
"Listen, Gaston," I said very seriously, taking his hand, "you will confess that I am not a fool?"
"Ah, well, do not laugh! I know I am a young girl, ignorant of many things that others know and which you comprehend, but I have a little instinct that tells me from time to time 'Here! this is not clear, open your eyes, Therese. There, that appears false; pay attention!" "
Gaston was visibly annoyed at the turn our interview had taken. Не tried to joke. "Bravo for your little instinct! I make it my compliments. You must lend it to me. It will be handy in the evening when I play cards!"
But he could not change the course of my thoughts.
"I feel-do you hear?-I feel with a very strong conviction that this woman is one of those persons—”
"Well, go on."
"One of those persons who are not proper. One alludes to them in a guarded way sometimes, and they are seen abroad in the most beautiful carriages elegantly dressed. It is impressed upon me that this was one of those persons."
"But, no, my dear." Gaston drew me to him and seated me on his knee as I asked, "Then, candidly, what do you think? That the woman was like mea young girl?"
"I thought that as soon as I saw her; if her relations let her go out alone that seems to stamp her. What do you think of her, Gaston?"
"Eh, well," he said, hesitating; "she's a person emancipated, a comrade." "What kind of a comrade?"
"I'll try and make you understand. Have you never been struck with the way young people are brought up, the sexes separate, in our circle? The young girls do not know the young men, and vice versa. They never see each other in their daily occupations. Till the girls are eighteen they turn their back on the young men, so to speak. They notice them at intervals, no more."
"Oh, I beg your pardon, there are the visits, and the vacations in the country, and the seashore! Have not young people hundreds of opportunities of meeting and studying each other?" "No; these are only occasional, not sufficient."
"Then there are balls!"
"Oh, balls!" he burst out in a derisive laugh. "Balls, do you say? In the first place they come too late, much too late in life. Besides, a ball is the one place where a person loses all individuality. All the young men in the place are dressed physically and mentally after the same pattern, and the young girls also. They resemble each other, they play the same rôle, they use the same expressions. One might imagine that each person, in putting on full dress, had renounced for the time all individuality. They have become merely puppets in a show, all worked by the same strings. What is the result? They despise each other mentally. What is needed is that young people should be brought up together, that they should meet often informally, not merely at receptions and festivals gotten up expressly for them. They should mingle in their homes with their parents, like good comrades, like regular chums."
I interrupted him at this point. "You are wandering from the subject," I said; "you were going to explain-"
"I am not wandering," he replied; “I am arriving at the point that will inter