Camille HTML version

Chapter 23
When the current of life had resumed its course, I could not believe that the day
which I saw dawning would not be like those which had preceded it. There were
moments when I fancied that some circumstance, which I could not recollect, had
obliged me to spend the night away from Marguerite, but that, if I returned to
Bougival, I should find her again as anxious as I had been, and that she would
ask me what had detained me away from her so long.
When one's existence has contracted a habit, such as that of this love, it seems
impossible that the habit should be broken without at the same time breaking all
the other springs of life. I was forced from time to time to reread Marguerite's
letter, in order to convince myself that I had not been dreaming.
My body, succumbing to the moral shock, was incapable of movement. Anxiety,
the night walk, and the morning's news had prostrated me. My father profited by
this total prostration of all my faculties to demand of me a formal promise to
accompany him. I promised all that he asked, for I was incapable of sustaining a
discussion, and I needed some affection to help me to live, after what had
happened. I was too thankful that my father was willing to console me under such
a calamity.
All that I remember is that on that day, about five o'clock, he took me with him in
a post-chaise. Without a word to me, he had had my luggage packed and put up
behind the chaise with his own, and so he carried me off. I did not realize what I
was doing until the town had disappeared and the solitude of the road recalled to
me the emptiness of my heart. Then my tears again began to flow.
My father had realized that words, even from him, would do nothing to console
me, and he let me weep without saying a word, only sometimes pressing my
hand, as if to remind me that I had a friend at my side.
At night I slept a little. I dreamed of Marguerite.
I woke with a start, not recalling why I was in the carriage. Then the truth came
back upon me, and I let my head sink on my breast. I dared not say anything to
my father. I was afraid he would say, "You see I was right when I declared that
this woman did not love you." But he did not use his advantage, and we reached
C. without his having said anything to me except to speak of matters quite apart
from the event which had occasioned my leaving Paris.
When I embraced my sister, I remembered what Marguerite had said about her
in her letter, and I saw at once how little my sister, good as she was, would be
able to make me forget my mistress.