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Bardelys the Magnificent

9. A Night Alarm
I was returning that same afternoon from a long walk that I had taken - for my
mood was of that unenviable sort that impels a man to be moving - when I found
a travelling-chaise drawn up in the quadrangle as if ready for a journey. As I
mounted the steps of the chateau I came face to face with mademoiselle,
descending. I drew aside that she might pass; and this she did with her chin in
the air, and her petticoat drawn to her that it might not touch me.
I would have spoken to her, but her eyes looked straight before her with a glance
that was too forbidding; besides which there was the gaze of a half-dozen
grooms upon us. So, bowing before her - the plume of my doffed hat sweeping
the ground - I let her go. Yet I remained standing where she had passed me, and
watched her enter the coach. I looked after the vehicle as it wheeled round and
rattled out over the drawbridge, to raise a cloud of dust on the white, dry road
beyond.
In that hour I experienced a sense of desolation and a pain to which I find it
difficult to give expression. It seemed to me as if she had gone out of my life for
all time - as if no reparation that I could ever make would suffice to win her back
after what had passed between us that morning. Already wounded in her pride by
what Mademoiselle de Marsac had told her of our relations, my behaviour in the
rose garden had completed the work of turning into hatred the tender feelings
that but yesterday she had all but confessed for me. That she hated me now, I
was well assured. My reflections as I walked had borne it in upon me how rash,
how mad had been my desperate action, and with bitterness I realized that I had
destroyed the last chance of ever mending matters.
Not even the payment of my wager and my return in my true character could
avail me now. The payment of my wager, forsooth! Even that lost what virtue it
might have contained. Where was the heroism of such an act? Had I not failed,
indeed? And was not, therefore, the payment of my wager become inevitable?
Fool! fool! Why had I not profited that gentle mood of hers when we had drifted
down the stream together? Why had I not told her then of the whole business
from its ugly inception down to the pass to which things were come, adding that
to repair the evil I was going back to Paris to pay my wager, and that when that
was done, I would return to ask her to become my wife? That was the course a
man of sense would have adopted. He would have seen the dangers that beset
him in my false position, and would have been quick to have forestalled them in
the only manner possible.
Heigh-ho! It was done. The game was at an end, and I had bungled my part of it
like any fool. One task remained me - that of meeting Marsac at Grenade and
 
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