I dared not betray myself in my uncle's presence. I was sensible to the respect I owed to him and to his hospitality. Never had I done such violence to myself at Roche-Mauprat. Yet, in spite of all efforts, my anger showed itself. I almost died at being obliged to wait for revenge. Several times the chevalier noticed the change in my features and asked in a kind tone if I were ill.
His prophecy was never fulfilled, but his encouragement aroused a taste for study in me, and prevented my mind from being wholly paralyzed by camp life. To me he was as a messenger from heaven; without him I should perhaps have become, if not the Hamstringer of Roche-Mauprat, at all events the savage of Varenne again. His teachings revived in me the consciousness of intellectual life.
The sun was sinking in shrouds of gray when we passed the portcullis at Roche-Mauprat. This portcullis was broken; the drawbridge was never raised, and the only things that crossed it now were peaceful flocks and their careless shepherds.
And now night had come and I was still two leagues from Roche-Mauprat. The gate would be shut, the drawbridge up; and I should get a bullet through me if I tried to enter after nine o'clock. As I did not know the way, it was a hundred to one against my doing the two leagues in an hour.
He had one daughter, and there his hopes of posterity ended; for soon afterward his wife died of a violent illness which the doctors called iliac passion. He then left that part of the country and returned but rarely to his estates. These were situated about six leagues from Roche-Mauprat, on the borders of the Varenne du Fromental.
When Marcasse and I found ourselves alone, though we were not drunk, we realized that the wine had filled us with gaiety and light-heartedness which we should not have felt at Roche-Mauprat, even without the adventure of the ghost.
But many years had passed since the garrison of Roche-Mauprat was large enough to be divided into two bodies; and besides, during the night it would have been folly to venture beyond the walls. We arrived, therefore, at the exit of the passage without meeting with any obstacle. But at the last moment I was seized with a fit of madness. I threw down my torch, and leaned against the door.
I burst into tears, and the sergeant, who returned at this moment, began to weep also; he implored me to go back to Roche-Mauprat; but I soon recovered and, thrusting them both away, said: "I know that both of you are excellent men, and both most generous; you must have some love for me too, since, though you believe me blackened with a hideous crime, you can still think of saving my life.
I answered her with a look in which the artless malice of the rustic must have been apparent: "To obtain release, cousin, from a certain promise you made me at Roche-Mauprat." She grew paler than ever, and on her face I could see an expression of terror, but ill-disguised by a smile of contempt. "What was the promise you made him, Edmee?" asked the chevalier, turning towards her ingenuously.
All notions of justice were scoffed at, and the civilisation, the light of education, and the philosophy of social equality, then spreading in France and preparing the way for the convulsion of the Revolution, found no entrance at Roche-Mauprat. The eight sons, the pride and strength of old Mauprat, all resembled him in physical vigour, brutality of manners, and in a cunning ill-nature.