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'AT last!' she cried, throwing her arms around my neck. 'You're back! You look so pale!'

Then I told her about the scene with my father.

'Oh my God! I was expecting something like this, ' she said. 'When Joseph came and told us your father had arrived, my heart stopped as though he'd brought bad news. Poor dear! And I'm to blame for all your troubles. Perhaps it would be better for you to leave me than quarrel with your father. Still, I never did him any harm. We live very quietly and we'll live more quietly still. Of course, he realizes that you must have a mistress, and he should be pleased it's me, because I love you and won't ask you for anything more than your circumstances warrant. Did you tell him what we've worked out for the future?'

'Yes, and that's what upset him most, because he took the fact that our minds were made up as a sure sign of our love for each other.'

'What do we do now?'

'Stay together, sweet Marguerite, and let the storm blow over.'

'And will it blow over?'

'Storms always do.'

'But your father won't leave it at that, will he?'

'What can he do?'

'How should I know? Everything a father can do to force his son to obey him. He'll remind you of my past life, and may even credit me with some new treachery invented for the purpose of persuading you to give me up.'

'You know how I love you.'

'Yes, but there's something else I know: sooner or later you'll have to obey your father, and in the end you may let yourself be convinced.'

'No, Marguerite, I'll do the convincing. He's furious because of the stories some of his friends have been putting about. But he's good and he's fair-minded, and he'll get over his first impressions. Anyway, even if he doesn't, it won't make any difference to me!'

'You mustn't say that, Armand. I'd rather anything than give people the idea that I've come between you and your family. Leave it for today, and return to Paris tomorrow. Your father will have thought things over and so will you, and perhaps you'll understand each other better. Don't offend his principles. Try to appear as though you're making some concessions to what he wants. Make it look as if you're not all that attached to me, and he'll leave matters as they are, Keep hoping, my dear, and be sure of one thing: whatever happens, your Marguerite will still be yours.'

'You swear it?'

'Do I need to?'

How sweet it is to let yourself be won round by a voice your love! Marguerite and I spent all day going over our plans as though we somehow knew we had to hurry them through. We were expecting something to happen at any minute but, happily, the day passed without further event.

The following morning, I set off at ten o'clock and reached the hotel around noon.

My father had already gone out.

I went to my apartment hoping that he might be there. No one had called. I went round to my solicitor's. There was no one there either!

I returned to the hotel and waited until six. Monsieur Duval did not return.

I set off back to Bougival.

I found Marguerite not waiting for me, as on the previous evening, but sitting by the fire which the season already required.

She was deep enough in her thoughts for me to come right up to her chair without her hearing me or turning round. When my lips touched her forehead, she started as though the kiss had woken her suddenly.

'You gave me a fright, ' she said. 'What did your father say?'

'I didn't see him. I can't make it out. I couldn't find him at his hotel nor in any of the places where he was likely to be.'

'Well, you'll have to try again tomorrow.'

'I've a good mind to wait for him to ask to see me. I think I've done everything that could be expected of me.'

'No, my dear, it's not enough. You must go and see your father again, and do it tomorrow.'

'Why tomorrow rather than any other day?'

'Because, ' said Marguerite, who, I thought, flushed slightly at my question, 'because then your determination will seem all the greater and consequently we shall be forgiven more quickly.'

For the remainder of that day, Marguerite seemed preoccupied, listless, downcast. I had to say everything twice to get an answer. She attributed her inattentiveness to the fears for the future which the events of the past two days had prompted.

I spent the night trying to reassure her, and she sent me off the next morning displaying a distinct uneasiness which I could not fathom.

As on the previous day, my father was out. But, before going, he had left me this letter:

'If you return to see me today, wait until four. If I'm not back by four, come back and dine with me tomorrow. I must speak with you.'

I waited until the appointed time. My father did not put in an appearance. So I left.

The evening before, I had found Marguerite downcast; now I found her feverish and agitated. When she saw me come in, she threw her arms around my neck, but she remained weeping in my arms for some time.

I questioned her about her sudden dejection which, as it worsened, alarmed me. She gave me no specific reason for it, and merely fell back on the excuses a woman falls back on when she does not want to give truthful answers.

When she was a little more herself again, I told her the outcome of my journey to town. I showed her my father's letter, and observed that some good might very well come of it.

When she saw the letter and heard my view of it, her tears began coming so fast that I called Nanine and, fearing some sort of nervous attack, we put her to bed. The poor girl wept without uttering a word, but she kept my hands clasped in hers and kissed them continually.

