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´╗┐Title: Yvette
Author: Maupassant, Guy de, 1850-1893
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Yvette" ***

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Yvette


by

Henri Rene Guy de Maupassant



CONTENTS

   I.  The Initiation of Saval
  II.  Bougival and Love
 III.  Enlightenment
  IV.  From Emotion to Philosophy



CHAPTER I.

The Initiation of Saval


As they were leaving the Cafe Riche, Jean de Servigny said to Leon
Saval: "If you don't object, let us walk. The weather is too fine to
take a cab."

His friend answered: "I would like nothing better."

Jean replied: "It is hardly eleven o'clock. We shall arrive much
before midnight, so let us go slowly."

A restless crowd was moving along the boulevard, that throng
peculiar to summer nights, drinking, chatting, and flowing like a
river, filled with a sense of comfort and joy. Here and there a cafe
threw a flood of light upon a knot of patrons drinking at little
tables on the sidewalk, which were covered with bottles and glasses,
hindering the passing of the hurrying multitude. On the pavement the
cabs with their red, blue, or green lights dashed by, showing for a
second, in the glimmer, the thin shadow of the horse, the raised
profile of the coachman, and the dark box of the carriage. The cabs
of the Urbaine Company made clear and rapid spots when their yellow
panels were struck by the light.

The two friends walked with slow steps, cigars in their mouths, in
evening dress and overcoats on their arms, with a flower in their
buttonholes, and their hats a trifle on one side, as men will
carelessly wear them sometimes, after they have dined well and the
air is mild.

They had been linked together since their college days by a close,
devoted, and firm affection. Jean de Servigny, small, slender, a
trifle bald, rather frail, with elegance of mien, curled mustache,
bright eyes, and fine lips, was a man who seemed born and bred upon
the boulevard. He was tireless in spite of his languid air, strong
in spite of his pallor, one of those slight Parisians to whom
gymnastic exercise, fencing, cold shower and hot baths give a
nervous, artificial strength. He was known by his marriage as well
as by his wit, his fortune, his connections, and by that
sociability, amiability, and fashionable gallantry peculiar to
certain men.

A true Parisian, furthermore, light, sceptical, changeable,
captivating, energetic, and irresolute, capable of everything and of
nothing; selfish by principle and generous on occasion, he lived
moderately upon his income, and amused himself with hygiene.
Indifferent and passionate, he gave himself rein and drew back
constantly, impelled by conflicting instincts, yielding to all, and
then obeying, in the end, his own shrewd man-about-town judgment,
whose weather-vane logic consisted in following the wind and drawing
profit from circumstances without taking the trouble to originate
them.

His companion, Leon Saval, rich also, was one of those superb and
colossal figures who make women turn around in the streets to look
at them. He gave the idea of a statue turned into a man, a type of a
race, like those sculptured forms which are sent to the Salons. Too
handsome, too tall, too big, too strong, he sinned a little from the
excess of everything, the excess of his qualities. He had on hand
countless affairs of passion.

As they reached the Vaudeville theater, he asked: "Have you warned
that lady that you are going to take me to her house to see her?"

Servigny began to laugh: "Forewarn the Marquise Obardi! Do you warn
an omnibus driver that you shall enter his stage at the corner of
the boulevard?"

Saval, a little perplexed, inquired: "What sort of person is this
lady?"

His friend replied: "An upstart, a charming hussy, who came from no
one knows where, who made her appearance one day, nobody knows how,
among the adventuresses of Paris, knowing perfectly well how to take
care of herself. Besides, what difference does it make to us? They
say that her real name, her maiden name--for she still has every
claim to the title of maiden except that of innocence--is Octavia
Bardin, from which she constructs the name Obardi by prefixing the
first letter of her first name and dropping the last letter of the
last name."

"Moreover, she is a lovable woman, and you, from your physique, are
inevitably bound to become her lover. Hercules is not introduced
into Messalina's home without making some disturbance. Nevertheless
I make bold to add that if there is free entrance to this house,
just as there is in bazaars, you are not exactly compelled to buy
what is for sale. Love and cards are on the programme, but nobody
compels you to take up with either. And the exit is as free as the
entrance."

"She settled down in the Etoile district, a suspicious neighborhood,
three years ago, and opened her drawing-room to that froth of the
continents which comes to Paris to practice its various formidable
and criminal talents."

"I don't remember just how I went to her house. I went as we all go,
because there is card playing, because the women are compliant, and
the men dishonest. I love that social mob of buccaneers with
decorations of all sorts of orders, all titled, and all entirely
unknown at their embassies, except to the spies. They are always
dragging in the subject of honor, quoting the list of their
ancestors on the slightest provocation, and telling the story of
their life at every opportunity, braggarts, liars, sharpers,
dangerous as their cards, false as their names, brave because they
have to be, like the assassins who can not pluck their victims
except by exposing their own lives. In a word, it is the aristocracy
of the bagnio."

"I like them. They are interesting to fathom and to know, amusing to
listen to, often witty, never commonplace as the ordinary French
guests. Their women are always pretty, with a little flavor of
foreign knavery, with the mystery of their past existence, half of
which, perhaps, spent in a House of Correction. They generally have
fine eyes and glorious hair, the true physique of the profession, an
intoxicating grace, a seductiveness which drives men to folly, an
unwholesome, irresistible charm! They conquer like the highwaymen of
old. They are rapacious creatures; true birds of prey. I like them,
too."

"The Marquise Obardi is one of the type of these elegant
good-for-nothings. Ripe and pretty, with a feline charm, you can see
that she is vicious to the marrow. Everybody has a good time at her
house, with cards, dancing, and suppers; in fact there is everything
which goes to make up the pleasures of fashionable society life."

"Have you ever been or are you now her lover?" Leon Saval asked.

"I have not been her lover, I am not now, and I never shall be. I
only go to the house to see her daughter."

"Ah! She has a daughter, then?"

"A daughter! A marvel, my dear man. She is the principal attraction
of the den to-day. Tall, magnificent, just ripe, eighteen years old,
as fair as her mother is dark, always merry, always ready for an
entertainment, always laughing, and ready to dance like mad. Who
will be the lucky man, to capture her, or who has already done so?
Nobody can tell that. She has ten of us in her train, all hoping."

"Such a daughter in the hands of a woman like the Marquise is a
fortune. And they play the game together, the two charmers. No one
knows just what they are planning. Perhaps they are waiting for a
better bargain than I should prove. But I tell you that I shall
close the bargain if I ever get a chance."

"That girl Yvette absolutely baffles me, moreover. She is a mystery.
If she is not the most complete monster of astuteness and perversity
that I have ever seen, she certainly is the most marvelous
phenomenon of innocence that can be imagined. She lives in that
atmosphere of infamy with a calm and triumphing ease which is either
wonderfully profligate or entirely artless. Strange scion of an
adventuress, cast upon the muck-heap of that set, like a magnificent
plant nurtured upon corruption, or rather like the daughter of some
noble race, of some great artist, or of some grand lord, of some
prince or dethroned king, tossed some evening into her mother's
arms, nobody can make out what she is nor what she thinks. But you
are going to see her."

Saval began to laugh and said: "You are in love with her."

"No. I am on the list, which is not precisely the same thing. I will
introduce you to my most serious rivals. But the chances are in my
favor. I am in the lead, and some little distinction is shown to
me."

"You are in love," Saval repeated.

"No. She disquiets me, seduces and disturbs me, attracts and
frightens me away. I mistrust her as I would a trap, and I long for
her as I long for a sherbet when I am thirsty. I yield to her charm,
and I only approach her with the apprehension that I would feel
concerning a man who was known to be a skillful thief. To her
presence I have an irrational impulse toward belief in her possible
purity and a very reasonable mistrust of her not less probable
trickery. I feel myself in contact with an abnormal being, beyond
the pale of natural laws, an exquisite or detestable creature--I
don't know which."

For the third time Saval said: "I tell you that you are in love. You
speak of her with the magniloquence of a poet and the feeling of a
troubadour. Come, search your heart, and confess."

Servigny walked a few steps without answering. Then he replied:

"That is possible, after all. In any case, she fills my mind almost
continually. Yes, perhaps I am in love. I dream about her too much.
I think of her when I am asleep and when I awake--that is surely a
grave indication. Her face follows me, accompanies me ceaselessly,
ever before me, around me, with me. Is this love, this physical
infatuation? Her features are so stamped upon my vision that I see
her the moment I shut my eyes. My heart beats quickly every time I
look at her, I don't deny it."

"So I am in love with her, but in a queer fashion. I have the
strongest desire for her, and yet the idea of making her my wife
would seem to me a folly, a piece of stupidity, a monstrous thing:
And I have a little fear of her, as well, the fear which a bird
feels over which a hawk is hovering."

"And again I am jealous of her, jealous of all of which I am
ignorant in her incomprehensible heart. I am always wondering: 'Is
she a charming youngster or a wretched jade?' She says things that
would make an army shudder; but so does a parrot. She is at times so
indiscreet and yet modest that I am forced to believe in her
spotless purity, and again so incredibly artless that I must suspect
that she has never been chaste. She allures me, excites me, like a
woman of a certain category, and at the same time acts like an
impeccable virgin. She seems to love me and yet makes fun of me; she
deports herself in public as if she were my mistress and treats me
in private as if I were her brother or footman."

"There are times when I fancy that she has as many lovers as her
mother. And at other times I imagine that she suspects absolutely
nothing of that sort of life, you understand. Furthermore, she is a
great novel reader. I am at present, while awaiting something
better, her book purveyor. She calls me her 'librarian.' Every week
the New Book Store sends her, on my orders, everything new that has
appeared, and I believe that she reads everything at random. It must
make a strange sort of mixture in her head."

"That kind of literary hasty-pudding accounts perhaps for some of
the girl's peculiar ways. When a young woman looks at existence
through the medium of fifteen thousand novels, she must see it in a
strange light, and construct queer ideas about matters and things in
general. As for me, I am waiting. It is certain at any rate that I
never have had for any other woman the devotion which I have had for
her. And still it is quite certain that I shall never marry her. So
if she has had numbers, I shall swell the number. And if she has
not, I shall take the first ticket, just as I would do for a street
car."

"The case is very simple. Of course, she will never marry. Who in
the world would marry the Marquise Obardi's daughter, the child of
Octavia Bardin? Nobody, for a thousand reasons. Where would they
ever find a husband for her? In society? Never. The mother's house
is a sort of liberty-hall whose patronage is attracted by the
daughter. Girls don't get married under those conditions."

"Would she find a husband among the trades-people? Still less would
that be possible. And besides the Marquise is not the woman to make
a bad bargain; she will give Yvette only to a man of high position,
and that man she will never discover."

"Then perhaps she will look among the common people. Still less
likely. There is no solution of the problem, then. This young lady
belongs neither to society, nor to the tradesmen's class, nor to the
common people, and she can never enter any of these ranks by
marriage."

"She belongs through her mother, her birth, her education, her
inheritance, her manners, and her customs, to the vortex of the most
rapid life of Paris. She can never escape it, save by becoming a
nun, which is not at all probable with her manners and tastes. She
has only one possible career, a life of pleasure. She will come to
it sooner or later, if indeed she has not already begun to tread its
primrose path. She cannot escape her fate. From being a young girl
she will take the inevitable step, quite simply. And I would like to
be the pivot of this transformation."

"I am waiting. There are many lovers. You will see among them a
Frenchman, Monsieur de Belvigne; a Russian, called Prince Kravalow,
and an Italian, Chevalier Valreali, who have all announced their
candidacies and who are consequently maneuvering to the best of
their ability. In addition to these there are several freebooters of
less importance. The Marquise waits and watches. But I think that
she has views about me. She knows that I am very rich, and she makes
less of the others."

"Her drawing-room is, moreover, the most astounding that I know of,
in such, exhibitions. You even meet very decent men there, like
ourselves. As for the women, she has culled the best there is from
the basket of pickpockets. Nobody knows where she found them. It is
a set apart from Bohemia, apart from everything. She has had one
inspiration showing genius, and that is the knack of selecting
especially those adventuresses who have children, generally girls.
So that a fool might believe that in her house he was among
respectable women!" They had reached the avenue of the Champs-Elysees.
A gentle breeze softly stirred the leaves and touched the faces of
passers-by, like the breaths of a giant fan, waving somewhere in
the sky. Silent shadows wandered beneath the trees; others, on
benches, made a dark spot. And these shadows spoke very low, as if
they were telling each other important or shameful secrets.

"You can't imagine what a collection of fictitious titles are met in
this lair," said Servigny, "By the way, I shall present you by the
name of Count Saval; plain Saval would not do at all."

"Oh, no, indeed!" cried his friend; "I would not have anyone think
me capable of borrowing a title, even for an evening, even among
those people. Ah, no!"

Servigny began to laugh.

"How stupid you are! Why, in that set they call me the Duke de
Servigny. I don't know how nor why. But at any rate the Duke de
Servigny I am and shall remain, without complaining or protesting.
It does not worry me. I should have no footing there whatever
without a title."

But Saval would not be convinced.

"Well, you are of rank, and so you may remain. But, as for me, no. I
shall be the only common person in the drawing-room. So much the
worse, or, so much the better. It will be my mark of distinction and
superiority."

Servigny was obstinate.

"I tell you that it is not possible. Why, it would almost seem
monstrous. You would have the effect of a ragman at a meeting of
emperors. Let me do as I like. I shall introduce you as the Vice-Roi
du 'Haut-Mississippi,' and no one will be at all astonished. When a
man takes on greatness, he can't take too much."

"Once more, no, I do not wish it."

"Very well, have your way. But, in fact, I am very foolish to try to
convince you. I defy you to get in without some one giving you a
title, just as they give a bunch of violets to the ladies at the
entrance to certain stores."

They turned to the right in the Rue de Barrie, mounted one flight of
stairs in a fine modern house, and gave their overcoats and canes
into the hands of four servants in knee-breeches. A warm odor, as of
a festival assembly, filled the air, an odor of flowers, perfumes,
and women; and a composed and continuous murmur came from the
adjoining rooms, which were filled with people.

A kind of master of ceremonies, tall, erect, wide of girth, serious,
his face framed in white whiskers, approached the newcomers, asking
with a short and haughty bow: "Whom shall I announce?"

"Monsieur Saval," Servigny replied.

Then with a loud voice, the man opening the door cried out to the
crowd of guests:

"Monsieur the Duke de Servigny."

"Monsieur the Baron Saval."

The first drawing-room was filled with women. The first thing which
attracted attention was the display of bare shoulders, above a flood
of brilliant gowns.

The mistress of the house who stood talking with three friends,
turned and came forward with a majestic step, with grace in her mien
and a smile on her lips. Her forehead was narrow and very low, and
was covered with a mass of glossy black hair, encroaching a little
upon the temples.

