The abbe was deeply touched as he watched the tears roll down her
pallid face. The higher her sense of security had been, the lower she
was now to fall.
"But," she said, continuing, "if I return to my orphaned condition, I
shall know how to take up its feelings. After all, could I have tied a
mill-stone round the neck of him I love? What can he do here? Who am I
to bind him to me? Besides, do I not love him with a friendship so
divine that I can bear the loss of my own happiness and my hopes? You
know I have often blamed myself for letting my hopes rest upon a
grave, and for knowing they were waiting on that poor old lady's
death. If Savinien is rich and happy with another I have enough to pay
for my entrance to a convent, where I shall go at once. There can no
more be two loves in a woman's heart than there can be two masters in
heaven, and the life of a religious is attractive to me."
"He could not let his mother go alone to Rouvre," said the abbe,
"Do not let us talk of that, my dear good friend," she answered. "I
will write to-night and set him free. I am glad to have to close the
windows of this room," she continued, telling her old friend of the
anonymous letters, but declaring that she would not allow any
inquiries to be made as to who her unknown lover might be.
"Why! it was an anonymous letter that first took Madame de Portenduere
to Rouvre," cried the abbe. "You are annoyed for some object by evil
"How can that be? Neither Savinien nor I have injured any one; and I
am no longer an obstacle to the prosperity of others."
"Well, well, my child," said the abbe, quietly, "let us profit by this
tempest, which has scattered our little circle, to put the library in
order. The books are still in heaps. Bongrand and I want to get them
in order; we wish to make a search among them. Put your trust in God,
and remember also that in our good Bongrand and in me you have two
"That is much, very much," she said, going with him to the threshold
of the door, where she stretched out her neck like a bird looking over
its nest, hoping against hope to see Savinien.
Just then Minoret and Goupil, returning from a walk in the meadows,
stopped as they passed, and the colossus spoke to Ursula.
"Is anything the matter, cousin; for we are still cousins, are we not?
You seem changed."
Goupil looked so ardently at Ursula that she was frightened, and went
back into the house without replying.
"She is cross," said Minoret to the abbe.
"Mademoiselle Mirouet is quite right not to talk to men on the
threshold of her door," said the abbe; "she is too young--"
"Oh!" said Goupil. "I am told she doesn't lack lovers."
The abbe bowed hurriedly and went as fast as he could to the Rue des
"Well," said Goupil to Minoret, "the thing is working. Did you notice
how pale she was. Within a fortnight she'll have left the town--you'll
"Better have you for a friend than an enemy," cried Minoret,
frightened at the atrocious grin which gave to Goupil's face the
diabolical expression of the Mephistopheles of Joseph Brideau.
"I should think so!" returned Goupil. "If she doesn't marry me I'll
make her die of grief."
"Do it, my boy, and I'll GIVE you the money to buy a practice in
Paris. You can then marry a rich woman--"
"Poor Ursula! what makes you so bitter against her? what has she done
to you?" asked the clerk in surprise.
"She annoys me," said Minoret, gruffly.
"Well, wait till Monday and you shall see how I'll rasp her," said
Goupil, studying the expression of the late post master's face.
The next day La Bougival carried the following letter to Savinien.
"I don't know what the dear child has written to you," she said, "but
she is almost dead this morning."
Who, reading this letter to her lover, could fail to understand the
sufferings the poor girl had gone through during the night.
My dear Savinien,--Your mother wishes you to marry Mademoiselle du
Rouvre, and perhaps she is right. You are placed between a life
that is almost poverty-stricken and a life of opulence; between
the betrothed of your heart and a wife in conformity with the
demands of the world; between obedience to your mother and the
fulfilment of your own choice--for I still believe that you have
chosen me. Savinien, if you have now to make your decision I wish
you to do so in absolute freedom; I give you back the promise you
made to yourself--not to me--in a moment which can never fade from
my memory, for it was, like other days that have succeeded it, of
angelic purity and sweetness. That memory will suffice me for my
life. If you should persist in your pledge to me, a dark and
terrible idea would henceforth trouble my happiness. In the midst
of our privations--which we have hitherto accepted so gayly--you
might reflect, too late, that life would have been to you a better
thing had you now conformed to the laws of the world. If you were
a man to express that thought, it would be to me the sentence of
an agonizing death; if you did not express it, I should watch
suspiciously every cloud upon your brow.
