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Then disengaging
themselves they again lapsed into silence.

After a moment Miette shuddered. Now that she no longer leant against
Silvere's shoulder she was becoming icy cold. Yet she would not have
shuddered thus had she been in this deserted path the previous evening,
seated on this tombstone, where for several seasons they had tasted so
much happiness.

"I'm very cold," she said, as she pulled her hood over her head.

"Shall we walk about a little?" the young man asked her. "It's not yet
nine o'clock; we can take a stroll along the road."

Miette reflected that for a long time she would probably not have the
pleasure of another meeting--another of those evening chats, the joy of
which served to sustain her all day long.

"Yes, let us walk a little," she eagerly replied. "Let us go as far as
the mill. I could pass the whole night like this if you wanted to."

They rose from the tombstone, and were soon hidden in the shadow of a
pile of planks. Here Miette opened her cloak, which had a quilted
lining of red twill, and threw half of it over Silvere's shoulders,
thus enveloping him as he stood there close beside her. The same garment
cloaked them both, and they passed their arms round each other's waist,
and became as it were but one being. When they were thus shrouded in the
pelisse they walked slowly towards the high road, fearlessly crossing
the vacant parts of the wood-yard, which looked white in the moonlight.
Miette had thrown the cloak over Silvere, and he had submitted to it
quite naturally, as though indeed the garment rendered them a similar
service every evening.

The road to Nice, on either side of which the suburban houses are built,
was, in the year 1851, lined with ancient elm-trees, grand and gigantic
ruins, still full of vigour, which the fastidious town council has
replaced, some years since, by some little plane-trees. When Silvere and
Miette found themselves under the elms, the huge boughs of which cast
shadows on the moonlit footpath, they met now and again black forms
which silently skirted the house fronts. These, too, were amorous
couples, closely wrapped in one and the same cloak, and strolling in the
darkness.

This style of promenading has been instituted by the young lovers of
Southern towns. Those boys and girls among the people who mean to marry
sooner or later, but who do not dislike a kiss or two in advance, know
no spot where they can kiss at their ease without exposing themselves to
recognition and gossip. Accordingly, while strolling about the suburbs,
the plots of waste land, the footpaths of the high road--in fact,
all these places where there are few passers-by and numerous shady
nooks--they conceal their identity by wrapping themselves in these long
cloaks, which are capacious enough to cover a whole family. The parents
tolerate these proceedings; however stiff may be provincial propriety,
no apprehensions, seemingly, are entertained. And, on the other hand,
nothing could be more charming than these lovers' rambles, which appeal
so keenly to the Southerner's fanciful imagination. There is a veritable
masquerade, fertile in innocent enjoyments, within the reach of the most
humble. The girl clasps her sweetheart to her bosom, enveloping him in
her own warm cloak; and no doubt it is delightful to be able to kiss
one's sweetheart within those shrouding folds without danger of being
recognised. One couple is exactly like another. And to the belated
pedestrian, who sees the vague groups gliding hither and thither, 'tis
merely love passing, love guessed and scarce espied. The lovers
know they are safely concealed within their cloaks, they converse in
undertones and make themselves quite at home; most frequently they do
not converse at all, but walk along at random and in silence, content
in their embrace. The climate alone is to blame for having in the first
instance prompted these young lovers to retire to secluded spots in the
suburbs. On fine summer nights one cannot walk round Plassans without
coming across a hooded couple in every patch of shadow falling from the
house walls. Certain places, the Aire Saint-Mittre, for instance, are
full of these dark "dominoes" brushing past one another, gliding softly
in the warm nocturnal air. One might imagine they were guests invited
to some mysterious ball given by the stars to lowly lovers. When the
weather is very warm and the girls do not wear cloaks, they simply turn
up their over-skirts. And in the winter the more passionate lovers make
light of the frosts. Thus, Miette and Silvere, as they descended the
Nice road, thought little of the chill December night.

They passed through the slumbering suburb without exchanging a word,
but enjoying the mute delight of their warm embrace. Their hearts were
heavy; the joy which they felt in being side by side was tinged with the
painful emotion which comes from the thought of approaching severance,
and it seemed to them that they could never exhaust the mingled
sweetness and bitterness of the silence which slowly lulled their
steps. But the houses soon grew fewer, and they reached the end of the
Faubourg. There stands the entrance to the Jas-Meiffren, an iron gate
fixed to two strong pillars; a low row of mulberry-trees being visible
through the bars. Silvere and Miette instinctively cast a glance inside
as they passed on.