She was tall, a trifle too large, a little too stout, over ripe, but
very pretty, with a heavy, warm, potent beauty. Beneath that mass of
hair, full of dreams and smiles, rendering her mysteriously
captivating, were enormous black eyes. Her nose was a little narrow,
her mouth large and infinitely seductive, made to speak and to
conquer.

Her greatest charm was in her voice. It came from that mouth as
water from a spring, so natural, so light, so well modulated, so
clear, that there was a physical pleasure in listening to it. It was
a joy for the ear to hear the flexible words flow with the grace of
a babbling brook, and it was a joy for the eyes to see those pretty
lips, a trifle too red, open as the words rippled forth.

She gave one hand to Servigny, who kissed it, and dropping her fan
on its little gold chain, she gave the other to Saval, saying to
him: "You are welcome, Baron, all the Duke's friends are at home
here."

Then she fixed her brilliant eyes upon the Colossus who had just
been introduced to her. She had just the slightest down on her upper
lip, a suspicion of a mustache, which seemed darker when she spoke.
There was a pleasant odor about her, pervading, intoxicating, some
perfume of America or of the Indies. Other people came in,
marquesses, counts or princes. She said to Servigny, with the
graciousness of a mother: "You will find my daughter in the other
parlor. Have a good time, gentlemen, the house is yours."

And she left them to go to those who had come later, throwing at
Saval that smiling and fleeting glance which women use to show that
they are pleased. Servigny grasped his friend's arm.

"I will pilot you," said he. "In this parlor where we now are,
women, the temples of the fleshly, fresh or otherwise. Bargains as
good as new, even better, for sale or on lease. At the right,
gaming, the temple of money. You understand all about that. At the
lower end, dancing, the temple of innocence, the sanctuary, the
market for young girls. They are shown off there in every light.
Even legitimate marriages are tolerated. It is the future, the hope,
of our evenings. And the most curious part of this museum of moral
diseases are these young girls whose souls are out of joint, just
like the limbs of the little clowns born of mountebanks. Come and
look at them."

He bowed, right and left, courteously, a compliment on his lips,
sweeping each low-gowned woman whom he knew with the look of an
expert.

The musicians, at the end of the second parlor, were playing a
waltz; and the two friends stopped at the door to look at them. A
score of couples were whirling-the men with a serious expression,
and the women with a fixed smile on their lips. They displayed a
good deal of shoulder, like their mothers; and the bodices of some
were only held in place by a slender ribbon, disclosing at times
more than is generally shown.

Suddenly from the end of the room a tall girl darted forward,
gliding through the crowd, brushing against the dancers, and holding
her long train in her left hand. She ran with quick little steps as
women do in crowds, and called out: "Ah! How is Muscade? How do you
do, Muscade?"

Her features wore an expression of the bloom of life, the
illumination of happiness. Her white flesh seemed to shine, the
golden-white flesh which goes with red hair. The mass of her
tresses, twisted on her head, fiery, flaming locks, nestled against
her supple neck, which was still a little thin.

She seemed to move just as her mother was made to speak, so natural,
noble, and simple were her gestures. A person felt a moral joy and
physical pleasure in seeing her walk, stir about, bend her head, or
lift her arm. "Ah! Muscade, how do you do, Muscade?" she repeated.

Servigny shook her hand violently, as he would a man's, and said:
"Mademoiselle Yvette, my friend, Baron Saval."

"Good evening, Monsieur. Are you always as tall as that?"

Servigny replied in that bantering tone which he always used with
her, in order to conceal his mistrust and his uncertainty:

"No, Mam'zelle. He has put on his greatest dimensions to please your
mother, who loves a colossus."

And the young girl remarked with a comic seriousness: "Very well But
when you come to see me you must diminish a little if you please. I
prefer the medium height. Now Muscade has just the proportions which
I like."

And she gave her hand to the newcomer. Then she asked: "Do you
dance, Muscade? Come, let us waltz." Without replying, with a quick
movement, passionately, Servigny clasped her waist and they
disappeared with the fury of a whirlwind.

They danced more rapidly than any of the others, whirled and
whirled, and turned madly, so close together that they seemed but
one, and with the form erect, the legs almost motionless, as if some
invisible mechanism, concealed beneath their feet, caused them to
twirl. They appeared tireless. The other dancers stopped from time
to time. They still danced on, alone. They seemed not to know where
they were nor what they were doing, as if, they had gone far away
from the ball, in an ecstasy. The musicians continued to play, with
their looks fixed upon this mad couple; all the guests gazed at
them, and when finally they did stop dancing, everyone applauded
them.

She was a little flushed, with strange eyes, ardent and timid, less
daring than a moment before, troubled eyes, blue, yet with a pupil
so black that they seemed hardly natural. Servigny appeared giddy.
He leaned against a door to regain his composure.

"You have no head, my poor Muscade, I am steadier than you," said
Yvette to Servigny. He smiled nervously, and devoured her with a
look. His animal feelings revealed themselves in his eyes and in the
curl of his lips. She stood beside him looking down, and her bosom
rose and fell in short gasps as he looked at her.

Then she said softly: "Really, there are times when you are like a
tiger about to spring upon his prey. Come, give me your arm, and let
us find your friend."

Silently he offered her his arm and they went down the long drawing-room
together.

Saval was not alone, for the Marquise Obardi had rejoined him. She
conversed with him on ordinary and fashionable subjects with a
seductiveness in her tones which intoxicated him. And, looking at
her with his mental eye, it seemed to him that her lips, uttered
words far different from those which they formed. When she saw
Servigny her face immediately lighted up, and turning toward him she
said:

"You know, my dear Duke, that I have just leased a villa at Bougival
for two months, and I count upon your coming to see me there, and
upon your friend also. Listen. We take possession next Monday, and
shall expect both of you to dinner the following Saturday. We shall
keep you over Sunday."

Perfectly serene and tranquil Yvette smiled, saying with a decision
which swept away hesitation on his part:

"Of course Muscade will come to dinner on Saturday. We have only to
ask him, for he and I intend to commit a lot of follies in the
country."

He thought he divined the birth of a promise in her smile, and in
her voice he heard what he thought was invitation.

Then the Marquise turned her big, black eyes upon Saval: "And you
will, of course, come, Baron?"

With a smile that forbade doubt, he bent toward her, saying, "I
shall be only too charmed, Madame."

Then Yvette murmured with malice that was either naive or
traitorous: "We will set all the world by the ears down there, won't
we, Muscade, and make my regiment of admirers fairly mad." And with
a look, she pointed out a group of men who were looking at them from
a little distance.

Said Servigny to her: "As many follies as YOU may please,
Mam'zelle."

In speaking to Yvette, Servigny never used the word "Mademoiselle,"
by reason of his close and long intimacy with her.

Then Saval asked: "Why does Mademoiselle always call my friend
Servigny 'Muscade'?"

Yvette assumed a very frank air and said:

"I will tell you: It is because he always slips through my hands.
Now I think I have him, and then I find I have not."

The Marquise, with her eyes upon Saval, arid evidently preoccupied,
said in a careless tone: "You children are very funny."

But Yvette bridled up: "I do not intend to be funny; I am simply
frank. Muscade pleases me, and is always deserting me, and that is
what annoys me."

Servigny bowed profoundly, saying: "I will never leave you any more,
Mam'zelle, neither day nor night." She made a gesture of horror:

"My goodness! no--what do you mean? You are all right during the
day, but at night you might embarrass me."

With an air of impertinence he asked: "And why?"

Yvette responded calmly and audaciously, "Because you would not look
well en deshabille."

The Marquise, without appearing at all disturbed, said: "What
extraordinary subjects for conversation. One would think that you
were not at all ignorant of such things."

And Servigny jokingly added: "That is also my opinion, Marquise."

Yvette turned her eyes upon him, and in a haughty, yet wounded, tone
said: "You are becoming very vulgar--just as you have been several
times lately." And turning quickly she appealed to an individual
standing by:

"Chevalier, come and defend me from insult."

A thin, brown man, with an easy carriage, came forward.

"Who is the culprit?" said he, with a constrained smile.

Yvette pointed out Servigny with a nod of her head:

"There he is, but I like him better than I do you, because he is
less of a bore."

The Chevalier Valreali bowed:

"I do what I can, Mademoiselle. I may have less ability, but not
less devotion."

A gentleman came forward, tall and stout, with gray whiskers, saying
in loud tones: "Mademoiselle Yvette, I am your most devoted slave."

Yvette cried: "Ah, Monsieur de Belvigne." Then turning toward Saval,
she introduced him.

"My last adorer--big, fat, rich, and stupid. Those are the kind I
like. A veritable drum-major--but of the table d'hote. But see, you
are still bigger than he. How shall I nickname you? Good! I have it.
I shall call you 'M. Colossus of Rhodes, Junior,' from the Colossus
who certainly was your father. But you two ought to have very
interesting things to say to each other up there, above the heads of
us all--so, by-bye."

And she left them quickly, going to the orchestra to make the
musicians strike up a quadrille.

Madame Obardi seemed preoccupied. In a soft voice she said to
Servigny:

"You are always teasing her. You will warp her character and bring
out many bad traits."

Servigny replies: "Why, haven't you finished her education?"

She appeared not to understand, and continued talking in a friendly
way. But she noticed a solemn looking man, wearing a perfect
constellation of crosses and orders, standing near her, and she ran
to him:

"Ah Prince, Prince, what good fortune!"

Servigny took Saval's arm and drew him away:

"That is the latest serious suitor, Prince Kravalow. Isn't she
superb?"

"To my mind they are both superb. The mother would suffice for me
perfectly," answered Saval.

Servigny nodded and said: "At your disposal, my dear boy."

The dancers elbowed them aside, as they were forming for a
quadrille.

"Now let us go and see the sharpers," said Servigny. And they
entered the gambling-room.

Around each table stood a group of men, looking on. There was very
little conversation. At times the clink of gold coins, tossed upon
the green cloth or hastily seized, added its sound to the murmur of
the players, just as if the money was putting in its word among the
human voices.

All the men were decorated with various orders, and odd ribbons, and
they all wore the same severe expression, with different
countenances. The especially distinguishing feature was the beard.

The stiff American with his horseshoe, the haughty Englishman with
his fan-beard open on his breast, the Spaniard with his black fleece
reaching to the eyes, the Roman with that huge mustache which Italy
copied from Victor Emmanuel, the Austrian with his whiskers and
shaved chin, a Russian general whose lip seemed armed with two
twisted lances, and a Frenchman with a dainty mustache, displayed
the fancies of all the barbers in the world.

"You won't join the game?" asked Servigny.

"No, shall you?"

"Not now. If you are ready to go, we will come back some quieter
day. There are too many people here to-day, and we can't do
anything."

"Well, let us go."

And they disappeared behind a door-curtain into the hall. As soon as
they were in the street Servigny asked: "Well, what do you think of
it?"

"It certainly is interesting, but I fancy the women's side of it
more than the men's."

"Indeed! Those women are the best of the tribe for us. Don't you
find that you breathe the odor of love among them, just as you scent
the perfumes at a hairdresser's?"

"Really such houses are the place for one to go. And what experts,
my dear fellow! What artists! Have you ever eaten bakers' cakes?
They look well, but they amount to nothing. The man who bakes them
only knows how to make bread. Well! the love of a woman in ordinary
society always reminds me of these bake-shop trifles, while the love
you find at houses like the Marquise Obardi's, don't you see, is the
real sweetmeat. Oh! they know how to make cakes, these charming
pastry-cooks. Only you pay five sous, at their shops, for what costs
two sous elsewhere."

"Who is the master of the house just now?" asked Saval.

Servigny shrugged his shoulders, signifying his ignorance.

"I don't know, the latest one known was an English peer, but he left
three months ago. At present she must live off the common herd, or
the gambling, perhaps, and on the gamblers, for she has her
caprices. But tell me, it is understood that we dine with her on
Saturday at Bougival, is it not? People are more free in the
country, and I shall succeed in finding out what ideas Yvette has in
her head!"

"I should like nothing better," replied Saval. "I have nothing to do
that day."

Passing down through the Champs-Elysees, under the steps they
disturbed a couple making love on one of the benches, and Servigny
muttered: "What foolishness and what a serious matter at the same
time! How commonplace and amusing love is, always the same and
always different! And the beggar who gives his sweetheart twenty
sous gets as much return as I would for ten thousand francs from
some Obardi, no younger and no less stupid perhaps than this
nondescript. What nonsense!"

He said nothing for a few minutes; then he began again: "All the
same, it would be good to become Yvette's first lover. Oh! for that
I would give--"

He did not add what he would give, and Saval said good night to him
as they reached the corner of the Rue Royale.



CHAPTER II.

Bougival and Love


They had set the table on the veranda which overlooked the river.
The Printemps villa, leased by the Marquise Obardi, was halfway up
this hill, just at the corner of the Seine, which turned before the
garden wall, flowing toward Marly.

Opposite the residence, the island of Croissy formed a horizon of
tall trees, a mass of verdure, and they could see a long stretch of
the big river as far as the floating cafe of La Grenouillere hidden
beneath the foliage.

The evening fell, one of those calm evenings at the waterside, full
of color yet soft, one of those peaceful evenings which produces a
sensation of pleasure. No breath of air stirred the branches, no
shiver of wind ruffled the smooth clear surface of the Seine. It was
not too warm, it was mild--good weather to live in. The grateful
coolness of the banks of the Seine rose toward a serene sky.

The sun disappeared behind the trees to shine on other lands, and
one seemed to absorb the serenity of the already sleeping earth, to
inhale, in the peace of space, the life of the infinite.

As they left the drawing-room to seat themselves at the table
everyone was joyous. A softened gaiety filled their hearts, they
felt that it would be so delightful to dine there in the country,
with that great river and that twilight for a setting, breathing
that pure and fragrant air.

The Marquise had taken Saval's arm, and Yvette, Servigny's. The four
were alone by themselves. The two women seemed entirely different
persons from what they were at Paris, especially Yvette. She talked
but little, and seemed languid and grave.

Saval, hardly recognizing her in this frame of mind, asked her:
"What is the matter, Mademoiselle? I find you changed since last
week. You have become quite a serious person."

"It is the country that does that for me," she replied. "I am not
the same, I feel queer; besides I am never two days alike. To-day I
have the air of a mad woman, and to-morrow shall be as grave as an
elegy. I change with the weather, I don't know why. You see, I am
capable of anything, according to the moment. There are days when I
would like to kill people,--not animals, I would never kill
animals,--but people, yes, and other days when I weep at a mere
thing. A lot of different ideas pass through my head. It depends,
too, a good deal on how I get up. Every morning, on waking, I can
tell just what I shall be in the evening. Perhaps it is our dreams
that settle it for us, and it depends on the book I have just read."