Dear Savinien, I have preferred you to all else on earth. I was
right to do so, for my godfather, though jealous of you, used to
say to me, "Love him, my child; you will certainly belong to each
other one of these days." When I went to Paris I loved you
hopelessly, and the feeling contented me. I do not know if I can
now return to it, but I shall try. What are we, after all, at this
moment? Brother and sister. Let us stay so. Marry that happy girl
who can have the joy of giving to your name the lustre it ought to
have, and which your mother thinks I should diminish. You will not
hear of me again. The world will approve of you; I shall never
blame you--but I shall love you ever. Adieu, then!
"Wait," cried the young man. Signing to La Bougival to sit down, he
scratched off hastily the following reply:--
My dear Ursula,--Your letter cuts me to the heart, inasmuch as you
have needlessly felt such pain; and also because our hearts, for
the first time, have failed to understand each other. If you are
not my wife now, it is solely because I cannot marry without my
mother's consent. Dear, eight thousand francs a year and a pretty
cottage on the Loing, why, that's a fortune, is it not? You know
we calculated that if we kept La Bougival we could lay by half our
income every year. You allowed me that evening, in your uncle's
garden, to consider you mine; you cannot now of yourself break
those ties which are common to both of us.--Ursula, need I tell
you that I yesterday informed Monsieur du Rouvre that even if I
were free I could not receive a fortune from a young person whom I
did not know? My mother refuses to see you again; I must therefore
lose the happiness of our evenings; but surely you will not
deprive me of the brief moments I can spend at your window? This
evening, then-- Nothing can separate us.
"Take this to her, my old woman; she must not be unhappy one moment
That afternoon at four o'clock, returning from the walk which he
always took expressly to pass before Ursula's house, Savinien found
his mistress waiting for him, her face a little pallid from these
sudden changes and excitements.
"It seems to me that until now I have never known what the pleasure of
seeing you is," she said to him.
"You once said to me," replied Savinien, smiling,--"for I remember all
your words,--'Love lives by patience; we will wait!' Dear, you have
separated love from faith. Ah! this shall be the end of our quarrels;
we will never have another. You have claimed to love me better than I
love you, but--did I ever doubt you?" he said, offering her a bouquet
of wild-flowers arranged to express his thoughts.
"You have never had any reason to doubt me," she replied; "and,
besides, you don't know all," she added, in a troubled voice.
Ursula had refused to receive letters by the post. But that afternoon,
without being able even to guess at the nature of the trick, she had
found, a few moments before Savinien's arrival, a letter tossed on her
sofa which contained the words: "Tremble! a rejected lover can become
Withstanding Savinien's entreaties, she refused to tell him, out of
prudence, the secret of her fears. The delight of seeing him again,
after she had thought him lost to her, could alone have made her
recover from the mortal chill of terror. The expectation of indefinite
evil is torture to every one; suffering assumes the proportions of the
unknown, and the unknown is the infinite of the soul. To Ursula the
pain was exquisite. Something without her bounded at the slightest
noise; yet she was afraid of silence, and suspected even the walls of
collusion. Even her sleep was restless. Goupil, who knew nothing of
her nature, delicate as that of a flower, had found, with the instinct
of evil, the poison that could wither and destroy her.
The next day passed without a shock. Ursula sat playing on her piano
till very late; and went to bed easier in mind and very sleepy. About
midnight she was awakened by the music of a band composed of a
clarinet, hautboy, flute, cornet a piston, trombone, bassoon,
flageolet, and triangle. All the neighbours were at their windows. The
poor girl, already frightened at seeing the people in the street,
received a dreadful shock as she heard the coarse, rough voice of a
man proclaiming in loud tones: "For the beautiful Ursula Mirouet, from