Beyond the Jas-Meiffren the road descends with a gentle slope to a
valley, which serves as the bed of a little rivulet, the Viorne, a brook
in summer but a torrent in winter. The rows of elms still extended the
whole way at that time, making the high road a magnificent avenue, which
cast a broad band of gigantic trees across the hill, which was planted
with corn and stunted vines. On that December night, under the clear
cold moonlight, the newly-ploughed fields stretching away on either hand
resembled vast beds of greyish wadding which deadened every sound in the
atmosphere. The dull murmur of the Viorne in the distance alone sent a
quivering thrill through the profound silence of the country-side.

When the young people had begun to descend the avenue, Miette's thoughts
reverted to the Jas-Meiffren which they had just left behind them.

"I had great difficulty in getting away this evening," she said. "My
uncle wouldn't let me go. He had shut himself up in a cellar, where he
was hiding his money, I think, for he seemed greatly frightened this
morning at the events that are taking place."

Silvere clasped her yet more lovingly. "Be brave!" said he. "The time
will come when we shall be able to see each other freely the whole day
long. You must not fret."

"Oh," replied the girl, shaking her head, "you are very hopeful. For my
part I sometimes feel very sad. It isn't the hard work which grieves me;
on the contrary, I am often very glad of my uncle's severity, and the
tasks he sets me. He was quite right to make me a peasant girl; I should
perhaps have turned out badly, for, do you know, Silvere, there are
moments when I fancy myself under a curse. . . . I feel, then, that I
should like to be dead. . . . I think of you know whom."

As she spoke these last words, her voice broke into a sob. Silvere
interrupted her somewhat harshly. "Be quiet," he said. "You promised not
to think about it. It's no crime of yours. . . . We love each other very
much, don't we?" he added in a gentler tone. "When we're married you'll
have no more unpleasant hours."

"I know," murmured Miette. "You are so kind, you sustain me. But what am
I to do? I sometimes have fears and feelings of revolt. I think at times
that I have been wronged, and then I should like to do something wicked.
You see I pour forth my heart to you. Whenever my father's name is
thrown in my face, I feel my whole body burning. When the urchins cry
at me as I pass, 'Eh, La Chantegreil,' I lose all control of myself, and
feel that I should like to lay hold of them and whip them."

After a savage pause she resumed: "As for you, you're a man; you're
going to fight; you're very lucky."

Silvere had let her speak on. After a few steps he observed sorrowfully:
"You are wrong, Miette; yours is bad anger. You shouldn't rebel against
justice. As for me, I'm going to fight in defence of our common rights,
not to gratify any personal animosity."

"All the same," the young girl continued, "I should like to be a man and
handle a gun. I feel that it would do me good."

Then, as Silvere remained silent, she perceived that she had displeased
him. Her feverishness subsided, and she whispered in a supplicating
tone: "You are not angry with me, are you? It's your departure which
grieves me and awakens such ideas. I know very well you are right--that
I ought to be humble."

Then she began to cry, and Silvere, moved by her tears, grasped her
hands and kissed them.

"See, now, how you pass from anger to tears, like a child," he said
lovingly. "You must be reasonable. I'm not scolding you. I only want to
see you happier, and that depends largely upon yourself."

The remembrance of the drama which Miette had so sadly evoked cast a
temporary gloom over the lovers. They continued their walk with bowed
heads and troubled thoughts.

"Do you think I'm much happier than you?" Silvere at last inquired,
resuming the conversation in spite of himself. "If my grandmother had
not taken care of me and educated me, what would have become of me? With
the exception of my Uncle Antoine, who is an artisan like myself, and
who taught me to love the Republic, all my other relations seem to fear
that I might besmirch them by coming near them."

He was now speaking with animation, and suddenly stopped, detaining
Miette in the middle of the road.

"God is my witness," he continued, "that I do not envy or hate anybody.
But if we triumph, I shall have to tell the truth to those fine
gentlemen. Uncle Antoine knows all about this matter. You'll see when we
return. We shall all live free and happy."

Then Miette gently led him on, and they resumed their walk.

"You dearly love your Republic?" the girl asked, essaying a joke. "Do
you love me as much?"

Her smile was not altogether free from a tinge of bitterness.



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Keywords: passed, cloaks, within, through, another, jas-meiffren, continued, you're, myself, resumed
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