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The Honor of the Name

Chapter 9
The Reche, literally translated the "Waste," where Marie-Anne had promised to meet
Maurice, owed its name to the rebellious and sterile character of the soil.
Nature seemed to have laid her curse upon it. Nothing would grow there. The ground was
covered with stones, and the sandy soil defied all attempts to enrich it.
A few stunted oaks rose here and there above the thorns and broom- plant.
But on the lowlands of the Reche is a flourishing grove. The firs are straight and strong,
for the floods of winter have deposited in some of the clefts of the rock sufficient soil to
sustain them and the wild clematis and honeysuckle that cling to their branches.
On reaching this grove, Maurice consulted his watch. It marked the hour of mid-day. He
had supposed that he was late, but he was more than an hour in advance of the appointed
time.
He seated himself upon a high rock, from which he could survey the entire Reche, and
waited.
The day was magnificent; the air intensely hot. The rays of the August sun fell with
scorching violence upon the sandy soil, and withered the few plants which had sprung up
since the last rain.
The stillness was profound, almost terrible. Not a sound broke the silence, not even the
buzzing of an insect, nor a whisper of breeze in the trees. All nature seemed sleeping.
And on no side was there anything to remind one of life, motion, or mankind.
This repose of nature, which contrasted so vividly with the tumult raging in his own
heart, exerted a beneficial effect upon Maurice. These few moments of solitude afforded
him an opportunity to regain his composure, to collect his thoughts scattered by the storm
of passion which had swept over his soul, as leaves are scattered by the fierce November
gale.
With sorrow comes experience, and that cruel knowledge of life which teaches one to
guard one's self against one's hopes.
It was not until he heard the conversation of these peasants that Maurice fully realized the
horror of Lacheneur's position. Suddenly precipitated from the social eminence which he
had attained, he found, in the valley of humiliations into which he was cast, only hatred,
distrust, and scorn. Both factions despised and denied him. Traitor, cried one; thief, cried
the other. He no longer held any social status. He was the fallen man, the man who had
been, and who was no more.
 
 
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