Camille ALEXANDRE DUMAS FILS
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
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