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that promise as an obligation—and you will resent it.

source:Enshenyizhongwangedit:datatime:2023-11-30 18:51:30

"Man of great phrases, I write to you to inform you of the hatred with which you inspire me. I wish you to understand that from the first day I saw you, your bearing, your face, your manners, your whole person, have been objects of distrust and aversion to me. I thought I recognized an enemy in you, and the result has proved that I was not mistaken. Now I hate you, and I tell you so frankly, for I am not a hypocrite, and I want you to know, that just now in my prayers I supplicated St. George to give me an opportunity of revenging myself upon you. What do you want in this house? What is there between us and you? How long do you intend to torture me with your odious presence, your ironical smiles, and your insulting glances? Before your arrival I was not completely unhappy. God be praised, it has been reserved for you to give me the finishing stroke. Before, I could weep at my ease, with none to busy themselves in counting my tears; the man that makes me shed them does not lower himself to such petty calculations; he has confidence in me, he knows that at the end of the year the account will be there; but you! you watch me, you pry into me, you study me. I see very well that, while you are looking at me, you are indulging in little dialogues with yourself, and these little dialogues are insupportable to me. Mark me now, I forbid you to understand me. It is an affront which you have no right to put upon me, and I have the right to be incomprehensible if it pleases me. Ah! once a little while ago, I felt that you had your eyes fastened on me again. And then I raised my head, and looked at you steadily and forced you to blush. . . . Yes, you did blush; do not attempt to deny it! What a consolation to me! What a triumph! Alas! for all that, I dare not go to my own window any longer for fear of seeing you ogling the sky, and making declamations of love to nature with your sentimental air. "Tell me, now, in a few words, clever man that you are, how you manage to combine so much sentimentality with such skillful diplomacy? Tender friend of childhood, of virtue and of sunsets, what an adroit courtier you make! From the first day you came here, the master honored you with his confidence and his affection. How he esteems you! how he cherishes you! what attentions! what favors! Will he not order us tomorrow to kiss the dust under your feet? If you want to know what disgusts me the most in you, it is the unalterable placidity of your disposition and your face. You know the faun who admires himself night and day in the basin upon the terrace; he is always laughing and looks at himself laugh. I detest this eternal laughter from the bottom of my soul, as I detest you, as I detest the whole world with the exception of my horse Soliman. But he, at least, is sincere in his gayety; he shows himself what he really is, life amuses him, great good may it do him! But you envelop your beatific happiness in an intolerable gravity. Your tranquil airs fill me with consternation; your great contented eyes seem to say: 'I am very well, so much the worse for the sick!' One word more. You treat me as a child--I will prove to you that I am not a child, showing you how well I have divined you. The secret of your being is, that you were born without passions! Confess honestly that you have never in your life felt a sentiment of disgust, of anger, or of pity. Is there a single passion, tell me, that you have experienced, or that you are acquainted with, except through your books? Your soul is like your cravat, which is always tied precisely the same way, and has such an air of repose and rationality about it, that it is perfectly insufferable to me. Yes, the bow of that cravat exasperates me; the two ends are always exactly the same length, and have an effect of INDERANGEABILITY which nearly drives me mad. Not that this famous bow is elegant. No, a thousand times no! but it has an exasperating accuracy. And in this, behold the true story of your soul. Every night when you go to bed you put it in its proper folds; every morning you unfold it carefully without rumpling it! And you dare to plume yourself on your wisdom! What does this pretended wisdom prove? Nothing, unless it be that you have poor blood, and that you were fifty years old when you were born. There is, however, one passion which no one will deny that you possess. You understand me,--man of the gilded tongue and the viper's heart,--you have a passion common to many others! But, hold, in commencing this letter, I intended to conceal from you that I had discovered everything. I feared it would give you too much pleasure to learn that I know.--Oh! why can't I make you stand before me now this moment! I should confound you! how I would force you to fall at my feet and cry for pardon! "Oh, my dear flowers, my Maltese cross, my verbenas, my white starred fox, and you, my musk rosebush, and above all my beautiful variegated carnation, which ought to be opening to-day! Was it then for him,--was it to rejoice the eyes of this insolent parasite, that I planted, watered, and tended you with so much care? Beloved flowers, will you not share my hate? Send out from each of your cups, from each of your corollas, some devouring insect, some wasp with pointed sting, some furious horse-fly, and let them all together throw themselves upon him, harass him and persecute him with their threatening buzzing, and pierce his face with their poisoned stings. And you yourselves, my cherished daughters, at his approach, fold up your beautiful petals, refuse him your perfumes, cheat him of his cares and hopes, let the sap dry up in your fibers, that he may have the mortification of seeing you perish and fall to dust in his hands. And may he, this treacherous man, may he before your blighted petals and drooping stems, pine away himself with ennui, spite, anger, and remorse!"

that promise as an obligation—and you will resent it.

The castle clock had struck eight, when Gilbert sprang from his bed. Shall I confess that in dressing himself, when he came to tie his cravat, he hesitated for a moment? However, after reflection, he adjusted the knot as before, and would you believe it, he tied this famous, this regular knot without concentrating any attention upon it? His toilet finished, he went to the window. A sudden change had taken place in the weather; a cold, drizzly rain was falling noiselessly; very little wind; the horizon was enveloped in a thick fog; a long train of low clouds, looking like gigantic fish, floated slowly through the valley of the Rhine; the sky of a uniform gray, seemed to distill weariness and sadness; land and water were the color of mud. Gilbert cast his eyes upon his dear precipice: it was but a pit of frightful ugliness. He sank into an armchair. His thoughts harmonized with the weather; they formed a dismal landscape, over which a long procession of gloomy fancies and sinister apprehensions swept silently, like the trail of low clouds which wandered along the borders of the Rhine. "No, a thousand times no!" mused he, "I can't stay in this place any longer; I shall lose my strength here, and my spirit and my health, too. To be exposed to the blind hatred of an unhappy child whose sorrows drive him to insanity; to be the table companion of a priest without dignity or moral elevation, who silently swallows the greatest outrages; to become the intimate, the complaisant friend of a great lord, whose past is suspicious, of an unnatural father who hates his son, of a man who at times transforms himself into a specter, and who, stung by remorse, or thirsting for revenge, fills the corridors of his castle with savage howlings-- such a position is intolerable, and I must leave here at any cost! This castle is an unhealthy place; the walls are odious to me! I will not wait to penetrate into their secrets any further." And Gilbert ransacked his brain for a pretext to quit Geierfels immediately. While engaged in this research, some one knocked at the door: it was Fritz, with his breakfast. This morning he had the self-satisfied air of a fool who has worked out a folly by the sweat of his brow, and reached the fortunate moment when he can bring his invention to light. He entered without salutation, placed the tray which he carried upon the table; then, turning to Gilbert, who was seated, said to him, winking his eye: "Good-morning, comrade! Comrade, good-morning!" "What do you say?" said Gilbert, astonished, and looking at him steadily. "I say: Good-morning, comrade!" replied he, smiling agreeably. "And to whom are you speaking, if you please?" "I am speaking to you, yourself, my comrade, and I say to you, good-morning, comrade! good-morning." Gilbert looked at him attentively, trying to find some explanation of this strange prank, and this excessive and astounding insolence. "And will you tell me," he continued, after a few moments' silence, "will you be good enough to tell me, who gave you permission to call me comrade?" "It was . . . it was . . ." answered Fritz, hemming and hawing. And he reflected a moment, as though trying to remember his lesson, that he might not stumble in its recital. "Ah!" resumed he, "it was simply his Excellency the Count, and I cannot conceive what you see astonishing in it." "Have you ever heard the Count," demanded Gilbert, who felt the blood boiling in his veins, "call me your comrade?" "Ah! certainly!" he answered with a long burst of laughter. "Every day, when I come from him, M. le Comte says to me: 'Well! how is your comrade Gilbert?' And isn't it very natural? Don't we eat at the same rack? Are we not, both of us, in the service of the same master? And don't you see. . . ." He was not able to say more, for Gilbert bounded from his chair, and crying: "Go and tell your master that he is not my master!" He seized the valet de chambre by the collar. He was at least a head shorter than his adversary, but his grasp was like iron; and in spite of appearances, great Fritz proved but a weak and nerveless body, and greatly surprised at this unexpected attack, he could only open his large mouth and utter some inarticulate sounds. Gilbert had already dragged him to the top of the staircase. Then Fritz, recovering from his first flurry, tried to struggle, but he lost his footing, stumbled, and fell headlong down the staircase to the bottom. Gilbert came near following him in his descent, but fortunately saved himself by clinging to the balustrade. As he saw him rolling, he feared that he had been too violent, but felt reassured, when he saw him scramble up, feel himself, rub his back, turn to shake his fist and limp away. He returned to his chamber and breakfasted peaceably. "Quite an opportune adventure," thought he. "Now, I shall be inflexible, unyielding, and if my trunks are not packed before night, I'm an idiot." Gathering up under his arm a bundle of papers which were needed for the day's work, he left the room, his head erect and his spirits animated; but he had hardly descended the first flight of steps before his exaltation gave way to very different feelings. He could not look without shuddering at the place where he had stood like one petrified, listening to the horrible groans of the somnambulist. He stopped, and, looking at the packet which he held under his arm, thought to himself that it was with a specter he was about to discuss Byzantine history. Then resuming his walk, he arrived at M. Leminof's study, where he almost expected to see the formidable apparition of last night appear before his eyes, and hear a sepuchral voice crying out to him: "Those eyes behind the door were yours!" He remained motionless a few seconds, his hand upon his heart. At last he knocked. A voice cried: "Come in. He opened the door and entered. Heavens! how far was the reality from his fancy. M. Leminof was quietly seated in the embrasure of the window, looking at the rain and playing with his monkey. He no sooner perceived his secretary than he uttered an exclamation of joy, and after shutting up Solon in an adjoining room, he approached Gilbert, took both his hands in his and pressed them cordially, saying in an affectionate tone: "Welcome, my dear Gilbert, I have been looking for you impatiently. I have been thinking a great deal since yesterday on our famous problem of the Slavonic invasions, and I am far from being convinced by your arguments. Be on your guard, my dear sir! Be on your guard! I propose to give you some thrusts that will trouble you to parry." Gilbert, who had recovered his tranquillity, seated himself, and the discussion commenced. The point in dispute was the question of the degree of importance and influence of the establishment of the Slavonians in the Byzantine empire during the middle ages. Upon this question, much debated at present, Count Kostia had espoused the opinion most favorable to the ambitions of Muscovite policy. He affected to renounce his country and to censure it without mercy; he had even denationalized himself to the extent of never speaking his mother tongue and of forbidding its use in his house. In fact, the idiom of Voltaire was more familiar to him than that of Karamzin, and he had accustomed himself for a long time even to think in French. In spite of all this, and of whatever he might say, he remained Russian at heart: this is a quality which cannot be lost. Twelve o'clock sounded while they were at the height of the discussion. "If you agree, my dear Gilbert," said M. Leminof, "we will give ourselves a little relaxation. Indeed you're truly a terrible fellow; there's no persuading you. Let us breakfast in peace, if you please, like two good friends; afterwards we will renew the fight." The breakfast was invariably composed of toast au caviar and a small glass of Madeira wine; and every day at noon they suspended work for a few moments to partake of this little collation. "Judge of my presumption," suddenly said M. Leminof, underscoring, so to speak, every word, "I passed LAST NIGHT [and he put a wide space between these two words] in pleading against you the cause of my Slavonians. My arguments seemed to me irresistible. I beat you all hollow. I am like those fencers who are admirable in the training school, but who make a very bad figure in the field. I had prodigious eloquence LAST NIGHT; I don't know what has become of it; it seems to have fled like a phantom at the first crowing of the cock." As he pronounced these words, Count Kostia fixed such piercing eyes on Gilbert, that they seemed to search through to the most remote recesses of his soul. Gilbert sustained the attack with perfect sangfroid. "Ah! sir," replied he coolly, "I don't know how you argue at night; but I assure you by day you're the most formidable logician I know." Gilbert's tranquil air dissipated the suspicion which seemed to weigh upon M. Leminof. "You act," said he gayly, "like those conquerors who exert themselves to console the generals they have beaten, thereby enhancing their real glory; but bah! arms are fickle, and I shall have my revenge at an early day." "I venture to suggest that you do not delay it long," answered Gilbert in a grave tone. "Who knows how much longer I may remain at Geierfels?" These words re-awakened the suspicions of the Count. "What do you mean?" exclaimed he. Whereupon Gilbert related in a firm, distinct tone the morning's adventure. As he advanced in the recital, he became warmer and repeated with an indignant air the remark which Fritz had attributed to the Count, and strongly emphasized his answer: "Go and tell your master that he is not my master." He flattered himself that he would pique the Count; he saw him already raising his head, and speaking in the clouds. He was destined to be mistaken today in all his conjectures. From the first words of his eloquent recital, Count Kostia appeared to be relieved of a pre-occupation which had disturbed him. He had been prepared for something else, and was glad to find himself mistaken. He listened to the rest with an undisturbed air, leaning back in his easy-chair with his eyes fixed on the ceiling. When Gilbert had finished-- "And tell me, pray," said he, without changing his posture, "how did you punish this rascal?" "I took