restricted access 32. The Girl from the Provinces
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32 o The Girl from the Provinces A Lot of venom, a Little Blood—After the Storm— Richard Cannot Live ‘‘Without’’ Either—Stroke of Luck, No Cartridges—How the Favorite Dismisses a Rival ‘‘   to the Cirque,’’ Richard suggested. ‘‘It will distract you. There is a beautiful benefit performance.’’ The room was resplendent with lights and costumes. Sadly . . . it all seemed dreary to me. Suddenly the room lit up . . . myeyes were dazzled, my head began to swim, and I felt faint. Richard looked at me, then, taking my arm impatiently and angrily, he squeezed it and said, ‘‘How pale you look!’’ I looked up and found myself facing Lionel. Standing on my right, he began talking with this woman I had been told about and who began to gesture extravagantly to attract my attention. . . . Ten times I thought I could see her kissing him! I asked Richard to take me home. ‘‘No,’’ he said, ‘‘he would notice your agitation. I beg you to remain calm until the end of the show. Spare my pride; you know I have never given it much thought, but today, in front of these people who are observing us, make the effort, only for one hour!’’ I let myself be taken home like a child. Once at mydoor, Richard said, ‘‘Céleste, I thank you again. I am expected by friends at the Maisond ’Or. I would have invited you, but you need rest.’’    ,    I went to bed hoping to calm down, but in vain. As if a voice were summoning me outside, I got up and got dressed. ‘‘Louise,’’ I said to my maid, ‘‘come with me; let us go after him or this is the end.’’  The Girl from the Provinces And picking up Lionel’s letter, which bore his new address, I ran along the boulevards. Once on Rue Joubert, I rang at the porte cochere. It was almost one in the morning. I was let in and I went upstairs without asking anything, leaving Louise under the covered way. Once on the second floor, I rang powerfully enough to make the house shake. I heard a dooropening and a voice, Lionel’s, asking, ‘‘Who can that be?’’ Then, appearing on the landing and lighting my face with a candle, he continued, ‘‘You, here! What do you want from me now?’’ ‘‘What do I want?’’ I said, shaking all over and showing him his letter. ‘‘I am here because you wrote to me yesterday!’’ ‘‘Oh,’’ he said, laughing, ‘‘so I did, after lunch! If that is all, then you can go back home; there is no danger, I am very happy! How is it that M. Richard lets you go out so late at night? . . . It is unsafe. I shall let him know tomorrow.’’ The snide way he had said all this gradually made my violent temperament return. He saw the flashes in my eyes. ‘‘Come in,’’ he told me uncovering the door. ‘‘I do not love you anymore , but I am too polite not to invite you to rest a few minutes.’’ The room he had let me in was a dining room with carved walls and ceilings. ‘‘It seems,’’ he said, ‘‘that this visit on your part is without objective, my dear Céleste; you did not choose your timing well, because I am not alone. I have been in love with you; today I do not love you anymore. Go back to your Richard.’’ ‘‘Now really, Lionel, do not blame me! . . . How could I know that this letter contained nothing but lies and trifles? You mentioned killing yourself. . . .’’ ‘‘No,’’ he replied, ‘‘no, you did not come here out of concern for me! . . . You came because you saw me with another woman. She is here, this woman, behind this door. She can hear everything I am saying to you. . . . I love her! She is beautiful, as beautiful as you are ugly!’’ ‘‘Lionel,’’ I stood up and said, beside myself with anger, ‘‘what you are doing now is craven! You insult me in your house; you should respect yourself by not insulting your past weaknesses. Why did you write to me in London? . . . Without your letter, I would be married, I would be in Scotland, and I would not be annoying you.’’ I turned to leave. He stood in my way. ‘‘No,’’ he told me, ‘‘you are too agitated, do not go yet. . . . Anger becomes you! I despise you, you miserable wretch whom I picked up out of the...


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