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a riotous mystery

how a triangle show ever got off was a mystery, but it was a riotous mystery, anyway, whether or not one did enough service to wear a little gold triangle on his watch-chain.

dedication

to madame josephine delannoy nee doumerc.

madame, may god grant that this, my book, may live longer than i,
for then the gratitude which i owe to you, and which i hope will
equal your almost maternal kindness to me, would last beyond the
limits prescribed for human affection. this sublime privilege of
prolonging life in our hearts for a time by the life of the work
we leave behind us would be (if we could only be sure of gaining
it at last) a reward indeed for all the labor undertaken by those
who aspire to such an immortality.

yet again i say--may god grant it!

he had just learned of the treacherous conduct of one in whom he had every reason to trust.

and here and there i saw a woman sit apart. the others danced and sang and fed their children, but she sat silent with her head aside as though she listened. her little children plucked her gown; she did not see them; she was listening to some sound, but she did not stir.

"mme la duchesse, i am in despair that god should have invented no way for a woman to confirm the gift of her heart save by adding the gift of her person. the high value which you yourself put upon the gift teaches me that i cannot attach less importance to it. if you have given me your inmost self and your whole heart, as you tell me, what can the rest matter? and besides, if my happiness means so painful a sacrifice, let us say no more about it. but you must pardon a man of spirit if he feels
humiliated at being taken for a spaniel."

"m. le marquis, i am in despair that god should not have
invented some nobler way for a man to confirm the gift of his
heart than by the manifestation of prodigiously vulgar desires.
we become bond-slaves when we give ourselves body and soul, but a
man is bound to nothing by accepting the gift. who will assure
me that love will last? the very love that i might show for you
at every moment, the better to keep your love, might serve you as
a reason for deserting me. i have no wish to be a second edition
of mme de beauseant. who can ever know what it is that keeps you
beside us? our persistent coldness of heart is the cause of an
unfailing passion in some of you; other men ask for an untiring
devotion, to be idolised at every moment; some for gentleness,
others for tyranny. no woman in this world as yet has really
read the riddle of man's heart."

there was a pause. when she spoke again it was in a different
tone.

"after all, my friend, you cannot prevent a woman from trembling
at the question, `will this love last always?' hard though my
words may be, the dread of losing you puts them into my mouth.
oh, me! it is not i who speaks, dear, it is reason; and how
should anyone so mad as i be reasonable? in truth, i am nothing
of the sort."


chapter xviii

the fatal period

the pressure of want--whatever might be the case with the other
force--was, however, presumably not active now, for the tokens of a
chastened ease still abounded after all, many marks of a taste
whose discriminations might perhaps have been called eccentric. he
guessed at intense little preferences and sharp little exclusions,
a deep suspicion of the vulgar and a personal view of the right.
the general result of this was something for which he had no name
on the spot quite ready, but something he would have come nearest
to naming in speaking of it as the air of supreme respectability,
the consciousness, small, still, reserved, but none the less
distinct and diffused, of private honour. the air of supreme
respectability--that was a strange blank wall for his adventure to
have brought him to break his nose against. it had in fact, as he
was now aware, filled all the approaches, hovered in the court as
he passed, hung on the staircase as he mounted, sounded in the
grave rumble of the old bell, as little electric as possible, of
which chad, at the door, had pulled the ancient but neatly-kept
tassel; it formed in short the clearest medium of its particular
kind that he had ever breathed. he would have answered for it at
the end of a quarter of an hour that some of the glass cases
contained swords and epaulettes of ancient colonels and generals;
medals and orders once pinned over hearts that had long since
ceased to beat; snuff-boxes bestowed on ministers and envoys;
copies of works presented, with inscriptions, by authors now
classic. at bottom of it all for him was the sense of her rare
unlikeness to the women he had known. this sense had grown, since
the day before, the more he recalled her, and had been above all
singularly fed by his talk with chad in the morning. everything in
fine made her immeasurably new, and nothing so new as the old house
and the old objects.

wednesday cvi

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