him by the collar," replied Gilbert, "and flung him down head first." "Peste!" exclaimed the Count, raising himself and looking at him with an air of surprise and admiration. "And tell me," resumed he, smiling in his enjoyment, "did this domestic animal perish in his fall?" "He may perhaps have broken his arms or legs. I didn't take the trouble to inquire." M. Leminof rose and folded his arms on his breast. "See now, how liable our judgments are to be led astray, and how full of sense that Russian proverb is which says: 'It takes more than one day to compass a man!' Yesterday you had such a sentimental pathetic air, when I permitted myself to administer a little correction to my serf, that I took you in all simplicity for a philanthropist. I retract it now. You are one of those tyrants who are only moved for the victims of another. Pure professional jealousy! But," continued he, "there is one thing which astonishes me still more, and that is, that you Gilbert, you could for an instant believe--" He checked himself, bent forward towards Gilbert, and looked at him scrutinizingly, making a shade of his two bony hands extended over his enormous eyebrows; then taking him by the arm, he led him to the embrasure of the window, and as if he had made a sudden change in his person which rendered him irrecognizable: "Nothing could be better than your throwing the scoundrel downstairs," said he, "and if he is not quite dead, I shall drive him from here without pity; but that you should have believed that I, Count Leminof-- Oh! it is too much, I dream-- No, you are not the Gilbert that I know, the Gilbert I love, though I conceal it from myself--" And taking him by both hands, he added: "This man was silly enough to tell you that I was your master, and you replied to him with the Mirabeau tone: 'Go and tell your master--' My dear Gilbert, in the name of reason, I ask you to remember that the true is never the opposite of the false; it is another thing, that is all; but to which I add, that in answering as you did, you have cruelly compromised yourself. We should never contradict a fool; it is running the risk of being like him." Gilbert blushed. He did not try to amend anything, but readily changing his tactics, he said, smiling: "I implore you, sir, not to drive this man away. I want him to stay to remind me occasionally that I am liable to lose my senses." But what were his feelings when the Count, having sent for this valet de chambre, said to him: "You have not done this on your own responsibility--you received orders. Who gave them?" Fritz answered, stammering: "Do please forgive me, your excellency! It was M. Stephane who, yesterday evening, made me a present of two Russian crowns on condition that every morning for a week I should say to M. Saville, 'good-morning, comrade.'" A flash of joy shone in the Count's eyes. He turned towards Gilbert, and pressing his hand, said to him: "For this once I thank you cordially for having addressed your complaints to me. The affair is more serious than I had thought. There is a malignant abscess there, which must be lanced once for all." This surgical comparison made Gilbert shudder; he cursed his hasty passion and his stupidity. Why had he not suspected the real culprit? Why was it necessary for him to justify the hatred which Stephane had avowed towards him? "And how happens it, sir," resumed Count Kostia, with less of anger in his tone, "that you have an opportunity of holding secret conversations with my son in the evening? When did you enter his service? Do you not know that you are to receive neither orders, messages, nor communications of any kind from him?" Fritz, who in his heart blessed the admirable invention of lightning rods, explained as well as he could, that the evening before, in going up to his excellency's room, he had met Ivan on the staircase, going down to the grand hall to find a cap which his young master had forgotten. Apparently he had neglected to close the wicket, for Fritz, in going out through the gallery, had found Stephane, who, approaching him stealthily, had given him his little lesson in a mysterious tone, and as Ivan returned at this moment without the cap he said: "Dost thou not see, imbecile, that it's on my head," and he drew the cap from his pocket and proudly put it on his head, while he ran to his rooms laughing. When he had finished his story, Fritz was profuse in his protestations of repentance, servile and tearful; the Count cut him short, declaring to him, that at the request of Gilbert he consented to pardon him; but that at the first complaint brought against him, he would give him but two hours to pack. When he had gone out, M. Leminof pulled another bell which communicated with the room of Ivan, who presently appeared. "Knowest thou, my son," said the Count to him in German, "that thou hast been very negligent for some time? Thy mind fails, thy sight is feeble. Thou art growing old, my poor friend. Thou art like an old bloodhound in his decline, without teeth and without scent, who knows neither how to hunt the prey nor how to catch it. Thou must be on the retired list. I have already thought of the office I shall give thee in exchange. . . . Oh! do not deceive thyself. It is in vain to shrug thy shoulders, my son; thou art wrong in believing thyself necessary. By paying well I shall easily find one who will be worth as much--" Ivan's eyes flashed. "I do not believe you," replied he, in Russian; "you know very well that you are not amiable, but that I love you in spite of it, and when you have spent a hundred thousand roubles, you will not have secured one to replace me, whose affection for you will be worth a kopeck." "Why dost thou speak Russian?" resumed the Count. "Thou knowest well that I have forbidden it. Apparently thou wishest that no one but myself may understand the sweet things which thou sayest to me. Go and cry them upon the roof, if that will give thee pleasure; but I have never asked thee to love me. I exact only faithful service on thy part, and I answer for it that thy substitute, when his young master shall tell him 'go and find my cap, which I have left in the grand hall,' will answer him coolly: 'I am not blind, my little father, your cap is in your pocket.'" Ivan looked at his master attentively, and the expression of his face appeared to reassure him, for he began to smile. "Meantime," said the Count, "so long as I keep thee in thy office, study to satisfy me. Go to thy room and reflect, and at the end of a quarter of an hour, bring thy little father here to me; I want to talk with him, and I will permit thee to listen, if that will give thee pleasure." As soon as Ivan had gone, Gilbert begged M. Leminof not to pursue this miserable business. "I have punished Fritz," said he, "with perhaps undue severity; you yourself have rebuked and threatened him; I am satisfied." "Pardon me. In all this Fritz was but an instrument. It would not be right to allow the real culprit to go unpunished!" "It is no trouble to me to pardon that culprit," exclaimed Gilbert, with an animation beyond his control, "he is so unhappy!" M. Leminof gave Gilbert a haughty and angry look. He strode through the room several times, his hands behind his back; then, with the easy tempered air of an absolute prince, who condescends to some unreasonable fancy of one of his favorites, made Gilbert sit down, and placing himself by his side: "My dear sir," said he to him, "your last words show a singular forgetfulness on your part of our reciprocal agreements. You had engaged, if you remember, not to take any interest in any one here but yourself and myself. After that, what difference can it make to you, whether my son is happy or unhappy? Since, however, you have raised this question, I consent to an explanation; but let it be fully understood, that you are never, never, to revive the subject again. You can readily perceive, that if your society is agreeable to me, it is because I have the pleasure of forgetting with you the petty annoyances of domestic life. And now speak frankly, and tell me what makes you conclude that my son is unhappy." Gilbert had a thousand things to reply, but they were difficult to say. So he hesitated to answer for a moment, and the Count anticipated him: "Mon Dieu! I must needs proceed in advance of your accusations, a concession which I dare to hope you will appreciate. Perhaps you reproach me with not showing sufficient affection for my son in daily life. But what can you expect? The Leminofs are not affectionate. I don't remember ever to have received a single caress from my father. I have seen him sometimes pat his hounds, or give sugar to his horse; but I assure you that I never partook of his sweetmeats or his smiles, and at this hour I thank him for it. The education which he gave me hardened the affections, and it is the best service which a father can render his son. Life is a hard stepmother, my dear Gilbert; how many smiles have you seen pass over her brazen lips! Besides, I have particular reasons for not treating Stephane with too much tenderness. He seems to you to be unhappy, he will be so forever if I do not strive to discipline his inclinations and to break his intractable disposition. The child was born under an evil star. At once feeble and violent, he unites with very ardent passions a deplorable puerility of mind; incapable of serious thought, the merest trivialities move him to fever heat, and he talks childish prattle with all the gestures of great passion. And what is worse, interesting himself greatly in himself, he thinks it very natural that this interest should be shared by all the world. Do not imagine that his is a loving heart that feels a necessity of spending itself on others. He likes to make his emotions spectacular, and as his impressions are events for him, he would like to display them, even to the inhabitants of Sirius. His soul is like a lake swept by a gale of wind that would drive a man-of-war at the rate of twenty-five knots an hour; and on this lake Stephane sails his squadrons of nutshells, and he sees them come, go, tack, run around, and capsize. He keeps his log- book very accurately, pompously registers all the shipwrecks, and as these spectacles transport him with admiration, he is indignant to find that he alone is moved by them. This is what makes him unhappy; and you will agree with me that it is not my fault. The regime which I prescribe for my invalid may appear to you a little severe, but it's the only way by which I can hope to cure him. Leading a regular, uniform life,--and sad enough I admit--he will gradually become surfeited with his own emotions when the objects of them are never renewed, and he will end, I hope, by demanding the diversions of work and study. May he be able some day to discover that a problem of Euclid is more interesting than the wreck of a nutshell! Upon that day he will enter upon full convalescence, and I shall not be the last to rejoice in it." M. Leminof spoke in a tone so serious and composed, that for a few moments Gilbert could have imagined him a pedagogue gravely explaining his maxims of education; but he could not forget that expression of ferocious joy which was depicted on his face at the moment when Stephane fled sobbing from the garden, and he remembered also the somnambulist who, on the preceding night, had uttered certain broken phrases in regard to a LIVING PORTRAIT and a BURIED SMILE. These mysterious words, terrible in their obscurity, had appeared to him to allude to Stephane, and they accorded badly with the airs of paternal solicitude which M. Leminof had deigned to affect in the past few minutes. He had a show of reason, however, in his argument; and the picture which he drew of his son, if cruelly exaggerated, had still some points of resemblance. Only Gilbert had reason to think that the Count purposely confounded cause and effect, and that Stephane's malady was the work of the physician. "Will you permit me, sir," answered he, "to tell you all that I have on my heart?" "Speak, speak, improve the opportunity: I swear to you it won't occur again." And looking at his watch: "You have still five minutes to talk with me about my son. Hurry; I will not grant you two seconds more." "I have heard it said," resumed Gilbert, "that in building bridges and causeways, the best foundations are those which HUMOR the waves of the sea. These are foundations with inclined slopes, which, instead of breaking the waves abruptly, check their movement by degrees, and abate their force without violence." "You favor anodynes, Monsieur disciple of Galen," exclaimed M. Leminof. "Each one according to his temperament. We cannot reconstruct ourselves. I am a very violent, very passionate man, and when, for example, a servant offends me I throw him headforemost downstairs. This happens to me every day." "Between your son and your valet de chambre, the difference is great," answered Gilbert, a little piqued. "Did not your famous revolution proclaim absolute equality between all men?" "In the law it is admirable, but not in the heart of a father." "Good God!" cried the Count, "I do not know that I have a father's heart for my son; I know only that I think a great deal about him, and that I strive according to my abilities to correct in him very grave faults, which threaten to compromise his future welfare. I know also for a certainty that this whiner enjoys some pleasures of which many children of his age are deprived, as, for example, a servant for himself, a horse, and as much money as he wants for his petty diversions. You are not ignorant of the use which he makes of this money, neither in regard to the two thalers expended yesterday to corrupt my valet, nor of the seven crowns with which he purchased the delightful pleasure, the other day in your presence, of having his foot kissed by a troop of young rustics. And at this point, I will tell you that Ivan has reported to me that, on the same day, Stephane turned up his sleeve to make you admire a scar which he carried upon one of his wrists. Oblige me by telling me what blue story he related to you on this subject." This unexpected question troubled Gilbert a little. "To conceal nothing from you," answered he hesitatingly, "he told me, that for an escapade which he had made, he had been condemned to pass a fortnight in a dungeon in irons." "And you believed it!" cried the Count, shrugging his shoulders. "The truth is, that, for a fortnight, I compelled my son to pass one hour every evening in an uninhabited wing of this castle; my intention was not so much to punish him for an act of insubordination, as to cure him of the foolish terrors by which he is tormented, for this boy of sixteen, who often shows himself brave even to rashness, believes in ghosts, in apparitions, in vampires. I ought to authorize him to guard himself at night by the best-toothed of my bulldogs. Oh what a strange compound has God given me for a son!" At this moment the sound of steps was heard in the corridor. "In the name of the kind friendship which you profess for me, sir," exclaimed Gilbert, seizing one of M. Leminof's hands, "I beg of you, do not punish this child for a boyish freak for which I forgive him with all my heart!" "I can refuse you nothing, my dear Gilbert," answered he with a smiling air. "I spare him from his pretended dungeons. I dare hope that you will give me credit for it." "I thank you; but one thing more: the flowers you deprived him of." "Mon Dieu! since you wish it, we will have them restored to him, and to please you, I will content myself with having him make apologies to you in due form." "Make apologies to me!" cried Gilbert in consternation; "but that will be the most cruel of punishments." "We will leave him the choice," said the Count dryly. And as Gilbert insisted: "This time you ask too much!" added he in a tone which admitted of no reply. "It is a question of principles, and in such matters I never compromise." Gilbert perceived that even in Stephane's interest, it was necessary to desist, but he understood also to what extent the pride of the young man would suffer, and cursed himself a thousand times for having spoken. Someone knocked at the door. "Come in," cried the Count in a hoarse voice; and Stephane entered, followed by Ivan.

that promise as an obligation—and you will resent it.