She was clad in a white flannel suit which delicately enveloped her
in the floating softness of the material. Her bodice, with full
folds, suggested, without displaying and without restraining, her
free chest, which was firm and already ripe. And her superb neck
emerged from a froth of soft lace, bending with gentle movements,
fairer than her gown, a pilaster of flesh, bearing the heavy mass of
her golden hair.

Servigny looked at her for a long time: "You are adorable this
evening, Mam'zelle," said he, "I wish I could always see you like
this."

"Don't make a declaration, Muscade. I should take it seriously, and
that might cost you dear."

The Marquise seemed happy, very happy. All in black, richly dressed
in a plain gown which showed her strong, full lines, a bit of red at
the bodice, a cincture of red carnations falling from her waist like
a chain, and fastened at the hips, and a red rose in her dark hair,
she carried in all her person something fervid,--in that simple
costume, in those flowers which seemed to bleed, in her look, in her
slow speech, in her peculiar gestures.

Saval, too, appeared serious and absorbed. From time to time he
stroked his pointed beard, trimmed in the fashion of Henri III., and
seemed to be meditating on the most profound subjects.

Nobody spoke for several minutes. Then as they were serving the
trout, Servigny remarked:

"Silence is a good thing, at times. People are often nearer to each
other when they are keeping still than when they are talking. Isn't
that so, Marquise?"

She turned a little toward him and answered:

"It is quite true. It is so sweet to think together about agreeable
things."

She raised her warm glance toward Saval, and they continued for some
seconds looking into each other's eyes. A slight, almost inaudible
movement took place beneath the table.

Servigny resumed: "Mam'zelle Yvette, you will make me believe that
you are in love if you keep on being as good as that. Now, with whom
could you be in love? Let us think together, if you will; I put
aside the army of vulgar sighers. I'll only take the principal ones.
Is it Prince Kravalow?"

At this name Yvette awoke: "My poor Muscade, can you think of such a
thing? Why, the Prince has the air of a Russian in a wax-figure
museum, who has won medals in a hairdressing competition."

"Good! We'll drop the Prince. But you have noticed the Viscount
Pierre de Belvigne?"

This time she began to laugh, and asked: "Can you imagine me hanging
to the neck of 'Raisine'?" She nicknamed him according to the day,
Raisine, Malvoisie, [Footnote: Preserved grapes and pears, malmsey,--a
poor wine.] Argenteuil, for she gave everybody nicknames. And she
would murmur to his face: "My dear little Pierre," or "My divine
Pedro, darling Pierrot, give your bow-wow's head to your dear little
girl, who wants to kiss it."

"Scratch out number two. There still remains the Chevalier Valreali
whom the Marquise seems to favor," continued Servigny.

Yvette regained all her gaiety: "'Teardrop'? Why he weeps like a
Magdalene. He goes to all the first-class funerals. I imagine myself
dead every time he looks at me."

"That settles the third. So the lightning will strike Baron Saval,
here."

"Monsieur the Colossus of Rhodes, Junior? No. He is too strong. It
would seem to me as if I were in love with the triumphal arch of
L'Etoile."

"Then Mam'zelle, it is beyond doubt that you are in love with me,
for I am the only one of your adorers of whom we have not yet
spoken. I left myself for the last through modesty and through
discretion. It remains for me to thank you."

She replied with happy grace: "In love with you, Muscade? Ah! no. I
like you, but I don't love you. Wait--I--I don't want to discourage
you. I don't love you--yet. You have a chance--perhaps. Persevere,
Muscade, be devoted, ardent, submissive, full of little attentions
and considerations, docile to my slightest caprices, ready for
anything to please me, and we shall see--later."

"But, Mam'zelle, I would rather furnish all you demand afterward
than beforehand, if it be the same to you."

She asked with an artless air: "After what, Muscade?"

"After you have shown me that you love me, by Jove!"

"Well, act as if I loved you, and believe it, if you wish."

"But you--"

"Be quiet, Muscade; enough on the subject."

The sun had sunk behind the island, but the whole sky still flamed
like a fire, and the peaceful water of the river seemed changed to
blood. The reflections from the horizon reddened houses, objects,
and persons. The scarlet rose in the Marquise's hair had the
appearance of a splash of purple fallen from the clouds upon her
head.

As Yvette looked on from her end, the Marquise rested, as if by
carelessness, her bare hand upon Saval's hand; but the young girl
made a motion and the Marquise withdrew her hand with a quick
gesture, pretending to readjust something in the folds of her
corsage.

Servigny, who was looking at them, said:

"If you like, Mam'zelle, we will take a walk on the island after
dinner."

"Oh, yes! That will be delightful. We will go all alone, won't we,
Muscade?"

"Yes, all alone, Mam'zelle!"

The vast silence of the horizon, the sleepy tranquillity of the
evening captured heart, body, and voice. There are peaceful, chosen
hours when it becomes almost impossible to talk.

The servants waited on them noiselessly. The firmamental
conflagration faded away, and the soft night spread its shadows over
the earth.

"Are you going to stay long in this place?" asked Saval.

And the Marquise answered, dwelling on each word: "Yes, as long as I
am happy."

As it was too dark to see, lamps were brought. They cast upon the
table a strange, pale gleam beneath the great obscurity of space;
and very soon a shower of gnats fell upon the tablecloth--the tiny
gnats which immolate themselves by passing over the glass chimneys,
and, with wings and legs scorched, powder the table linen, dishes,
and cups with a kind of gray and hopping dust.

They swallowed them in the wine, they ate them in the sauces, they
saw them moving on the bread, and had their faces and hands tickled
by the countless swarm of these tiny insects. They were continually
compelled to throw away the beverages, to cover the plates, and
while eating to shield the food with infinite precautions.

It amused Yvette. Servigny took care to shelter what she bore to her
mouth, to guard her glass, to hold his handkerchief stretched out
over her head like a roof. But the Marquise, disgusted, became
nervous, and the end of the dinner came quickly. Yvette, who had not
forgotten Servigny's proposition, said to him:

"Now we'll go to the island."

Her mother cautioned her in a languid tone: "Don't be late, above
all things. We will escort you to the ferry."

And they started in couples, the young girl and her admirer walking
in front, on the road to the shore. They heard, behind them, the
Marquise and Saval speaking very rapidly in low tones. All was dark,
with a thick, inky darkness. But the sky swarmed with grains of
fire, and seemed to sow them in the river, for the black water was
flecked with stars.

The frogs were croaking monotonously upon the bank, and numerous
nightingales were uttering their low, sweet song in the calm and
peaceful air.

Yvette suddenly said: "Gracious! They are not walking behind us any
more, where are they?" And she called out: "Mamma!" No voice
replied. The young girl resumed: "At any rate, they can't be far
away, for I heard them just now."

Servigny murmured: "They must have gone back. Your mother was cold,
perhaps." And he drew her along.

Before them a light gleamed. It was the tavern of Martinet,
restaurant-keeper and fisherman. At their call a man came out of the
house, and they got into a large boat which was moored among the
weeds of the shore.

The ferryman took his oars, and the unwieldy barge, as it advanced,
disturbed the sleeping stars upon the water and set them into a mad
dance, which gradually calmed down after they had passed. They
touched the other shore and disembarked beneath the great trees. A
cool freshness of damp earth permeated the air under the lofty and
clustered branches, where there seemed to be as many nightingales as
there were leaves. A distant piano began to play a popular waltz.

Servigny took Yvette's arm and very gently slipped his hand around
her waist and gave her a slight hug.

"What are you thinking about?" he said.

"I? About nothing at all. I am very happy!"

"Then you don't love me?"

"Oh, yes, Muscade, I love you, I love you a great deal; only leave
me alone. It is too beautiful here to listen to your nonsense."

He drew her toward him, although she tried, by little pushes, to
extricate herself, and through her soft flannel gown he felt the
warmth of her flesh. He stammered:

"Yvette!"

"Well, what?"

"I do love you!"

"But you are not in earnest, Muscade."

"Oh, yes I am. I have loved you for a long time."

She continually kept trying to separate herself from him, trying to
release the arm crushed between their bodies. They walked with
difficulty, trammeled by this bond and by these movements, and went
zigzagging along like drunken folk.

He knew not what to say to her, feeling that he could not talk to a
young girl as he would to a woman. He was perplexed, thinking what
he ought to do, wondering if she consented or did not understand,
and curbing his spirit to find just the right, tender, and decisive
words. He kept saying every second:

"Yvette! Speak! Yvette!"

Then, suddenly, risking all, he kissed her on the cheek. She gave a
little start aside, and said with a vexed air:

"Oh! you are absurd. Are you going to let me alone?"

The tone of her voice did not at all reveal her thoughts nor her
wishes; and, not seeing her too angry, he applied his lips to the
beginning of her neck, just beneath the golden hair, that charming
spot which he had so often coveted.

Then she made great efforts to free herself. But he held her
strongly, and placing his other hand on her shoulder, he compelled
her to turn her head toward him and gave her a fond, passionate
kiss, squarely on the mouth.

She slipped from his arms by a quick undulation of the body, and,
free from his grasp, she disappeared into the darkness with a great
swishing of skirts, like the whir of a bird as it flies away.

He stood motionless a moment, surprised by her suppleness and her
disappearance, then hearing nothing, he called gently: "Yvette!"

She did not reply. He began to walk forward, peering through the
shadows, looking in the underbrush for the white spot her dress
should make. All was dark. He cried out more loudly:

"Mam'zelle Yvette! Mam'zelle Yvette!"

Nothing stirred. He stopped and listened. The whole island was
still; there was scarcely a rustle of leaves over his head. The
frogs alone continued their deep croakings on the shores. Then he
wandered from thicket to thicket, going where the banks were steep
and bushy and returning to places where they were flat and bare as a
dead man's arm. He proceeded until he was opposite Bougival and
reached the establishment of La Grenouillere, groping the clumps of
trees, calling out continually:

"Mam'zelle Yvette, where are you? Answer. It is ridiculous! Come,
answer! Don't keep me hunting like this."

A distant clock began to strike. He counted the hours: twelve. He
had been searching through the island for two hours. Then he thought
that perhaps she had gone home; and he went back very anxiously,
this time by way of the bridge. A servant dozing on a chair was
waiting in the hall.

Servigny awakened him and asked: "Is it long since Mademoiselle
Yvette came home? I left her at the foot of the place because I had
a call to make."

And the valet replied: "Oh! yes, Monsieur, Mademoiselle came in
before ten o'clock."

He proceeded to his room and went to bed. But he could not close his
eyes. That stolen kiss had stirred him to the soul. He kept
wondering what she thought and what she knew. How pretty and
attractive she was!

His desires, somewhat wearied by the life he led, by all his
procession of sweethearts, by all his explorations in the kingdom of
love, awoke before this singular child, so fresh, irritating, and
inexplicable. He heard one o'clock strike, then two. He could not
sleep at all. He was warm, he felt his heart beat and his temples
throb, and he rose to open the window. A breath of fresh air came
in, which he inhaled deeply. The thick darkness was silent, black,
motionless. But suddenly he perceived before him, in the shadows of
the garden, a shining point; it seemed a little red coal.

"Well, a cigar!" he said to himself. "It must be Saval," and he
called softly: "Leon!"

"Is it you, Jean?"

"Yes. Wait. I'll come down." He dressed, went out, and rejoining his
friend who was smoking astride an iron chair, inquired: "What are
you doing here at this hour?"

"I am resting," Saval replied. And he began to laugh. Servigny
pressed his hand: "My compliments, my dear fellow. And as for me,
I--am making a fool of myself."

"You mean--"

"I mean that--Yvette and her mother do not resemble each other."

"What has happened? Tell me."

Servigny recounted his attempts and their failure. Then he resumed:

"Decidedly, that little girl worries me. Fancy my not being able to
sleep! What a queer thing a girl is! She appears to be as simple as
anything, and yet you know nothing about her. A woman who has lived
and loved, who knows life, can be quickly understood. But when it
comes to a young virgin, on the contrary, no one can guess anything
about her. At heart I begin to think that she is making sport of
me."

Saval tilted his chair. He said, very slowly: "Take care, my dear
fellow, she will lead you to marriage. Remember those other
illustrious examples. It was just by this same process that
Mademoiselle de Montijo, who was at least of good family, became
empress. Don't play Napoleon."

Servigny murmured: "As for that, fear nothing. I am neither a
simpleton nor an emperor. A man must be either one or the other to
make such a move as that. But tell me, are you sleepy?"

"Not a bit."

"Will you take a walk along the river?"

"Gladly."

They opened the iron gate and began to walk along the river bank
toward Marly. It was the quiet hour which precedes dawn, the hour of
deep sleep, of complete rest, of profound peacefulness. Even the
gentle sounds of the night were hushed. The nightingales sang no
longer; the frogs had finished their hubbub; some kind of an animal
only, probably a bird, was making somewhere a kind of sawing sound,
feeble, monotonous, and regular as a machine. Servigny, who had
moments of poetry, and of philosophy too, suddenly remarked: "Now
this girl completely puzzles me. In arithmetic, one and one make
two. In love one and one ought to make one but they make two just
the same. Have you ever felt that? That need of absorbing a woman in
yourself or disappearing in her? I am not speaking of the animal
embrace, but of that moral and mental eagerness to be but one with a
being, to open to her all one's heart and soul, and to fathom her
thoughts to the depths."

"And yet you can never lay bare all the fluctuations of her wishes,
desires, and opinions. You can never guess, even slightly, all the
unknown currents, all the mystery of a soul that seems so near, a
soul hidden behind two eyes that look at you, clear as water,
transparent as if there were nothing beneath a soul which talks to
you by a beloved mouth, which seems your very own, so greatly do you
desire it; a soul which throws you by words its thoughts, one by
one, and which, nevertheless, remains further away from you than
those stars are from each other, and more impenetrable. Isn't it
queer, all that?"

"I don't, ask so much," Saval rejoined. "I don't look behind the
eyes. I care little for the contents, but much for the vessel." And
Servigny replied: "What a singular person Yvette is! How will she
receive me this morning?"

As they reached the works at Marly they perceived that the sky was
brightening. The cocks began to crow in the poultry-yards. A bird
twittered in a park at the left, ceaselessly reiterating a tender
little theme.

"It is time to go back," said Saval.

They returned, and as Servigny entered his room, he saw the horizon
all pink through his open windows.

Then he shut the blinds, drew the thick, heavy curtains, went back
to bed and fell asleep. He dreamed of Yvette all through his
slumber. An odd noise awoke him. He sat on the side of the bed and
listened, but heard nothing further. Then suddenly there was a
crackling against the blinds, like falling hail. He jumped from the
bed, ran to the window, opened it, and saw Yvette standing in the
path and throwing handfuls of gravel at his face. She was clad in
pink, with a wide-brimmed straw hat ornamented with a mousquetaire
plume, and was laughing mischievously.

