Earthenware and Crystal

The days succeeded one another.

Little by little tranquility returned to Esmeralda’s spirits. Excess of suffering, like excess of joy, is a condition too violent to last. The human heart is incapable of remaining long in any extreme. The gipsy had endured such agonies that her only remaining emotion at its recollection was amazement.

With the feeling of security hope returned to her. She was outside the pale of society, of life; but she had a vague sense that it was not wholly impossible that she should re–enter it — as if dead but having in reserve a key to open her tomb.

The terrible images that had so long haunted her withdrew by degrees. All the grewsome phantoms — Pierrat Torterue, Jacques Charmolue, and the rest, even the priest himself — faded from her mind.

And then — Phœbus was living; she was sure of it, she had seen him.

The fact of Phœbus being alive was all in all to her. After the series of earthquake shocks that had overturned everything, left no stone standing on another in her soul, one feeling alone had stood fast, and that was her love for the soldier. For love is like a tree; it grows of itself, strikes its roots deep into our being, and often continues to flourish and keep green over a heart in ruins.

And the inexplicable part of it is, that the blinder this passion the more tenacious is it. It is never more firmly seated than when it has no sort of reason.

Assuredly Esmeralda could not think of the captain without pain. Assuredly it was dreadful that he too should have been deceived, should have believed it possible that the dagger–thrust had been dealt by her who would have given a thousand lives for him. And yet he was not so much to blame, for had she not confessed her crime? Had she not yielded, weak woman that she was, to the torture? The fault was hers, and hers alone. She ought rather to have let them tear the nails from her feet than such an avowal from her lips. Still, could she but see Phœbus once again, for a single minute, it needed but a word, a look, to undeceive him, to bring him back to her. She did not doubt it for a moment. She closed her eyes to the meaning of various singular things, or put a plausible construction on them: the chance presence of Phœbus on the day of her penance, the lady who stood beside him — his sister, no doubt. The explanation was most unlikely, but she contented herself with it because she wished to believe that Phœbus still loved her, and her alone. Had he not sworn it to her? And what more did she need — simple and credulous creature that she was? Besides, throughout the whole affair, were not appearances far more strongly against her than against him? So she waited — she hoped.

Added to this, the church itself, the vast edifice wrapping her round on all sides, protecting, saving her, was a sovereign balm. The solemn lines of its architecture, the religious attitude of all the objects by which the girl was surrounded, the serene and pious thoughts that breathed, so to speak, from every pore of these venerable stones, acted upon her unceasingly. Sounds arose from it, too, of such blessedness and such majesty that they soothed that tortured spirit. The monotonous chants of the priests and the responses of the people — sometimes an inarticulate murmur, sometimes a roll of thunder; the harmonious trembling of the windows, the blast of the organ like a hive of enormous bees, that entire orchestra with its gigantic gamut ascending and descending incessantly — from the voice of the multitude to that of a single bell — deadened her memory, her imagination, her pain. The bells in especial lulled her. A potent magnetism flowed from the vast metal domes and rocked her on its waves.

Thus, each succeeding morn found her calmer, less pale, breathing more freely. And as the wounds of her spirit healed, her outward grace and beauty bloomed forth again, but richer, more composed. Her former character also returned — something even of her gaiety, her pretty pout, her love for her goat, her pleasure in singing, her delicate modesty. She was careful to retire into the most secluded corner of her cell when dressing in the mornings, lest some one from the neighbouring attics should see her through the little window.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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