Stephane remained standing in the middle of the room. He was paler than usual, and kept his eyes on the floor; but his bearing was good, and he affected a resolute air which he rarely displayed in the presence of his father. The Count remained silent for some time; he gazed with a cold eye on the supple and delicate body of his son, the exquisite elegance of his form, his fine and delicate features, framed in the slightly darkened gold of his hair. Never had the beauty of his child filled the heart of his father with keener bitterness. As for Gilbert, he had eyes only for a little black spot which he noticed for the first time upon the uniformly pale complexion of Stephane: it was like an almost imperceptible fly, under the left corner of his mouth. "That is the mole," thought he, and he fancied he could hear the voice of the somnambulist cry: "Take away that mole! it hurts me!" Shuddering at this recollection, he felt tempted to rush from the room; but a look from the Count recalled him to himself; he made a strong effort to master his emotion, and fixing his eyes upon the window, he looked at the falling rain. "As a preliminary question," suddenly exclaimed the Count, speaking to his son; "do me the favor, sir, to tell me how much time you have passed in what you call a dungeon, for I do not remember." Stephane's face colored with a vivid blush. He hesitated a moment and then answered: "I was there in all fifteen hours, which appeared to me as long as fifteen days." "You see!" said the Count, looking at Gilbert. "And now," resumed he, "let us come to the point; a scene of the greatest impropriety occurred in this house this morning. Fritz, my valet, in presenting himself to my secretary, who is my friend, permitted himself to say three times: 'Good-morning, comrade; comrade, good- morning!'" At these words Stephane's lips contracted slightly, as if about to smile; but the smile was arrested on its way. "My little story amuses you, apparently," pursued the Count, raising his head. "It is the incredible folly of Fritz which diverts me," answered Stephane. "His folly seems to me less than his insolence," replied the Count; "but without discussing words, I am delighted to see that you disavow his conduct. I ought not to conceal from you the fact, that this scoundrel wished to make me believe that he acted upon your orders, and I was resolved to punish you severely. I see now that he has lied, and it remains for me but to dismiss him in disgrace." Gilbert trembled lest Stephane's veracity should succumb under this temptation; the young man hesitated but an instant. "I am the guilty one," answered he in a firm voice, "and it is I who should be punished." "What," said M. Leminof, "was it then my son, who, availing himself of the only resources of his mind, conceived this truly happy idea. The invention was admirable, it does honor to your genius. But if Fritz has been but the instrument to carry out your sublime conceptions, why do you laugh at his stupidity?" "Oh, poor soul!" replied Stephane, with animation, "oh! the donkey, how he spoiled my idea! I didn't order him to call M. Saville his comrade, but to treat him as a comrade, which is a different thing. Unfortunately I had not time to give him minute instructions, and he misunderstood me, but he did what he could conscientiously to earn his fee. The poor fellow must be pardoned. I am the only guilty one, I repeat it. I am the one to be punished." "And might we know, sir," said the Count, "what your intention was in causing M. Saville to be insulted by a servant?" "I wished to humiliate him, to disgust him, and to force him to leave this house." "And your motive?" "My motive is that I hate him!" answered he in a hoarse voice. "Always exaggerations," replied the Count sneeringly. "Can you not, sir, rid yourself of this detestable habit of perpetual exaggeration in the expression of your thoughts? Can I not impress upon your mind the maxims upon this subject which two men of equal genius have given us: M. de Metternich and Pigault Lebrun! The first of these illustrious men used to say that superlatives were the seals of fools, and the second wrote these immortal words: "'Everything exaggerated is insignificant.'" Then extending his arm: "To hate! to hate!" exclaimed he. "You say the word glibly. Do you know what it is? Sorrow, anger, jealousy, antipathy, aversion, you may know all these; but hatred, hatred!--you have no right to say this terrible word. Ah! hatred is a rough work! it is ceaseless torture, it is a cross of lead to carry, and to sustain its weight without breaking down requires very different shoulders than yours!" At this moment Stephane ventured to look his father in the face. He slowly uplifted his eyes, inclining his head backward. His look signified "You are right, I will take your word for it; you are better acquainted with it than I." But the Count's face was so terrible that Stephane closed his eyes and resumed his former attitude. A slight shudder agitated his whole frame. The Count perceived that he was near forgetting himself, and drove back the bitter wave which came up from his heart to his lips in spite of himself: "Besides, my young friend here is the least detestable being in the world," pursued he in a tranquil tone. "Judge for yourself; just now he pleaded your cause to me with so much warmth, that he drew from me a promise not to punish you for what he has the kindness to call only a boy's freak. He even stipulates that I shall restore you your flowers, which he pretends give you delight, and within an hour Ivan will have carried them to your room. In short, two words of apology are all he requires of you. You must admit that one could not have a more accommodating disposition, and that you owe him a thousand thanks." "Apologies! to him!" cried Stephane with a gesture of horror. "You hesitate! oh! this is too much! Do you then wish to revisit a certain rather gloomy hall?" Stephane shuddered, his lips trembled. "In mercy," cried he, "inflict any other punishment upon me you please, but not that one. Oh, no! I cannot go back to that frightful hall. Oh! I entreat you, deprive me of my customary walks for six months; sell Soliman, cut my hair, shave my head,-- anything, yes, anything rather than put my feet in that horrible dungeon again! I shall die there or go mad. You don't want me to become insane?" "When one is unfortunate enough to believe in ghosts and apparitions at the age of sixteen," retorted the Count, "he should free himself as soon as possible from the ridiculous weakness." Stephane's whole body trembled. He staggered a few steps, and falling on his knees before his father, clung to him and cried: "I am only a poor sick child, have pity on me. You are still my father, are you not? and I am still your child? Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! You do not, you cannot, want your child to die!" "Put an end to this miserable comedy," cried the Count, disengaging himself from Stephane's clasp. "I am your father, and you are my son; no one here doubts it; but your father, sir, has a horror of scenes. This has lasted too long; end it, I tell you. You are already in a suitable posture. The most difficult part is done, the rest is a trifle!" "What do you say, sir?" answered the child impetuously, trying to rise. "I am on my knees to you only. Ah! great God! I to kneel before this man! it is impossible! you know very well it is impossible! The Count, however, pressing his hand upon his shoulder, constrained him to remain upon his knees, and turning his face to Gilbert: "I tell you, you are kneeling before the man you have insulted, and we all understand it." Was it, indeed thus, that Gilbert understood it? Quiet, impassible, his eyes fixed upon the window, he seemed a perfect stranger to all that passed around him. A cry of anguish escaped Stephane, a frightful change came over his face. Three times he tried to rise, and three times the hand of his father weighed him down again, and kept him in a kneeling posture. Then, as if annihilated by the thought of his weakness and powerlessness, he yielded, and covering his eyes with both hands, he murmured these words in a stifled and convulsive voice: "Sir they do me violence,--I ask pardon for hating you." And immediately his strength abandoned him, and he fainted; as a lily broken by the storm, his head sank, and he would have fallen backward, if his father had not signed to Ivan, who raised him like a feather in his robust arms, and carried him hastily out of the room. Gilbert's first care after returning to his turret, was to light a candle and burn Stephane's letter. Then he opened a closet and began to prepare his trunk. While engaged in this task, someone knocked at the door. He had only time to close the closet and the trunk when Ivan appeared with a basket on his arm. The serf came for the flowers, which he had orders to carry to the apartment of his young master. Having placed five or six in his basket, he turned to Gilbert and gave him to understand, in his Teutonic gibberish mingled with French, that he had something important to communicate to him. Gilbert answered in a tone of ill-humor, that he had not time to listen to him. Ivan shook his head with a pensive air, and left. Gilbert immediately seated himself at the table, and upon the first scrap of paper which came under his hand, hastily wrote the following lines: "Poor child, do not distress yourself too much for the humiliation to which you have just submitted. As you said yourself, you yielded only to violence, and your apologies are void in my eyes. Believe me, I exact nothing. Why did I not divine, this morning, that Fritz spoke in your name! I should not have felt offended, for it is not to me that your insults are addressed, it is to some strange Gilbert of your imagination. I am not acquainted with him. But what can it avail you to provoke contests, the result of which is certain in advance? It is a hand of iron which lately weighed upon your shoulder. Do you hope then to free yourself so soon from its grasp? Believe me, submit yourself to your lot, and mitigate its rigors by patience, until the day when your eyes have become strong enough to dare to look him in the face, and your hand manly enough to throw the gage of battle. Poor child the only consolation I can offer you in your misfortune I should be a culprit to refuse. I have but one night more to pass here; keep this secret for me for twenty-four hours, and receive the adieus of that Gilbert whom you have never known. One day he passed near you and looked at you, and you read an offensive curiosity in his eyes. I swear to you, they were full of tears." Gilbert folded this letter, and slid it under the facing of one of his sleeves; then taking the key of the private door in his hand, and posting himself at the head of the staircase, he waited Ivan's return. As soon as he heard the sound of his steps in the corridor, he descended rapidly and met him on the landing at the gallery. "I do not know what to do," said Ivan to him. "My young master is not himself, and he has broken the first flower-pots I carried to him in a thousand pieces." "Take the others too," replied Gilbert, taking care to let him see the key which he flourished in his hand. "You can put them in your room for the time being. When he becomes calmer he will be glad to see them again." "But will it not be better to leave them with you until he asks for them?" "I don't want to keep them half an hour longer," replied Gilbert quickly, and he descended the first steps of the private staircase. "As you are going on the terrace, sir," cried the serf to him, "don't forget, I beg of you, to close the door behind you." Gilbert promised this. "It works well," thought he; "his caution proves to me that the wicket is not closed." He was not mistaken. For the convenience of his transportation, the serf had left it half open, only taking the precaution to close and double-lock the door of the grand staircase. Gilbert waited until Ivan had reached the second story, and immediately remounting upon tiptoe, he darted into the corridor, followed its entire length, turned to the right, passed before the Count's study, turned a second time to the right, found himself in the gallery which led to the square tower, sprang through the wicket, and arrived without obstacle at the foot of the tower staircase. He found the steps littered with the debris of broken pots and flowers. As he began to descend, loud voices came to his ears; he thought for a moment that M. Leminof was with his son. This did not turn him from his project. He had nothing to conceal. "I will beg the Count himself," thought he, "to read my farewell letter to his son." Having reached the top of the staircase, he crossed a vestibule and found himself in a long, dark alcove, lighted by a solitary glass door, opening into the great room ordinarily occupied by Stephane. This door was ajar, and the strange scene which presented itself to Gilbert, as he approached, held him motionless a few steps from the threshold. Stephane, with his back towards him, stood with his arms crossed upon his breast. He was not speaking to his father, but to two pictures of saints hanging from the wall above a lighted taper. These two paintings on wood, in the style of Father Alexis, represented St. George and St. Sergius. The child, looking at them with burning eyes, apostrophized them in a voice trembling with anger, at intervals stamping his foot and running his hands furiously through his long hair and tossing it in wild disorder. Illustrious Saints of the Eastern Church, heard you ever such language before? Then he sprang on a chair, tore the two pictures from the wall, threw them to the ground, and seizing his riding whip, switched them furiously. In this affair, St. George lost half of his head and one of his legs, and St. Sergius was disfigured for the rest of his days. When he had satisfied his fury, Stephane hung them up again on their nails, turning their faces to the wall, and blew out the lamp; then he rolled upon the floor, twisting his arms and tearing his hair--but suddenly sitting up, he drew from his bosom a small, heart-shaped medallion which he gazed on fixedly, and as he looked the tears began to roll down his cheeks, and in the midst of his sobs, he cried out: "Oh, my mother! I desire nothing from you! you could do nothing for me; but why did I have time to know you? To remember! to remember-- what torment! Yes, I can see you now-- Every morning you gave me a kiss, high on my forehead at the roots of my hair. The mark is there yet--sometimes it burns me. I have often looked in the glass to see if I had not a scar there-- Oh, my mother! come and heal my wound by renewing it! To be kissed by one's mother, Great God! what happiness! Oh! for a kiss, for a single kiss from you, I would brave a thousand dangers, I would give my blood, my life, my soul. Ah! how sad you look! there are tears in your eyes. You recognize me, do you not? I am much changed, much changed; but I have always your look, your forehead, your mouth, your hair." Then starting up suddenly, Stephane walked around the room with an unsteady step. He held the medallion closely grasped in his right hand and kept his eyes upon it. Again he held it out at arm's length and looked at it steadily with half-closed eyes, or drawing it nearer to him, he said to it sweet and tender things, pressing it to his lips, kissing it a thousand times and passing it over his hair and his cheeks wet with tears; it seemed as though he were trying to make some particle of this sacred image penetrate his life and being. At last, placing it on the bed, he knelt before it, and burying his face in his hands, cried out sobbing, "Mother, mother, it is long since your daughter died. When will you call your son to you?" Gilbert retired in silence. A voice from this room said to him: "Thou art out of place here. Take care not to meddle in the secret communion of a son and his mother. Great sorrows have something sacred about them. Even pity profanes them by its presence." He descended the staircase with precaution. When he had reached the last step,--extending his arm in the direction of the Count's room, he muttered in a low tone: "You have lied! Under that tunic of black velvet there is a beating heart!" Then advancing with a rapid step through the corridor, he hoped to pass out unseen; but on reaching the wicket, he found himself face to face with Ivan, who was coming out of his room, and who in his surprise dropped the basket he held in his hand. "You here!" exclaimed he in a severe tone. "Another would have paid dearly for this--" Then in a soft voice, expressing profound melancholy: "Brother," said he, "do you want both of us to be killed? I see you do not know the man whose orders you dare to brave." And he added, bowing humbly: "You will pardon me for calling you brother? In my mouth, that does not mean 'comrade.'" Gilbert gave a sign of assent, and started to leave, but the serf, holding him by the arm, said: "Fortunately the barine has gone out; but take care; two days since he had one of his turns, he has one every year, and while they last, his mind wanders at night, and his anger is terrible during the day. I tell you there is a storm in the air, do not draw the thunderbolt upon your head." Then placing himself between Gilbert and the door, he added with a grave air: "Upon your conscience, what have you been doing here? Have you seen my young father? Has he been talking to himself? You could understand what he said, for he always talks in French. He only knows enough Russian to scold me. Tell me, what have you heard? I must know." "Don't be alarmed," answered Gilbert. "If he has secrets he has not betrayed them. He was engaged in complaining to himself, in scolding the saints and weeping. Neither must you think that I came hither to spy upon him, or to question him. As he had met with sorrow, I wanted to console him by imparting the agreeable news of my near departure; but I had not the courage to show myself to him, and besides, I am not quite certain now what I shall do." "Yes, you will do well to go," eagerly answered the serf; "but go secretly, without warning anyone. I will help you, if you wish it. You are too inquisitive to remain here. Certain suspicions have already been excited on your account, which I have combated. Then, too, you are imprudent!" Thus saying, he drew from his pocket the candle which Gilbert had dropped in the corridor, the preceding night. "Fortunately," said he, returning it