"Where is the real lover?" inquired the Queen of the Duc de Lauzun, who thereupon left the box, and beckoned to my captain in the corridor. Again the nervous trembling seized me, for I felt that something I could not guess what was about to happen to me. My captain bowed respectfully, and conversed in a low tone with M. de Lauzun. Marie Antoinette was looking at me!
"Thank you. Have you anything else?" he asked, folding his hand over hers as she pinned it on. "Oh, Austin, you're such a funny lover!" "Why?" "Because you nearly always ask beforehand. Why don't you take what you've a perfect right to if you want it?"
The cabinet was open, and papers were strewn about, as though thrown right and left in a desperate search; and, with his back to her, a man was seated before it, his bared head resting upon his arms, and his whole attitude full of the passionate abandonment of a great despair. She had but one thought. It was her lover returned, and he needed her consolation.
In some faces love awakens amid the wrinkles carved by sorrow and the ruin made by melancholy; Montriveau could not but feel drawn to these. For cannot a lover, with the voice of a great longing, call forth a wholly new creature? a creature athrob with the life but just begun breaks forth for him alone, from the outward form that is fair for him, and faded for all the world besides.
The sob of self-pity from her fair young breast had brought into view her cherished treasures, bright keepsakes of the girlish days when many a lover worshipped her. Taking from her neck the silken braid, she kissed them, and laid them on the bank. "They were all too good for me," she thought; "they shall not perish with me."
Moreover, the conduct of Eva who, though she entreated her forgiveness, by no means showed herself contritely ready to resign her lover, had given her so much food for thought that she could not find the rest her frail body required.
He, no doubt, would wish that she should make a more exalted marriage. She had known that she would have to encounter opposition, though she had not expected to be told that she had disgraced herself. As she sat there she resolved that under no pretence would she give up her lover; but she was so far abashed that she could not find words to express herself.
She had thought of him as an external power, like the Church, who told her to do things, and in the end the choice had been for her not between a dear and pitied lover and a creed, but between two tyrants; and since one tyrant threatened damnation while the other only promised love, a sensible woman knew which to choose. All he had thought of her had been an illusion.
"The present is enough for me," said her lover; and he finished his necklace with a handsome clasp of blossoms, and threw it over her neck. She gave a low sigh of satisfaction. "I have been waiting for it ever since that time! And here is mine for you." Thus adorned by each other's hands, their love seemed greater than before, and they laughed from pure delight.
The second of the three just mentioned, which is the shortest, gives us the story of a woman who, after losing her fourteenth lover, succeeds in getting a fifteenth, d'Arthez, to believe her virtuous and a sort of saint maligned by envy. There is cleverness and to spare in the way the wiles of this sly jade are related, and falsehood shown as a fine art in the service of passional love.
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