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Camille ALEXANDRE DUMAS FILS CHAPTER 23 When the current of life had resumed its course, I could not believe that the day which I saw dawning would not be like those which had preceded it. There were moments when I fancied that some circumstance, which I could not recollect, had obliged me to spend the night away from Marguerite, but that, if I returned to Bougival, I should find her again as anxious as I had been, and that she would ask me what had detained me away from her so long. When one`s existence has contracted a habit, such as that of this love, it seems impossible that the habit should be broken without at the same time breaking all the other springs of life. I was forced from time to time to reread Marguerite`s letter, in order to convince myself that I had not been dreaming. My body, succumbing to the moral shock, was incapable of movement. Anxiety, the night walk, and the morning`s news had prostrated me. My father profited by this total prostration of all my faculties to demand of me a formal promise to accompany him. I promised all that he asked, for I was incapable of sustaining a discussion, and I needed some affection to help me to live, after what had happened. I was too thankful that my father was willing to console me under such a calamity. All that I remember is that on that day, about five o`clock, he took me with him in a post-chaise. Without a word to me, he had had my luggage packed and put up behind the chaise with his own, and so he carried me off. I did not realize what I was doing until the town had disappeared and the solitude of the road recalled to me the emptiness of my heart. Then my tears again began to flow. My father had realized that words, even from him, would do nothing to console me, and he let me weep without saying a word, only sometimes pressing my hand, as if to remind me that I had a friend at my side. At night I slept a little. I dreamed of Marguerite. I woke with a start, not recalling why I was in the carriage. Then the truth came back upon me, and I let my head sink on my breast. I dared not say anything to my father. I was afraid he would say, "You see I was right when I declared that this woman did not love you." But he did not use his advantage, and we reached C. without his having said anything to me except to speak of matters quite apart from the event which had occasioned my leaving Paris. When I embraced my sister, I remembered what Marguerite had said about her in her letter, and I saw at once how little my sister, good as she was, would be able to make me forget my mistress. Shooting had begun, and my father thought that it would be a distraction for me. He got up shooting parties with friends and neighbours. I went without either reluctance or enthusiasm, with that sort of apathy into which I had sunk since my departure. We were beating about for game and I was given my post. I put down my unloaded gun at my side, and meditated. I watched the clouds pass. I let my thought wander over the solitary plains, and from time to time I heard some one call to me and point to a hare not ten paces off. None of these details escaped my father, and he was not deceived by my exterior calm. He was well aware that, broken as I now was, I should some day experience a terrible reaction, which might be dangerous, and, without seeming to make any effort to console me, he did his utmost to distract my thoughts. My sister, naturally, knew nothing of what had happened, and she could not understand how it was that I, who had formerly been so lighthearted, had suddenly become so sad and dreamy. Sometimes, surprising in the midst of my sadness my father`s anxious scrutiny, I pressed his hand as if to ask him tacitly to forgive me for the pain which, in spite of myself, I was giving him. Thus a month passed, but at the end of that time I could endure it no longer. The memory of Marguerite pursued me unceasingly. I had loved, I still loved this woman so much that I could not suddenly become indifferent to her. I had to love or to hate her. Above all, whatever I felt for her, I had to see her again, and at once. This desire possessed my mind, and with all the violence of a will which had begun to reassert itself in a body so long inert. It was not enough for me to see Marguerite in a month, a week. I had to see her the very next day after the day when the thought had occurred to me; and I went to my father and told him that I had been called to Paris on business, but that I should return promptly. No doubt he guessed the reason of my departure, for he insisted that I should stay, but, seeing that if I did not carry out my intention the consequences, in the state in which I was, might be fatal, he embraced me, and begged me, almost, with tears, to return without delay. I did not sleep on the way to Paris. Once there, what was I going to do? I did not know; I only knew that it must be something connected with Marguerite. I went to my rooms to change my clothes, and, as the weather was fine and it was still early, I made my way to the Champs-Elysees. At the end of half an hour I saw Marguerite`s carriage, at some distance, coming from the Rond-Point to the Place de la Concorde. She had repurchased her horses, for the carriage was just as I was accustomed to see it, but she was not in it. Scarcely had I noticed this fact, when looking around me, I saw Marguerite on foot, accompanied by a woman whom I had never seen. As she passed me she turned pale, and a nervous smile tightened about her lips. For my part, my heart beat violently in my breast; but I succeeded in giving a cold expression to my face, as I bowed coldly to my former mistress, who just then reached her carriage, into which she got with her friend. I knew Marguerite: this unexpected meeting must certainly have upset her. No doubt she had heard that I had gone away, and had thus been reassured as to the consequences of our rupture; but, seeing me again in Paris, finding herself face to face with me, pale as I was, she must have realized that I had not returned without purpose, and she must have asked herself what that purpose was. If I had seen Marguerite unhappy, if, in revenging myself upon her, I could have come to her aid, I should perhaps have forgiven her, and certainly I should have never dreamt of doing her an injury. But I found her apparently happy, some one else had restored to her the luxury which I could not give her; her breaking with me seemed to assume a character of the basest self-interest; I was lowered ... - tailieumienphi.vn