to him, "it was I who found it, and picked it up, and I wish you well, you know why. But before going from here," added he in a solemn tone, "swear to me, that during the time you may yet remain in this house, you will not try to come into this gallery again, and that you will not ramble in the other any more in the night. I tell you your life is in danger if you do." Gilbert answered him by a gesture of assent, and passing the wicket, regained his room, where alternately standing at the window, or stretched upon an easy-chair, he passed two full hours communing with his thoughts. The dinner-bell put an end to his long meditations. There was but little conversation during the repast. M. Leminof was grave and gloomy, and seemed to be laboring under a great nervous excitement which he strove to conceal. Stephane was calmer than would have been expected, after the violent emotions he had experienced, but there was something singular in his look. Father Alexis alone wore his everyday face; he found it very good, and did not judge it expedient to change it. Towards the end of the repast, Gilbert was surprised to see Stephane, who was in the habit of drinking only wine and water, fill his glass with Marsala three times, and swallow it almost at a single draught. The young man was not long in feeling the effect of it; his face flushed, and his gaze became vacant. Towards the close of the meal, he looked a great deal at the Apocalyptic frescoes of the vaulted ceiling: then turning suddenly to his father, he ventured to address him a question. It was the first time for nearly two years,--an event which made even Father Alexis open his eyes. "Is it true," asked Stephane, "that living persons, supposed to be dead, have sometimes been buried?" "Yes, it has sometimes happened," replied the Count. "But is there no way of establishing the certainty of death?" "Some say yes, others no. I have been told of a frozen man who was dissected in a hospital. The operator, in opening him, saw his heart beating in his breast; he took flight and is running yet." "But when one dies a violent death--poisoned, for example?" "My opinion is, that they can still be mistaken. Physiology is a great mystery." "Oh! that would be horrible," said Stephane in a penetrating voice; "to awaken by bruising one's forehead against the cover of a coffin." "It would certainly be a very disagreeable experience, answered the Count. And the conversation dropped. Stephane appeared very much affected by his father's answers. He gazed no more at the ceiling, but fixed his eyes on his plate. His face changed color several times, and as if feeling the need of stupefying himself, he filled his glass with wine for the fourth time, but he could not empty it, and had hardly touched it with his lips before he set it on the table with an air of disgust. Tea was brought in. M. Leminof served it; and leaving his cup to cool, rose and walked the floor. After making two or three turns, he called Gilbert, and leaning upon his arm continued his walk, talking with him about the political news of the day. Stephane saw them come and go; he was evidently deeply agitated. Suddenly, at the moment when they turned their backs, he drew from his sleeve a small packet, which contained a pinch of yellow powder, and unfolding it quickly, held it over his still full cup; but as he was about emptying it, his hand trembled, and at this moment, his father and Gilbert returning to his side, he had only time to conceal the paper in his hand. In an instant he raised it again, but at the decisive moment his courage again failed him. It was not until the third trial that the yellow powder glided into the cup, where Stephane stirred it with his spoon. This little scene had escaped Gilbert. The Count alone had lost nothing of it; he had eyes at the back of his head. He reseated himself in his place and drank his tea slowly, continuing to talk with Gilbert, and apparently quite unconscious of his son; but not a movement escaped him. Stephane looked at his cup steadily, his agitation increased, he breathed heavily, he shuddered, and his hand trembled with feverish excitement. After waiting several minutes, the Count turned to him and, looking him full in the eyes, said: "Well! you do not drink? Cold tea is a bad drug." The child trembled still more; his eyes had a glassy brightness. Turning his head slowly, they wandered over everything about him, the table, the chairs, the plate, and the black oak wainscoting. There are moments when the aspect of the most common objects stirs the soul with solemn emotion. When the condemned man is led out to die, the least straw on the floor of his cell seems to say something to his heart. Finally, gathering all his courage, Stephane raised the cup and carried it to his mouth; but before it had touched his lips, the Count took it roughly from his hands. Stephane uttered a piercing cry and fell back in his chair with closed eyes. M. Leminof looked at him for a moment with a sarcastic and scornful smile; then bending over the cup he examined it with care, smelt of it, and dipping his spoon in it, drew out two or three yellow grains which he rubbed and pulverized between his fingers. Then in a tone as tranquil and as indifferent as if speaking of the rain, or of the fine weather, he said: "It is phosphorus, a sufficiently active poison, and phosphorus matches have been the death of a man more than once. But I saw your little paper some time before. If I am not mistaken the dose was not strong enough." And dipping his finger in the cup, he passed it over his tongue, and curled his lip disdainfully. "I was not mistaken," continued he, "it would only have given you a violent colic. It was very imprudent in you; you do not like to suffer, and you know we have only fresh-water physicians in this neighborhood. Why didn't you wait a few hours? Doctor Vladimir Paulitch will be here to-morrow evening." And then he went on in a more phlegmatic tone. "It should be a first principle to do thoroughly whatever you undertake to do at all. Thus, when a man wants to kill himself according to rule, he should not begin by exciting suspicions in talking of the cemetery. And as these affairs require the exercise of coolness, he should not try to get intoxicated. The courage which a person finds at the bottom of a glass of Marsala is not of a good quality, and the approach of death always sobers one. Finally, when a man has seriously resolved to kill himself, he does not do this little thing at the table, in company, but in his room, after having carefully bolted the door. In short, your little scene has failed in every point, and you do not know the first rudiments of this fine art. I advise you not to meddle with it any more." At these words he pulled the bell for Ivan. "Your young master wanted to kill himself," said he; "take him to his room and prepare him a composing draught that will put him to sleep. Watch with him to-night, and in future be careful not to leave any phosphorus matches in his rooms. Not that I suspect him of entertaining any intense desire of killing himself,--but who knows? Wounded vanity might drive him to try it. As his nerves are excited, you will see that for some days he takes a great deal of exercise. If the weather is fine tomorrow, keep him in the open air all day, and in the evening walk him on the terrace; he must get his blood stirred up." From the moment that his father had taken the poisoned cup from him, Stephane had remained petrified on his chair, with livid face and arms hanging over his knees, giving no sign of life. When Ivan approached to take him away, he rose with a start, and leaning upon the arm of the serf, he crossed the room without opening his eyes. When he had gone, the Count heaved a long sigh of weariness and dejection. "What did I tell you?" exclaimed he, throwing upon Gilbert a scrutinizing look; "this boy has a theatrical turn of mind. I would wager my life that he hadn't the faintest desire to kill himself: he only aimed at exciting us; but certainly if it was the sensitive heart of Father Alexis which he took for a target, he has lost the trouble." And he directed Gilbert's attention to the worthy priest, who, as soon as he had emptied his cup, had fallen sound asleep on his stool, and smiled at the angels in his dreams. Gilbert gave the Count a lively and agreeable surprise by answering him in the steadiest tone: "You are entirely right, sir; it was only a very ridiculous affectation. Fortunately, we may consider it pretty certain that our young tragedian will not regale us a second time with his little play. Where courage is required, it is good to have an opportunity of seeing to the bottom of one's sack; nothing is more likely to cure a boaster of the foolish mania for blustering." "Decidedly my secretary is improving," thought the Count; "he has a tender mouth and feels the curb." And in the joy which this discovery gave him, he felt that he entertained for him sentiments of real friendship, of which he would not have believed himself capable. His surprise and pleasure increased still more when Gilbert resumed: "But apropos, sir, do you persist in believing that, according to Constantius Porphyrogennatus, all Greece became Slavonian in the eighteenth century? I have new objections to present to you on that subject. And first this famous Copronymus of whom he speaks. . . ." They did not rise from the table until eleven o'clock. It was necessary to awaken Father Alexis, who slept during the whole time, his right arm extended over his plate, and his head leaning upon his elbow. The Count having shaken him, he rose with a start and exclaimed: "Don't touch it! The colors are all fresh; Jacob's beard is such a fine gray!" The compliant secretary retired humming an aria. M. Leminof followed him with his eyes, and, pointing after him, said to his serf in a confidential tone: "Thou seest that man there; just fancy! I feel friendship for him. He is at least my most cherished--habit. My suspicions were absurd, thou wert right in combating them. By way of precaution, however, make a tour of the corridor between midnight and two o'clock. Now come and double-lock me in my room, for I feel a paroxysm coming on. To-morrow at five o'clock thou wilt come to open it for me." "Count Kostia!" murmured Gilbert, when he found himself in his room, "fear no longer that I shall think of leaving you. Whatever happens, I remain here. Count Kostia, understand me, you have buried the smile: I take heaven to witness that I will resuscitate it."

that promise as an obligation—and you will resent it.

The day following the one on which Gilbert had resolved to remain at Geierfels, Father Alexis rose at an early hour, and betook himself as usual to his dear chapel; he entered with a slow step, bowed back, and anxious face; but when he had traversed the nave and stood before the main entrance to the choir, the influence of the holy place began to dissipate his melancholy; his thoughts took a more serene turn, and his face brightened. For several days Father Alexis had been occupied in painting a group of three figures, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their posterity on their knees. It was the exact copy of a picture in the Convent of Lavra. These patriarchs were gravely seated upon a grassy bank, separated from each other by little shrubs of a somewhat fantastic shape. Their venerable heads were crowned with aureoles; their abundant hair, combed with the greatest care, fell majestically upon their shoulders, and their thick beards descended to the middle of their breasts. Father Alexis worked for nearly an hour, when he heard a step in the court, and turning his head quickly, perceived Gilbert coming towards the chapel. The priest thrilled with joy, as a fisherman might, who after long hours of mortal waiting sees a fish of good size imprudently approaching his net. Eager for his prey, he threw aside his brush, quickly descended the ladder with the agility of a young man and ran to place himself in ambuscade near the door, where he waited with bated breath. As soon as Gilbert appeared, he rushed upon him, seized him by the arm, and looked upon him with eyes which seemed to say: "You are caught, and you won't escape from me either." When he had recovered from his first excess of joy, "Ah, my son," exclaimed he, "what happy inspiration brings you hither?" "M. Leminof is not well to-day," answered Gilbert, "and I thought I could make no better use of my leisure than to pay my respects to you." "Oh! what a charming idea," said the priest, looking at him with ineffable tenderness. "Come, come, my son, I will show you all, yes all." This word ALL was pronounced with such an energetic accent, that Gilbert was startled. It may be readily believed that it was not exactly about Byzantine pictures that he was curious at this moment. Nevertheless, he entered with great good-nature into a minute examination of the images of the choir and the nave; he praised all which appeared praiseworthy, kept silent upon the prominent defects which offended the delicacy of his taste, and allowed himself to criticise only some of the details. At last he announced to the priest that he wished to talk with him of a serious matter. "A serious matter?" And the face of the good father became grave. "Have you anything to confess to me? What am I saying? You are not orthodox, my child,--would to God you were." "Let us descend, let us descend," said Gilbert, putting his foot upon the ladder. They descended and seated themselves upon the end of a white marble step, which extended the entire width of the nave, at the entrance of the choir. "My son," began the priest timidly, "yesterday evening--" "That is precisely what I want to talk to you about," said Gilbert. "Ah! you are a good, generous child. You saw my embarrassment, and you wished,--I confess it, a slight drowsiness,--flesh is weak,-- ah, it is good in you. Favors do not turn your head. Speak, speak, I am all attention." "It is understood that you will keep the secret, father, for you know--" "I understand! we should be lost if it were known that we talked of certain things together. Oh! you need not be afraid. If Kostia Petrovitch alludes to this matter, I shall appear to know nothing, and I shall accuse myself of having violated the precept of the great Solomon, who said, 'When thou sittest down to eat with a prince, consider attentively what is done before thee.' "Speak with confidence, my child, and rest assured that this mouth has an old tongue in it which never says what it does not want to." When Gilbert had finished his recital, Father Alexis burst forth in exclamations accompanied by many signs of the cross. "Oh! unhappy child!" cried he; "what folly is thine! He has then sworn his own destruction? To wish to die in mortal sin! A spirit of darkness must have taken possession of him. Then he invokes St. George no longer every morning and evening? He prays no more,--he no longer carries on his heart the holy amulet I gave him. Ah! why did I fall asleep yesterday evening? What beautiful things I would have said to him! I would have commenced by representing to him--" "I do not doubt your eloquence; but it is not remonstrance, nor good counsel that this child wants: a little happiness would answer the purpose far better." "Happiness! Ah, yes! his life is a little sad. There are certain maxims of education--" "It is not a question of maxims of education, but of a father who betrays an open hatred to his son." "Holy Virgin!" exclaimed the priest with a gesture of terror, "you must not say such things, my child. These are words which the good God does not like to hear. Never repeat them, it would be neither prudent nor charitable." Gilbert persisted; announcing the conjectures which he had formed as certainties, and even exaggerating his suspicions in the hope that the priest, in correcting him, would furnish the explanations which he desired. The success of this little artifice surpassed his expectation. "I know for a certainty," said he, "that M. Leminof loved his wife,--that she was unfaithful to him--that he finished by suspecting her, and that he revenged himself--" "False! false!" cried the priest with deep emotion. "To hear you one would believe that Count Kostia killed his wife. You have heard lying reports. The truth is, that the Countess Olga poisoned herself, and then feeling the approach of death, became terrified and implored aid. It was useless: they could not counteract the effects of the poison. She then sent in haste for me. I had but just time to receive her confession. Oh! what a frightful scene, my child! Why recall it to me? And above all, whose calumnious tongue--" "I have been told, also," pursued the inflexible Gilbert, "that after this deplorable event M. Leminof, holding in abhorrence the localities which witnessed his dishonor, quitted Moscow and Russia, and went to Martinique. Having arrived there, he lost, after some months' residence, one of his two children, a daughter if I am not mistaken, and this death may have been hastened by--" "A fresh calumny!" interrupted the priest, looking steadily at Gilbert. "The young girl died of yellow fever. Kostia Petrovitch never raised a finger against his children. Ah! tell me what viper's tongue--" "It is not a calumny, at least, to state that he has two good reasons for not loving his son. First, because he is the living portrait of his mother, and then because he doubts, perhaps, if this child is really his son." "An impious doubt, which I have combated with all my strength. This child was born nine years before his mother committed her first and only fault. I have said it, and I repeat it. It has been objected that he was born after six years of a marriage which seemed condemned by Heaven to an eternal sterility:--fatal circumstance, which appeared proof positive to a vindictive and ulcerated heart. But again, who could have told you--" "One more word: before leaving for Martinique, M. Leminof did everything he could to discover the lover of his wife. His suspicions fell upon one of his intimate friends named Morlof. In his blind fury he killed him, but nevertheless Morlof was innocent." "Did they tell you that he assassinated him?" said Father Alexis, who became more and more agitated. "Another calumny! he killed him in a regular duel. Holy Virgin! the sin was grave enough; but the police hushed up the matter, and absolution has been granted him." "Alas!" resumed Gilbert, "if the church has pardoned, the conscience of the murderer persists in condemning; it curses that rash hand which shed innocent blood, and by a strange aberration it exhorts him to wash out this fatal mistake in the blood of the real offender. This offender, after six years' fruitless search, he has not given up the hope of discovering; he will go into the very bowels of the earth to find him, if he must, and if by chance there is some heart upon which the name is written, he will open that heart with the point of his sword to decipher those letters of blood and of fire!" Gilbert pronounced these last words in a vibrating voice. He had suddenly forgotten where he was and to whom he was speaking. He thought he again saw before him the scene of the corridor, and could again hear those terrible words which had frozen the blood in his veins. The priest was seized with a convulsive trembling; but he soon mastered it. He raised himself slowly and stood up before Gilbert, his arms crossed upon his breast. Within a few moments his face became dignified, and at the same time his language. Now the transformation was complete; Gilbert had no longer before him the timid, easy soul who trembled before a frown, the epicure in quest of agreeable sensations, the vain artist ingeniously begging eulogies. The priest's eyes opened wide and shone like coals of fire; his lips, wreathed in a bitter smile, seemed ready to launch the thunders of excommunication; and a truly sacerdotal majesty diffused itself as if by miracle over his face. Gilbert could scarcely believe his eyes; he looked at him in silence, incapable of recognizing this new Father Alexis, who had just been revealed to him. Then, said the priest, speaking to himself: "Brother! what simplicity is yours! A few caresses, a few cajoleries, and your satisfied vanity silences your distrust and disarms your good sense! Did you not know that this young man is the intimate friend of your master?" Then bowing towards Gilbert: "They thought then that you could make me speak. And you imagined yourself that a coarse artifice and some threatening talk would suffice to tear from me a secret I have guarded for nearly seven years. Presumptuous young man, return to him who sent you, and repeat faithfully what I am about to say to you: One day at Martinique, in a remote house some distance from the outskirts of the town of St. Pierre,--let me speak, my story will be short.