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you love me as much?"

Her smile was not altogether free from a tinge of bitterness. She was
thinking, perhaps, how easily Silvere abandoned her to go and scour the
country-side. But the lad gravely replied: "You are my wife, to whom I
have given my whole heart. I love the Republic because I love you. When
we are married we shall want plenty of happiness, and it is to procure a
share of that happiness that I'm going way to-morrow morning. You surely
don't want to persuade me to remain at home?"

"Oh, no!" cried the girl eagerly. "A man should be brave! Courage
is beautiful! You must forgive my jealousy. I should like to be as
strong-minded as you are. You would love me all the more, wouldn't you?"

After a moment's silence she added, with charming vivacity and
ingenuousness: "Ah, how willingly I shall kiss you when you come back!"

This outburst of a loving and courageous heart deeply affected Silvere.
He clasped Miette in his arms and printed several kisses on her cheek.
As she laughingly struggled to escape him, her eyes filled with tears of

All around the lovers the country still slumbered amid the deep
stillness of the cold. They were now half-way down the hill. On the top
of a rather lofty hillock to the left stood the ruins of a windmill,
blanched by the moon; the tower, which had fallen in on one side, alone
remained. This was the limit which the young people had assigned to
their walk. They had come straight from the Faubourg without casting a
single glance at the fields between which they passed. When Silvere had
kissed Miette's cheek, he raised his head and observed the mill.

"What a long walk we've had!" he exclaimed. "See--here is the mill. It
must be nearly half-past nine. We must go home."

But Miette pouted. "Let us walk a little further," she implored; "only a
few steps, just as far as the little cross-road, no farther, really."

Silvere smiled as he again took her round the waist. Then they continued
to descend the hill, no longer fearing inquisitive glances, for they had
not met a living soul since passing the last houses. They nevertheless
remained enveloped in the long pelisse, which seemed, as it were, a
natural nest for their love. It had shrouded them on so many happy
evenings! Had they simply walked side by side, they would have felt
small and isolated in that vast stretch of country, whereas, blended
together as they were, they became bolder and seemed less puny. Between
the folds of the pelisse they gazed upon the fields stretching on both
sides of the road, without experiencing that crushing feeling with which
far-stretching callous vistas oppress the human affections. It seemed
to them as though they had brought their house with them; they felt a
pleasure in viewing the country-side as from a window, delighting in the
calm solitude, the sheets of slumbering light, the glimpses of nature
vaguely distinguishable beneath the shroud of night and winter, the
whole of that valley indeed, which while charming them could not thrust
itself between their close-pressed hearts.

All continuity of conversation had ceased; they spoke no more of others,
nor even of themselves. They were absorbed by the present, pressing each
other's hands, uttering exclamations at the sight of some particular
spot, exchanging words at rare intervals, and then understanding each
other but little, for drowsiness came from the warmth of their embrace.
Silvere forgot his Republican enthusiasm; Miette no longer reflected
that her lover would be leaving her in an hour, for a long time, perhaps
for ever. The transports of their affection lulled them into a feeling
of security, as on other days, when no prospect of parting had marred
the tranquility of their meetings.

They still walked on, and soon reached the little crossroad mentioned by
Miette--a bit of a lane which led through the fields to a village on the
banks of the Viorne. But they passed on, pretending not to notice
this path, where they had agreed to stop. And it was only some minutes
afterwards that Silvere whispered, "It must be very late; you will get

"No; I assure you I'm not at all tired," the girl replied. "I could walk
several leagues like this easily." Then, in a coaxing tone, she added:
"Let us go down as far as the meadows of Sainte-Claire. There we will
really stop and turn back."

Silvere, whom the girl's rhythmic gait lulled to semi-somnolence, made
no objection, and their rapture began afresh. They now went on more
slowly, fearing the moment when they would have to retrace their steps.
So long as they walked onward, they felt as though they were advancing
to the eternity of their mutual embrace; the return would mean
separation and bitter leave-taking.

The declivity of the road was gradually becoming more gentle. In the
valley below there are meadows extending as far as the Viorne, which
runs at the other end, beneath a range of low hills. These meadows,
separated from the high-road by thickset hedges, are the meadows of

"Bah!" exclaimed Silvere this time, as he caught sight of the first
patches of grass: "we may as well go as far as the bridge."

At this Miette burst out laughing, clasped the young man round the neck,
and kissed him noisily.

