"That very evening, if you had followed us a little further under the trees, you might have overheard a dispute that would have completely reassured you, and have explained how, from being repugnant (I may almost say odious) to me, as you then were, you became at first endurable, and gradually very dear."
"You must tell me," I exclaimed, "who worked the miracle."
"One word will explain it," he answered; "Edmee loved you. When she had confessed this to me, she covered her face with her hands and remained for a moment as if overwhelmed with shame and vexation; then suddenly she raised her head and exclaimed:
" 'Well, since you wish to know the absolute truth, I love him! Yes, I love him! I am smitten with him, as you say. It is not my fault; why should I blush at it? I cannot help it; it is the work of fate. I have never loved M. de la Marche; I merely feel a friendship for him. For Bernard I have a very different feeling--a feeling so strong, so varied, so full of unrest, of hatred, of fear, of pity, of anger, of tenderness, that I understand nothing about it, and no longer try to understand anything.' "
" 'Oh, woman, woman!' I exclaimed, clasping my hands in bewilderment, 'thou art a mystery, an abyss, and he who thinks to know thee is totally mad!'
" 'As many times as you like, abbe,' she answered, with a firmness in which there were signs of annoyance and confusion, 'it is all the same to me. On this point I have lectured myself more than you have lectured all your flocks in your whole life. I know that Bernard is a bear, a badger, as Mademoiselle Leblanc calls him, a savage, a boor, and anything else you like. There is nothing more shaggy, more prickly, more cunning, more malicious than Bernard. He is an animal who scarcely knows how to sign his name; he is a coarse brute who thinks he can break me in like one of the jades of Varenne. But he makes a great mistake; I will die rather than ever be his, unless he becomes civilized enough to marry me. But one might as well expect a miracle. I try to improve him, without daring to hope. However, whether he forces me to kill myself or to turn nun, whether he remains as he is or becomes worse, it will be none the less true that I love him. My dear abbe, you know that it must be costing me something to make this confession; and, when my affection for you brings me as a penitent to your feet and to your bosom, you should not humiliate me by your expressions of surprise and your exorcisms! Consider the matter now; examine, discuss, decide! Consider the matter now; examine, discuss, decide! The evil is--I love him. The symptoms are--I think of none but him, I see none but him; and I could eat no dinner this evening because he had not come back. I find him handsomer than any man in the world. When he says that he loves me, I can see, I can feel that it is true; I feel displeased, and at the same time delighted. M. de la Marche seems insipid and prim since I have known Bernard. Bernard alone seems as proud, as passionate, as bold as myself--and as weak as myself; for he cries like a child when I vex him, and here I am crying, too, as I think of him.' "
"Dear abbe," I said, throwing myself on his neck, "let me embrace you till I have crushed your life out for remembering all this."
"The abbe is drawing the long bow," said Edmee archly.