-- Picture to yourself a great dark hall, with a table in the center.-- They shut me in there near noon; the next day at evening I was there still, and for thirty hours I neither ate nor drank. The night came,--they stretched me upon a table,--bound me and tied me down. Then I saw bending over me a face more terrible than thou wilt ever see, even in thy dreams, and a mouth which sneered as the damned must sneer, approached my ear and said to me: 'Father Alexis, I want your secret--I will have it.' I breathed not a word; they tightened the cords with a jack, and I did not speak; they piled weights on my chest, and I spoke not; they put boots upon me which I hope never to see upon thy feet, and I spake not; my bones cracked, and I spake not; I saw my blood gush out, and I did not speak. At length a supreme anguish seized me, a red cloud passed over my eyes, I felt my heart freezing, and I thought myself dying. Then I spoke and said: 'Count Leminof, thou canst kill me, but thou shalt not tear from me the secrets of the confessional.'" And at these words, the priest stooping, laid bare his right foot and showed Gilbert the bruised and withered flesh, and bones deformed by torture; then covering it again he recoiled, as if from a serpent in his path, and cried in a thundering voice, extending his arms to Heaven: "God curse the vipers who take the form of doves! Oh, Solomon, hast thou not written in thy Proverbs: 'When he shall speak graciously, do not believe him, for he has seven abominations in his heart'?" As he listened to the recital of the priest, Gilbert was reminded of some incoherent phrases of the somnambulist, which he had not been able to explain: "STRETCH HIM ON THIS TABLE! THE BLACK ROBE! TIGHTEN THE IRON BOOTS!" "That black robe then," said he to himself, "was Father Alexis." He rose and looked at the priest in surprise and admiration; he could not take his eyes from that face which he believed he saw for the first time, and he murmured in a low voice: "My God! how complex is the heart of man. What a discovery I have just made!" Then he tried to approach him; but the priest, still recoiling and raising his arms threateningly above his head, repeated: "Cursed be the vipers who come in the form of doves!" "And I say," cried Gilbert, "blessed forever be the lips which have touched the sacred coal, and keep their secrets even unto death!" And rushing upon him he took him in his arms, and kissed three times the scar which the cruel bite of Solon had left. Father Alexis was surprised, stupefied, and confounded. He looked at Gilbert, then at Abraham, then at Jacob. He uttered disjointed phrases. He called upon Heaven to witness what had happened to him, gesticulated and wept until, overcome by emotion, he dropped on the marble step, and hid his face, bathed in tears, in his hands. "Father," said Gilbert respectfully, seating himself near him, "pardon me for the agitation I have caused you. And if by chance some distrust of me remains, listen to what I am about to tell you, for I am going to put myself at your mercy, and by betraying a secret it will depend upon you to have me expelled from this house the day and hour you please." He then related to him the scene of the corridor. "Judge for yourself what impression the terrible words I heard produced upon me! For some days my mind has been at work. I ceaselessly tried to picture to myself the details of this lamentable affair; but fearing to stray in my suspicions, I wished to make a clean breast of it, and came to find you. I have grieved you sorely, father; once more, will you pardon my rash curiosity?" Father Alexis raised his head. Farewell to the saint! farewell to the prophet! His face had resumed its habitual expression; the sublime tempest which had transfigured it had left but a few almost invisible traces of its passage. He looked at Gilbert reproachfully. "Ah!" said he, "it was only for this that you sought me? My dear child, you do not love the arts then?"

That day Gilbert passed an entire hour at his window. It was not the Rhine which fixed his attention, nor the precipice, the mountains nor the clouds. The narrow space within which he confined his gaze was bounded on the west by the great square tower, on the south by a gable, on the north by a spout; I mean to say that the object of his contemplations was a very irregular, very undulating roof, or to speak more accurately, two adjacent and parallel roofs, one higher than the other by twelve feet, and both inclining by a steep slope towards a frightful precipice. As he closed the window, he said to himself: "After all, it is less difficult than I thought; two rope ladders will do the business, with God's help!" M. Leminof finding himself too much indisposed to leave his room, Gilbert dined alone in his turret; after which he went out for a walk on the borders of the Rhine. As he left the path for the main road, he saw Stephane and Ivan within twenty paces of him. Perceiving him, the young man made an angry gesture, and turning his face, started his horse off at full speed. Gilbert had scarcely time to leap into the ditch to avoid being run down. As Ivan passed, he looked at him sadly, shook his head, and carried his finger to his forehead, as if to say: "You must pardon him; his poor mind is very sick." Gilbert returned to the castle without delay, and as he reached the entrance to the terrace, he saw the serf leaning against one of the doors, where he seemed to be on guard. "My dear Ivan," said he, "you appear to be waiting for someone." "I heard you coming," answered he, "and I took you for Vladimir Paulitch. It was the sound of your step which deceived me; you haven't such a measured step generally." "You are a keen observer," replied Gilbert smiling; "but who, I pray, is this Vladimir Paulitch?" "He is a physician from my country. He will remain two months with us. The barine wrote to him a fortnight since, when he felt that he was going to be ill; Vladimir Paulitch left immediately, and day before yesterday he wrote from Berlin, that he would be here this evening. This Vladimir is a physician who hasn't his equal. I am waiting for him to arrive." "Tell me, good Ivan, is your young master in the garden?" "He is down there under the weeping ash." "Very well, you must permit me to speak to him a moment. You will even extend the obligation by saying nothing about it to Kostia Petrovitch. You know he cannot see us, for he keeps his bed now, and even if he should rise, his windows open on the inner court." Ivan's brow contracted. "Impossible, impossible!" he murmured. "Impossible? Why? Because you will not? "Ivan, my good Ivan, it is absolutely necessary for me to speak to your young master. I have made him submit to a humiliation against my will. He mistakes my sentiments and credits me with the blackest intentions, and it will be torture to him in future to be condemned to sit at the same table with me daily. Let me explain myself to him. In two words I will make him understand who I am, and I wish him no harm." The discussion was prolonged some minutes, Ivan finally yielding, but on the condition that Gilbert should not put his good will to the proof a second time. "Otherwise," said Ivan, "if you still attempt to talk with him secretly, I cannot permit him to go out, and, of course, he could only blame you, and would then have the right to consider you an enemy." Upon his side, the serf promised that the Count should know nothing of the interview. "Recollect, brother," continued he, "that this is the last improper favor that you will obtain from me. You are a man of heart, but sometimes I should say that YOU HAD BEEN EATING BELLADONNA." Stephane had left the circular bank where he had been sitting, and stood, with his back against the parapet of the terrace, his arms hanging dejectedly, and his head sunk upon his breast. His reverie was so profound that Gilbert approached within ten steps of him without being perceived; but suddenly rousing himself, he raised his head quickly, and stamped his foot imperiously. "Go away!" cried he, "go away, or I will set Vorace on you!" Vorace was the name of the bulldog that kept him company at night, and was crouching in the grass some paces distant. Of all the watchdogs of the castle, this one was the strongest and most ferocious. "You see," said Ivan, retaining Gilbert by the arm, "you have nothing to do here." Gilbert gently disengaged himself and continued to advance. "Get out of my sight," screamed Stephane. "Why do you come to trouble my solitude? Who gives you the right to pursue me, to track me? How dare you look me in the face after--" He could say no more. Excitement and anger choked his voice. For some moments he looked alternately at Gilbert and the dog; then changing his purpose, he moved as if to fly, but Gilbert barred the way. "Listen to me but a minute," said he in a gentle and penetrating voice, "I bring you good news." "You!" exclaimed Stephane, and he repeated, "You! you! good news!" "I!" said Gilbert, "for I come to announce to you my near departure." Stephane stared with wide-open eyes, and recoiled slowly to the wall, where, leaning back again, he exclaimed: "What! are you going? Ah! certainly the news is excellent, as well as unexpected; but you are giving yourself unnecessary trouble, there was no need to forewarn me. Your departure! Great God! I should have been notified of it in advance by the clearness of the air, by the more vivid brightness of the sun, by some strange joy diffused through all my being. Oh! I understand, you are not able to digest the outrage done to you by the excellent Fritz at my order. You consider the reparation insufficient. You are right, I swear it by St. George, my heart made no apologies to you. I upon my knees to you! Horror and misery! As I told you yesterday, I yielded only to force. It was the same as if I should make my bulldog drag you down at my feet now!" Gilbert made no answer; he contented himself with drawing from his pocketbook the letter which he had written the day before, and presenting it to Stephane. "What have I to do with this paper?" said Stephane with a gesture of disdain. "You have told me your news, that is sufficient for me. Anything more you could add would spoil my happiness." "Read!" said Gilbert. "I have granted you such a great favor that you can well afford to grant me a small one."--Stephane hesitated a moment, but the habitual tediousness of his life was so great that the want of diversion overcame his hatred and scorn. "This letter is not bad!" said he as he read. "Its style is eloquent, the penmanship is admirable too. It involuntarily suggests to me the tie of your cravat. Both are so correct that they are insufferable." Gilbert, smiling, untied the cravat and let the ends hang down upon his vest. "It is not worth while to incommode yourself," pursued Stephane, "we have so short a time to live together! Pray do not renounce your most cherished habits for me. The bow of your cravat as well as your writing, harmonize wonderfully with your whole person. I do not suppose, however, that to please me you would reconstruct yourself from head to foot. The undertaking would be considerable." "Permit me to speak," answered Gilbert. "I have made a little change in my programme: I shall not leave tomorrow. I have granted myself a week's delay." Stephane's face darkened, and his eyes flashed. "I swear to you here, upon my honor," continued Gilbert, "that in a week I will leave, never to return, unless you yourself beg me to remain." "What baseness! and how cleverly this little plot has been contrived; I see it all. By force of threats and violence they hope to compel me a second time to bend my knees to you and cry with clasped hands, 'Sir, in the name of Heaven, continue us the favor of your precious presence!' But this act of cowardice I shall never commit! Rather death! rather death!" "A word only," resumed Gilbert, without being discouraged. "Submit me to some proof. Have you no caprice which it is in my power to satisfy?" "Throw yourself at my feet," cried he impetuously; "drag yourself in the dust, kiss the ground before me, and demand pardon and mercy of me! At this price I will grant you, not my affection certainly, but my indulgence and pity." "Impossible!" answered Gilbert, shaking his head. "I am like you; I should not know how to kneel, unless someone stronger than myself constrained me by violence. Oh, no! in such a performance I should lose even the hope of being some day esteemed by you. The more so as in the trial to which I wish you would subject me, I should desire to have some danger to brave, some difficulty to surmount." Stephane could not conceal his astonishment. Never in all his life had he heard language like this. Nevertheless, distrust and pride triumphed still over every other feeling. "Since you wish it!" said he, sneering . . . and he drew a kid glove from one of his pockets, rubbed it between his hands and threw it to the bulldog, who caught in his teeth and kept it there. "Vorace," said he to him, "keep your master's glove between your teeth, watch it well; you will answer to me for it." Then turning to Gilbert,--"Sir, will you please restore my glove to me? I should be infinitely obliged to you for it." "Ah! this is then the trial to which you will subject me?" answered Gilbert with a smile upon his lips. Stephane looked him in the face. For the first time, he could not avoid being struck by its noble expression and the clearness and purity of his glance. Stephane was involuntarily moved, and strove in vain to conceal it by the jocular tone in which he replied: "No, sir, it is not a test of your sincerity, but a jest which we shall do well not to push further. This animal is not amiable. Should you be unfortunate enough to irritate him, it would be impossible even for me, his master, to calm his fury. Be good enough then to leave my glove where it is, and return peaceably to your study to meditate upon some important problem in Byzantine history. That will be a trial less perilous and better proportioned to your strength. Good-evening, sir, good-night." "Oh! permit me," replied Gilbert. "I am resolved to carry this adventure to its conclusion!" And gently repulsing Stephane, who sought to restrain him, he walked straight toward the bulldog. "Take care," cried the young man, shuddering, "do not trifle with that beast, or you are a dead man!" "Take care," repeated Ivan, who, not having understood half of what had been said, hardly suspected Gilbert's intention. "Take care, this dog is a ferocious beast." Meantime Gilbert, crossing his arms upon his breast, advanced slowly towards the bulldog, keeping his eyes steadily fixed on those of the animal, and when he thought he had disconcerted him by his undaunted gaze sufficiently to make him relax his grip upon the prize, he suddenly tore the glove from him and waved it in the air with his right hand. At the same moment Vorace, with a howl of rage, bounded up to leap at the throat of his despoiler. Gilbert sprang back, covering himself with his left arm, and the dog's jaws only grazed his shoulder. Yet when he touched the ground again, he held between his teeth a long strip of cloth, a scrap of linen, and a morsel of bloody flesh. Mad with fury the bulldog rolled over on the grass with this prize which he could hardly devour, and then suddenly, as if seized with a paroxysm of frenzy, he moved towards the castle doubling upon himself; but reaching the foot of the turret, he looked for his enemy and returned like an arrow, to pounce upon him again. "Throw down the glove," cried Ivan, "and climb the ash." "I will surrender the glove only to him who asked me for it," answered Gilbert. And hiding it in his bosom, he drew a knife from his pocket. He had not time to open it. The dog, with bristling hair and foaming jaws, was already within three steps of him, gathering himself to spring upon him; but he had scarcely raised himself from the ground when he fell back with his head shattered. The hatchet which Ivan carried at his girdle had come down upon him like a flash. The terrible animal vainly attempted to rise, rolled writhing in the dust, and breathed out his life with a hoarse and fearful howl.

