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That pungent and penetrating
odour exhaled by the broken stems was the fertilising perfume, the
mighty quintessence of life which is slowly elaborated in the grave,
and intoxicates the lovers who wander in the solitude of the paths.
The dead, the old departed dead, longed for the bridal of Miette and
Silvere.

They were never afraid. The sympathy which seemed to hover around them
thrilled them and made them love the invisible beings whose soft touch
they often imagined they could feel, like a gentle flapping of wings.
Sometimes they were saddened by sweet melancholy, and could not
understand what the dead desired of them. They went on basking in their
innocent love, amidst this flood of sap, this abandoned cemetery, whose
rich soil teemed with life, and imperiously demanded their union. They
still remained ignorant of the meaning of the buzzing voices which they
heard ringing in their ears, the sudden glow which sent the blood flying
to their faces.

They often questioned each other about the remains which they
discovered. Miette, after a woman's fashion, was partial to lugubrious
subjects. At each new discovery she launched into endless suppositions.
If the bone were small, she spoke of some beautiful girl a prey to
consumption, or carried off by fever on the eve of her marriage; if the
bone were large, she pictured some big old man, a soldier or a judge,
some one who had inspired others with terror. For a long time the
tombstone particularly engaged their attention. One fine moonlight night
Miette distinguished some half-obliterated letters on one side of it,
and thereupon she made Silvere scrape the moss away with his knife. Then
they read the mutilated inscription: "Here lieth . . . Marie . . .
died . . ." And Miette, finding her own name on the stone, was quite
terror-stricken. Silvere called her a "big baby," but she could not
restrain her tears. She had received a stab in the heart, she said; she
would soon die, and that stone was meant for her. The young man himself
felt alarmed. However, he succeeded in shaming the child out of these
thoughts. What! she so courageous, to dream about such trifles! They
ended by laughing. Then they avoided speaking of it again. But in
melancholy moments, when the cloudy sky saddened the pathway, Miette
could not help thinking of that dead one, that unknown Marie, whose
tomb had so long facilitated their meetings. The poor girl's bones were
perhaps still lying there. And at this thought Miette one evening had a
strange whim, and asked Silvere to turn the stone over to see what might
be under it. He refused, as though it were sacrilege, and his refusal
strengthened Miette's fancies with regard to the dear phantom which bore
her name. She positively insisted that the girl had died young, as
she was, and in the very midst of her love. She even began to pity the
stone, that stone which she climbed so nimbly, and on which they had
sat so often, a stone which death had chilled, and which their love had
warmed again.

"You'll see, this tombstone will bring us misfortune," she added. "If
you were to die, I should come and lie here, and then I should like to
have this stone set over my body."

At this, Silvere, choking with emotion, scolded her for thinking of such
mournful things.

And so, for nearly two years, their love grew alike in the narrow
pathway and the open country. Their idyll passed through the chilling
rains of December and the burning solicitations of July, free from all
touch of impurity, ever retaining the sweet charm of some old Greek
love-tale, all the naive hesitancy of youth which desires but knows not.
In vain did the long-departed dead whisper in their ears. They carried
nothing away from the old cemetery but emotional melancholy and a vague
presentiment of a short life. A voice seemed to whisper to them that
they would depart amidst their virginal love, long ere the bridal day
would give them wholly to each other. It was there, on the tombstone and
among the bones that lay hidden beneath the rank grass, that they had
first come to indulge in that longing for death, that eager desire to
sleep together in the earth, that now set them stammering and sighing
beside the Orcheres road, on that December night, while the two bells
repeated their mournful warnings to one another.

Miette was sleeping calmly, with her head resting on Silvere's chest
while he mused upon their past meeting, their lovely years of unbroken
happiness. At daybreak the girl awoke. The valley now spread out clearly
under the bright sky. The sun was still behind the hills, but a stream
of crystal light, limpid and cold as spring-water, flowed from the
pale horizon. In the distance, the Viorne, like a white satin ribbon,
disappeared among an expanse of red and yellow land. It was a boundless
vista, with grey seas of olive-trees, and vineyards that looked like
huge pieces of striped cloth. The whole country was magnified by the
clearness of the atmosphere and the peaceful cold. However, sharp gusts
of wind chilled the young people's faces. And thereupon they sprang to
their feet, cheered by the sight of the clear morning. Their melancholy
forebodings had vanished with the darkness, and they gazed with delight
at the immense expanse of the plain, and listened to the tolling of the
two bells that now seemed to be joyfully ringing in a holiday.