I asked Nanine if, during my absence, her mistress had received a letter or a visit which could account for the state she was in, but Nanine replied that no one had come and nothing had been delivered.

And yet something had been going on since the previous evening which was all the more worrying because Marguerite was hiding it from me.

She seemed to be a little calmer during the evening and, motioning me to sit at the foot of her bed, she gave me lengthy, renewed assurances that she loved me. Then she smiled, though it was an effort for her to do so, for despite herself her eyes were masked with tears.

I used every means to make her reveal the real cause of her sorrows, but she stubbornly continued to give me the same vague excuses which I have already mentioned.

In the end, she fell asleep in my arms, but her sleep was the kind which wearies the body instead of giving it rest. From time to time, she would cry out, wake with a start and, after reassuring herself that I was really by her side, would make me swear I would love her always.

I could make nothing of these fits of distress which continues until morning. Then Marguerite lapsed into a sort of torpor. She had not slept now for two nights.

Her rest was short-lived.

About eleven o'clock, Marguerite woke and, seeing that I was up and about, looked around her and exclaimed:

'Are you going already?'

'No, ' I said, taking her hands in mine, 'but I wanted to let you sleep. It's still early.'

'What time are you going to Paris?'

'Four o'clock.'

'So soon? You'll stay with me till then, won't you?'

'Of course. Don't I always?'

'I'm so glad!'

Then she went on listlessly: 'Are we going to have lunch?'

'If you want.'

'And then you'll hold me right up to the moment you go?'

'Yes, and I'll come back as soon as I can.'

'Come back?' she said, staring wild- eyed at me.

'Of course.'

'That's right, you'll come back tonight and I'll be waiting for you, as usual, and you'll love me, and we'll be happy just as we've been since we met.'

These words were said so falteringly, and seemed to hide some painful notion that was so persistent, that I feared for her reason.

'Listen, ' I told her, 'you're ill, I can't leave you like this. I'll write to my father and say he's not to expect me.'

'No! no!' she exclaimed vehemently, 'you mustn't do that. Your father would only accuse me of preventing you from going to him when he wants to see you. No! no! you must go, you must! Besides, I'm not ill, I couldn't be better. I had a bad dream, that's all, I wasn't properly awake.'

From then on, Marguerite tried to appear more cheerful. There were no more tears.

When it was time for me to leave, I kissed her and asked her if she wanted to come with me as far as the station: I hoped that the ride would take her mind off things, and that the air might do her good.

But most of all, I wanted to remain with her as long as possible.

She agreed, put her cloak on and came with me, bringing Nanine so that she would not have to return alone.

A score of times I was on the point of not going. But the hope of returning soon and fear of further antagonizing my father kept my purpose firm, and the train bore me away.

'Until tonight, ' I said to Marguerite as I said goodbye.

She did not answer.

Once before she had not answered when I had said those selfsame words, and Count de G, as you will recall, had spent the night with her. But that time was so far off that it seemed to have been erased from my memory. If I had anything to fear, it was assuredly not that Marguerite was deceiving me.

When I reached Paris, I hurried round to Prudence's to ask her to go down and see Marguerite. I hoped that her zest and good spirits would cheer her up.

I entered without waiting to be announced, and found Prudence getting dressed.

'Ah!' she said anxiously, 'is Marguerite with you?'

'No.'

'How is she?'

'She's not well.'

'So she's not coming?'

'Was she supposed to?'

Madame Duvernoy reddened and, somewhat embarrassed, answered:

'What I meant was, now you've come to Paris, isn't she going to come and join you?'

'No.'

I stared at Prudence. She lowered her eyes, and from the way she looked, I had the feeling that she was afraid of seeing me stay much longer.

'As a matter of fact, my dear Prudence, I came to ask you, if you've nothing else to do, to go down and see Marguerite this evening. You could keep her company and stay the night. I've never seen her the way she was today, and I'm terrified she's going to be ill.'

'I'm dining in town, ' Prudence replied, 'and I can't see Marguerite this evening. But I will tomorrow.'

I said goodbye to Madame Duvernoy, who seemed to me as though she was almost as preoccupied as Marguerite, and went to call on my father who, from the start, gave me studied, searching looks.

He held out his hand.

'You called twice to see me. That pleases me, Armand, ' he said. 'It's given me hope that you've reflected on your position, as I have on mine.'

'May I ask, father, what the outcome of your reflections has been?'