Doctor Vladimir Paulitch arrived at the castle just in time to take care of Gilbert. The wound was wide and deep, and in consequence of the great heat which prevailed, it might easily have proved serious; fortunately, Doctor Vladimir was a skillful man, and under his care the wound was soon healed. He employed certain specifics, the uses of which were known only to himself, and which he took care to keep a secret from his patient. His medicine was as mysterious as his person. Vladimir Paulitch was forty years of age; his face was striking but unattractive. His eyes had the color and the hard brightness of steel; his keen glances, subject to his will, often questioned, but never allowed themselves to be interrogated. Well made, slender, a slight and graceful figure, he had in his gait and movements a feline suppleness and stealthiness. He was slow, but easy of speech, and never animated; the tone of his voice was cold and veiled, and whatever the subject of conversation might be, he neither raised nor lowered it; no modulations; everyone of his sentences terminated in a little minor cadence, which fell sadly on the ear. He sometimes smiled in speaking, it is true, but it was a pale smile which did not light up his face. This smile signified simply: "I do not give you my best reason, and I defy you to divine it." One morning when Ivan had come by order of the doctor to dress Gilbert's wound, our friend questioned him as to the character and life of Vladimir Paulitch. Of the man Ivan knew nothing, and confined himself to extolling the genius of the physician; he expressed himself in regard to him in a mysterious tone. The imposing face of this impenetrable personage, the extraordinary power of his glance, his impassible gravity, the miraculous cures which he had wrought, it needed no more to convince the honest serf that Vladimir Paulitch dealt in magic and held communications with spirits; and he felt for his person a profound veneration mingled with superstitious terror. He told Gilbert that since the age of twenty-five, Vladimir had been directing a hospital and private asylum which Count Kostia had founded upon his estates, and that, thanks to him, these two establishments had not their equals in all Russia. "Last year," added the serf, "he came to attend the barine, and told him that his malady would return this year, but more feebly, and that this would be the last. You will see that all will come to pass as he has said. Kostia Petrovitch is already much better, and I wager that next summer will come and go without his feeling his nerves." As Ivan prepared to go, Gilbert detained him to ask news of Stephane. The serf had been very discreet, and had related the adventure upon the terrace to his master without compromising anyone. The only trouble he had had was in persuading him that it was not on a sign from Stephane that the dog had attacked Gilbert. The next day Gilbert dined in the great hall of the castle with M. Leminof and Father Alexis. "Do not disturb yourself because Stephane does not dine with us," said the Count to him. "He is not sick; but he has a new grievance against you; you have caused the death of his dog. I ask your pardon, my dear Gilbert, for the irrational conduct of my son. I have given him three days for the sulks. When that time has passed, I intend that he shall put on his good looks for you, and that he shall take his place at the table opposite you without frowning." "And how is it that Doctor Vladimir is not with us?" "He has begged me to excuse him for a time. He finds himself much fatigued with the care he has given me. A magnetic treatment, you understand. I should inform you that every year, some time during the summer, I am subject to attacks of neuralgia from which I suffer intensely. By the way, you have seen our admirable doctor several times. What do you think of him?" "I don't know whether he is a great savant, but I am inclined to think he is a first-class artist." "You cannot pay him a finer compliment; medicine is an art rather than a science. He is also a man capable of the greatest devotion. I am indebted to him for my life, it was not as physician that he saved me either. A pair of stallions ran away within twenty paces of a precipice; the doctor, appearing from behind a thicket, darted to the heads of the horses and hung on to them by their nostrils, which he held in an iron grip. You have the whole scene from these windows. What was amusing in it was, that having thanked him, with what warmth you can imagine, he answered, in a tranquil tone, and wiping his knees--for the horses in falling had laid him full length in the dust--'It is I who am obliged to you; for the first time I have been suspended between life and death, and it is a singular sensation. But for you I should not have known it.' This will give you an idea of the man and his sangfroid!" "I am not surprised at his having the agility of a wildcat," replied Gilbert; "but I suspect the sangfroid is feigned, and that his placidity of face is a mask which hides a very passionate soul." "Passionate is not the word, or at least the doctor knows only the passions of the head. There was a time when he thought himself desperately in love; an unpardonable weakness in such a distinguished man; but he was not long in undeceiving himself, and he has not fallen into such a fatal error since." The night having come, Gilbert, who had inquiries to make, crossed the yard of which the chapel formed one side, and gaining the rear by a private door, went in search of Father Alexis. It was not long before he discovered him, for the priest had left his shutters open, and he was seated in the embrasure of the window, peaceably smoking his pipe, when he perceived Gilbert. "Oh, the good boy!" cried he, "let him come in quickly! My room and my heart are open to him." Gilbert showed him his arm in a sling, on account of which he could not climb the window. "Is that all, my child?" said Father Alexis. "I will hoist you up here." Gilbert raised himself by his right arm, and Father Alexis drawing him up, they soon found themselves seated face to face, uniting to their heart's content the blue smoke of their chibouques. "Have you not noticed," said Father Alexis, "that Kostia Petrovitch has been in a charming humor to-day? I told you that he had his pleasant moments! Vladimir Paulitch has already done him much good. What a physician this Vladimir is! It is a great pity that he does not believe in God; but some day, perhaps, grace will touch his heart, and then he will be a complete man." "If I were in your place, father, I should be afraid of this Vladimir," said Gilbert. "Ivan pretends that he is something of a sorcerer. Aren't you afraid that some fine day he may rob you of your secret?" Father Alexis shrugged his shoulders. "Ivan talks foolishly," said he. "If Vladimir Paulitch were a sorcerer, would he not have long since penetrated the mystery which he burns to fathom? for he does more than love Count Kostia; he is devoted to him even to fanaticism. It is certain that having discovered that the Countess Olga was enceinte, he had the barbarity to become her denouncer; and that letter which announced to Count Kostia his dishonor, that letter which made him return from Paris like a thunder-clap, that letter in short which caused the death of Olga Vassilievna, was written by him--Vladimir Paulitch." "And Morlof," said Gilbert, "was it this Vladimir who denounced him to the unjust fury of the Count?" "On the contrary, Vladimir pleaded his cause; but his eloquence failed against the blind prejudices of Kostia Petrovitch. This Morlof was, unfortunately for himself, a fashionable gentleman, well known for his gallantries. A man of honor, however, incapable of betraying a friend; this reputation for gallant successes, of which he boasted, was his destruction. When Count Kostia interrogated his wife, and she refused to denounce her seducer, it occurred to him to name Morlof, and the energy with which she defended him confirmed the Count's suspicion. To disabuse him, it needed but that tragic meeting of which I was informed too late. In breathing his last sigh, Morlof extended his hand to his murderer and gasped 'I die innocent!' And in these last words of a dying man, there was such an accent of truth that Count Kostia could not resist it: light broke in upon his soul." As the darkness increased, Father Alexis closed the shutters and lit a candle. "My child," said he, refilling and lighting his pipe, "I must tell you something I learned to-day, a few moments before dinner, which appeared to me very strange. Listen attentively, and I am sure you will share in my astonishment." Gilbert opened his ears, for he had a presentiment that Father Alexis was about to speak of Stephane. "It is a singular fact," resumed the priest, "and one that I should not wish to relate to the first-comer, but I am very glad to impart it to you, because you have a serious and reflective mind, though unfortunately you are not orthodox; would to God you were. Know then, my child, that to-day, Saturday, I went according to my custom to Stephane to catechize him, and for reasons which you know, I redoubled my efforts to impress his unruly head with the holy truths of our faith. Now it appears that without intending it, you have caused him sorrow; and you can believe that such a character, far from having pardoned you, has taken the greatest pains to get me to espouse his side in the difficulty. However he, who will usually fly into a passion and talk fiercely if a fly tickles him, recited his griefs to me with an air of moderation and a tranquillity of tone which astonished me to the last degree. As I endeavored to discover a reason for this, I happened to raise my eyes to the images of St. George and St. Sergius which decorate one of the corners of his room, and before which he was in the habit of saying his prayers every morning. What was my surprise, my grief, when I perceived that the two saints had suffered shameful outrages. One had no legs, the other was disfigured by a horrible scar. With hands raised to Heaven, I threatened him with the thunder of God. Without being excited, without changing countenance, he left his chair, came to me and placed his hand on my mouth. 'Father,' said he, with an air of assurance which awed me, 'listen to me. I have been wrong, if you wish it so, and still, under the same circumstances, I should do it again, for since I have chastised them, the two saints have decided to come to my aid, and the very day after their punishment, without any change in my life, all at once I felt my heart become lighter; for the first time, I swear to you, a ray of celestial hope penetrated my soul.' What do you say to that, my child? I had often heard similar things related, but I did not believe them. Little boys may be whipped, but as for saints!--Ah! my dear child, the ways of God are very strange, and there are many great mysteries in this world." Father Alexis had such an impressive air in speaking of this great mystery, that Gilbert was tempted to laugh; but he controlled himself; he was too grateful for his obliging narrative, and could have embraced him with all his heart. "Good news!" said he to himself. "That heart has become lighter; that 'ray of celestial hope.' Ah! God be praised, my effort has not been thrown away. St. George, St. Sergius, you rob me of my glory, but what matters it? I am content!" "And what reply did you make to Stephane?" said he to the priest. "Did you reprimand him? Did you congratulate him?" "The case was delicate," said the good father, with the air of a philosopher meditating on the most abstruse subject; "but I am not wanting in judgment, and I drew out of the affair with honor." "You managed admirably," cried I, looking at him with admiration; then immediately putting on a serious face, "but the sin is enormous." The third day after, Gilbert didn't wait for the bell to ring for dinner before going down to the great hall. He was not very much surprised to find Stephane there. Leaning with his back against the sideboard, the young man, on seeing him appear, lost his composure, blushed, and turned his head towards the wall. Gilbert stopped a few steps from him. Then in an agitated manner, and with a voice at once gentle and abrupt, he said: "And your arm?" "It is nearly well. To-morrow I shall take off my sling." Stephane was silent for a moment. Then in a still lower voice: "What do you mean to do?" murmured he; "what are your plans?" "I wait to know your good pleasure," replied Gilbert. The young man covered his eyes with both hands, and, as Gilbert said no more, he seemed to feel a thrill of impatience and vexation. "His pride demands some mercy," thought Gilbert. "I will spare him the mortification of making the first advances." "I should like very much to have a conversation with you," said he gently. "This cannot be upon the terrace, Ivan will not leave you alone there. Does he keep you company in your room in the evening?" "Are you jesting?" answered Stephane, raising his head. "After nine o'clock Ivan never comes near my room." "And his room, if I am not mistaken," answered Gilbert, "is separated from you by a corridor and a staircase. So we shall run no risk of being overheard." Stephane turned towards him and looked him in the face. "You think of everything," said he, with a smile, sad and ironical. "Apparently, to reach me, you will be obliged to mount a swallow. Have you made your arrangements with one?" "I shall come over the roofs," said Gilbert quietly. "Impossible!" cried Stephane. "In the first place, I do not wish you to risk your life for me again. And then--" "And then you do not care for my visit?" Stephane only answered him by a look. At this moment steps sounded in the vestibule. When the Count entered, Gilbert was pacing the further end of the hall, and Stephane, with his back turned, was attentively observing one of the carved figures upon the wainscoting. M. Leminof, stopping at the threshold of the door, looked at them both with a quizzical air. "It was time for me to arrive," said he, laughing. "This is an embarrassing tete-a-tete."