"Well! Muscade, are you asleep? What could you have been doing all
night to make you wake so late? Have you been seeking adventures, my
poor Muscade?"

He was dazzled by the bright daylight striking him full in the eyes,
still overwhelmed with fatigue, and surprised at the jesting
tranquillity of the young girl.

"I'll be down in a second, Mam'zelle," he answered. "Just time to
splash my face with water, and I will join you."

"Hurry," she cried, "it is ten o'clock, and besides I have a great plan
to unfold to you, a plot we are going to concoct. You know that we
breakfast at eleven."

He found her seated on a bench, with a book in her lap, some novel
or other. She took his arm in a familiar and friendly way, with a
frank and gay manner, as if nothing had happened the night before,
and drew him toward the end of the garden.

"This is my plan," she said. "We will disobey mamma, and you shall
take me presently to La Grenouillere restaurant. I want to see it.
Mamma says that decent women cannot go to the place. Now it is all
the same to me whether persons can go there or cannot. You'll take
me, won't you, Muscade? And we will have a great time--with the
boatmen."

She exhaled a delicious fragrance, although he could not exactly
define just what light and vague odor enveloped her. It was not one
of those heavy perfumes of her mother, but a discreet breath in
which he fancied he could detect a suspicion of iris powder, and
perhaps a suggestion of vervain.

Whence emanated that indiscernible perfume? From her dress, her
hair, or her skin? He puzzled over this, and as he was speaking very
close to her, he received full in the face her fresh breath, which
seemed to him just as delicious to inhale.

Then he thought that this evasive perfume which he was trying to
recognize was perhaps only evoked by her charming eyes, and was
merely a sort of deceptive emanation of her young and alluring
grace.

"That is agreed, isn't it, Muscade? As it will be very warm after
breakfast, mamma will not go out. She always feels the heat very
much. We will leave her with your friend, and you shall take me.
They will think that we have gone into the forest. If you knew how
much it will amuse me to see La Grenouillere!"

They reached the iron gate opposite the Seine. A flood of sunshine
fell upon the slumberous, shining river. A slight heat-mist rose
from it, a sort of haze of evaporated water, which spread over the
surface of the stream a faint gleaming vapor.

From time to time, boats passed by, a quick yawl or a heavy passage
boat, and short or long whistles could be heard, those of the trains
which every Sunday poured the citizens of Paris into the suburbs,
and those of the steamboats signaling their approach to pass the
locks at Marly.

But a tiny bell sounded. Breakfast was announced, and they went back
into the house. The repast was a silent one. A heavy July noon
overwhelmed the earth, and oppressed humanity. The heat seemed
thick, and paralyzed both mind and body. The sluggish words would
not leave the lips, and all motion seemed laborious, as if the air
had become a resisting medium, difficult to traverse. Only Yvette,
although silent, seemed animated and nervous with impatience. As
soon as they had finished the last course she said:

"If we were to go for a walk in the forest, it would be deliciously
cool under the trees."

The Marquise murmured with a listless air: "Are you mad? Does anyone
go out in such weather?"

And the young girl, delighted, rejoined: "Oh, well! We will leave
the Baron to keep you company. Muscade and I will climb the hill and
sit on the grass and read."

And turning toward Servigny she asked: "That is understood?"

"At your service, Mam'zelle," he replied.

Yvette ran to get her hat. The Marquise shrugged her shoulders with
a sigh. "She certainly is mad." she said.

Then with an indolence in her amorous and lazy gestures, she gave
her pretty white hand to the Baron, who kissed it softly. Yvette and
Servigny started. They went along the river, crossed the bridge and
went on to the island, and then seated themselves on the bank,
beneath the willows, for it was too soon to go to La Grenouillere.

The young girl at once drew a book from her pocket and smilingly
said: "Muscade, you are going to read to me." And she handed him the
volume.

He made a motion as if of fright. "I, Mam'zelle? I don't know how to
read!"

She replied with gravity: "Come, no excuses, no objections; you are
a fine suitor, you! All for nothing, is that it? Is that your
motto?"

He took the book, opened it, and was astonished. It was a treatise
on entomology. A history of ants by an English author. And as he
remained inert, believing that he was making sport of her, she said
with impatience: "Well, read!"

"Is it a wager, or just a simple fad?" he asked.

"No, my dear. I saw that book in a shop. They told me that it was
the best authority on ants and I thought that it would be
interesting to learn about the life of these little insects while
you see them running over the grass; so read, if you please."

She stretched herself flat upon the grass, her elbows resting upon
the ground, her head between her hands, her eyes fixed upon the
ground. He began to read as follows:

"The anthropoid apes are undoubtedly the animals which approach
nearest to man by their anatomical structure, but if we consider the
habits of the ants, their organization into societies, their vast
communities, the houses and roads that they construct, their custom
of domesticating animals, and sometimes even of making slaves of
them, we are compelled to admit that they have the right to claim a
place near to man in the scale of intelligence."

He continued in a monotonous voice, stopping from time to time to
ask: "Isn't that enough?"

She shook her head, and having caught an ant on the end of a severed
blade of grass, she amused herself by making it go from one end to
the other of the sprig, which she tipped up whenever the insect
reached one of the ends. She listened with mute and contented
attention to all the wonderful details of the life of these frail
creatures: their subterranean homes; the manner in which they seize,
shut up, and feed plant-lice to drink the sweet milk which they
secrete, as we keep cows in our barns; their custom of domesticating
little blind insects which clean the anthills, and of going to war
to capture slaves who will take care of their victors with such
tender solicitude that the latter even lose the habit of feeding
themselves.

And little by little, as if a maternal tenderness had sprung up in
her heart for the poor insect which was so tiny and so intelligent,
Yvette made it climb on her finger, looking at it with a moved
expression, almost wanting to embrace it.

And as Servigny read of the way in which they live in communities,
and play games of strength and skill among themselves, the young
girl grew enthusiastic and sought to kiss the insect which escaped
her and began to crawl over her face. Then she uttered a piercing
cry, as if she had been threatened by a terrible danger, and with
frantic gestures tried to brush it off her face. With a loud laugh
Servigny caught it near her tresses and imprinted on the spot where
he had seized it a long kiss without Yvette withdrawing her
forehead.

Then she exclaimed as she rose: "That is better than a novel. Now
let us go to La Grenouillere."

They reached that part of the island which is set out as a park and
shaded with great trees. Couples were strolling beneath the lofty
foliage along the Seine, where the boats were gliding by.

The boats were filled with young people, working-girls and their
sweethearts, the latter in their shirt-sleeves, with coats on their
arms, tall hats tipped back, and a jaded look. There were tradesmen
with their families, the women dressed in their best and the
children flocking like little chicks about their parents. A distant,
continuous sound of voices, a heavy, scolding clamor announced the
proximity of the establishment so dear to the boatmen.

Suddenly they saw it. It was a huge boat, roofed over, moored to the
bank. On board were many men and women drinking at tables, or else
standing up, shouting, singing, bandying words, dancing, capering,
to the sound of a piano which was groaning--out of tune and rattling
as an old kettle.

Two tall, russet-haired, half-tipsy girls, with red lips, were
talking coarsely. Others were dancing madly with young fellows half
clad, dressed like jockeys, in linen trousers and colored caps. The
odors of a crowd and of rice-powder were noticeable.

The drinkers around the tables were swallowing white, red, yellow,
and green liquids, and vociferating at the top of their lungs,
feeling as it were, the necessity of making a noise, a brutal need
of having their ears and brains filled with uproar. Now and then a
swimmer, standing on the roof, dived into the water, splashing the
nearest guests, who yelled like savages.

On the stream passed the flotillas of light craft, long, slender
wherries, swiftly rowed by bare-armed oarsmen, whose muscles played
beneath their bronzed skin. The women in the boats, in blue or red
flannel skirts, with umbrellas, red or blue, opened over their heads
and gleaming under the burning sun, leaned back in their chairs at
the stern of the boats, and seemed almost to float upon the water,
in motionless and slumberous pose.

The heavier boats proceeded slowly, crowded with people. A
collegian, wanting to show off, rowed like a windmill against all
the other boats, bringing the curses of their oarsmen down upon his
head, and disappearing in dismay after almost drowning two swimmers,
followed by the shouts of the crowd thronging in the great floating
cafe.

Yvette, radiantly happy, taking Servigny's arm, went into the midst
of this noisy mob. She seemed to enjoy the crowding, and stared at
the girls with a calm and gracious glance.

"Look at that one, Muscade," she said. "What pretty hair she has!
They seem to be having such fun!"

As the pianist, a boatman dressed in red with a huge straw hat,
began a waltz, Yvette grasped her companion and they danced so long
and madly that everybody looked at them. The guests, standing on the
tables, kept time with their feet; others threw glasses, and the
musician, seeming to go mad, struck the ivory keys with great bangs;
swaying his whole body and swinging his head covered with that
immense hat. Suddenly he stopped and, slipping to the deck, lay
flat, beneath his head-gear, as if dead with fatigue. A loud laugh
arose and everybody applauded.

Four friends rushed forward, as they do in cases of accident, and
lifting up their comrade, they carried him by his four limbs, after
carefully placing his great hat on his stomach. A joker following
them intoned the "De Profundis," and a procession formed and
threaded the paths of the island, guests and strollers and everyone
they met falling into line.

Yvette darted forward, delighted, laughing with her whole heart,
chatting with everybody, stirred by the movement and the noise. The
young men gazed at her, crowded against her, seeming to devour her
with their glances; and Servigny began to fear lest the adventure
should terminate badly.

The procession still kept on its way; hastening its step; for the
four bearers had taken a quick pace, followed by the yelling crowd.
But suddenly, they turned toward the shore, stopped short as they
reached the bank, swung their comrade for a moment, and then, all
four acting together, flung him into the river.

A great shout of joy rang out from all mouths, while the poor
pianist, bewildered, paddled, swore, coughed, and spluttered, and
though sticking in the mud managed to get to the shore. His hat
which floated down the stream was picked up by a boat. Yvette danced
with joy, clapping and repeating: "Oh! Muscade, what fun! what fun!"

Servigny looked on, having become serious, a little disturbed, a
little chilled to see her so much at her ease in this common place.
A sort of instinct revolted in him, that instinct of the proper,
which a well-born man always preserves even when he casts himself
loose, that instinct which avoids too common familiarities and too
degrading contacts. Astonished, he muttered to himself:

"Egad! Then YOU are at home here, are you?" And he wanted to speak
familiarly to her, as a man does to certain women the first time he
meets them. He no longer distinguished her from the russet-haired,
hoarse-voiced creatures who brushed against them. The language of
the crowd was not at all choice, but nobody seemed shocked or
surprised. Yvette did not even appear to notice it.

"Muscade, I want to go in bathing," she said. "We'll go into the
river together."

"At your service," said he.

They went to the bath-office to get bathing-suits. She was ready the
first, and stood on the bank waiting for him, smiling on everyone
who looked at her. Then side by side they went into the luke-warm
water.

She swam with pleasure, with intoxication, caressed by the wave,
throbbing with a sensual delight, raising herself at each stroke as
if she were going to spring from the water. He followed her with
difficulty, breathless, and vexed to feel himself mediocre at the
sport.

But she slackened her pace, and then, turning over suddenly, she
floated, with her arms folded and her eyes wide open to the blue
sky. He observed, thus stretched out on the surface of the river,
the undulating lines of her form, her firm neck and shoulders, her
slightly submerged hips, and bare ankles, gleaming in the water, and
the tiny foot that emerged.

He saw her thus exhibiting herself, as if she were doing it on
purpose, to lure him on, or again to make sport of him. And he began
to long for her with a passionate ardor and an exasperating
impatience. Suddenly she turned, looked at him, and burst into
laughter.

"You have a fine head," she said.

He was annoyed at this bantering, possessed with the anger of a
baffled lover. Then yielding brusquely to a half felt desire for
retaliation, a desire to avenge himself, to wound her, he said:

"Well, does this sort of life suit you?"

She asked with an artless air: "What do you mean?"

"Oh, come, don't make game of me. You know well enough what I mean!"

"No, I don't, on my word of honor."

"Oh, let us stop this comedy! Will you or will you not?"

"I do not understand you."

"You are not as stupid as all that; besides I told you last night."

"Told me what? I have forgotten!"

"That I love you."

"You?"

"Yes."

"What nonsense!"

"I swear it."

"Then prove it."

"That is all I ask."

"What is?"

"To prove it."

"Well, do so."

"But you did not say so last night."

"You did not ask anything."

"What absurdity!"

"And besides it is not to me to whom you should make your
proposition."

"To whom, then?"

"Why, to mamma, of course."

He burst into laughter. "To your mother. No, that is too much!"

She had suddenly become very grave, and looking him straight in the
eyes, said:

"Listen, Muscade, if you really love me enough to marry me, speak to
mamma first, and I will answer you afterward."

He thought she was still making sport of him, and angrily replied:
"Mam'zelle, you must be taking me for somebody else."

She kept looking at him with her soft, clear eyes. She hesitated and
then said:

"I don't understand you at all."

Then he answered quickly with somewhat of ill nature in his voice:

"Come now, Yvette, let us cease this absurd comedy, which has
already lasted too long. You are playing the part of a simple little
girl, and the role does not fit you at all, believe me. You know
perfectly well that there can be no question of marriage between us,
but merely of love. I have told you that I love you. It is the
truth. I repeat, I love you. Don't pretend any longer not to
understand me, and don't treat me as if I were a fool."

They were face to face, treading water, merely moving their hands a
little, to steady themselves. She was still for a moment, as if she
could not make out the meaning of his words, then she suddenly
blushed up to the roots of her hair. Her whole face grew purple from
her neck to her ears, which became almost violet, and without
answering a word she fled toward the shore, swimming with all her
strength with hasty strokes. He could not keep up with her and
panted with fatigue as he followed. He saw her leave the water, pick
up her cloak, and go to her dressing-room without looking back.

It took him a long time to dress, very much perplexed as to what he
ought to do, puzzled over what he should say to her, and wondering
whether he ought to excuse himself or persevere. When he was ready,
she had gone away all alone. He went back slowly, anxious and
disturbed.

The Marquise was strolling, on Saval's arm, in the circular path
around the lawn. As she observed Servigny, she said, with that
careless air which she had maintained since the night before.

"I told you not to go out in such hot weather. And now Yvette has
come back almost with a sun stroke. She has gone to lie down. She
was as red as a poppy, the poor child, and she has a frightful
headache. You must have been walking in the full sunlight, or you
must have done something foolish. You are as unreasonable as she."

