life of serenity and love would have been possible to him too; that at that very moment there were happy couples to be found here and there on earth, whiling away the hours in sweet communings, in orange groves, by the brook-side, under the setting sun or a starry night; and that had God so willed it, he might have made with her one of those thrice-blessed couples, his heart melted in tenderness and despair.

Oh, it was she! still and forever she!— that fixed idea that haunted him incessantly, that tortured him, gnawed his brain, wrung his very vitals! He regretted nothing, he repented of nothing; all that he had done he was ready to do again; better a thousand times see her in the hands of the hangman than the arms of the soldier; but he suffered, he suffered so madly that there were moments when he tore his hair in handfuls from his head to see if it had not turned white.

At one moment it occurred to him that this, perhaps, was the very minute at which the hideous chain he had seen in the morning was tightening its noose of iron round that fragile and slender neck. Great drops of agony burst from every pore at the thought.

At another moment he took a diabolical pleasure in torturing himself by bringing before his mind’s eye a simultaneous picture of Esmeralda as he had seen her for the first time— filled with life and careless joy, gaily attired, dancing, airy, melodious— and Esmeralda at her last hour, in her shift, a rope about her neck, slowly ascending with her naked feet the painful steps of the gibbet. He brought this double picture so vividly before him that a terrible cry burst from him.

While this hurricane of despair was upheaving, shattering, tearing, bending, uprooting everything within his soul, he gazed absently at the prospect around him. Some fowls were busily pecking and scratching at his feet; bright-coloured beetles ran to and fro in the sunshine; overhead, groups of dappled cloud sailed in a deep-blue sky; on the horizon the spire of the Abbey of Saint-Victor reared its slate obelisk above the rising ground; and the miller of the Butte-Copeaux whistled as he watched the busily turning sails of his mill. All this industrious, orderly, tranquil activity, recurring around him under a thousand different aspects, hurt him. He turned to flee once more.

He wandered thus about the country till the evening. This fleeing from Nature, from life, from himself, from mankind, from God, went on through the whole day. Now he would throw himself face downward on the ground, digging up the young blades of corn with his nails; or he would stand still in the middle of some deserted village street, his thoughts so insupportable that he would seize his head in both hands as if to tear it from his shoulders and dash it on the stones.

Towards the hour of sunset, he took counsel with himself and found that he was well-nigh mad. The storm that had raged in him since the moment that he lost both the hope and the desire to save the gipsy, had left him without one sane idea, one rational thought. His reason lay prostrate on the verge of utter destruction. But two distinct images remained in his mind: Esmeralda and the gibbet. The rest was darkness. These two images in conjunction formed to his mind a ghastly group, and the more strenuously he fixed upon them such power of attention and thought as remained to him, the more he saw them increase according to a fantastic progression— the one in grace, in charm, in beauty, in lustre; the other in horror; till, at last, Esmeralda appeared to him as a star, and the gibbet as a huge fleshless arm. Strange to say, during all this torture he never seriously thought of death. Thus was the wretched man constituted; he clung to life— may-be, indeed, he saw hell in the background.

Meanwhile night was coming on apace. The living creature still existing within him began confusedly to think of return. He imagined himself far from Paris, but on looking about him he discovered that he had but been travelling in a circle round the University. The spire of Saint-Sulpice and the three lofty pinnacles of Saint-Germain-des-Prés broke the sky-line on his right. He bent his steps in that direction. When he heard the “Qui vive?” of the Abbot’s guard round the battlemented walls of Saint-Germain, he turned aside, took a path lying before him between the abbey mill and the lazaretto, and found himself in a few minutes on the edge of the Pré-aux-Clercs— the Students’ Meadow. This ground was notorious

  By PanEris using Melati.

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