At about ten o'clock Gilbert began to make preparations for his expedition. He had no fear of being surprised; his evenings were his own--that was a point agreed upon between the Count and himself. He had also just heard the great door of the corridor roll upon its hinges. On the side of the terrace the thick branches of the trees concealed him from the watchdogs which, had they suspected the adventure, could have given the alarm. There was nothing to fear from the hillock below the precipice; it was frequented only by the young girl who tended the goats and who was not in the habit of allowing them to roam so late among the rocks. Besides, the night, serene and without a moon, was propitious; no other light than the discreet glistening of the stars which would help to guide him, without being bright enough to betray or disturb him; the air was calm, a scarcely perceptible breeze stirred at intervals the leaves of the trees without agitating the branches. Thanks to this combination of favorable circumstances, Gilbert's enterprise was not desperate; but he did not dream of deceiving himself in regard to its dangers. The castle clock had just struck ten when he extinguished his lamp and opened the window. There he remained a long time leaning upon his elbows: his eyes at last familiarized themselves with the darkness, and favored by the glimmering of the stars, he began to recognize with but little effort the actual shape of the surrounding objects. The window was divided in two equal parts by a stone mullion, and had in front a wide shelf of basalt, surrounded by a balustrade. Gilbert fastened one of two knotted ropes with which he had supplied himself securely to the mullion; then he crept upon the ledge of basalt and stood there for a few moments contemplating the precipice in silence. In the gloomy and vaporous gulf which his eyes explored, he distinguished a wall of whitish rocks, which seemed to draw him towards them, and to provoke him to an aerial voyage. He took care not to abandon himself to this fatal attraction, and the uneasiness which it caused him disappearing gradually, he stretched out his head and was able to hang over the abyss with impunity. Proud at having subdued the monster, he gave himself up for a moment to the pleasure of gazing at a feeble light which appeared at a distance of sixty paces, and some thirty feet beneath him. This light came from Stephane's room; he had opened his window and closed the white curtains in such a way that his lamp, placed behind this transparent screen, could serve as a beacon to Gilbert without danger of dazzling him. "I am expected," said Gilbert to himself. And immediately, bestriding the balustrade, he descended the swaying rope as readily as if he had never done anything else in his life. He was now upon the roof. There he met with more difficulty. Partly covered with zinc and partly with slate, this roof--the whole length of which he must traverse--was so steep and slippery that no one could stand erect on it. Gilbert seated himself and remained motionless for a moment to recover himself, and the better to decide upon his course. A few steps from this point, a huge dormer window rose, with triangular panes of glass, and reached to within two feet of the spout. Gilbert resolved to make his way by this narrow pass, and from tile to tile he pushed himself in that direction. It will readily be believed that he advanced but slowly, much more so on account of his left arm, which, as it still pained him, required to be carefully managed; but by dint of patience and perseverance he passed beyond the dormer window, and at length arrived safely at the extremity of the roof, just in front of Stephane's window. "God be praised, the most difficult part is over," he said to himself, breathing freely. But he was far from correct in his supposition. It is true he had now only to descend upon the little roof, cross it, and climb to the window, which was but breast-high; but before descending it was necessary to find some support--stone, wood or iron, to which he could fasten the second rope, which he had brought wound about his neck, shoulders, and waist. Unfortunately he discovered nothing. At last, in leaning over, he perceived at the outer angle of the wall a large iron corbel, which seemed to sustain the projecting roof; but to his great chagrin, he ascertained at the same time, that the great roof passed three feet beyond the line of the small one, and that if even he should succeed in attaching his second rope to the corbel, the other end of it would float in empty space. This reflection made him shudder; and turning his eyes from the precipice, he examined the ridge-pole, where he thought he saw a piece of iron projecting. He was not mistaken: it was a kind of ornamental molding, which formed the pediment of the ridge. It was not without great effort that he raised himself even there, and when he found himself seated astride the beam, he rested a few moments to breathe, and to study the strange spectacle before him. His view embraced an immense extent of abrupt, irregular roofing, from every part of which rose turrets of every kind, in the shape of extinguishers, pointed gables, corners, retreating or salient angles, bell-towers, open to the daylight, profound depths where the gloom thickened, grinning chimneys, heavy weathercocks cutting the milky way with their iron rods and feathered arrows; from the top of the chapel steeple a great cross of stone, seeming to stretch out its arms; here and there the whitish zinc, cutting the dark blue of the slates; in spots an indistinct glittering and flashes of pale light enveloped in opaque shadows, and then the tops of three or four large trees which extended beyond the eaves, as if prying into the secrets of the attic. By the glittering light of the stars, the slightest peculiarity in the architecture assumed singular contours, fantastic figures were profiled upon the horizon like Chinese shadows; everywhere an air of mystery, of curiosity, of wild surprise. All these shadows leaned towards Gilbert, examined him, and interrogated him by their looks. When he had recovered breath, Gilbert approached the projecting ornament from which he proposed to suspend his rope; he had been greatly deceived; he found that this ovolo of sheet iron, for a long time roughly used by the elements, held only by a wretched nail, and that it would inevitably yield to the least strain. "It is decided," said he. "I must go by the iron corbel!" And although it cost him an effort, his mind was soon resolutely fixed. Impatient at the loss of so many steps and at the waste of so much precious time in vain efforts, he redescended the roof much more actively than he had mounted it. Arriving below, and by the power of his will conquering a new attack of vertigo with which he felt himself threatened, he lay down upon his face parallel with the spout, and advancing his head and arm beyond the roof he succeeded, not without much trouble, in tying the cord firmly to the iron corbel. This done, without loitering to see it float, he swung himself slowly round, and let himself glide over the edge of the roof as far as his armpits, resting suspended by the elbows. Critical moment! If but a lath, but a nail should break--He had no time to make this alarming reflection; he was too much occupied in drawing towards him with his feet the rope, and when at length he succeeded, detaching his left arm from the roof, he seized the corbel firmly, and soon after, his right hand removing itself in its turn, firmly grasped the rope. "That's not bad for a beginner," thought he. He then began to descend, giving careful attention to every movement. But at the moment when his feet had reached the level of the small roof, having had the imprudence to look down into the space beneath him, he was suddenly seized with a dizziness a thousand times more terrible than he had yet experienced. The whole valley began to be agitated, and rolled and pitched terribly. By turns it seemed to rise to the sky or sink into the bowels of the earth. Presently the motion was accelerated, trees and stones, mountains and plains were all confounded in one black whirlwind, which struggled with increasing fury, and from which came forth flashes of lightning and balls of fire. Restored to himself after a few minutes, to dispel the emotion which his frightful nightmare caused him, he had recourse to old Homer, and recited in one breath that passage of the Iliad where the divine bard describes the joy of a herdsman contemplating the stars from a craggy height. Gilbert never, in after life, read these verses without recalling the sweet but terrible moment when he recited them suspended in mid-air; above his head the infinite smile of starry fields, and under his feet the horrors of a precipice. As soon as he felt more calm, he commenced the task of effecting his descent upon the small roof, less steep than the other, and covered with hollow tiles which left deep grooves between them. To crown his good fortune, the spout was surmounted from place to place by iron ornaments imbedded in the wall and rolled up in the form of scrolls. Gilbert imparted an oscillating motion to the rope, and when it had become strong enough to make this improvised swing graze the gutter, choosing his time well, he disengaged his right foot and planted it firmly in one of the grooves, loosening at the same time his right hand and quickly seizing one of the scrolls. Midnight sounded, and Gilbert was astonished to find that he had spent two hours upon his adventurous excursion. To mount the roof halfway, cross it, and climb into the window was but a slight affair, after which, turning the curtains aside with his hand, he called in a soft voice: "Am I expected?" and leaped with a bound into the room. With his chin upon his knees and his head buried in his hands, Stephane was crouching at the feet of the holy images. Hearing and perceiving Gilbert, he started, raised himself quickly and remained motionless, his hands crossed above his head, his neck extended, his lips quivering and opening with a smile, lightnings and tears in his eyes. How paint the strangeness of his countenance? A thousand diverse emotions betrayed themselves there. Surprise, gratitude, shame, anxiety, long expectation at last satisfied; a remnant of haughtiness which felt its defeat certain; an obstinate incredulity forced to surrender; the disorder of an imagination, enchanted, rapt, distracted, the delights of hope and the bitterness of memory; all these appeared upon his face, and formed a melange so confused that to see him thus laughing and crying at once, it seemed as if it was his joy which wept and his sadness which smiled. His first agitation dispelled, the predominating expression of his face was a dreamy and startled sweetness. He moved backwards from Gilbert and fell upon a chair at the end of the room. "Do I intrude? Must I go away?" asked Gilbert, still standing. Stephane made no answer. "Evidently my face does not please you," continued Gilbert, half turning towards the window. Stephane contracted his brows. "Do not trifle, I beg of you," said he, in a hollow voice. "We have serious matters between us to discuss." "The seriousness which I prefer is that of joy." Stephane passed his thin and taper hands nervously through his hair. "Joy?" said he. "It will come, perhaps, in its time, through speaking to me about it, who knows? Now I seem to be dreaming. The disorder of my thoughts frightens me. Ask me no questions, for I should not know how to answer you. And then the sound of my voice mortifies me, irritates me. It is like a discord in music. Let me be silent and look at you." And approaching a long table which stood in the middle of the room, he signalled to Gilbert to place himself at one side of it and seated himself at the other. After a long silence, he began to express his thoughts audibly, as if he had become reconciled to the sound of his voice: "This bold, resolute air, so much pride in the look, so much goodness in the smile. It is another man. Ah! into what contempt have I fallen. I have seen nothing, divined nothing. I despised him, I hated him,--this one whom God has sent to save me from despair. See what was concealed under this simple unaffected air; this serene face, whose calmness irritated me; this gentleness which seemed servile; this wisdom which I thought pedantry; this pliancy of disposition which I took for the meanness of a crouching dog. All this I can it really be the same man!" He was silent for a moment and then continued in a more assured voice: "How did you manage to reach here? Ah! my God! that great roof is so steep! Only to think of it makes me shudder and sets my head to whirling. While waiting I prayed to the saints for you. Did you feel their aid? I should like to know whether they stood by me in this. They have so often broken faith." Silence again, during which Stephane looked at Gilbert with a steadiness sufficient to disconcert him. "So you have risked your life for me!" continued the young man; "but are you quite sure that I am worth the trouble? Come now, be frank. Has anyone spoken to you of me? Or have you, by studying my character, made some interesting discovery? Answer, and be careful not to lie. My eyes are upon you, they will readily discover if you are sincere." "Really, you astonish me," answered Gilbert tranquilly; "and what have I to conceal from you? All I know resolves itself into two points. In the first place, I know that you belong to the race, to the brotherhood of noble souls; I know, besides, that you are unhappy.--Pardon me, I know another thing still. I know beyond a doubt that I have conceived a lively and tender friendship for you, and that I should be very unhappy, too, if I could not expect any return from you." "You feel friendship for me? How can that be?" "Ah! a strange question! Who has ever been able to answer it? It is the mystery of mysteries. I love you, because I love you: I know of no other explanation. You have certainly never made any very flattering advances to me. I think I have sometimes even had cause to complain of you. "Ah, well! in spite of your scorn, of your haughtiness, of your injustice, I loved you. Ask the secret of this anomaly of Him who created man, and who planted in his heart that mysterious power which is called sympathy." "Why," said Stephane, "was not this sympathy reciprocal? As for me, from the first day I saw you I hated you. I do not know with what eyes I looked at you, but I thought that I recognized an enemy. Alas! suspicion and distrust invaded my heart long ago. And mark, even at this moment I still doubt, I fear I may be the dupe of some illusion: I believe and I do not believe, and I am tempted to exclaim with one of the Holy Evangelists, 'My patron, my brother, my friend, I believe, help thou mine unbelief!'" "Your incredulity will cure itself, and be sure, a day will come when you will say with confidence: there is in this world a soul, sister of my own, into which I can fearlessly pour all my cares, all my thoughts, all my sorrows and all my hopes. There is one who occupies himself unceasingly about me, to whom my happiness is of great moment, of supreme interest, a being to whom I can say all, confess all; a being who loves me because he knows me, and who knows me because he loves me; a being who sees with me, who sees in me, and who would not hesitate, if necessary, to sacrifice everything, even his life, upon the holy altar of friendship. And then could you not cry out in the joy of your heart: 'God he praised! I possess a friend! By the blessing of God I have learned what it is to love and to be loved." Stephane began to weep: "To be loved!" said he. "It is a great word and I hardly dare to pronounce it. To be loved! I have never been. I believe, though, that my mother loved me,--what do I say? I am sure of it, but it was a long time ago. My mother,--it is like a legend to me. It seems to me I was not born when I knew her. I remember that she often took me upon her knees and covered me with kisses. Such joys are not of this world; I must have tasted them in some distant star, where hearts are less hard than here, and where I lived some time, a sojourn of peace and innocence. But one day my mother dropped me from her arms, and I was thrown upon this earth where hatred expected me and received me in her bosom. Oh, hatred! I know her! This second mother cradled me in her arms, nourished me with her milk, lavished upon me her careful lessons and watched over me night and day. Ah! hatred is a marvelous providence. It sees everything, thinks of everything, notices everything, is omnipresent, always on the alert, unconscious of fatigue, ennui, or sleep. Hatred! she is the mistress of this castle, she governs it; these great corridors are full of her. I cannot take a step without meeting her; even here in this solitary room I see her image floating upon the paneling, upon the tapestry, about the curtains of this bed, and often at night in my sleep, she comes and sits upon my breast and peoples my dreams with specters and terrors. To be hated without knowing wherefore,--what torment! And remember, too, that in my early infancy, this father who hates me was then a father to me. He rarely caressed me and I feared him; he was imperious and severe; but he was a father after all, and occasionally he took the trouble to tell us so. Often in our presence his gravity relaxed, and I recollect that he sometimes smiled upon me. But one day, a cursed day,--I was then ten years old; my mother had been dead a month.