The young girl did not come down to dinner. When they wanted to send
her up something to eat she called through the door that she was not
hungry, for she had shut herself in, and she begged that they would
leave her undisturbed. The two young men left by the ten o'clock
train, promising to return the following Thursday, and the Marquise
seated herself at the open window to dream, hearing in the distance
the orchestra of the boatmen's ball, with its sprightly music, in
the deep and solemn silence of the night.

Swayed by love as a person is moved by a fondness for horses or
boating, she was subject to sudden tendernesses which crept over her
like a disease. These passions took possession of her suddenly,
penetrated her entire being, maddened her, enervated or overwhelmed
her, in measure as they were of an exalted, violent, dramatic, or
sentimental character.

She was one of those women who are created to love and to be loved.
Starting from a very low station in life, she had risen in her
adventurous career, acting instinctively, with inborn cleverness,
accepting money and kisses, naturally, without distinguishing
between them, employing her extraordinary ability in an unthinking
and simple fashion. From all her experiences she had never known
either a genuine tenderness or a great repulsion.

She had had various friends, for she had to live, as in traveling a
person eats at many tables. But occasionally her heart took fire,
and she really fell in love, which state lasted for some weeks or
months, according to conditions. These were the delicious moments of
her life, for she loved with all her soul. She cast herself upon
love as a person throws himself into the river to drown himself, and
let herself be carried away, ready to die, if need be, intoxicated,
maddened, infinitely happy. She imagined each time that she never
had experienced anything like such an attachment, and she would have
been greatly astonished if some one had told her of how many men she
had dreamed whole nights through, looking at the stars.

Saval had captivated her, body and soul. She dreamed of him, lulled
by his face and his memory, in the calm exaltation of consummated
love, of present and certain happiness.

A sound behind her made her turn around. Yvette had just entered,
still in her daytime dress, but pale, with eyes glittering, as
sometimes is the case after some great fatigue. She leaned on the
sill of the open window, facing her mother.

"I want to speak to you," she said.

The Marquise looked at her in astonishment. She loved her like an
egotistical mother, proud of her beauty, as a person is proud of a
fortune, too pretty still herself to become jealous, too indifferent
to plan the schemes with which they charged her, too clever,
nevertheless, not to have full consciousness of her daughter's
value.

"I am listening, my child," she said; "what is it?"

Yvette gave her a piercing look, as if to read the depths of her
soul and to seize all the sensations which her words might awake.

"It is this. Something strange has just happened."

"What can it be?"

"Monsieur de Servigny has told me that he loves me."

The Marquise, disturbed, waited a moment, and, as Yvette said
nothing more, she asked:

"How did he tell you that? Explain yourself!"

Then the young girl, sitting at her mother's feet, in a coaxing
attitude common with her, and clasping her hands, added:

"He asked me to marry him."

Madame Obardi made a sudden gesture of stupefaction and cried:

"Servigny! Why! you are crazy!"

Yvette had not taken her eyes off her mother's face, watching her
thoughts and her surprise. She asked with a serious voice:

"Why am I crazy? Why should not Monsieur de Servigny marry me?"

The Marquise, embarrassed, stammered:

"You are mistaken, it is not possible. You either did not hear or
did not understand. Monsieur de Servigny is too rich for you, and
too much of a Parisian to marry." Yvette rose softly. She added:
"But if he loves me as he says he does, mamma?"

Her mother replied, with some impatience: "I thought you big enough
and wise enough not to have such ideas. Servigny is a man-about-town
and an egotist. He will never marry anyone but a woman of his set
and his fortune. If he asked you in marriage, it is only that he
wants--"

The Marquise, incapable of expressing her meaning, was silent for a
moment, then continued: "Come now, leave me alone and go to bed."

And the young girl, as if she had learned what she sought to find
out, answered in a docile voice: "Yes, mamma!"

She kissed her mother on the forehead and withdrew with a calm step.
As she reached the door, the Marquise called out: "And your
sunstroke?" she said.

"I did not have one at all. It was that which caused everything."

The Marquise added: "We will not speak of it again. Only don't stay
alone with him for some time from now, and be very sure that he will
never marry you, do you understand, and that he merely means
to--compromise you."

She could not find better words to express her thought. Yvette went
to her room. Madame Obardi began to dream. Living for years in an
opulent and loving repose, she had carefully put aside all
reflections which might annoy or sadden her. Never had she been
willing to ask herself the question.--What would become of Yvette?
It would be soon enough to think about the difficulties when they
arrived. She well knew, from her experience, that her daughter could
not marry a man who was rich and of good society, excepting by a
totally improbable chance, by one of those surprises of love which
place adventuresses on thrones.

She had not considered it, furthermore, being too much occupied with
herself to make any plans which did not directly concern herself.

Yvette would do as her mother, undoubtedly. She would lead a gay
life. Why not? But the Marquise had never dared ask when, or how.
That would all come about in time.

And now her daughter, all of a sudden, without warning, had asked
one of those questions which could not be answered, forcing her to
take an attitude in an affair, so delicate, so dangerous in every
respect, and so disturbing to the conscience which a woman is
expected to show in matters concerning her daughter.

Sometimes nodding but never asleep, she had too much natural
astuteness to be deceived a minute about Servigny's intentions, for
she knew men by experience, and especially men of that set. So at
the first words uttered by Yvette, she had cried almost in spite of
herself: "Servigny, marry you? You are crazy!"

How had he come to employ that old method, he, that sharp man of the
world? What would he do now? And she, the young girl, how should she
warn her more clearly and even forbid her, for she might make great
mistakes. Would anyone have believed that this big girl had remained
so artless, so ill informed, so guileless? And the Marquise, greatly
perplexed and already wearied with her reflections, endeavored to
make up her mind what to do without finding a solution of the
problem, for the situation seemed to her very embarrassing. Worn out
with this worry, she thought:

"I will watch them more clearly, I will act according to
circumstances. If necessary, I will speak to Servigny, who is sharp
and will take a hint."

She did not think out what she should say to him, nor what he would
answer, nor what sort of an understanding could be established
between them, but happy at being relieved of this care without
having had to make a decision, she resumed her dreams of the
handsome Saval, and turning toward that misty light which hovers
over Paris, she threw kisses with both hands toward the great city,
rapid kisses which she tossed into the darkness, one after the
other, without counting; and, very low, as if she were talking to
Saval still, she murmured:

"I love you, I love you!"



CHAPTER III.

ENLIGHTENMENT


Yvette, also, could not sleep. Like her mother, she leaned upon the
sill of the open window, and tears, her first bitter tears, filled
her eyes. Up to this time she had lived, had grown up, in the
heedless and serene confidence of happy youth. Why should she have
dreamed, reflected, puzzled? Why should she not have been a young
girl, like all other young girls? Why should a doubt, a fear, or
painful suspicion have come to her?

She seemed posted on all topics because she had a way of talking on
all subjects, because she had taken the tone, demeanor, and words of
the people who lived around her. But she really knew no more than a
little girl raised in a convent; her audacities of speech came from
her memory, from that unconscious faculty of imitation and
assimilation which women possess, and not from a mind instructed and
emboldened.

She spoke of love as the son of a painter or a musician would, at
the age of ten or twelve years, speak of painting or music. She knew
or rather suspected very well what sort of mystery this word
concealed;--too many jokes had been whispered before her, for her
innocence not to be a trifle enlightened,--but how could she have
drawn the conclusion from all this, that all families did not
resemble hers?

They kissed her mother's hand with the semblance of respect; all
their friends had titles; they all were rich or seemed to be so;
they all spoke familiarly of the princes of the royal line. Two sons
of kings had even come often, in the evening, to the Marquise's
house. How should she have known?

And, then, she was naturally artless. She did not estimate or sum up
people as her mother, did. She lived tranquilly, too joyous in her
life to worry herself about what might appear suspicious to
creatures more calm, thoughtful, reserved, less cordial, and sunny.

But now, all at once, Servigny, by a few words, the brutality of
which she felt without understanding them, awakened in her a sudden
disquietude, unreasoning at first, but which grew into a tormenting
apprehension. She had fled home, had escaped like a wounded animal,
wounded in fact most deeply by those words which she ceaselessly
repeated to get all their sense and bearing: "You know very well
that there can be no question of marriage between us--but only of
love."

What did he mean? And why this insult? Was she then in ignorance of
something, some secret, some shame? She was the only one ignorant of
it, no doubt. But what could she do? She was frightened, startled,
as a person is when he discovers some hidden infamy, some treason of
a beloved friend, one of those heart-disasters which crush.

She dreamed, reflected, puzzled, wept, consumed by fears and
suspicions. Then her joyous young soul reassuring itself, she began
to plan an adventure, to imagine an abnormal and dramatic situation,
founded on the recollections of all the poetical romances she had
read. She recalled all the moving catastrophes, or sad and touching
stories; she jumbled them together, and concocted a story of her own
with which she interpreted the half-understood mystery which
enveloped her life.

She was no longer cast down. She dreamed, she lifted veils, she
imagined unlikely complications, a thousand singular, terrible
things, seductive, nevertheless, by their very strangeness. Could
she be, by chance, the natural daughter of a prince? Had her poor
mother, betrayed and deserted, made Marquise by some king, perhaps
King Victor Emmanuel, been obliged to take flight before the anger
of the family? Was she not rather a child abandoned by its
relations, who were noble and illustrious, the fruit of a
clandestine love, taken in by the Marquise, who had adopted and
brought her up?

Still other suppositions passed through her mind. She accepted or
rejected them according to the dictates of her fancy. She was moved
to pity over her own case, happy at the bottom of her heart, and sad
also, taking a sort of satisfaction in becoming a sort of a heroine
of a book who must: assume a noble attitude, worthy of herself.

She laid out the part she must play, according to events at which
she guessed. She vaguely outlined this role, like one of Scribe's or
of George Sand's. It should be endued with devotion, self-abnegation,
greatness of soul, tenderness; and fine words. Her pliant nature
almost rejoiced in this new attitude. She pondered almost till evening
what she should do, wondering how she should manage to wrest the truth
from the Marquise.

And when night came, favorable to tragic situations, she had thought
out a simple and subtile trick to obtain what she wanted: it was,
brusquely, to say that Servigny had asked for her hand in marriage.

At this news, Madame Obardi, taken by surprise, would certainly let
a word escape her lips, a cry which would throw light into the mind
of her daughter. And Yvette had accomplished her plan.

She expected an explosion of astonishment, an expansion of love, a
confidence full of gestures and tears. But, instead of this, her
mother, without appearing stupefied or grieved, had only seemed
bored; and from the constrained, discontented, and worried tone in
which she had replied, the young girl, in whom there suddenly awaked
all the astuteness, keenness, and sharpness of a woman,
understanding that she must not insist, that the mystery was of
another nature, that it would be painful to her to learn it, and
that she must puzzle it out all alone, had gone back to her room,
her heart oppressed, her soul in distress, possessed now with the
apprehensions of a real misfortune, without knowing exactly either
whence or why this emotion came to her. So she wept, leaning at the
window.

She wept long, not dreaming of anything now, not seeking to discover
anything more, and little by little, weariness overcoming her, she
closed her eyes. She dozed for a few minutes, with that deep sleep
of people who are tired out and have not the energy to undress and
go to bed, that heavy sleep, broken by dreams, when the head nods
upon the breast.

She did not go to bed until the first break of day, when the cold of
the morning, chilling her, compelled her to leave the window.

The next day and the day after, she maintained a reserved and
melancholy attitude. Her thoughts were busy; she was learning to spy
out, to guess at conclusions, to reason. A light, still vague,
seemed to illumine men and things around her in a new manner; she
began to entertain suspicions against all, against everything that
she had believed, against her mother. She imagined all sorts of
things during these two days. She considered all the possibilities,
taking the most extreme resolutions with the suddenness of her
changeable and unrestrained nature. Wednesday she hit upon a plan,
an entire schedule of conduct and a system of spying. She rose
Thursday morning with the resolve to be very sharp and armed against
everybody.

She determined even to take for her motto these two words: "Myself
alone," and she pondered for more than an hour how she should
arrange them to produce a good effect engraved about her crest, on
her writing paper.

Saval and Servigny arrived at ten o'clock. The young girl gave her
hand with reserve, without embarrassment, and in a tone, familiar
though grave, she said:

"Good morning, Muscade, are you well?" "Good morning, Mam'zelle,
fairly, thanks, and you?" He was watching her. "What comedy will she
play me," he said to himself.

The Marquise having taken Saval's arm, he took Yvette's, and they
began to stroll about the lawn, appearing and disappearing every
minute, behind the clumps of trees.

Yvette walked with a thoughtful air, looking at the gravel of the
pathway, appearing hardly to hear what her companion said and
scarcely answering him.

Suddenly she asked: "Are you truly my friend, Muscade?"

"Why, of course, Mam'zelle."

"But truly, truly, now?"

"Absolutely your friend, Mam'zelle, body and soul."

"Even enough of a friend not to lie to me once, just once?"

"Even twice, if necessary."

"Even enough to tell me the absolute, exact truth?"

"Yes, Mam'zelle."

"Well, what do you think, way down in your heart, of the Prince of
Kravalow?"

"Ah, the devil!"

"You see that you are already preparing to lie."

"Not at all, but I am seeking the words, the proper words. Great
Heavens, Prince Kravalow is a Russian, who speaks Russian, who was
born in Russia, who has perhaps had a passport to come to France,
and about whom there is nothing false but his name and title."

She looked him in the eyes: "You mean that he is--?"

"An adventurer, Mam'zelle."

"Thank you, and Chevalier Valreali is no better?" "You have hit it."

"And Monsieur de Belvigne?"

"With him it is a different thing. He is of provincial society,
honorable up to a certain point, but only a little scorched from
having lived too rapidly."

"And you?"

"I am what they call a butterfly, a man of good family, who had
intelligence and who has squandered it in making phrases, who had
good health and who has injured it by dissipation, who had some
worth perhaps and who has scattered it by doing nothing. There is
left to me a certain knowledge of life, a complete absence of
prejudice, a large contempt for mankind, including women, a very
deep sentiment of the uselessness of my acts and a vast tolerance
for the mob."

"Nevertheless, at times, I can be frank, and I am even capable of
affection, as you could see, if you would. With these defects and
qualities I place myself at your orders, Mam'zelle, morally and
physically, to do what you please with me."

She did not laugh; she listened, weighing his words and his
intentions; then she resumed:

"What do you think of the Countess de Lammy?"

He replied, vivaciously: "You will permit me not to give my opinion
about the women."

"About none of them?"

"About none of them." "Then you must have a bad opinion of them all.
Come, think; won't you make a single exception?"

He sneered with that insolent air which he generally wore; and with
that brutal audacity which he used as a weapon, he said: "Present
company is always excepted."

