cage by the Barber and the Priest, the fit ministers of，
One day I asked for news of M. de la Marche. It was only to Patience that I dared to put this question.
"What! Gone?" I replied. "For long?"
"Forever, please God! I don't know anything about it, for I ask no questions; but I happened to be in the garden when he took leave of her, and it was all as cold as a December night. Still, /au revoir/ was said on both sides, but though Edmee's manner was kind and honest as it always is, the other had the face of a farmer when he sees frosts in April. Mauprat, Mauprat, they tell me that you have become a great student and a genuine good fellow. Remember what I told you; when you are old there will probably no longer be any titles or estate. Perhaps you will be called 'Father' Mauprat, as I am called 'Father' Patience, though I have never been either a priest or a father of a family."
"Well, what are you driving at?"
"Remember what I once told you," he repeated. "There are many ways of being a sorcerer, and one may read the future without being a servant of the devil. For my part, I give my consent to your marriage with your cousin. Continue to behave decently. You are a wise man now, and can read fluently from any book set before you. What more do you want? There are so many books here that the sweat runs from my brow at the very sight of them; it seems as if I were again starting the old torment of not being able to learn to read. But you have soon cured yourself. If M. Hubert were willing to take my advice, he would fix the wedding for the next Martinmas."
"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.
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