--He was shut up in his room while a week passed, during which I did not see him. I said to my governess: 'I want to see my father.' I knocked at his door, entered, and ran to him. He repelled me with such violence that I fell and struck my head against the leg of a chair. I got up bleeding, and he looked at me with scorn, laughed, and left the room. My mind wandered, all my ideas were thrown into confusion; I thought the sun had gone out and that the world had come to an end. A father who could laugh at the sight of the blood gushing from his child! And what a laugh! He has made me hear it often since, but I have not been able to accustom myself to it yet. A fever attacked me, and I became delirious. They put me to bed, and I cried to those who took care of me: 'I am cold, I am cold, make me warm.' And in that icy body I felt a heart that seemed on fire, which consumed itself. I could have sworn that a red-hot iron had been passed into it." Stephane dried his tears with a curl of his hair, and then, leaning with his elbows upon the table, he resumed in a feeble voice: "I do not want you to be deceived. You entertain friendship for me and you ask a return; that is very simple, friendship lives by exchange. If I had nothing to give you, you would soon cease to love me. Listen to me then. Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I went into myself,--a singular fancy, which you alone have been able to inspire in me; for the first time I examined myself seriously, I laid hold of my heart with both hands, and examined it as a physician does his patient; I carried my researches even to the very bottom, and I recognized there a strange barrenness and blight, which frightened me. It has been suffering a long time,-- this poor heart; but within a year a fearful crisis has passed within me, which has killed it. And now there is nothing in this breast but a handful of ashes, good for nothing but to be thrown out of the window and scattered in the air. "What! you are orthodox," said Gilbert, in a tone of authority; "you believe in the saints after your own fashion, and nevertheless you have yet to learn that death is but a word, or better, a respite, a pause in life, a fallow time followed by fresh harvests. You are ignorant of the fact, or you forget, that there are no ashes so cold but that when the wind of the spirit breathes upon them, they will be seen to start, rise up, and walk. You have left to me the care of teaching you that your soul is capable of rejuvenescence, of unexpected regeneration; that upon the sole condition that you wish and desire it, you will feel unknown powers awakened in your breast, and that without changing your nature, but by transforming yourself from day to day, you will become to yourself an eternal novelty! Stephane looked at him, smiling. "So you have crossed the roofs to come and preach conversion to me, like Father Alexis!" "Conversion! I don't know. I don't undertake to work miracles; but the metamorphosis--" "You speak to me much about my soul; but my life, my destiny, will you also find the secret of transforming them?" "That secret we will seek together. I have already some light upon it. Only let us not press it. Before undertaking that great work, it is essential that your heart should recover its health and strength." "Ingrate that I am!" cried Stephane. "My destiny! It has changed from to-day. Yes, from this moment I am no longer alone in the world. Frightful void in which I consumed myself, despair who with your frightful wings made it night for an abandoned child, it is all over now, I am delivered from you; the instrument of torture is broken. Henceforth, I believe, I hope, I breathe! But think of it, my friend, for me to live will be to see you, to hear you, to speak to you. Could you come here often?" "As often as prudence will permit,--two or three times a week. We will choose our days well; we will consult the sky, the wind, the stars. On other days, at propitious hours, we will place ourselves at our windows, and communicate by signs which we will agree upon, for it seems that you, like me, are long-sighted. And besides, I know the sign language. I will teach it to you, and if you ever send me such a message as this upon your fingers: 'I am sad, I am sick, come this evening at any risk'--Well, whatever the winds and stars may say--" "To expose your life foolishly!" interrupted Stephane, "I would rather die. Curses upon me if ever by a caprice-- But away with such a thought! And how long, if you please, will this happiness, which you promise me, last? Some day, alas! retaking your liberty--" "I have two, perhaps three years to pass here; it will even depend upon me whether I stay longer or not. Whatever happens, be assured, that before I leave this house, your destiny will have changed. I have told you to believe in the seen; believe also in the unforseen." "The unforeseen!" exclaimed Stephane, "I believe in it, since I have seen it enter here by the window." And suddenly carrying his hand to his heart, he closed his eyes, became pale, and uttered a piteous moan. Gilbert sprang towards him, but repulsing him gently: "Fear nothing," said he; "joy has come, I feel it there, it burns me. Let me enjoy a suffering so new and so sweet." He remained some minutes with his eyes closed; then reopening them, and shaking his beautiful head with its long curls, he said sportively: "Sit down there quick, and teach me the deaf mute language." "Impossible," replied Gilbert; "the hour for going has already struck." Stephane impatiently stamped his foot. "Teach me at least the first two letters; if I don't know a and b, I shall not be able to close my eyes to-night." Gilbert, taking him by the arm, led him to the window, where, drawing aside the curtain, he pointed out to him the stars already paling and a vague whiteness which appeared at the horizon. Then suddenly changing his tone, but still carried away by his impetuous nature, which stamped upon all the movements of his mind the character of passion, Stephane became much excited at the idea of the dangers which his friend was about to brave. "I will go with you," said he, "I want to know what risks you run in coming here. To descend from the large roof to the small one, you must have had a ladder. I want to see this ladder, I want to assure myself that it is strong." "Do not be afraid, I have attended to that." "When I tell you that I wish to see it! I will believe only my own eyes and hands. Where is this ladder? I positively must see it." "And I forbid you to climb this window. Take my word, my rope ladder is entirely new and very strong." "Ah!" exclaimed Stephane, struck with a sudden idea. "I will bet that you have fastened it to that great iron corbel, which stretches its frightful beak up there at the angle of the wall. And just now you were suspended in space on this treacherous floating cord. Monstrous fool that I was not to understand it." And to Gilbert's great astonishment, he added: "You do not yet love me enough to have the right to run such risks." "Do be a little calmer," said Gilbert. "You displayed just now a gentleness and wisdom which enchanted me. Take care; Ivan might wake and come up." "These walls are deafened, the flagging is thick; between this room and the staircase there is an alcove, a vestibule, and two large closed doors; and between the rail of this staircase and the cage of my jailer, there is a long corridor. Besides, he is capable of everything but rambling at night round my apartment; but what matters it?--Let him come to surprise us, this hateful Ivan! I will resign myself to everything rather than see you put your feet upon that horrible ladder again. And take my word for it, if you violate my injunction,--at that very moment before your eyes, I will throw myself headlong down the precipice." "You are extremely unreasonable," replied Gilbert, in a severe tone; "I must leave here at any cost. Since my ladder displeases you, instead of uttering a thousand follies, try rather to discover--" Stephen struck his forehead. "Here is my discovery," interrupted he; "opposite this window, on the other side of the roof, there is another, which, if you can only open it, will certainly let you into some empty lofts. Where these lofts will take you I don't exactly know, for Ivan told me once when he wanted to store some broken furniture there, that he had not been able to find the entrance; but you will no doubt discover some window near, by which you can get out upon the great roof, half-way from your turret, and so you will be spared a great deal of trouble and danger. Ah! if this proves so, how proud I shall be of finding it out." "Now you are as I like to see you," said Gilbert; "instead of prancing like a badly-bitted horse, you are calm, and you reason." "So to reward me you will permit me to accompany you." "God forbid! and if you presume to go without my permission, I swear to you that I will never come here again." And as Stephane resisted and chafed, Gilbert took his head between his hands, and drawing him to his breast, pressed a paternal kiss on his forehead, just at the roots of his hair. This kiss produced an extraordinary effect, which alarmed him; Stephane shuddered from head to foot, and a cry escaped him. "Awkward fellow that I am," said Gilbert in an uneasy tone; "I have wounded you without intending it." "No," murmured he, "it is of no consequence; but that was the place where my mother used to kiss me. May the saints be with you. I love you. Good-bye!" And thus speaking he covered his face which was on fire, with both hands. Ah! if Gilbert had understood! But he divined nothing; he descended to the roof, crossed it, and discovered as he groped about, a window, all the panes of which were broken; which saved him the trouble of opening it. When he found himself in the lofts, he lighted the candle which he had taken the precaution to bring in his pocket. The place which he had just entered was a wretched garret, three or four feet wide. In front of him he noticed four or five steps, ascended them, and opened an old door without any fastening. This let him into a vast corridor, which had no visible place of exit at the other end; it was infested by spiders and rats, and encumbered with dilapidated old furniture. Gilbert discovered, on raising his eyes, that he was in the mansard, lighted by the great dormer window. The bolt which held the shutter was so high up that he could not reach it with his hand. An old rickety table stood in the corner, buried under a triple coating of dust. Having reached the window by its aid, Gilbert drew the bolt; he mounted upon the roof and, supporting himself by one of the projecting timbers of the pediment, restored the shutter to its embrasure and fastened it as well as he could; after which he made his way once more towards the small roof; for, before returning to his lodging, it was necessary at any cost to detach and draw up the rope, an unimpeachable witness which would have testified against him. While Gilbert was extended at length, fully occupied in this delicate operation, Stephane, standing at his window and trembling like a leaf, was tearing his handkerchief with his beautiful teeth. The ladder withdrawn, Gilbert cried out to him: "Your lofts are admirable. Hereafter, coming to see you will only be a pleasure trip." When he found himself again upon his balcony, dawn began to break, and a screech owl, returning from his hunt after field mice, passed before him and regained his hole. Gilbert waved his hand to this nocturnal adventurer whose confrere he felt himself, and leaping lightly into his room, was sleeping profoundly in five minutes. At the same moment Stephane, raising his eyes to the holy images to which he had given such terrible blows, exclaimed with a passionate gesture: "Oh! St. George, St. Sergius, help me to keep my secret."

Yesterday evening I returned to Stephane by the dormer window and the lofts; the journey took me but twenty minutes. There was a slight wind, and I was glad to have nothing to do with the iron corbel. Arriving at ten o'clock I returned half an hour after midnight. On leaving the young man, I felt terrified and overjoyed at the same time,--frightened at the impulsive ardor of his temperament and at the efforts it will cost me to moderate his impetuosity; but overjoyed, astonished at the quickness and grasp of his mind, at his vivid imagination, and the truly Slavonian flexibility of his naturally happy disposition. It is certain that the sad and barren existence he has led for years would have shattered the energies of a soul less finely tempered than his; the vigor and elasticity of his temperament have saved him. But I arrived just in time, for he confessed to me that the idea of suicide had taken possession of him since that unlucky escapade punished by fifteen hours' imprisonment. "My first attempt was unfortunate," said he, "but I was resolved to try again; I had sounded the ford; another time I should have crossed the stream." I hastened to turn the conversation, especially as he was not in the humor to weary himself with such a gloomy subject. How happy he appeared to see me again; how his joy expressed itself upon his ingenuous face, and how speaking were his looks! We occupied ourselves at first with the language of signs. Nothing escaped his eager intellect; he complained only of my slow explanations. "I understand, I understand," he would cry; "something else, my dear sir, something else, I'm not a fool." I certainly had no idea of such quickness of apprehension. "The Slavonians learn quickly," said I, "and forget quickly too." To prove the contrary, he answered me by signs: "You are an impertinent fellow." I was confounded. Then all at once: "Extraordinary man," said, he, with a gravity which made me smile, "tell me a little of your life." "Extraordinary I am not at all," said I. "And I affirm," answered he, "that humanity is composed of tyrants, valets, and a single and only Gilbert." "Nonsense! Gilberts are abundant." "There is but one, there is but one," cried he, with a fire and energy that enchanted me. I must own I am not sorry that for the time being he looks upon me as an exceptional being; for it is well to keep him a little in awe of me. To satisfy him I gave him the history of my youth. This time he reproached me for being too brief, and not going enough into detail. As his questions were inexhaustible, I said: "After today do not let us waste our time upon this subject. Besides, the top of the basket shows the best that's in it." "There may perhaps be something to hide from me?" "No; but I will confess that I do not like to talk about myself too much. I get tired of it very soon." "What?" said he, in a tone of reproach, "are we not here to talk endlessly about you, me, us?" "Certainly, and our favorite occupation will be to entertain ourselves with ourselves; but to render this pastime more delightful, it will be well for us to occupy ourselves sometimes with something else." "With something else? With what?" "With that which is not ourselves." "And what do I care for anything which is neither you nor me?" "But at all events you sometimes work, you read, you study?" "At Martinique, Father Alexis gave me two or three hours of lessons every day. He taught me history, geography, and among other stuff of the same kind, the inconceivable merits and the superhuman perfections of his eternal Panselinos. The dissertations of this spiritual schoolmaster diverted me very little, as you may well suppose, and I was furious that in spite of myself his tiresome verbiage rooted itself in my memory, which is the most tenacious in the world." "And did he continue his instructions to you?" "After our return to Europe, my father ordered him to teach me nothing more but the catechism. He said it was the only study my silly brain was fit for." "So for three years you have passed your days in absolute idleness." "Not at all; I have always been occupied from morning till night." "And how?" "In sitting down, in getting up, in sitting down again, in pacing the length and breadth of my room, in gaping at the crows, in counting the squares of these flagstones, and the tiles of the little roof, in looking at the iron corbel and the water-spout on top of it, in watching the clouds sailing through the empty air, and then in lying down there in that recess of the wall, to rest quiet, with my eyes closed, ruminating over the problem of my destiny, asking myself what I could have done to God, that he chastised me so cruelly, recalling my past sufferings, enjoying in advance my sufferings to come, weeping and dreaming, dreaming and weeping, until overcome with lassitude and exhaustion I ended by falling asleep; or else, driven to desperation by weariness, I ran down to Ivan's lodging, and there gave vent to my scorn, fury, and despair, at the top of my lungs." These words, pronounced in a tone breathing all the bitterness of his soul, troubled me deeply. I trembled to think of this desolate child, whose griefs were incessantly augmented by solitude and idleness, of that soul defenselessly abandoned to its gloomy reveries, of that poor heart maddened, and pouncing upon itself as upon a prey; self-devouring, constantly reopening his wounds and inflaming them, without work or study to divert him a single instant from his monotonous torment. Oh! Count Kostia, how refined is your hatred! "I have an idea," I said at last. "You love flowers and painting. Paint an herbarium." "What's that?" "See this large paper. You will paint on it, in water colors, a collection of all the flowers of this region, of all those, at least, that you may find in your walks. If you don't know their names, I will teach them to you, or we will seek for them together." "Provided that books take no part in it." "We will dispense with them as much as possible. I will muster up all my knowledge to tell you the history of these pretty painted flowers; I will tell you of their families; I will teach you how to classify them; in short, will give you little by little, all I know of botany." He made a hundred absurd objections,--among others, that he found in all the flowers of the fields and the woods in this country a creeping and servile air; then this, and then that, expressing himself in a sharp but sportive tone. "I shall teach you botany, my wild young colt," I said to myself, "and not let you break loose." I have not been able, however, to draw from him any positive promise.

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