They were three full, exquisite days—a true honeymoon. They were at the Hotel-
de-Boulogne, on the harbour; and they lived there, with drawn blinds and closed
doors, with flowers on the floor, and iced syrups were brought them early in the
Towards evening they took a covered boat and went to dine on one of the
islands. It was the time when one hears by the side of the dockyard the caulking-
mallets sounding against the hull of vessels. The smoke of the tar rose up
between the trees; there were large fatty drops on the water, undulating in the
purple colour of the sun, like floating plaques of Florentine bronze.
They rowed down in the midst of moored boats, whose long oblique cables
grazed lightly against the bottom of the boat. The din of the town gradually grew
distant; the rolling of carriages, the tumult of voices, the yelping of dogs on the
decks of vessels. She took off her bonnet, and they landed on their island.
They sat down in the low-ceilinged room of a tavern, at whose door hung black
nets. They ate fried smelts, cream and cherries. They lay down upon the grass;
they kissed behind the poplars; and they would fain, like two Robinsons, have
lived for ever in this little place, which seemed to them in their beatitude the most
magnificent on earth. It was not the first time that they had seen trees, a blue sky,
meadows; that they had heard the water flowing and the wind blowing in the
leaves; but, no doubt, they had never admired all this, as if Nature had not
existed before, or had only begun to be beautiful since the gratification of their
At night they returned. The boat glided along the shores of the islands. They sat
at the bottom, both hidden by the shade, in silence. The square oars rang in the
iron thwarts, and, in the stillness, seemed to mark time, like the beating of a
metronome, while at the stern the rudder that trailed behind never ceased its
gentle splash against the water.
Once the moon rose; they did not fail to make fine phrases, finding the orb
melancholy and full of poetry. She even began to sing—
"One night, do you remember, we were sailing," etc.
Her musical but weak voice died away along the waves, and the winds carried off
the trills that Leon heard pass like the flapping of wings about him.
She was opposite him, leaning against the partition of the shallop, through one of
whose raised blinds the moon streamed in. Her black dress, whose drapery
spread out like a fan, made her seem more slender, taller. Her head was raised,
her hands clasped, her eyes turned towards heaven. At times the shadow of the
willows hid her completely; then she reappeared suddenly, like a vision in the
Leon, on the floor by her side, found under his hand a ribbon of scarlet silk. The
boatman looked at it, and at last said—