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And instead of the scene amidst which she had grown up, and
which in her mind's eye she had seen but yesterday, there lay a strip
of barren soil, a broad patch of stubbles, bare like a desert.
Henceforward, when, on closing her eyes, she might try to recall the
objects of the past, that stubble would always appear to her like a
shroud of yellowish drugget spread over the soil, in which her youth lay
buried. In the presence of that unfamiliar commonplace scene her heart
died, as it were, a second time. Now all was completely, finally ended.
She was robbed even of her dreams of the past. Then she began to regret
that she had yielded to the attraction of that white opening, of that
doorway gaping upon the days which were now for ever lost.

She was about to retire and close the accursed door, without even
seeking to discover who had opened it, when she suddenly perceived
Miette and Silvere. And the sight of the two young lovers, who, with
hanging heads, nervously awaited her glance, kept her on the threshold,
quivering with yet keener pain. She now understood all. To the very end,
she was destined to picture herself there, clasped in Macquart's arms
in the bright sunshine. Yet a second time had the door served as an
accomplice. Where love had once passed, there was it passing again.
'Twas the eternal and endless renewal, with present joys and future
tears. Aunt Dide could only see the tears, and a sudden presentiment
showed her the two children bleeding, with stricken hearts. Overwhelmed
by the recollection of her life's sorrow, which this spot had just
awakened within her, she grieved for her dear Silvere. She alone was
guilty; if she had not formerly had that door made Silvere would not
now be at a girl's feet in that lonely nook, intoxicating himself with a
bliss which prompts and angers the jealousy of death.

After a brief pause, she went up to the young man, and, without a
word, took him by the hand. She might, perhaps, have left them there,
chattering under the wall, had she not felt that she herself was, to
some extent, an accomplice in this fatal love. As she came back with
Silvere, she turned on hearing the light footfall of Miette, who, having
quickly taken up her pitcher, was hastening across the stubble. She was
running wildly, glad at having escaped so easily. And aunt Dide smiled
involuntarily as she watched her bound over the ground like a runaway
goat.

"She is very young," she murmured, "she has plenty of time."

She meant, no doubt, that Miette had plenty of time before her to suffer
and weep. Then, turning her eyes upon Silvere, who with a glance of
ecstasy had followed the child as she ran off in the bright sunshine,
she simply added: "Take care, my boy; this sort of thing sometimes kills
one."

These were the only words she spoke with reference to the incident which
had awakened all the sorrows that lay slumbering in the depths of her
being. Silence had become a real religion with her. When Silvere came
in, she double-locked the door, and threw the key down the well. In
this wise she felt certain that the door would no longer make her an
accomplice. She examined it for a moment, glad at seeing it reassume its
usual gloomy, barrier-like aspect. The tomb was closed once more; the
white gap was for ever boarded up with that damp-stained mossy timber
over which the snails had shed silvery tears.

In the evening, aunt Dide had another of those nervous attacks which
came upon her at intervals. At these times she would often talk aloud
and ramble incoherently, as though she was suffering from nightmare.
That evening, while Silvere held her down on her bed, he heard her
stammer in a panting voice such words as "custom-house officer," "fire,"
and "murder." And she struggled, and begged for mercy, and dreamed aloud
of vengeance. At last, as always happened when the attack was drawing to
a close, she fell into a strange fright, her teeth chattering, while her
limbs quivered with abject terror. Finally, after raising herself into
a sitting posture, she cast a haggard look of astonishment at one and
another corner of the room, and then fell back upon the pillow, heaving
deep sighs. She was, doubtless, a prey to some hallucination. However,
she drew Silvere to her bosom, and seemed to some degree to recognise
him, though ever and anon she confused him with someone else.

"There they are!" she stammered. "Do you see? They are going to take
you, they will kill you again. I don't want them to--Send them away,
tell them I won't; tell them they are hurting me, staring at me like
that--"

Then she turned to the wall, to avoid seeing the people of whom she was
talking. And after an interval of silence, she continued: "You are near
me, my child, aren't you? You must not leave me. I thought I was going
to die just now. We did wrong to make an opening in the wall. I have
suffered ever since. I was certain that door would bring us further
misfortune--Oh! the innocent darlings, what sorrow! They will kill them
as well, they will be shot down like dogs."