"Ah! I've had a good sleep!" Miette cried. "I dreamt you were kissing
me. Tell me now, did you kiss me?"

"It's very possible," Silvere replied laughing. "I was not very warm. It
is bitterly cold."

"I only feel cold in the feet," Miette rejoined.

"Well! let us have a run," said Silvere. "We have still two good leagues
to go. You will get warm."

Thereupon they descended the hill and ran until they reached the high
road. When they were below they raised their heads as if to say farewell
to that rock on which they had wept while their kisses burned their
lips. But they did not again speak of that ardent embrace which had
thrilled them so strongly with vague, unknown desire. Under the pretext
of walking more quickly they did not even take each other's arm. They
experienced some slight confusion when they looked at one another,
though why they could not tell. Meantime the dawn was rising around
them. The young man, who had sometimes been sent to Orcheres by his
master, knew all the shortest cuts. Thus they walked on for more than
two leagues, along dingle paths by the side of interminable ledges and
walls. Now and again Miette accused Silvere of having taken her the
wrong way; for, at times--for a quarter of an hour at a stretch--they
lost all sight of the surrounding country, seeing above the walls and
hedges nothing but long rows of almond-trees whose slender branches
showed sharply against the pale sky.

All at once, however, they came out just in front of Orcheres. Loud
cries of joy, the shouting of a crowd, sounded clearly in the limpid
air. The insurrectionary forces were only now entering the town. Miette
and Silvere went in with the stragglers. Never had they seen such
enthusiasm. To judge from the streets, one would have thought it was a
procession day, when the windows are decked with the finest drapery to
honour the passage of the Canopy. The townsfolk welcomed the insurgents
as though they were deliverers. The men embraced them, while the women
brought them food. Old men were to be seen weeping at the doors. And the
joyousness was of an essentially Southern character, pouring forth in
clamorous fashion, in singing, dancing, and gesticulation. As Miette
passed along she was carried away by a _farandole_[*] which spread
whirling all round the Grand' Place. Silvere followed her. His thoughts
of death and his discouragement were now far away. He wanted to fight,
to sell his life dearly at least. The idea of a struggle intoxicated
him afresh. He dreamed of victory to be followed by a happy life with
Miette, amidst the peacefulness of the universal Republic.

[*] The _farandole_ is the popular dance of Provence.

The fraternal reception accorded them by the inhabitants of Orcheres
proved to be the insurgents' last delight. They spent the day amidst
radiant confidence and boundless hope. The prisoners, Commander
Sicardot, Messieurs Garconnet, Peirotte and the others, who had been
shut up in one of the rooms at the mayor's, the windows of which
overlooked the Grand' Place, watched the _farandoles_ and wild outbursts
of enthusiasm with surprise and dismay.

"The villains!" muttered the Commander, leaning upon a window-bar, as
though bending over the velvet-covered hand-rest of a box at a theatre:
"To think that there isn't a battery or two to make a clean sweep of all
that rabble!"

Then he perceived Miette, and addressing himself to Monsieur Garconnet,
he added: "Do you see, sir, that big girl in red over yonder? How
disgraceful! They've even brought their mistresses with them. If this
continues much longer we shall see some fine goings-on."

Monsieur Garconnet shook his head, saying something about "unbridled
passions," and "the most evil days of history." Monsieur Peirotte, as
white as a sheet, remained silent; he only opened his lips once, to say
to Sicardot, who was still bitterly railing: "Not so loud, sir; not so
loud! You will get us all massacred."

As a matter of fact, the insurgents treated the gentlemen with the
greatest kindness. They even provided them with an excellent dinner in
the evening. Such attentions, however, were terrifying to such a quaker
as the receiver of taxes; the insurgents he thought would not treat them
so well unless they wished to make them fat and tender for the day when
they might wish to devour them.

At dusk that day Silvere came face to face with his cousin, Doctor
Pascal. The latter had followed the band on foot, chatting with the
workmen who held him in the greatest respect. At first he had striven
to dissuade them from the struggle; and then, as if convinced by their
arguments, he had said to them with his kindly smile: "Well, perhaps you
are right, my friends; fight if you like, I shall be here to patch up
your arms and legs."

Then, in the morning he began to gather pebbles and plants along the
high road.



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Keywords: tombstone, carried, insurgents, monsieur, garconnet, followed, country, thought, thereupon, seemed
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