She blushed a little, but calmly asked: "Well, what do you think of
me?"

"You want me to tell. Well, so be it. I think you are a young person
of good sense, and practicalness, or if you prefer, of good
practical sense, who knows very well how to arrange her pastime, to
amuse people, to hide her views, to lay her snares, and who, without
hurrying, awaits events."

"Is that all?" she asked.

"That's all."

Then she said with a serious earnestness: "I shall make you change
that opinion, Muscade."

Then she joined her mother, who was proceeding with short steps, her
head down, with that manner assumed in talking very low, while
walking, of very intimate and very sweet things. As she advanced she
drew shapes in the sand, letters perhaps, with the point of her
sunshade, and she spoke, without looking at Saval, long, softly,
leaning on his arm, pressed against him.

Yvette suddenly fixed her eyes upon her, and a suspicion, rather a
feeling than a doubt, passed through her mind as a shadow of a cloud
driven by the wind passes over the ground.

The bell rang for breakfast. It was silent and almost gloomy. There
was a storm in the air. Great solid clouds rested upon the horizon,
mute and heavy, but charged with a tempest. As soon as they had
taken their coffee on the terrace, the Marquise asked:

"Well, darling, are you going to take a walk today with your friend
Servigny? It is a good time to enjoy the coolness under the trees."

Yvette gave her a quick glance.

"No, mamma, I am not going out to-day."

The Marquise appeared annoyed, and insisted. "Oh, go and take a
stroll, my child, it is excellent for you."

Then Yvette distinctly said: "No, mamma, I shall stay in the house
to-day, and you know very well why, because I told you the other
evening."

Madame Obardi gave it no further thought, preoccupied with the
thought of remaining alone with Saval. She blushed and was annoyed,
disturbed on her own account, not knowing how she could find a free
hour or two. She stammered:

"It is true. I was not thinking of it. I don't know where my head
is."

And Yvette taking up some embroidery, which she called "the public
safety," and at which she worked five or six times a year, on dull
days, seated herself on a low chair near her mother, while the two
young men, astride folding-chairs, smoked their cigars.

The hours passed in a languid conversation. The Marquise fidgety,
cast longing glances at Saval, seeking some pretext, some means, of
getting rid of her daughter. She finally realized that she would not
succeed, and not knowing what ruse to employ, she said to Servigny:
"You know, my dear Duke, that I am going to keep you both this
evening. To-morrow we shall breakfast at the Fournaise restaurant,
at Chaton."

He understood, smiled, and bowed: "I am at your orders, Marquise."

The day wore on slowly and painfully under the threatenings of the
storm. The hour for dinner gradually approached. The heavy sky was
filled with slow and heavy clouds. There was not a breath of air
stirring. The evening meal was silent, too. An oppression, an
embarrassment, a sort of vague fear, seemed to make the two men and
the two women mute.

When the covers were removed, they sat long upon the terrace; only
speaking at long intervals. Night fell, a sultry night. Suddenly the
horizon was torn by an immense flash of lightning, which illumined
with a dazzling and wan light the four faces shrouded in darkness.
Then a far-off sound, heavy and feeble, like the rumbling of a
carriage upon a bridge, passed over the earth; and it seemed that
the heat of the atmosphere increased, that the air suddenly became
more oppressive, and the silence of the evening deeper.

Yvette rose. "I am going to bed," she said, "the storm makes me
ill."

And she offered her brow to the Marquise, gave her hand to the two
young men, and withdrew.

As her room was just above the terrace, the leaves of a great
chestnut-tree growing before the door soon gleamed with a green hue,
and Servigny kept his eyes fixed on this pale light in the foliage,
in which at times he thought he saw a shadow pass. But suddenly the
light went out. Madame Obardi gave a great sigh.

"My daughter has gone to bed," she said.

Servigny rose, saying: "I am going to do as much, Marquise, if you
will permit me." He kissed the hand she held out to him and
disappeared in turn.

She was left alone with Saval, in the night. In a moment she was
clasped in his arms. Then, although he tried to prevent her, she
kneeled before him murmuring: "I want to see you by the lightning
flashes."

But Yvette, her candle snuffed out, had returned to her balcony,
barefoot, gliding like a shadow, and she listened, consumed by an
unhappy and confused suspicion. She could not see, as she was above
them, on the roof of the terrace.

She heard nothing but a murmur of voices, and her heart beat so fast
that she could actually hear its throbbing. A window closed on the
floor above her. Servigny, then, must have just gone up to his room.
Her mother was alone with the other man.

A second flash of lightning, clearing the sky; lighted up for a
second all the landscape she knew so well, with a startling and
sinister gleam, and she saw the great river, with the color of
melted lead, as a river appears in dreams in fantastic scenes.

Just then a voice below her uttered the words: "I love you!" And she
heard nothing more. A strange shudder passed over her body, and her
soul shivered in frightful distress. A heavy, infinite silence,
which seemed eternal, hung over the world. She could no longer
breathe, her breast oppressed by something unknown and horrible.
Another flash of lightning illumined space, lighting up the horizon
for an instant, then another almost immediately came, followed by
still others. And the voice, which she had already heard, repeated
more loudly: "Oh! how I love you! how I love you!" And Yvette
recognized the voice; it was her mother's.

A large drop of warm rain fell upon her brow, and a slight and
almost imperceptible motion ran through the leaves, the quivering of
the rain which was now beginning. Then a noise came from afar, a
confused sound, like that of the wind in the branches: it was the
deluge descending in sheets on earth and river and trees. In a few
minutes the water poured about her, covering her, drenching her like
a shower-bath. She did not move, thinking only of what was happening
on the terrace.

She heard them get up and go to their rooms. Doors were closed
within the house; and the young girl, yielding to an irresistible
desire to learn what was going on, a desire which maddened and
tortured her, glided downstairs, softly opened the outer door, and,
crossing the lawn under the furious downpour, ran and hid in a clump
of trees, to look at the windows.

Only one window was lighted, her mother's. And suddenly two shadows
appeared in the luminous square, two shadows, side by side. Then
distracted, without reflection, without knowing what she was doing,
she screamed with all her might, in a shrill voice: "Mamma!" as a
person would cry out to warn people in danger of death.

Her desperate cry was lost in the noise of the rain, but the couple
separated, disturbed. And one of the shadows disappeared, while the
other tried to discover something, peering through the darkness of
the garden.

Fearing to be surprised, or to meet her mother at that moment,
Yvette rushed back to the house, ran upstairs, dripping wet, and
shut herself in her room, resolved to open her door to no one.

Without taking, off her streaming dress, which clung to her form,
she fell on her knees, with clasped hands, in her distress imploring
some superhuman protection, the mysterious aid of Heaven, the
unknown support which a person seeks in hours of tears and despair.

The great lightning flashes threw for an instant their livid
reflections into her room, and she saw herself in the mirror of her
wardrobe, with her wet and disheveled hair, looking so strange that
she did not recognize herself. She remained there so long that the
storm abated without her perceiving it. The rain ceased, a light
filled the sky, still obscured with clouds, and a mild, balmy,
delicious freshness, a freshness of grass and wet leaves, came in
through the open window.

Yvette rose, took off her wet, cold garments, without thinking what
she was doing, and went to bed. She stared with fixed eyes at the
dawning day. Then she wept again, and then she began to think.

Her mother! A lover! What a shame! She had read so many books in
which women, even mothers, had overstepped the bounds of propriety,
to regain their honor at the pages of the climax, that she was not
astonished beyond measure at finding herself enveloped in a drama
similar to all those of her reading. The violence of her first
grief, the cruel shock of surprise, had already worn off a little,
in the confused remembrance of analogous situations. Her mind had
rambled among such tragic adventures, painted by the novel-writers,
that the horrible discovery seemed, little by little, like the
natural continuation of some serial story, begun the evening before.

She said to herself: "I will save my mother." And almost reassured
by this heroic resolution, she felt herself strengthened, ready at
once for the devotion and the struggle. She reflected on the means
which must be employed. A single one seemed good, which was quite in
keeping with her romantic nature. And she rehearsed the interview
which she should have with the Marquise, as an actor rehearses the
scene which he is going to play.

The sun had risen. The servants were stirring about the house. The
chambermaid came with the chocolate. Yvette put the tray on the
table and said:

"You will say to my mother that I am not well, that I am going to
stay in bed until those gentlemen leave, that I could not sleep last
night, and that I do not want to be disturbed because I am going to
try to rest."

The servant, surprised, looked at the wet dress, which had fallen
like a rag on the carpet.

"So Mademoiselle has been out?" she said.

"Yes, I went out for a walk in the rain to refresh myself."

The maid picked up the skirts, stockings, and wet shoes; then she
went away carrying on her arm, with fastidious precautions, these
garments, soaked as the clothes of a drowned person. And Yvette
waited, well knowing that her mother would come to her.

The Marquise entered, having jumped from her bed at the first words
of the chambermaid, for a suspicion had possessed her, heart since
that cry: "Mamma!" heard in the dark.

"What is the matter?" she said.

Yvette looked at her and stammered: "I--I--" Then overpowered by a
sudden and terrible emotion, she began to choke.

The Marquise, astonished, again asked: "What in the world is the
matter with you?"

Then, forgetting all her plans and prepared phrases, the young girl
hid her face in both hands and stammered:

"Oh! mamma! Oh! mamma!"

Madame Obardi stood by the bed, too much affected thoroughly to
understand, but guessing almost everything, with that subtile
instinct whence she derived her strength. As Yvette could not speak,
choked with tears, her mother, worn out finally and feeling some
fearful explanation coming, brusquely asked:

"Come, will you tell me what the matter is?"

Yvette could hardly utter the words: "Oh! last night--I saw--your
window."

The Marquise, very pale; said: "Well? what of it?"

Her daughter repeated, still sobbing: "Oh! mamma! Oh! mamma!"

Madame Obardi, whose fear and embarrassment turned to anger,
shrugged her shoulders and turned to go. "I really believe that you
are crazy. When this ends, you will let me know."

But the young girl, suddenly took her hands from her face, which was
streaming with tears.

"No, listen, I must speak to you, listen. You must promise me--we
must both go, away, very far off, into the country, and we must live
like the country people; and no one must know what has become of us.
Say you will, mamma; I beg you, I implore you; will you?"

The Marquise, confused, stood in the middle of the room. She had in
her veins the irascible blood of the common people. Then a sense of
shame, a mother's modesty, mingled with a vague sentiment of fear
and the exasperation of a passionate woman whose love is threatened,
and she shuddered, ready to ask for pardon, or to yield to some
violence.

"I don't understand you," she said.

Yvette replied:

"I saw you, mamma, last night. You cannot--if you knew--we will both
go away. I will love you so much that you will forget--"

Madame Obardi said in a trembling voice: "Listen, my daughter,
there are some things which you do not yet understand. Well, don't
forget--don't forget-that I forbid you ever to speak to me about
those things."

But the young girl, brusquely taking the role of savior which she
had imposed upon herself, rejoined:

"No, mamma, I am no longer a child, and I have the right to know. I
know that we receive persons of bad repute, adventurers, and I know
that, on that account, people do not respect us. I know more. Well,
it must not be, any longer, do you hear? I do not wish it. We will
go away: you will sell your jewels; we will work, if need be, and we
will live as honest women, somewhere very far away. And if I can
marry, so much the better."

She answered: "You are crazy. You will do me the favor to rise and
come down to breakfast with all the rest."

"No, mamma. There is some one whom I shall never see again, you
understand me. I want him to leave, or I shall leave. You shall
choose between him and me."

She was sitting up in bed, and she raised her voice, speaking as
they do on the stage, playing, finally, the drama which she had
dreamed, almost forgetting her grief in the effort to fulfill her
mission.

The Marquise, stupefied, again repeated: "You are crazy--" not
finding anything else to say.

Yvette replied with a theatrical energy: "No, mamma, that man shall
leave the house, or I shall go myself, for I will not weaken."

"And where will you go? What will you do?"

"I do not know, it matters little--I want you to be an honest
woman."

These words which recurred, aroused in the Marquise a perfect fury,
and she cried:

"Be silent. I do not permit you to talk to me like that. I am as
good as anybody else, do you understand? I lead a certain sort of
life, it is true, and I am proud of it; the 'honest women' are not
as good as I am."

Yvette, astonished, looked at her, and stammered: "Oh! mamma!"

But the Marquise, carried away with excitement, continued:

"Yes, I lead a certain life--what of it? Otherwise you would be a
cook, as I was once, and earn thirty sous a day. You would be
washing dishes, and your mistress would send you to market--do you
understand--and she would turn you out if you loitered, just as you
loiter, now because I am--because I lead this life. Listen. When a
person is only a nursemaid, a poor girl, with fifty francs saved up,
she must know how to manage, if she does not want to starve to
death; and there are not two ways for us, there are not two ways, do
you understand, when we are servants. We cannot make our fortune
with official positions, nor with stockjobbing tricks. We have only
one way--only one way."

She struck her breast as a penitent at the confessional, and flushed
and excited, coming toward the bed, she continued: "So much the
worse. A pretty girl must live or suffer--she has no choice!" Then
returning to her former idea: "Much they deny themselves, your
'honest women.' They are worse, because nothing compels them. They
have money to live on and amuse themselves, and they choose vicious
lives of their own accord. They are the bad ones in reality."

She was standing near the bed of the distracted Yvette, who wanted
to cry out "Help," to escape. Yvette wept aloud, like children who
are whipped. The Marquise was silent and looked at her daughter,
and, seeing her overwhelmed with despair, felt, herself, the pangs
of grief, remorse, tenderness, and pity, and throwing herself upon
the bed with open arms, she also began to sob and stammered:

"My poor little girl, my poor little girl, if you knew, how you were
hurting me." And they wept together, a long while.

Then the Marquise, in whom grief could not long endure, softly rose,
and gently said:

"Come, darling, it is unavoidable; what would you have? Nothing can
be changed now. We must take life as it comes to us."

Yvette continued to weep. The blow had been too harsh and too
unexpected to permit her to reflect and to recover at once.

Her mother resumed: "Now, get up and come down to breakfast, so that
no one will notice anything."

The young girl shook her head as if to say, "No," without being able
to speak. Then she said, with a slow voice full of sobs:

"No, mamma, you know what I said, I won't alter my determination. I
shall not leave my room till they have gone. I never want to see one
of those people again, never, never. If they come back, you will see
no more of me."

The Marquise had dried her eyes, and wearied with emotion, she
murmured:

"Come, reflect, be reasonable."

Then, after a moment's silence:

"Yes, you had better rest this morning. I will come up to see you
this afternoon." And having kissed her daughter on the forehead, she
went to dress herself, already calmed.