Then she relapsed into catalepsy; she was no longer even aware of
Silvere's presence. Suddenly, however, she sat up, and gazed at the foot
of her bed, with a fearful expression of terror.

"Why didn't you send them away?" she cried, hiding her white head
against the young man's breast. "They are still there. The one with the
gun is making signs that he is going to fire."

Shortly afterwards she fell into the heavy slumber that usually
terminated these attacks. On the next day, she seemed to have forgotten
everything. She never again spoke to Silvere of the morning on which she
had found him with a sweetheart behind the wall.

The young people did not see each other for a couple of days. When
Miette ventured to return to the well, they resolved not to recommence
the pranks which had upset aunt Dide. However, the meeting which had
been so strangely interrupted had filled them with a keen desire to
meet again in some happy solitude. Weary of the delights afforded by the
well, and unwilling to vex aunt Dide by seeing Miette again on the other
side of the wall, Silvere begged the girl to meet him somewhere else.
She required but little pressing; she received the proposal with the
willing smile of a frolicsome lass who has no thought of evil. What
made her smile was the idea of outwitting that spy of a Justin. When the
lovers had come to agreement, they discussed at length the choice of a
favourable spot. Silvere proposed the most impossible trysting-places.
He planned regular journeys, and even suggested meeting the young girl
at midnight in the barns of the Jas-Meiffren. Miette, who was much more
practical, shrugged her shoulders, declaring she would try to think of
some spot. On the morrow, she tarried but a minute at the well, just
time enough to smile at Silvere and tell him to be at the far end of the
Aire Saint-Mittre at about ten o'clock in the evening. One may be
sure that the young man was punctual. All day long Miette's choice had
puzzled him, and his curiosity increased when he found himself in the
narrow lane formed by the piles of planks at the end of the plot of
ground. "She will come this way," he said to himself, looking along the
road to Nice. But he suddenly heard a loud shaking of boughs behind
the wall, and saw a laughing head, with tumbled hair, appear above the
coping, whilst a joyous voice called out: "It's me!"

And it was, in fact, Miette, who had climbed like an urchin up one of
the mulberry-trees, which even nowadays still border the boundary of
the Jas-Meiffren. In a couple of leaps she reached the tombstone, half
buried in the corner at the end of the lane. Silvere watched her descend
with delight and surprise, without even thinking of helping her. As soon
as she had alighted, however, he took both her hands in his, and said:
"How nimble you are!--you climb better than I do."

It was thus that they met for the first time in that hidden corner where
they were destined to pass such happy hours. From that evening forward
they saw each other there nearly every night. They now only used the
well to warn each other of unforeseen obstacles to their meetings, of
a change of time, and of all the trifling little news that seemed
important in their eyes, and allowed of no delay. It sufficed for the
one who had a communication to make to set the pulley in motion, for its
creaking noise could be heard a long way off. But although, on certain
days, they summoned one another two or three times in succession to
speak of trifles of immense importance, it was only in the evening in
that lonely little passage that they tasted real happiness. Miette was
exceptionally punctual. She fortunately slept over the kitchen, in a
room where the winter provisions had been kept before her arrival, and
which was reached by a little private staircase. She was thus able to go
out at all hours, without being seen by Rebufat or Justin. Moreover, if
the latter should ever see her returning she intended to tell him some
tale or other, staring at him the while with that stern look which
always reduced him to silence.

Ah! how happy those warm evenings were! The lovers had now reached the
first days of September, a month of bright sunshine in Provence. It was
hardly possible for them to join each other before nine o'clock. Miette
arrived from over the wall, in surmounting which she soon acquired such
dexterity that she was almost always on the old tombstone before Silvere
had time to stretch out his arms. She would laugh at her own strength
and agility as, for a moment, with her hair in disorder, she remained
almost breathless, tapping her skirt to make it fall. Her sweetheart
laughingly called her an impudent urchin. In reality he much admired
her pluck. He watched her jump over the wall with the complacency of an
older brother supervising the exercises of a younger one. Indeed,
there was yet much that was childlike in their growing love. On several
occasions they spoke of going on some bird's-nesting expedition on the
banks of the Viorne.

"You'll see how I can climb," said Miette proudly.



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Keywords: bright, herself, lovers, sunshine, accomplice, reached, another, seeing, seemed, corner
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