A superficial person might be rendered miserable by the，
I assured him that she was as much above all other women as the lion is above the squirrel, the cedar above the hyssop, and with the help of metaphors I succeeded in convincing him. Then he persuaded me to tell him a few details, in order, as he said, that he might judge of my position with regard to Edmee. I opened my heart without reserve, and told him my history from beginning to end. At this time we were on the outskirts of a beautiful forest in the last rays of the setting sun. The park at Sainte-Severe, with its fine lordly oaks which had never known the insult of an axe, came into my thoughts as I gazed on these trees of the wilds, exempt from all human care, towering out above our heads in their might and primitive grace. The glowing horizon reminded me of the evening visits to Patience's hut, and Edmee sitting under the golden vine-leaves, and the notes of the merry parrots brought back to me the warbling of the beautiful exotic birds she used to keep in her room. I wept as I thought of the land of my birth so far away, of the broad ocean between us which had swallowed so many pilgrims in the hour of their return to their native shores. I also thought of the prospects of fortune, of the dangers of war, and for the first time I felt the fear of death; for Arthur, pressing my hand in his, assured me that I was loved, and that in each act of harshness or distrust he found but a new proof of affection.
"My boy," he said, "cannot you see that if she did not want to marry you, she would have found a hundred ways of ridding herself of your pretensions forever? And if she had not felt an inexhaustible affection for you, would she have taken so much trouble, and imposed so many sacrifices upon herself to raise you from the abject condition in which she found you, and make you worthy of her? Well, you are always dreaming of the mighty deeds of the knight-errants of old: cannot you see that you are a noble knight condemned by your lady to rude trials for having failed in the laws of gallantry, for having demanded in an imperious tone the love which ought to be sued for on bended knee?"
He then entered into a detailed examination of my misdeeds, and found that the chastisement was severe but just. Afterwards he discussed the probabilities of the future, and very sensibly advised me to submit until she thought right to pardon me.
"But," I said, "is there no shame in a man ripened, as I am now, by reflection, and roughly tried by war, submitting like a child to the caprices of a woman?"
"No," replied Arthur, "there is no shame in that; and the conduct of this woman is not dictated by caprice. One can win nothing but honour in repairing any evil one has done; and how few men are capable of it! It is only just that offended modesty should claim its rights and its natural independence. You have behaved like Albion; do not be astonished that Edmee behaves like Philadelphia. She will not yield, except on condition of a glorious peace, and she is right."
He wished to know how she had treated me during the two years we had been in America. I showed him the few short letters I had received from her. He was struck by the good sense and perfect integrity which seemed manifested in their lofty tone and manly precision. In them Edmee had made me no promise, nor had she even encouraged me by holding out any direct hopes; but she had displayed a lively desire for my return, and had spoken of the happiness we should all enjoy when, as we sat around the fire, I should while away the evenings at the chateau with accounts of my wonderful adventures; and she had not hesitated to tell me that, together with her father, I was the one object of her solicitude in life. Yet, in spite of this never-failing tenderness, a terrible suspicion harassed me. In these short letters from my cousin, as in those from her father and in the long, florid and affectionate epistles from the Abbe Aubert, they never gave me any news of the events which might be, and ought to be, taking place in the family. Each spoke of his or her own self and never mentioned the others; or at most they only spoke of the chevalier's attacks of the gout. It was as though an agreement had been made between the three that none should talk about the occupations and state of mind of the other two.
"Shed light and ease my mind on this matter if you can," I said to Arthur. "There are moments when I fancy that Edmee must be married, and that they have agreed not to inform me until I return, and what is to prevent this, in fact? Is it probable that she likes me enough to live a life of solitude out of love for me, when this very love, in obedience to the dictation of a cold reason and an austere conscience, can resign itself to seeing my absence indefinitely prolonged with the war? I have duties to perform here, no doubt; honour demands that I should defend my flag until the day of the triumph or the irreparable defeat of the cause I serve; but I feel that Edmee is dearer to me than these empty honours, and that to see her but one hour sooner I would leave my name to the ridicule or the curses of the world."
"This last thought," replied Arthur, with a smile, "is suggested to you by the violence of your passion; but you would not act as you say, even if the opportunity occurred. When we are grappling with a single one of our faculties we fancy the others annihilated; but let some extraneous shock arouse them, and we realize that our soul draws its life from several sources at the same time. You are not insensible to fame, Bernard; and if Edmee invited you to abandon it you would perceive that it was dearer to you than you thought. You have ardent republican convictions, and Edmee herself was the first to inspire you with them. What, then, would you think of her, and, indeed, what sort of woman would she be, if she said to you to-day, 'There is something more important than the religion I preached to you and the gods I revealed; something more august and more sacred, and that is my own good pleasure'? Bernard, your love is full of contradictory desires. Inconsistency, moreover, is the mark of all human loves. Men imagine that a woman can have no separate existence of her own, and that she must always be wrapped up in them; and yet the only woman they love deeply is she whose character seems to raise her above the weakness and indolence of her sex. You see how all the settlers in this country dispose of the beauty of their slaves, but they have no love for them, however beautiful they may be; and if by chance they become genuinely attached to one of them, their first care is to set her free. Until then they do not think that they are dealing with a human being. A spirit of independence, the conception of virtue, a love of duty, all these privileges of lofty souls are essential, therefore, in the woman who is to be one's companion through life; and the more your mistress gives proof of strength and patience, the more you cherish her, in spite of what you may have to suffer. You must learn, then, to distinguish love from desire; desire wishes to break through the very impediments by which it is attracted, and it dies amid the ruins of the virtue it has vanquished; love wishes to live, and in order to do that, it would fain see the object of its worship long defended by that wall of adamant whose strength and splendour mean true worth and true beauty."
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