But at this invention of the rug she asked, "But why?"
"Why?" He hesitated. "Because I loved you so!" And congratulating himself at having surmounted the difficulty, Leon watched her face out of the corner of his eyes.
It was like the sky when a gust of wind drives the clouds across. The mass of sad thoughts that darkened them seemed to be lifted from her blue eyes; her whole face shone. He waited. At last she replied —
"I always suspected it."
Then they went over all the trifling events of that far-off existence, whose joys and sorrows they had just summed up in one word. They recalled the arbour with clematis, the dresses she had worn, the furniture of her room, the whole of her house.
"And our poor cactuses, where are they?"
"The cold killed them this winter."
"Ah! how I have thought of them, do you know? I often saw them again as of yore, when on the summer mornings the sun beat down upon your blinds, and I saw your two bare arms passing out amongst the flowers."
"Poor friend!" she said, holding out her hand to him.
Leon swiftly pressed his lips to it. Then, when he had taken a deep breath —
"At that time you were to me I know not what incomprehensible force that took captive my life. Once, for instance, I went to see you; but you, no doubt, do not remember it."
"I do," she said; "go on."
"You were downstairs in the ante-room, ready to go out, standing on the last stair; you were wearing a bonnet with small blue flowers; and without any invitation from you, in spite of myself, I went with you. Every moment, however, I grew more and more conscious of my folly, and I went on walking by you, not daring to follow you completely, and unwilling to leave you. When you went into a shop, I waited in the street, and I watched you through the window taking off your gloves and counting the change on the counter. Then you rang at Madame Tuvache's; you were let in, and I stood like an idiot in front of the great heavy door that had closed after you."
Madame Bovary, as she listened to him, wondered that she was so old. All these things reappearing before her seemed to widen out her life; it was like some sentimental immensity to which she returned; and from time to time she said in a low voice, her eyes half closed —
"Yes, it is true — true — true!"
They heard eight strike on the different clocks of the Beauvoisine quarter, which is full of schools, churches, and large empty hotels. They no longer spoke, but they felt as they looked upon each other a buzzing in their heads, as if something sonorous had escaped from the fixed eyes of each of them. They were hand in hand now, and the past, the future, reminiscences and dreams, all were confounded in the sweetness of this ecstasy. Night was darkening over the walls, on which still shone, half hidden in the shade, the coarse colours of four bills representing four scenes from the "Tour de Nesle," with a motto in Spanish and French at the bottom. Through the sash-window a patch of dark sky was seen between the pointed roofs.
She rose to light two wax-candles on the drawers, then she sat down again.
"Well!" said Leon.
"Well!" she replied.
He was thinking how to resume the interrupted conversation, when she said to him —
"How is it that no one until now has ever expressed such sentiments to me?"
The clerk said that ideal natures were difficult to understand. He from the first moment had loved her, and he despaired when he thought of the happiness that would have been theirs, if thanks to fortune, meeting her earlier, they had been indissolubly bound to one another.
"I have sometimes thought of it," she went on.
"What a dream!" murmured Leon. And fingering gently the blue binding of her long white sash, he added, "And who prevents us from beginning now?"
"No, my friend," she replied; "I am too old; you are too young. Forget me! Others will love you; you will love them."
"Not as you!" he cried.
"What a child you are! Come, let us be sensible. I wish it."
She showed him the impossibility of their love, and that they must remain, as formerly, on the simple terms of a fraternal friendship.
Was she speaking thus seriously? No doubt Emma did not herself know, quite absorbed as she was by the charm of the seduction, and the necessity of defending herself from it; and contemplating the young man with a moved look, she gently repulsed the timid caresses that his trembling hands attempted.
"Ah! forgive me!" he cried, drawing back.
Emma was seized with a vague fear at this shyness, more dangerous to her than the boldness of Rodolphe when he advanced to her open-armed. No man had ever seemed to her so beautiful. An exquisite candour emanated from his being. He lowered his long fine eyelashes, that curled upwards. His cheek, with the soft skin reddened, she thought, with desire of her person, and Emma felt an invincible longing to press her lips to it. Then, leaning towards the clock as if to see the time —
"Ah! how late it is!" she said; "how we do chatter!"
He understood the hint and took up his hat.
"It has even made me forget the theatre. And poor Bovary has left me here especially for that. Monsieur Lormeaux, of the Rue Grand-Pont, was to take me and his wife."
And the opportunity was lost, as she was to leave the next day.
"Really!" said Leon.
"But I must see you again," he went on. "I wanted to tell you — "
"Something — important — serious. Oh, no! Besides, you will not go; it is impossible. If you should — listen to me. Then you have not understood me; you have not guessed — "
"Yet you speak plainly," said Emma.
"Ah! you can jest. Enough! enough! Oh, for pity's sake, let me see you once — only once!"
"Well — " She stopped; then, as if thinking better of it, "Oh, not here!"
"Where you will."