The Red and the Black

M. de La Mole was out. More dead than alive, Julien went to wait for him in the library. What were his feelings when he found Mlle. de La Mole there! When she saw him come in, she assumed an air of malignant hatred which it was impossible to misconstrue. Carried away by his misery, stunned by surprise, Julien had the weakness to say, in the most tender and heartfelt tones: Then you don’t love me any more?

—I am horrified at having given myself to the first comer, said Mathilde, weeping with fury at herself.

—To the first comer! Cried Julien, and snatched from the wall an old sword of the Middle Ages which was kept in the library as a curiosity.

His grief, which he thought at its peak when he first spoke to Mlle. de La Mole, had been increased a hundredfold by the tears of shame which she shed. He would have been the happiest of men had it been in his power to kill her. Just as he was drawing the sword, with some difficulty, from its ancient sheath, Mathilde, delighted at such a new sensation, advanced proudly toward him; her tears had dried. A thought of the Marquis de La Mole, his benefactor, rose vividly in Julien’s mind. I would be killing his daughter! He thought; what a horrible thing! He made a gesture as if to throw away the sword. Certainly, he thought, she will start laughing now at this melodramatic scene: this idea was responsible for restoring all his self-control. He looked carefully over the blade of the old sword, as carefully as if he were inspecting it for rust spots, then thrust it back in the sheath and with the greatest tranquility hung it on the gilt bronze nail where it usually rested. This whole performance, very deliberate toward the end, lasted for a full minute; Mlle. de La Mole watched it in amazement. So I have been on the verge of being killed by my lover! She thought to herself. The idea carried her back to the finest years of the age of Charles IX and Henri III. She stood motionless before Julien [erect and taller than usual]; as he replaced the sword, she looked on him with eyes from which hatred no longer shone. It must be admitted that she was very desirable at that moment; certainly no woman ever looked less like a Paris doll (and this phrase summed up Julien’s objections to the women of that part of the world). I’m going to relapse into a certain fondness for him, Mathilde thought, and then right away he’ll be sure he’s my lord and master, especially if I give in right after speaking so sharply to him. She took flight. My God! but she’s beautiful, Julien said as he watched her run off: that’s the creature who flung herself into my arms so frantically not a fortnight ago.… And those moments will never return! And it’s all my fault! And at the time of such an extraordinary action, which concerned me so deeply, I was only half awake to it! I can’t deny it, I was born with a terribly dull, uninteresting nature. The marquis made his appearance; Julien hastened to tell him he was leaving.

—Where to? Asked M. de La Mole.

—To Languedoc.

—No, indeed, if you’ll be so kind, you are reserved for higher destinies; if you leave at all, it will be for the north…in fact, to put it in military terms, I confine you to barracks. You will oblige me by not being gone for more than two or three hours at a time; I may need you at any minute.

Julien bowed and retired without saying another word, leaving the marquis in a state of great astonishment; he was in no condition to speak, and locked himself into his room. There he was free to expatiate on the awful misery of his fate. And so, he thought, I can’t even go away! God knows how long the marquis will keep me here in Paris; good God! What’s going to become of me? And not a friend to whom I can talk: Abbé Pirard wouldn’t let me finish the first sentence, and Comte Altamira [to distract my mind] would try to involve me in some conspiracy.

And meanwhile, I am going mad, I can feel it, I’m going mad!

Who can guide me, what’s to become of me?

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