Ten Years Later
A Lover and His Mistress.
Whilst the wax-lights were burning in the castle of Blois, around the inanimate body of
Gaston of Orleans, that last representative of the past; whilst the bourgeois of the city
were thinking out his epitaph, which was far from being a panegyric; whilst madame the
dowager, no longer remembering that in her young days she had loved that senseless
corpse to such a degree as to fly the paternal palace for his sake, was making, within
twenty paces of the funeral apartment, her little calculations of interest and her little
sacrifices of pride; other interests and other prides were in agitation in all the parts of
the castle into which a living soul could penetrate. Neither the lugubrious sounds of the
bells, nor the voices of the chanters, nor the splendor of the wax-lights through the
windows, nor the preparations for the funeral, had power to divert the attention of two
persons, placed at a window of the interior court - a window that we are acquainted
with, and which lighted a chamber forming part of what were called the little apartments.
For the rest, a joyous beam of the sun, for the sun appeared to care little for the loss
France had just suffered; a sunbeam, we say, descended upon them, drawing perfumes
from the neighboring flowers, and animating the walls themselves. These two persons,
so occupied, not by the death of the duke, but by the conversation which was the
consequence of that death, were a young woman and a young man. The latter
personage, a man of from twenty-five to twenty-six years of age, with a mien sometimes
lively and sometimes dull, making good use of two large eyes, shaded with long eye-
lashes, was short of stature and swart of skin; he smiled with an enormous, but well-
furnished mouth, and his pointed chin, which appeared to enjoy a mobility nature does
not ordinarily grant to that portion of the countenance, leant from time to time very
lovingly towards his interlocutrix, who, we must say, did not always draw back so rapidly
as strict propriety had a right to require. The young girl - we know her, for we have
already seen her, at that very same window, by the light of that same sun - the young
girl presented a singular mixture of shyness and reflection; she was charming when she
laughed, beautiful when she became serious; but, let us hasten to say, she was more
frequently charming than beautiful. These two appeared to have attained the
culminating point of a discussion - half-bantering, half-serious.
"Now, Monsieur Malicorne," said the young girl, "does it, at length, please you that we
should talk reasonably?"
"You believe that that is very easy, Mademoiselle Aure," replied the young man. "To do
what we like, when we can only do what we are able - "
"Good! there he is bewildered in his phrases."