'The outcome, my boy, is that I realize I attached too much importance to the reports I was given, and I have made up my mind not to be quite so hard on you.'

'Do you mean it, father!' I exclaimed, overjoyed.

'What I mean, my dear boy, is that a young man needs a mistress and, after further enquiries, I would prefer to know that you were the lover of Mademoiselle Gautier than of some other woman.'

'Oh, thank you, father! You've made me so happy!'

We talked in this vein for a short while, and then sat down to dine. My father remained most affable throughout the meal.

I was very anxious to get back to Bougival to tell Marguerite all about this auspicious development. I glanced continually at the clock.

'You've got your eye on the time, ' said my father, 'you can't wait to get away. Oh, you young people! always sacrificing genuine feelings for suspect attachments!'

'Don't say that, father! Marguerite loves me. I know she does.'

My father did not answer. His manner suggested that he neither believed nor disbelieved me.

He was very insistent that I should spend the entire evening with him so that I would not have to set off again until the following day. But I had left Marguerite feeling ill, said so, and asked his leave to go and join her soon, promising to return the following day.

It was a fine evening. He decided he would accompany me on to the platform. I had never been so happy. The future looked exactly as I had wanted it to look for so long.

I loved my father more than I had ever loved him.

As I was on the point of taking my leave, he pressed me one last time to stay. I refused.

'So you really love her?' he asked.

'To distraction.'

'In that case, go!' and he put his hand to his brow as though to drive a thought away, and then opened his mouth as if to tell me something. But he simply shook my hand and turned away abruptly, shouting after me:

'I shall see you tomorrow, then!'

“总算来了!”她嚷着向我扑来搂着我,“你来了,你脸色有多么苍白啊!”

于是我把我和父亲之间发生的事告诉了她。

“啊!天哪!我也想到了,”她说,“约瑟夫来通知我们说你父亲来了的时候,我像大祸临头一样浑身哆嗦。可怜的朋友!都是我让你这么痛苦的。也许你离开我要比跟你父亲闹翻好一些。可是我一点也没有惹着他呀。我们安安静静地过日子,将来的日子还要安静。他完全知道你需要一个情妇,我做你的情妇,他应该为此而感到高兴,因为我爱你,了解你的景况,也不会向你提出过分的要求。你有没有对他说过我们将来的计划?”

“讲过了,最惹他生气的正是这件事,因为他在我们这个主意里面看到了我们相爱的证据。”

“那怎么办呢?”

“我们还是待在一起,我好心的玛格丽特,让这场暴风雨过去吧。”

“能过去吗?”

“一定会过去的。”

“但是你父亲会就此罢休吗?”

“你说他会怎么办?”

“我怎么能知道呢?一个父亲为了使他儿子服从他的意志,什么事都干得出来的。他为了让你抛弃我,会使你想起我过去的生活,也许承他情再替我编出一些新鲜事来。”

“你当然清楚我是爱你的。”

“是的,但是我也知道你迟早总得听从你父亲的,最后你也许会被他说服的。”

“不会的,玛格丽特,最后将是我说服他。他是听了几个朋友的闲话才发这么大脾气的;但是他心肠很好,为人正直,他还是会回心转意的。再说,总而言之,这和我又有什么相干!”

“别这么说,阿尔芒,我什么都愿意,就是不愿意让别人以为是我在撺掇你和你家庭闹翻的;今天就算了,明天你就回巴黎去。你父亲会像你一样从他那方面再好好考虑考虑的,也许你们会相互很好地谅解。不要触犯他的原则,装作对他的愿望作些让步;别显得太关心我,他就会让事情就这么过去的。乐观一些吧,我的朋友,对一件事情要有信心:不管发生什么事,你的玛格丽特总是你的。”

“你向我发誓吗?”

“需要我向你发誓吗?”

听从一个心爱的声音的规劝是多么温柔甜蜜啊!玛格丽特和我两个一整天都在反复谈论我们的计划,就像我们已经懂得了必须更快地实现这些计划,我们每时每刻都在期待发生什么事。幸而这一天总算过去了,没有发生什么新情况。

第二天,我十点钟就出发,中午时分,我到了旅馆。

我父亲已经出去了。

我回到了自己家里,希望他可能也上那里去了。没有人来过。我又到公证人家里,也没有人。

我重新回到旅馆,一直等到六点钟,父亲没有回来。

我又回布吉瓦尔去了。

我看到了玛格丽特,她并没有像前一天那样在等我,而是坐在炉火旁边,那时的天气已经需要生炉子了。

她深深地陷在沉思之中。我走近她的扶手椅她都没有听到我的声音,连头也没有回,当我把嘴唇贴在她的额头上时,她哆嗦了一下,就好像是被这下亲吻惊醒了似的。

“你吓了我一跳。”她对我说,“你父亲呢?”

