The moon, full and purple-coloured, was rising right out of the earth at the end of the meadow. She rose quickly between the branches of the poplars, that hid her here and there like a black curtain pierced with holes. Then she appeared dazzling with whiteness in the empty heavens that she lit up, and now sailing more slowly along, let fall upon the river a great stain that broke up into an infinity of stars; and the silver sheen seemed to writhe through the very depths like a heedless serpent covered with luminous scales; it also resembled some monster candelabra all along which sparkled drops of diamonds running together. The soft night was about them; masses of shadow filled the branches. Emma, her eyes half closed, breathed in with deep sighs the fresh wind that was blowing. They did not speak, lost as they were in the rush of their reverie. The tenderness of the old days came back to their hearts, full and silent as the flowing river, with the softness of the perfume of the syringas, and threw across their memories shadows more immense and more sombre than those of the still willows that lengthened out over the grass. Often some night-animal, hedgehog or weasel, setting out on the hunt, disturbed the lovers, or sometimes they heard a ripe peach falling all alone from the espalier.
"Ah! what a lovely night!" said Rodolphe.
"We shall have others," replied Emma; and, as if speaking to herself: "Yet, it will be good to travel. And yet, why should my heart be so heavy? Is it dread of the unknown? The effect of habits left? Or rather — ? No; it is the excess of happiness. How weak I am, am I not? Forgive me!"
"There is still time!" he cried. "Reflect! perhaps you may repent!"
"Never!" she cried impetuously. And coming closer to him: "What ill could come to me? There is no desert, no precipice, no ocean I would not traverse with you. The longer we live together the more it will be like an embrace, every day closer, more heart to heart. There will be nothing to trouble us, no cares, no obstacle. We shall be alone, all to ourselves eternally. Oh, speak! Answer me!"
At regular intervals he answered, "Yes — Yes — " She had passed her hands through his hair, and she repeated in a childlike voice, despite the big tears which were falling, "Rodolphe! Rodolphe! Ah! Rodolphe! dear little Rodolphe!"
"Midnight!" said she. "Come, it is to-morrow. One day more!"
He rose to go; and as if the movement he made had been the signal for their flight, Emma said, suddenly assuming a gay air —
"You have the passports?"
"You are forgetting nothing?"
"Are you sure?"
"It is at the Hotel de Provence, is it not, that you will wait for me at midday?"
"Till to-morrow then!" said Emma in a last caress; and she watched him go.
He did not turn round. She ran after him, and, leaning over the water's edge between the bulrushes —
"To-morrow!" she cried.
He was already on the other side of the river and walking fast across the meadow.
After a few moments Rodolphe stopped; and when he saw her with her white gown gradually fade away in the shade like a ghost, he was seized with such a beating of the heart that he leant against a tree lest he should fall.
"What an imbecile I am!" he said with a fearful oath. "No matter! She was a pretty mistress!"
And immediately Emma's beauty, with all the pleasures of their love, came back to him. For a moment he softened; then he rebelled against her.
"For, after all," he exclaimed, gesticulating, "I can't exile myself — have a child on my hands."
He was saying these things to give himself firmness.
"And besides, the worry, the expense! Ah! no, no, no, no! a thousand times no! That would be too stupid."