At the spot where the hedges begin, there were in those days two elms
forming the end of the long avenue, two colossal trees larger than any
of the others. The treeless fields stretch out from the high road, like
a broad band of green wool, as far as the willows and birches by the
river. The distance from the last elms to the bridge is scarcely three
hundred yards. The lovers took a good quarter of an hour to cover that
space. At last, however slow their gait, they reached the bridge, and
there they stopped.

The road to Nice ran up in front of them, along the opposite slope of
the valley. But they could only see a small portion of it, as it takes a
sudden turn about half a mile from the bridge, and is lost to view among
the wooded hills. On looking round they caught sight of the other end
of the road, that which they had just traversed, and which leads in
a direct line from Plassans to the Viorne. In the beautiful winter
moonlight it looked like a long silver ribbon, with dark edgings traced
by the rows of elms. On the right and left the ploughed hill-land showed
like vast, grey, vague seas intersected by this ribbon, this roadway
white with frost, and brilliant as with metallic lustre. Up above, on a
level with the horizon, lights shone from a few windows in the Faubourg,
resembling glowing sparks. By degrees Miette and Silvere had walked
fully a league. They gazed at the intervening road, full of silent
admiration for the vast amphitheatre which rose to the verge of the
heavens, and over which flowed bluish streams of light, as over the
superposed rocks of a gigantic waterfall. The strange and colossal
picture spread out amid deathlike stillness and silence. Nothing could
have been of more sovereign grandeur.

Then the young people, having leant against the parapet of the bridge,
gazed beneath them. The Viorne, swollen by the rains, flowed on with a
dull, continuous sound. Up and down stream, despite the darkness which
filled the hollows, they perceived the black lines of the trees growing
on the banks; here and there glided the moonbeams, casting a trail of
molten metal, as it were, over the water, which glittered and danced
like rays of light on the scales of some live animal. The gleams darted
with a mysterious charm along the gray torrent, betwixt the vague
phantom-like foliage. You might have thought this an enchanted valley,
some wondrous retreat where a community of shadows and gleams lived a
fantastic life.

This part of the river was familiar to the lovers; they had often come
here in search of coolness on warm July nights; they had spent hours
hidden among the clusters of willows on the right bank, at the spot
where the meadows of Sainte-Claire spread their verdant carpet to the
waterside. They remembered every bend of the bank, the stones on which
they had stepped in order to cross the Viorne, at that season as narrow
as a brooklet, and certain little grassy hollows where they had indulged
in their dreams of love. Miette, therefore, now gazed from the bridge at
the right bank of the torrent with longing eyes.

"If it were warmer," she sighed, "we might go down and rest awhile
before going back up the hill." Then, after a pause, during which
she kept her eyes fixed on the banks, she resumed: "Look down there,
Silvere, at that black mass yonder in front of the lock. Do you
remember? That's the brushwood where we sat last Corpus Christi Day."

"Yes, so it is," replied Silvere, softly.

This was the spot where they had first ventured to kiss each other on
the cheek. The remembrance just roused by the girl's words brought both
of them a delightful feeling, an emotion in which the joys of the
past mingled with the hopes of the morrow. Before their eyes, with the
rapidity of lightening, there passed all the delightful evenings they
had spent together, especially that evening of Corpus Christi Day, with
the warm sky, the cool willows of the Viorne, and their own loving talk.
And at the same time, whilst the past came back to their hearts full
of a delightful savour, they fancied they could plunge into the unknown
future, see their dreams realised, and march through life arm in
arm--even as they had just been doing on the highway--warmly wrapped in
the same cloak. Then rapture came to them again, and they smiled in each
other's eyes, alone amidst all the silent radiance.

Suddenly, however, Silvere raised his head and, throwing off the cloak,
listened attentively. Miette, in her surprise, imitated him, at a loss
to understand why he had started so abruptly from her side.

Confused sounds had for a moment been coming from behind the hills
in the midst of which the Nice road wends its way. They suggested the
distant jolting of a procession of carts; but not distinctly, so loud
was the roaring of the Viorne. Gradually, however, they became more
pronounced, and rose at last like the tramping of an army on the march.
Then amidst the continuous growing rumble one detected the shouts of a
crowd, strange rhythmical blasts as of a hurricane.

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Keywords: lovers, willows, delightful, however, passed, between, seemed, feeling, beneath, sainte-claire
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