“我没有见到他。我不知道是怎么回事,不论在旅馆里,还是在他可能去的地方都找不到他。”

“好吧,明天再去。”

“我想等他派人来叫我。我想所有我应该做的我都做了。”

“不,我的朋友,这样做远远不够,一定要回到你父亲那儿去,尤其是明天。”

“为什么非要是明天而不是别的日子呢?”

“因为,”玛格丽特听到我这样问,脸色微微发红,说道,“因为越是你要求得迫切,我们将越快地得到宽恕。”

这一天里,玛格丽特总是茫然若失,心不在焉,忧心忡忡。为了得到她的回答,我对她说话,总得重复两遍。她把这种心事重重的原因归诸于两天以来发生的事情和对前途的担忧。

整个晚上我都在安慰她,第二天她带着我无法理解的焦躁不安催我动身。

像头天一样,我父亲不在,但是他在出去的时候给我留下了这封信:

如果您今天又来看我,等我到四点钟,如果四点钟我还不回来,那么明天跟我一起来吃晚饭,我一定要跟您谈谈。

我一直等到信上指定的时间;父亲没有来,我便走了。

上一天我发现玛格丽特愁眉苦脸,这一天我看玛格丽特像是在发烧,情绪非常激动。看到我进去,她紧紧搂住我,在我的怀里哭了很长一段时间。

我问她怎么会突然觉得这样悲伤。可是她越来越伤心,使我感到惊奇万分。她没有告诉我任何讲得通的理由,她说的话,都是一个女人不愿意说真话时所提出的借口。

等她稍许平静了一些后,我把这次奔波的结果告诉了她,又把父亲的信给她看,要她注意,根据信上所说,我们可以想得乐观一些。

看到这封信,想到我所做的一切,她更是泪如泉涌,以致我不得不把纳尼娜叫来。我们怕她神经受了刺激,就把这个一句话也不说,光是痛哭流涕的可怜的姑娘扶到床上让她躺下,但是她握住我的双手不住地吻着。

我问纳尼娜,在我出门的时候,她的女主人是不是收到过什么信,或者有什么客人来过,才使她变成现在这般模样,可纳尼娜回答我说没有来过什么人,也没有人送来过什么东西。

但是,从昨天起一定发生过什么事,玛格丽特越是瞒我,我越是感到惶惶不安。

傍晚,她似乎稍许平静了一些。她叫我坐在她的床脚边,又絮絮叨叨地对我重复着她对爱情的忠贞。随后,她又对我嫣然一笑,但很勉强,因为无论她怎样克制,她的眼睛里总是含着眼泪。

我想尽办法要她把伤心的真实原因讲出来,但她翻来覆去地对我讲一些我已经跟您讲过的那些不着边际的理由。

她终于在我怀里睡着了,但是这种睡眠非但不能使她得到休息,反而在摧残她的身体,她不时地发出一声尖叫,突然惊醒。等她肯定我确实还在她身边之后,她便要我起誓永远爱她。

这种持续的痛苦一直延续到第二天早上,我一点也不清楚是什么原因。接着玛格丽特迷迷糊糊睡着了。她已有两个晚上没有好好睡觉了。

这次休息的时间也不长。

十一点左右,玛格丽特醒来了,看到我已经起身,她茫然四顾,喊了起来。

“你这就要走了吗?”

“不,”我握住她的双手说,“可是我想让你再睡一会儿,时间还早着呢。”

“你几点钟到巴黎去?”

“四点钟。”

“这么早?在去巴黎之前你一直陪着我是吗?”

“当然罗,我不是一直这样的吗?”

“多幸福啊!”

“我们去吃午饭好吗?”她心不在焉地接着说。

“如果你愿意的话。”

“随后一直到你离开,你都搂着我好吗?”

“好的,而且我尽量早些回来。”

“你还回来吗?”她用一种惊恐的眼光望着我说。

“当然啦。”

“是的,今天晚上你要回来的,我像平时一样等着你,你仍然爱我,我们还是像我们认识以来一样地幸福啊。”

这些话说得吞吞吐吐,断断续续,她似乎心里还有什么难言之隐,以致我一直在担心玛格丽特会不会发疯。

“听我说,”我对她说,“你病了,我不能这样丢下你,我写信给我父亲要他别等我了。”

“不,不,”她突然嚷了起来,“不要这样,你父亲要怪我的,在他要见你的时候,我不让你到他那儿去;不,不,你一定得去,必须去,再说我也没有病,我身体很好,我不过是做了一个恶梦,我神志还没有完全清醒过来呢!”