Yvette, as soon as her mother had disappeared, rose, and ran to bolt
the door, to be alone, all alone; then she began to think. The
chambermaid knocked about eleven o'clock, and asked through the
door: "Madame the Marquise wants to know if Mademoiselle wishes
anything, and what she will take for her breakfast."

Yvette answered: "I am not hungry, I only ask not to be disturbed."

And she remained in bed, just as if she had been ill. Toward three
o'clock, some one knocked again. She asked:

"Who is there?"

It was her mother's voice which replied: "It is I, darling, I have
come to see how you are."

She hesitated what she should do. She opened the door, and then went
back to bed. The Marquise approached, and, speaking in low tones, as
people do to a convalescent, said:

"Well, are you better? Won't you eat an egg?"

"No, thanks, nothing at all."

Madame Obardi sat down near the bed. They remained without saying
anything, then, finally, as her daughter stayed quiet, with her
hands inert upon the bedclothes, she asked:

"Don't you intend to get up?"

Yvette answered: "Yes, pretty soon."

Then in a grave and slow tone she said: "I have thought a great
deal, mamma, and this--this is my resolution. The past is the past,
let us speak no more of it. But the future shall be different or I
know what is left for me to do. Now, let us say no more about it."

The Marquise, who thought the explanation finished, felt her
impatience gaining a little. It was too much. This big goose of a
girl ought to have known about things long ago. But she did not say
anything in reply, only repeating:

"You are going to get up?"

"Yes, I am ready."

Then her mother became maid for her, bringing her stockings, her
corset, and her skirts. Then she kissed her.

"Will you take a walk before dinner?"

"Yes, mamma."

And they took a stroll along the water, speaking only of commonplace
things.



CHAPTER IV.

FROM EMOTION TO PHILOSOPHY


The following day, early in the morning, Yvette went out alone to
the place where Servigny had read her the history of the ants. She
said to herself:

"I am not going away from this spot without having formed a
resolution."

Before her, at her feet, the water flowed rapidly, filled with large
bubbles which passed in silent flight with deep whirlings. She
already had summed up the points of the situation and the means of
extricating herself from it. What should she do if her mother would
not accept the conditions which she had imposed, would not renounce
her present way of living, her set of visitors--everything and go
and hide with her in a distant land?

She might go alone, take flight, but where, and how? What would she
live on? By working? At what? To whom should she apply to find work?
And, then, the dull and humble life of working-women, daughters of
the people, seemed a little disgraceful, unworthy of her. She
thought of becoming a governess, like young girls in novels, and of
becoming loved by the son of the house, and then marrying him. But
to accomplish that she must have been of good birth, so that, when
the exasperated father should approach her with having stolen his
son's love, she might say in a proud voice:

"My name is Yvette Obardi."

She could not do this. And then, even that would have been a trite
and threadbare method.

The convent was not worth much more. Besides, she felt no vocation
for a religious life, having only an intermittent and fleeting
piety. No one would save her by marrying her, being what she was! No
aid was acceptable from a man, no possible issue, no definite
resource.

And then she wished to do something energetic and really great and
strong, which should serve as an example: so she resolved upon
death.

She decided upon this step suddenly, but tranquilly, as if it were a
journey, without reflecting, without looking at death, without
understanding that it is the end without recommencement, the
departure without return, the eternal farewell to earth and to this
life.

She immediately settled on this extreme measure, with the lightness
of young and excited souls, and she thought of the means which she
would employ. But they all seemed to her painful and hazardous, and,
furthermore, required a violence of action which repelled her.

She quickly abandoned the poniard and revolver, which might wound
only, blind her or disfigure her, and which demanded a practiced and
steady hand. She decided against the rope; it was so common, the
poor man's way of suicide, ridiculous and ugly; and against water
because she knew how to swim So poison remained--but which kind?
Almost all of them cause suffering and incite vomitings. She did not
want either of these things.

Then she thought of chloroform, having read in a newspaper how a
young woman had managed to asphyxiate herself by this process. And
she felt at once a sort of joy in her resolution, an inner pride, a
sensation of bravery. People should see what she was, and what she
was worth.

She returned to Bougival and went to a druggist, from whom she asked
a little chloroform for a tooth which was aching. The man, who knew
her, gave her a tiny bottle of the narcotic.

Then she set out on foot for Croissy, where she procured a second
phial of poison. She obtained a third at Chaton, a fourth at Ruril,
and got home late for breakfast.

As she was very hungry after this long walk, she ate heartily with
the pleasurable appetite of people who have taken exercise.

Her mother, happy to see her so hungry, and now feeling tranquil
herself, said to her as they left the table:

"All our friends are coming to spend Sunday with us. I have invited
the Prince, the Chevalier, and Monsieur de Belvigne."

Yvette turned a little pale, but did not reply. She went out almost
immediately, reached the railway station, and took a ticket for
Paris. And during all the afternoon, she went from druggist to
druggist, buying from each one a few drops of chloroform. She came
back in the evening with her pockets full of little bottles.

She began the same system on the following day, and by chance found
a chemist who gave her, at one stroke, a quarter of a liter. She did
not go out on Saturday; it was a lowering and sultry day; she passed
it entirely on the terrace, stretched on a long wicker-chair.

She thought of almost nothing, very resolute and very calm. She put
on the next morning, a blue costume which was very becoming to her,
wishing to look well. Then looking at herself in the glass, she
suddenly said:

"To-morrow, I shall be dead." And a peculiar shudder passed over her
body. "Dead! I shall speak no more, think no more, no one will see
me more, and I shall never see anything again."

And she gazed attentively at her countenance, as if she had never
observed it, examining especially her eyes, discovering a thousand
things in herself, a secret character in her physiognomy which she
had not known before, astonished to see herself, as if she had
opposite her a strange person, a new friend.

She said to herself: "It is I, in the mirror, there. How queer it is
to look at oneself. But without the mirror we would never know
ourselves. Everybody else would know how we look, and we ourselves
would know nothing."

She placed the heavy braids of her thick hair over her breast,
following with her glance all her gestures, all her poses, and all
her movements. "How pretty I am!" she thought. "Tomorrow I shall be
dead, there, upon my bed." She looked at her bed, and seemed to see
herself stretched out, white as the sheets.

Dead! In a week she would be nothing but dust, to dust returned! A
horrible anguish oppressed her heart. The bright sunlight fell in
floods upon the fields, and the soft morning air came in at the
window.

She sat down thinking of it. Death! It was as if the world was going
to disappear from her; but no, since nothing would be changed in the
world, not even her bedroom. Yes, her room would remain just the
same, with the same bed, the same chairs, the same toilette
articles, but she would be forever gone, and no one would be sorry,
except her mother, perhaps.

People would say: "How pretty she was! that little Yvette," and
nothing more. And as she looked at her arm leaning on the arm of her
chair, she thought again, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And again a
great shudder of horror ran over her whole body, and she did not
know how she could disappear without the whole earth being blotted
out, so much it seemed to her that she was a part of everything, of
the fields, of the air, of the sunshine, of life itself.

There were bursts of laughter in the garden, a great noise of voices
and of calls, the bustling gaiety of country house parties, and she
recognized the sonorous tones of M. de Belvigne, singing:

"I am underneath thy window, Oh, deign to show thy face." She rose,
without reflecting, and looked out. They all applauded. They were
all five there, with two gentlemen whom she did not know.

She brusquely withdrew, annoyed by the thought that these men had
come to amuse themselves at her mother's house, as at a public
place.

The bell sounded for breakfast. "I will show them how to die," she
said.

She went downstairs with a firm step, with something of the
resolution of the Christian martyrs going into the circus, where the
lions awaited them.

She pressed their hands, smiling in an affable but rather haughty
manner. Servigny asked her:

"Are you less cross to-day, Mam'zelle?"

She answered in a severe and peculiar tone: "Today, I am going to
commit follies. I am in my Paris mood, look out!"

Then turning toward Monsieur de Belvigne, she said:

"You shall be my escort, my little Malmsey. I will take you all
after breakfast to the fete at Marly."

There was, in fact, a fete at Marly. They introduced the two
newcomers to her, the Comte de Tamine and the Marquis de Briquetot.

During the meal, she said nothing further, strengthening herself to
be gay in the afternoon, so that no one should guess anything,--so
that they should be all the more astonished, and should say: "Who
would have thought it? She seemed so happy, so contented! What does
take place in those heads?"

She forced herself not to think of the evening, the chosen hour,
when they should all be upon the terrace. She drank as much wine as
she could stand, to nerve herself, and two little glasses of brandy,
and she was flushed as she left the table, a little bewildered,
heated in body and mind. It seemed to her that she was strengthened
now, and resolved for everything.

"Let us start!" she cried. She took Monsieur de Belvigne's arm and
set the pace for the others. "Come, you shall form my battalion,
Servigny. I choose you as sergeant; you will keep outside the ranks,
on the right. You will make the foreign guard march in front--the
two exotics, the Prince, and the Chevalier--and in the rear the two
recruits who have enlisted to-day. Come!"

They started. And Servigny began to imitate the trumpet, while the
two newcomers made believe to beat the drum. Monsieur de Belvigne, a
little confused, said in a low tone:

"Mademoiselle Yvette, be reasonable, you will compromise yourself."

She answered: "It is you whom I am compromising, Raisine. As for me,
I don't care much about it. To-morrow it will not occur. So much the
worse for you: you ought not to go out with girls like me."

They went through Bougival to the amazement of the passers-by. All
turned to look at them; the citizens came to their doors; the
travelers on the little railway which runs from Ruril to Marly
jeered at them. The men on the platforms cried:

"To the water with them!"

Yvette marched with a military step, holding Belvigne by the arm, as
a prisoner is led. She did not laugh; upon her features sat a pale
seriousness, a sort of sinister calm. Servigny interrupted his
trumpet blasts only to shout orders. The Prince and the Chevalier
were greatly amused, finding all this very funny and in good taste.
The two recruits drummed away continually.

When they arrived at the fete, they made a sensation. Girls
applauded; young men jeered, and a stout gentleman with his wife on
his arm said enviously: "There are some people who are full of fun."

Yvette saw the wooden horses and compelled Belvigne to mount at her
right, while her squad scrambled upon the whirling beasts behind.
When the time was up she refused to dismount, constraining her
escort to take several more rides on the back of these children's
animals, to the great delight of the public, who shouted jokes at
them. Monsieur de Belvigne was livid and dizzy when he got off.

Then she began to wander among the booths. She forced all her men to
get weighed among a crowd of spectators. She made them buy
ridiculous toys which they had to carry in their hands. The Prince
and the Chevalier began to think the joke was being carried too far.
Servigny and the drummers, alone, did not seem to be discouraged.

They finally came to the end of the place. Then she gazed at her
followers in a peculiar manner, with a shy and mischievous glance,
and a strange fancy came to her mind. She drew them up on the bank
of the river.

"Let the one who loves me the most jump into the water," she said.

Nobody leaped. A mob gathered behind them. Women in white aprons
looked on in stupor. Two troopers, in red breeches, laughed loudly.

She repeated: "Then there is not one of you capable of jumping into
the water at my desire?"

Servigny murmured: "Oh, yes, there is," and leaped feet foremost
into the river. His plunge cast a splash over as far as Yvette's
feet. A murmur of astonishment and gaiety arose in the crowd.

Then the young girl picked up from the ground a little piece of
wood, and throwing it into the stream: "Fetch it," she cried.

The young man began to swim, and seizing the floating stick in his
mouth, like a dog, he brought it ashore, and then climbing the bank
he kneeled on one knee to present it.

Yvette took it. "You are handsome," said she, and with a friendly
stroke, she caressed his hair.

A stout woman indignantly exclaimed: "Are such things possible!"

Another woman said: "Can people amuse themselves like that!"

A man remarked: "I would not take a plunge for that sort of a girl."

She again took Belvigne's arm, exclaiming in his face: "You are a
goose, my friend; you don't know what you missed."

They now returned. She cast vexed looks on the passers-by. "How
stupid all these people seem," she said. Then raising her eyes to
the countenance of her companion, she added: "You, too, like all the
rest."

M. de Belvigne bowed. Turning around she saw that the Prince and the
Chevalier had disappeared. Servigny, dejected and dripping, ceased
playing on the trumpet, and walked with a gloomy air at the side of
the two wearied young men, who also had stopped the drum playing.
She began to laugh dryly, saying:

"You seem to have had enough; nevertheless, that is what you call
having a good time, isn't it? You came for that; I have given you
your money's worth."

Then she walked on, saying nothing further; and suddenly Belvigne
perceived that she was weeping. Astounded, he inquired:

"What is the matter?"

She murmured: "Let me alone, it does not concern you."

But he insisted, like a fool: "Oh, Mademoiselle, come, what is the
matter, has anyone annoyed you?"

She repeated impatiently: "Will you keep still?"

Then suddenly, no longer able to resist the despairing sorrow which
drowned her heart, she began to sob so violently, that she could no
longer walk. She covered her face with her hands, panting for
breath, choked by the violence of her despair.

Belvigne stood still at her side, quite bewildered, repeating: "I
don't understand this at all."

But Servigny brusquely came forward: "Let us go home, Mam'zelle, so
that people may not see you weeping in the street. Why do you
perpetrate follies like that when they only make you sad?"

And taking her arm he drew her forward. But as soon as they reached
the iron gate of the villa she began to run, crossed the garden, and
went upstairs, and shut herself in her room. She did not appear
again until the dinner hour, very pale and serious. Servigny had
bought from a country storekeeper a workingman's costume, with
velvet pantaloons, a flowered waistcoat and a blouse, and he adopted
the local dialect. Yvette was in a hurry for them to finish, feeling
her courage ebbing. As soon as the coffee was served she went to her
room again.

She heard the merry voices beneath her window. The Chevalier was
making equivocal jokes, foreign witticisms, vulgar and clumsy. She
listened, in despair. Servigny, just a bit tipsy, was imitating the
common workingman, calling the Marquise "the Missus." And all of a
sudden he said to Saval: "Well, Boss?" That caused a general laugh.

Then Yvette decided. She first took a sheet of paper and wrote:

     "Bougival, Sunday, nine o'clock in the evening.
     "I die so that I may not become a kept woman.

     "YVETTE."

Then in a postscript:

     "Adieu, my dear mother, pardon."

She sealed the envelope, and addressed it to the Marquise Obardi.

Then she rolled her long chair near the window, drew a little table
within reach of her hand, and placed upon it the big bottle of
chloroform beside a handful of wadding.

A great rose-tree covered with flowers, climbing as high as her
window, exhaled in the night a soft and gentle perfume, in light
breaths; and she stood for a moment enjoying it. The moon, in its
first quarter, was floating in the dark sky, a little ragged at the
left, and veiled at times by slight mists.

