"Will you — " She seemed to reflect; then abruptly, "To-morrow at eleven o'clock in the cathedral."
"I shall be there," he cried, seizing her hands, which she disengaged.
And as they were both standing up, he behind her, and Emma with her head bent, he stooped over her and pressed long kisses on her neck.
"You are mad! Ah! you are mad!" she said, with sounding little laughs, while the kisses multiplied.
Then bending his head over her shoulder, he seemed to beg the consent of her eyes. They fell upon him full of an icy dignity.
Leon stepped back to go out. He stopped on the threshold; then he whispered with a trembling voice, "Tomorrow!"
She answered with a nod, and disappeared like a bird into the next room.
In the evening Emma wrote the clerk an interminable letter, in which she cancelled the rendezvous; all was over; they must not, for the sake of their happiness, meet again. But when the letter was finished, as she did not know Leon's address, she was puzzled.
"I'll give it to him myself," she said; "he will come."
The next morning, at the open window, and humming on his balcony, Leon himself varnished his pumps with several coatings. He put on white trousers, fine socks, a green coat, emptied all the scent he had into his handkerchief, then having had his hair curled, he uncurled it again, in order to give it a more natural elegance.
"It is still too early," he thought, looking at the hairdresser's cuckoo-clock, that pointed to the hour of nine. He read an old fashion journal, went out, smoked a cigar, walked up three streets, thought it was time, and went slowly towards the porch of Notre Dame.
It was a beautiful summer morning. Silver plate sparkled in the jeweller's windows, and the light falling obliquely on the cathedral made mirrors of the corners of the grey stones; a flock of birds fluttered in the grey sky round the trefoil bell-turrets; the square, resounding with cries, was fragrant with the flowers that bordered its pavement, roses, jasmines, pinks, narcissi, and tube-roses, unevenly spaced out between moist grasses, catmint, and chickweed for the birds; the fountains gurgled in the centre, and under large umbrellas, amidst melons, piled up in heaps, flower-women, bare-headed, were twisting paper round bunches of violets.
The young man took one. It was the first time that he had bought flowers for a woman, and his breast, as he smelt them, swelled with pride, as if this homage that he meant for another had recoiled upon himself.
But he was afraid of being seen; he resolutely entered the church. The beadle, who was just then standing on the threshold in the middle of the left doorway, under the "Dancing Marianne," with feather cap, and rapier dangling against his calves, came in, more majestic than a cardinal, and as shining as a saint on a holy pyx.
He came towards Leon, and, with that smile of wheedling benignity assumed by ecclesiastics when they question children —
"The gentleman, no doubt, does not belong to these parts? The gentleman would like to see the curiosities of the church?"
"No!" said the other.
And he first went round the lower aisles. Then he went out to look at the Place. Emma was not coming yet. He went up again to the choir.
The nave was reflected in the full fonts with the beginning of the arches and some portions of the glass windows. But the reflections of the paintings, broken by the marble rim, were continued farther on upon the flag-stones, like a many-coloured carpet. The broad daylight from without streamed into the church in three enormous rays from the three opened portals. From time to time at the upper end a sacristan passed, making the oblique genuflexion of devout persons in a hurry. The crystal lustres hung motionless. In the choir a silver lamp was burning, and from the side chapels and dark places of the church sometimes rose sounds like sighs, with the clang of a closing grating, its echo reverberating under the lofty vault.
Leon with solemn steps walked along by the walls. Life had never seemed so good to him. She would come directly, charming, agitated, looking back at the glances that followed her, and with her flounced dress, her gold eyeglass, her thin shoes, with all sorts of elegant trifles that he had never enjoyed, and with the ineffable seduction of yielding virtue. The church like a huge boudoir spread around her; the arches bent down to gather in the shade the confession of her love; the windows shone resplendent to illumine her face, and the censers would burn that she might appear like an angel amid the fumes of the sweet-smelling odours.
But she did not come. He sat down on a chair, and his eyes fell upon a blue stained window representing boatmen carrying baskets. He looked at it long, attentively, and he counted the scales of the fishes and the button-holes of the doublets, while his thoughts wandered off towards Emma.
The beadle, standing aloof, was inwardly angry at this individual who took the liberty of admiring the cathedral by himself. He seemed to him to be conducting himself in a monstrous fashion, to be robbing him in a sort, and almost committing sacrilege.
But a rustle of silk on the flags, the tip of a bonnet, a lined cloak — it was she! Leon rose and ran to meet her.
Emma was pale. She walked fast.
"Read!" she said, holding out a paper to him. "Oh, no!"
And she abruptly withdrew her hand to enter the chapel of the Virgin, where, kneeling on a chair, she began to pray.
The young man was irritated at this bigot fancy; then he nevertheless experienced a certain charm in seeing her, in the middle of a rendezvous, thus lost in her devotions, like an Andalusian marchioness; then he grew bored, for she seemed never coming to an end.
Emma prayed, or rather strove to pray, hoping that some sudden resolution might descend to her from heaven; and to draw down divine aid she filled full her eyes with the splendours of the tabernacle. She breathed in the perfumes of the full-blown flowers in the large vases, and listened to the stillness of the church, that only heightened the tumult of her heart.
She rose, and they were about to leave, when the beadle came forward, hurriedly saying —
"Madame, no doubt, does not belong to these parts? Madame would like to see the curiosities of the church?"
"Oh, no!" cried the clerk.
"Why not?" said she. For she clung with her expiring virtue to the Virgin, the sculptures, the tombs — anything.
Then, in order to proceed "by rule," the beadle conducted them right to the entrance near the square, where, pointing out with his cane a large circle of block-stones without inscription or carving —
"This," he said majestically, "is the circumference of the beautiful bell of Ambroise. It weighed forty thousand pounds. There was not its equal in all Europe. The workman who cast it died of the joy — "
"Let us go on," said Leon.