从这时起,玛格丽特强颜欢笑,她不再哭了。

时间到了,我一定得走了,我吻了她,问她是不是愿意陪我到车站去,我希望散散步可以使她心里宽慰一些;换换空气会使她舒服一些。

我特别想跟她一起多待一会儿。

她同意了,披上一件大衣,和纳尼娜一起陪我去,免得回家时孤身一人。

我有多少次差不多都决定不走了,但是那种快去快来的想法和那种怕引起我父亲对我不满的顾虑支持着我。我终于乘上火车走了。

“晚上见,”在分手的时候我对玛格丽特说。

她没有回答我。

对这句话不作回答,她以前也有过一次。而那一次,您还记得吧,G伯爵就在她家里过的夜;但那已经是很遥远的事情,我好像一点印象也没有了。如果说我害怕发生什么事的话,肯定也不会再是玛格丽特欺骗我这样的事了。

到了巴黎,我直奔普律当丝家,请她去看看玛格丽特,希望她热情和快活的脾气能给玛格丽特解解闷。

我未经通报就闯了进去,普律当丝正在梳妆间里。

“啊!”她不安地对我说,“玛格丽特跟您一起来的吗?”

“没有。”

“她身体好吗?”

“她有些不舒服。”

“那么她今天不来了吗?”

“她一定得来吗?”

迪韦尔诺瓦太太脸红了,她稍微有些尴尬地回答我说:

“我是想说,既然您到巴黎来了,难道她就不来这儿和您会面了?”

“她不来了。”

我瞧着普律当丝,她垂下眼睛,从她的神色上可以看出她似乎怕我赖着不走。

“我就是来请您去陪她的,亲爱的普律当丝,如果您没有什么事,请您今晚去看看玛格丽特,您去陪陪她,您可以睡在那里。我从来也没有见到过她像今天这个样子,我真怕她要病倒了。”

“今天晚上我要在城里吃晚饭,”普律当丝回答我说,“不能去看玛格丽特了,不过我明天可以去看她。”

我向迪韦尔诺瓦太太告辞,她仿佛跟玛格丽特一样心事重重;我到了父亲那儿,他第一眼就把我仔细端详了一番。

他向我伸出手来。

“您两次来看我使我很高兴,阿尔芒,”他对我说,“这就使我有了希望,您大概像我为您一样也为我考虑过了。”

“我可不可以冒昧地请问您,爸爸,您考虑的结果是什么?”

“结果是,我的孩子,我过于夸大了传闻的严重性,我答应对你稍许宽容一些。”

“您说什么?爸爸!”我快乐地嚷着。

“我说,亲爱的孩子,每个年轻人都得有个情妇,而且根据我新近知道的情况,我宁愿知道你的情妇是戈蒂埃小姐而不是别人。

“我多好的父亲!您使我多么快乐!”

我们就这样谈了一会儿,随后一起吃了饭。整个晚餐期间我父亲都显得很亲切。

我急于要回布吉瓦尔去把这个可喜的转变告诉玛格丽特。我一直在望着墙上的时钟。

“你在看时间,”我父亲对我说,“你急于想离开我。呵,年轻人啊!你们总是这样,牺牲真诚的感情去换取靠不住的爱情。”

“别这样说,爸爸!玛格丽特爱我,这是我坚信不疑的。”

我父亲没有回答,他看上去既不怀疑,也不相信。

他一直坚持要我跟他一起度过那个夜晚,让我第二天再走。但是我撇下的玛格丽特在生病,我把这个对他说了,接着我请求他同意我早些回去看她,并答应他第二天再来。

天气很好,他要一直陪我到站台,我从来也没有这样快活过,我长期以来所追求的未来生活终于来到了。

我从来也没有这样爱过我的父亲。

在我就要动身的时候,他最后又一次要我留下来,我拒绝了。

“那么你很爱她吗?”他问我。

“爱得发疯!”

“那么去吧!”他用手拂了一下前额,仿佛要驱走一个什么念头似的,随后他张开嘴巴仿佛要跟我讲什么事,但是他还是只握了握我的手,突然地离开了我,一面对我大声说道:

“好吧,明天见!”