Yvette thought: "I am going to die!" And her heart, swollen with
sobs, nearly bursting, almost suffocated her. She felt in her a need
of asking mercy from some one, of being saved, of being loved.

The voice of Servigny aroused her. He was telling an improper story,
which was constantly interrupted by bursts of laughter. The Marquise
herself laughed louder than the others.

"There is nobody like him for telling that sort of thing," she said,
laughing.

Yvette took the bottle, uncorked it, and poured a little of the
liquid on the cotton. A strong, sweet, strange odor arose; and as
she brought the piece of cotton to her lips, the fumes entered her
throat and made her cough.

Then shutting her mouth, she began to inhale it. She took in long
breaths of this deadly vapor, closing her eyes, and forcing herself
to stifle in her mind all thoughts, so that she might not reflect,
that she might know nothing more.

It seemed to her at first that her chest was growing larger, was
expanding, and that her soul, recently heavy and burdened with
grief, was becoming light, light, as if the weight which overwhelmed
her was lifted, wafted away. Something lively and agreeable
penetrated even to the extremities of her limbs, even to the tips of
her toes and fingers and entered her flesh, a sort of dreamy
intoxication, of soft fever. She saw that the cotton was dry, and
she was astonished that she was not already dead. Her senses seemed
more acute, more subtle, more alert. She heard the lowest whisper on
the terrace. Prince Kravalow was telling how he had killed an
Austrian general in a duel.

Then, further off, in the fields, she heard the noise of the night,
the occasional barkings of a dog, the short cry of the frogs, the
almost imperceptible rustling of the leaves.

She took the bottle again, and saturated once more the little piece
of wadding; then she began to breathe in the fumes again. For a few
moments she felt nothing; then that soft and soothing feeling of
comfort which she had experienced before enveloped her.

Twice she poured more chloroform upon the cotton, eager now for that
physical and mental sensation, that dreamy torpor, which bewildered
her soul.

It seemed to her that she had no more bones, flesh, legs, or arms.
The drug had gently taken all these away from her, without her
perceiving it. The chloroform had drawn away her body, leaving her
only her mind, more awakened, more active, larger, and more free
than she had ever felt it.

She recalled a thousand forgotten things, little details of her
childhood, trifles which had given her pleasure. Endowed suddenly
with an awakened agility, her mind leaped to the most diverse ideas,
ran through a thousand adventures, wandered in the past, and lost
itself in the hoped-for events of the future. And her lively and
careless thoughts had a sensuous charm: she experienced a divine
pleasure in dreaming thus.

She still heard the voices, but she could no longer distinguish the
words, which to her seemed to have a different meaning. She was in a
kind of strange and changing fairyland.

She was on a great boat which floated through a beautiful country,
all covered with flowers. She saw people on the shore, and these
people spoke very loudly; then she was again on land, without asking
how, and Servigny, clad as a prince, came to seek her, to take her
to a bull-fight.

The streets were filled with passers-by, who were talking, and she
heard conversations which did not astonish her, as if she had known
the people, for through her dreamy intoxication, she still heard her
mother's friends laughing and talking on the terrace.

Then everything became vague. Then she awakened, deliciously
benumbed, and she could hardly remember what had happened.

So, she was not yet dead. But she felt so calm, in such a state of
physical comfort, that she was not in haste to finish with it--she
wanted to make this exquisite drowsiness last forever.

She breathed slowly and looked at the moon, opposite her, above the
trees. Something had changed in her spirit. She no longer thought as
she had done just now. The chloroform quieting her body and her soul
had calmed her grief and lulled her desire to die.

Why should she not live? Why should she not be loved? Why should she
not lead a happy life? Everything appeared possible to her now, and
easy and certain. Everything in life was sweet, everything was
charming. But as she wished to dream on still, she poured more of
the dream-water on the cotton and began to breathe it in again,
stopping at times, so as not to absorb too much of it and die.

She looked at the moon and saw in it a face, a woman's face. She
began to scorn the country in the fanciful intoxication of the drug.
That face swung in the sky; then it sang, it sang with a well-known
voice the alleluia of love.

It was the Marquise, who had come in and seated herself at the
piano.

Yvette had wings now. She was flying through a clear night, above
the wood and streams. She was flying with delight, opening and
closing her wings, borne by the wind as by a caress. She moved in
the air, which kissed her skin, and she went so fast, so fast, that
she had no time to see anything beneath her, and she found herself
seated on the bank of a pond with a line in her hand; she was
fishing.

Something pulled on the cord, and when she drew it out of the water,
it bore a magnificent pearl necklace, which she had longed for some
time ago. She was not at all astonished at this deed, and she looked
at Servigny, who had come to her side--she knew not how. He was
fishing also, and drew out of the river a wooden horse.

Then she had anew the feeling of awaking, and she heard some one
calling down stairs. Her mother had said:

"Put out the candle." Then Servigny's voice rose, clear and jesting:

"Put out your candle, Mam'zelle Yvette."

And all took up the chorus: "Mam'zelle Yvette, put out your candle."

She again poured chloroform on the cotton, but, as she did not want
to die, she placed it far enough from her face to breathe the fresh
air, while nevertheless her room was filled with the asphyxiating
odor of the narcotic, for she knew that some one was coming, and
taking a suitable posture, a pose of the dead, she waited.

The Marquise said: "I am a little uneasy! That foolish child has
gone to sleep leaving the light on her table. I will send Clemence
to put it out, and to shut the balcony window, which is wide open."

And soon the maid rapped on the door calling: "Mademoiselle,
Mademoiselle!" After a moment's silence, she repeated: "Mademoiselle,
Madame the Marquise begs you to put out your candle and shut the window."

Clemence waited a little, then knocked louder, and cried:

"Mademoiselle, Mademoiselle!"

As Yvette did not reply, the servant went away and reported to the
Marquise:

"Mademoiselle must have gone to sleep, her door is bolted, and I
could not awaken her."

Madame Obardi murmured:

"But she must not stay like that,"

Then, at the suggestion of Servigny, they all gathered under the
window, shouting in chorus:

"Hip! hip! hurrah! Mam'zelle Yvette."

Their clamor rose in the calm night, through the transparent air
beneath the moon, over the sleeping country; and they heard it die
away in the distance like the sound of a disappearing train.

As Yvette did not answer the Marquise said: "I only hope that
nothing has happened. I am beginning to be afraid."

Then Servigny, plucking red roses from a big rosebush trained along
the wall and buds not yet opened, began to throw them into the room
through the window.

At the first rose that fell at her side, Yvette started and almost
cried out. Others fell upon her dress, others upon her hair, while
others going over her head fell upon the bed, covering it with a
rain of flowers.

The Marquise, in a choking voice, cried: "Come, Yvette, answer."

Then Servigny declared: "Truly this is not natural; I am going to
climb up by the balcony."

But the Chevalier grew indignant.

"Now, let me do it," he said. "It is a great favor I ask; it is too
good a means, and too good a time to obtain a rendezvous."

All the rest, who thought the young girl was joking, cried: "We
protest! He shall not climb up."

But the Marquise, disturbed, repeated: "And yet some one must go and
see."

The Prince exclaimed with a dramatic gesture:

"She favors the Duke, we are betrayed."

"Let us toss a coin to see who shall go up," said the Chevalier. He
took a five-franc piece from his pocket, and began with the Prince.

"Tail," said he. It was head.

The Prince tossed the coin in his turn saying to Saval: "Call,
Monsieur."

Saval called "Head." It was tail.

The Prince then gave all the others a chance, and they all lost.

Servigny, who was standing opposite him, exclaimed in his insolent
way: "PARBLEU! he is cheating!"

The Russian put his hand on his heart and held out the gold piece to
his rival, saying: "Toss it yourself, my dear Duke."

Servigny took it and spinning it up, said: "Head." It was tail.

He bowed and pointing to the pillar of the balcony said: "Climb up,
Prince." But the Prince looked about him with a disturbed air.

"What are you looking for?" asked the Chevalier.

"Well,--I--would--like--a ladder." A general laugh followed.

Saval, advancing, said: "We will help you."

He lifted him in his arms, as strong as those of Hercules, telling
him:

"Now climb to that balcony."

The Prince immediately clung to it, and, Saval letting him go, he
swung there, suspended in the air, moving his legs in empty space.

Then Servigny, seeing his struggling legs which sought a resting
place, pulled them downward with all his strength; the hands lost
their grip and the Prince fell in a heap on Monsieur de Belvigne,
who was coming to aid him. "Whose turn next?" asked Servigny. No one
claimed the privilege.

"Come, Belvigne, courage!"

"Thank you, my dear boy, I am thinking of my bones."

"Come, Chevalier, you must be used to scaling walls."

"I give my place to you, my dear Duke."

"Ha, ha, that is just what I expected."

Servigny, with a keen eye, turned to the pillar. Then with a leap,
clinging to the balcony, he drew himself up like a gymnast and
climbed over the balustrade.

All the spectators, gazing at him, applauded. But he immediately
reappeared, calling:

"Come, quick! Come, quick! Yvette is unconscious." The Marquise
uttered a loud cry, and rushed for the stairs.

The young girl, her eyes closed, pretended to be dead. Her mother
entered distracted, and threw her self upon her.

"Tell me what is the matter with her, what is the matter with her?"

Servigny picked up the bottle of chloroform which had fallen upon
the floor.

"She has drugged herself," said he.

He placed his ear to her heart; then he added:

"But she is not dead; we can resuscitate her. Have you any ammonia?"

The maid, bewildered, repeated: "Any what, Monsieur?"

"Any smelling-salts."

"Yes, Monsieur." "Bring them at once, and leave the door open to
make a draft of air."

The Marquise, on her knees, was sobbing: "Yvette! Yvette, my
daughter, my daughter, listen, answer me, Yvette, my child. Oh, my
God! my God! what has she done?"

The men, frightened, moved about without speaking, bringing water,
towels, glasses, and vinegar. Some one said: "She ought to be
undressed." And the Marquise, who had lost her head, tried to
undress her daughter; but did not know what she was doing. Her hands
trembled and faltered, and she groaned:

"I cannot,--I cannot--"

The maid had come back bringing a druggist's bottle which Servigny
opened and from which he poured out half upon a handkerchief. Then
he applied it to Yvette's nose, causing her to choke.

"Good, she breathes," said he. "It will be nothing."

And he bathed her temples, cheeks, and neck with the pungent liquid.

Then he made a sign to the maid to unlace the girl, and when she had
nothing more on than a skirt over her chemise, he raised her in his
arms and carried her to the bed, quivering, moved by the odor and
contact of her flesh. Then she was placed in bed. He arose very
pale.

"She will come to herself," he said, "it is nothing." For he had
heard her breathe in a continuous and regular way. But seeing all
the men with their eyes fixed on Yvette in bed, he was seized with a
jealous irritation, and advanced toward them. "Gentlemen," he said,
"there are too many of us in this room; be kind enough to leave us
alone,--Monsieur Saval and me--with the Marquise."

He spoke in a tone which was dry and full of authority.

Madame Obardi had grasped her lover, and with her head uplifted
toward him she cried to him:

"Save her, oh, save her!"

But Servigny turning around saw a letter on the table. He seized it
with a rapid movement, and read the address. He understood and
thought: "Perhaps it would be better if the Marquise should not know
of this," and tearing open the envelope, he devoured at a glance the
two lines it contained:

     "I die so that I may not become a kept woman."
     "Yvette."

     "Adieu, my dear mother, pardon."

"The devil!" he thought, "this calls for reflection." And he hid the
letter in his pocket.

Then he approached the bed, and immediately the thought came to him
that the young girl had regained consciousness but that she dared
not show it, from shame, from humiliation, and from fear of
questioning. The Marquise had fallen on her knees now, and was
weeping, her head on the foot of the bed. Suddenly she exclaimed:

"A doctor, we must have a doctor!"

But Servigny, who had just said something in a low tone to Saval,
replied to her: "No, it is all over. Come, go out a minute, just a
minute, and I promise you that she will kiss you when you come
back." And the Baron, taking Madame Obardi by the arm, led her from
the room.

Then Servigny, sitting-by the bed, took Yvette's hand and said:
"Mam'zelle, listen to me."

She did not answer. She felt so well, so soft and warm in bed, that
she would have liked never to move, never to speak, and to live like
that forever. An infinite comfort had encompassed her, a comfort the
like of which she had never experienced.

The mild night air coming in by velvety breaths touched her temples
in an exquisite almost imperceptible way. It was a caress like a
kiss of the wind, like the soft and refreshing breath of a fan made
of all the leaves of the trees and of all the shadows of the night,
of the mist of rivers, and of all the flowers too, for the roses
tossed up from below into her room and upon her bed, and the roses
climbing at her balcony, mingled their heavy perfume with the
healthful savor of the evening breeze.

She drank in this air which was so good, her eyes closed, her heart
reposing in the yet pervading intoxication of the drug, and she had
no longer at all the desire to die, but a strong, imperious wish to
live, to be happy--no matter how--to be loved, yes, to be loved.

Servigny repeated: "Mam'zelle Yvette, listen to me."

And she decided to open her eyes.

He continued, as he saw her reviving: "Come! Come! what does this
nonsense mean?"

She murmured: "My poor Muscade, I was so unhappy."

He squeezed her hand: "And that led you into a pretty scrape! Come,
you must promise me not to try it again."

She did not reply, but nodded her head slightly with an almost
imperceptible smile. He drew from his pocket the letter which he had
found on the table:

"Had I better show this to your mother?"

She shook her head, no. He knew not what more to say for the
situation seemed to him without an outlet. So he murmured:

"My dear child, everyone has hard things to bear. I understand your
sorrow and I promise you--"

She stammered: "You are good."

They were silent. He looked at her. She had in her glance something
of tenderness, of weakness; and suddenly she raised both her arms,
as if she would draw him to her; he bent over her, feeling that she
called him, and their lips met.

For a long time they remained thus, their eyes closed.

But, knowing that he would lose his head, he drew away. She smiled
at him now, most tenderly; and, with both her hands clinging to his
shoulders, she held him.

"I am going to call your mother," he said.

She murmured: "Just a second more. I am so happy."

Then after a silence, she said in a tone so low that it could
scarcely be heard: "Will you love me very much? Tell me!"

He kneeled beside her bed, and kissing the hand she had given him,
said: "I adore you." But some one was walking near the door. He
arose with a bound, and called in his ordinary voice, which seemed
nevertheless a little ironical: "You may come in. It is all right
now."

The Marquise threw herself on her daughter, with both arms open, and
clasped her frantically, covering her countenance with tears, while
Servigny with radiant soul and quivering body went out upon the
balcony to breathe the fresh air of the night, humming to himself
the old couplet:

     "A woman changeth oft her mind:
      Yet fools still trust in womankind."





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