take it as the highest praise — but I must say that he，
"That is enough, Patience!" I said. "This is a painful subject with me; my cousin does not love me."
"I tell you she does. You lie in your throat, as the nobles say. I know well enough how she nursed you; and Marcasse from the housetop happened to look through her window and saw her on her knees in the middle of the room at five o'clock in the morning the day that you were so ill."
These imprudent assertions of Patience, Edmee's tender cares, the departure of M. de la Marche, and, more than anything else, the weakness of my brain, enabled me to believe what I wished; but in proportion as I regained my strength Edmee withdrew further and further within the bounds of calm and discreet friendship. Never did man recover his health with less pleasure than I mine; for each day made Edmee's visits shorter; and when I was able to leave my room I had merely a few hours a day near her, as before my illness. With marvellous skill she had given me proof of the tenderest affection without ever allowing herself to be drawn into a fresh explanation concerning our mysterious betrothal. If I had not yet sufficient greatness of soul to renounce my rights, I had at least developed enough honour not to refer to them; and I found myself on exactly the same terms with her as at the time when I had fallen ill. M. de la Marche was in Paris; but according to her he had been summoned thither by his military duties and ought to return at the end of the winter on which we were entering. Nothing that the chevalier or the abbe said tended to show that there had been a quarrel between Edmee and him. They rarely spoke of the lieutenant-general, but when they had to speak of him they did so naturally and without any signs of repugnance. I was again filled with my old doubts, and could find no remedy for them except in the kingdom of my own will. "I will force her to prefer me," I would say to myself as I raised my eyes from my book and watched Edmee's great, inscrutable eyes calmly fixed on the letters which her father occasionally received from M. de la Marche, and which he would hand to her as soon as he had read them. I buried myself in my work again. For a long time I suffered from frightful pains in the head, but I overcame them stoically. Edmee again began the course of studies which she had indirectly laid down for my winter evenings. Once more I astonished the abbe by my aptitude and the rapidity of my conquests. The kindness he had shown me during my illness had disarmed me; and although I was still unable to feel any genuine affection for him, knowing well that he was of little service to me with my cousin, I gave him proof of much more confidence and respect than in the past. His talks were as useful to me as my reading. I was allowed to accompany him in his walks in the park and in his philosophical visits to Patience's snow-covered hut. This gave me an opportunity of seeing Edmee more frequently and for longer periods. My behaviour was such that all her mistrust vanished, and she no longer feared to be alone with me. On such occasions, however, I had but little scope for displaying my heroism; for the abbe, whose vigilance nothing could lull to sleep, was always at our heels. This supervision no longer annoyed me; on the contrary, I was pleased at it; for, in spite of all my resolutions, the storms of passion would still sweep my senses into a mysterious disorder; and once or twice when I found myself alone with Edmee I left her abruptly and went away, so that she might not perceive my agitation.
Our life, then, was apparently calm and peaceful, and for some time it was so in reality; but soon I disturbed it more than ever by a vice which education developed in me, and which had hitherto been hidden under coarser but less fatal vices. This vice, the bane of my new period of life, was vanity.
In spite of their theories, the abbe and my cousin made the mistake of showing too much pleasure at my rapid progress. They had so little expected perseverance from me that they gave all the credit to my exceptional abilities. Perhaps, too, in the marked success of the philosophical ideas they had applied to my education they saw something of a triumph for themselves. Certain it is, I was not loath to let myself be persuaded that I had great intellectual powers, and that I was a man very much above the average. My dear instructors were soon to gather the sad fruit of their imprudence, and it was already too late to check the flight of my immoderate conceit.
Perhaps, too, this abominable trait in my character, kept under by the bad treatment I had endured in childhood, was now merely revealing its existence. There is reason to believe that we carry within us from our earliest years the seeds of those virtues and vices which are in time made to bear fruit by the action of our environment. As for myself, I had not yet found anything whereon my vanity could feed; for on what could I have prided myself at the beginning of my acquaintance with Edmee? But no sooner was food forthcoming than suffering vanity rose up in triumph, and filled me with as much presumption as previously it had inspired me with bashfulness and boorish reserve. I was, moreover, as delighted at being able at last to express my thoughts with ease as a young falcon fresh from the nest trying its wings for the first time. Consequently, I became as talkative as I had been silent. The others were too indulgent to my prattle. I had not sense enough to see that they were merely listening to me as they would to a spoilt child. I thought myself a man, and what is more, a remarkable man. I grew arrogant and superlatively ridiculous.
My uncle, the chevalier, who had not taken any part in my education, and who only smiled with fatherly good-nature at the first steps I took in my new career, was the first to notice the false direction in which I was advancing. He found it unbecoming that I should raise my voice as loudly as his own, and mentioned the matter to Edmee. With great sweetness she warned me of this, and, lest I should feel annoyed at her speaking of it, told me that I was quite right in my argument, but that her father was now too old to be converted to new ideas, and that I ought to sacrifice my enthusiastic affirmations to his patriarchal dignity. I promised not to repeat the offence; and I did not keep my word.
The fact is, the chevalier was imbued with many prejudices. Considering the days in which he lived, he had received a very good education for a country nobleman; but the century had moved more rapidly than he. Edmee, ardent and romantic; the abbe, full of sentiment and systems, had moved even more rapidly than the century; and if the vast gulf which lay between them and the patriarch was scarcely perceptible, this was owing to the respect which they rightly felt for him, and to the love he had for his daughter. I rushed forward at full speed, as you may imagine, into Edmee's ideas, but I had not, like herself, sufficient delicacy of feeling to maintain a becoming reticence. The violence of my character found an outlet in politics and philosophy, and I tasted unspeakable pleasure in those heated disputes which at that time in France, not only at all public meetings but also in the bosoms of families, were preluding the tempests of the Revolution. I doubt if there was a single house, from palace to hovel, which had not its orator--rugged, fiery, absolute, and ready to descend into the parliamentary arena. I was the orator of the chateau of Sainte-Severe, and my worthy uncle, accustomed to a resemblance of authority over those about him, which prevented him from seeing the real revolt of their minds, could ill endure such candid opposition as mine. He was proud and hot-tempered, and, moreover, had a difficulty in expressing himself which increased his natural impatience, and made him feel annoyed with himself. He would give a furious kick to the burning logs on the hearth; he would smash his eye-glasses into a thousand pieces; scatter clouds of snuff about the floor, and shout so violently as to make the lofty ceilings of his mansion ring with his resonant voice. All this, I regret to say, amused me immensely; and with some sentence but newly spelt out from my books I loved to destroy the frail scaffolding of ideas which had served him all his life. This was great folly and very foolish pride on my part; but my love of opposition and my desire to display intellectually the energy which was wanting in my physical life were continually carrying me away. In vain would Edmee cough, as a hint that I should say no more, and make an effort to save her father's /amour propre/ by bringing forward some argument in his favour, though against her own judgement; the lukewarmness of her help, and my apparent submission to her only irritated my adversary more and more.
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