From Les Saintes, where he was going to ask how many bulls he should bring for his part, on the day of the feast, Renaud immediately returned to the Château d’Avignon.

He was in a hurry to see Livette again, to forget the day’s scene with her, to which, in spite of himself, his mind kept returning.

Four or five leagues, and he was surrendered.

Livette and her parents were all three, near their farm, taking the cool on the stone bench which is there against the facade of the castle, next to the old climbing roses which, above, frame the windows with their green tufts. dotted with flowers.

It was also one of the favorite places of our lovers, very happy to have this perfumed foliage on their heads, in the thickness of which often came to sing one of the nightingales of the park.

—Hey! Good evening, Jacques.

—Hey! Goodnight all!

“Who brings you in so late?” did you have dinner, at least?

“I ate an anchoïade at Les Saintes….{72}

“It’s only to whet the appetite. Do you want something else? you just have to talk.

“Thank you, Master Audiffret…. I’m going to look after Blanchet in the stable, and I’ll be back.” I will not go to the “jass” tonight. I will sleep in the fen, near the animals.

Maître Audiffret, his pipe between his fingers, got up and followed Renaud to the stable door, from where he watched him cork his horse.

“When it pleases you, Master Audiffret, take Blanchet back for Livette…. I find no faults in him; on the contrary. He is a good horse, and very gentle.

—He’s submitted to you because you tire him out, you see, but since he doesn’t do her a favor every day, far from it—I’m still afraid for her. If he takes a fancy to ride it sometimes, you will lend it to him, and then you will take, you, the first comer…. Then, I hope, you will get your Cabri back. We saw Rampal yesterday in Crau. He rode your beast; he is therefore sure that he did not sell it. He’s going to bring it back to you, it’s to be believed.

-Oh! but, I will go, said Jacques, to meet her, because to think that he will bring her back to me, no; it would have been done already…. Can you tell me, Audiffret, where we saw him today, this Rampal?

—Between Mas Tibert and Mas d’Icard, in Crau. There is over there, you know, in the middle of a swamp{73}mire, a hut which can only be reached by a path hidden under the water, built on piles, and which can be recognized—as usual—by a few stakes planted here and there all along the long. I have an idea that he wants to retire there, the beggar, like the deserter who came to spend his time there….

—Ah! ha! he retired to the Cabane du Conscrit ? Well, I’ll go see him there, said Renaud, don’t worry!

Blanchet, well corked, made the good alfalfa crinkle under his teeth. Renaud came out of the stable, and with Audiffret they came and sat down near Livette and the grandmother.

All four were silent for a long time. Nothing could be heard except the sad continual din of the frogs, and beneath which there was, without our being able to distinguish them, the dull murmurs of the two Rhones and the sea.

The sky was a swarm of small, innumerable stars, which seemed to respond to the palpitations of the sounds of the moor; and, like the Rhône which, after having rushed into the all blue sea, runs there for a long time without mixing with it, without losing its color of the earth,—the road to Saint-Jacques, made of the dust of stars , walked, distinct, in the ocean of stars.

Renaud felt embarrassed.

When he found his fiancée, he had not experienced everything{74}what he usually felt, a joyous movement towards her, like a pressure in the pit of the stomach, a sudden and gentle burst of blood in the capsizing heart! a vague uneasiness in her heart, which she could not explain. Something was between them…. He had, indeed, for the first time, something to hide from her; and, thinking it might, must have felt:

“I’m not well tonight,” he said suddenly.

“Beware of fevers!…” said Audiffret. I know very well that they are not as frequent as they used to be, nor so dangerous, but anyway, you have to be careful! Just watch out! and take the remedy. Here, there are up there, in the chateau pharmacy, the registers of the first exploitation—from the time when the people of the Chateau d’Avignon gained a little workable ground every day on the swamp. Well, it was fifteen, twenty each day that the men went to the infirmary. And what doses of quinine, my children!… All that is written up there, in the Book of Reason. In the past, all the farms here had such a book, called the same, as sailors have a ship’s book. It was the time of order and bravery. Peasant women in those days, right, grandma? did not seek to copy the bourgeoises of Paris by putting on dresses that{75}go badly, instead of the costume of the old, which makes them comely because it is theirs….

—Yes, sighed the grandmother, we are in the century of pride, and my century is over.

It is the familiar word of all our old peasants.

“We read fewer newspapers in the past,” resumed Audiffret; Things only got better. The owners lived on their land, made families, instead of going to live in Paris and perish there, out of pride, debt or something else. The Book of Reasonis up there, which explains the battles of our fathers against the swamp and the fever…. The pharmacy is still in order, with the scales and the pots in the racks, under the dust. And the book recounts everything, the illnesses and the deaths. She leaves. The dykes, the roubines, everything does a good job, and this Cochinchina of France, as the sailor I had taken to see the rice fields of Giraud told me, here it is, our Camargue, as healthy as the Crau. !—However, I say to you, beware, and take the remedy! don’t wait until tomorrow; Livette will give you what you need. Well, I’m going to bed…. Stay a little longer, young people, if that suits you…. Are you coming, Grandmother?{76}

“No, I’m staying,” said the old woman, “a little while longer, with this youth.”

Audiffret tapped the rim of his upturned pipe on the corner of the bench, and having put it in his pocket, went up to bed.

And on the bench, silence fell.

The grandmother, weary, dozed, raising her limp head from time to time with a sudden awakening movement—then began to lower her neck again slowly….

“It’s quite damp,” said Livette suddenly.

“Yes, lady.

—See! she said ingenuously, reaching out her arm to touch the dampness on her woolen sleeve. But he did not hold out his hand. He was not, that evening, entirely at Livette, as usual. Funny enough, she wasn’t intimidating him tonight. He was not, as usual, completely taken aback, in front of her. She no longer dominated him. And he blamed himself. He suffered.

He recognized within himself that his thoughts were much more on the memory of the day than with his fiancée who was there, so close to him.

-What do you think? exclaimed Livette, who for a moment, although we were in the shadows, had been staring at him as if she could see distinctly{77}his face lies. Clearly, she felt it elsewhere. Nothing more subtle than these romantic guesses.

“I’m thinking,” said Renaud a good moment after the question, “about my horse, which I’ll pick up tomorrow at Rampal, if he’s in Camargue or Crau.”

-And then?

-And then? he said… I am thinking of the Conscript’s Cabin where he is perhaps at this hour—hiding.

“And then again?” insisted Livette.

—Hey! what do I know, me! to the fever,—to all that we have just said….

-Alas! said the mignonette, and to me, Renaud, not at all? don’t we think about it anymore?

She had a sad voice.

He gave a start that did not escape the little one. He thought he saw again this reproach from Livette, the gypsy as he had seen her during the day, standing in front of him, very close, naked and so dark! brunette as if, being accustomed to living naked in the sun, she was, from head to foot, blackened by the rays. And how supple and nervous this savage was! A real beast, a little Arab mare, much finer than the Camargue treble. Alas! for too long, out of fidelity to his fiancée, he had been wise as a girl, the rude boy, and now this wisdom was avenging itself, taking its secret revenge,{78} mad amorous desires agitated her, which were not for Livette. So the very respect he had for her—poor darling!—that was what turned against her!

“Jacques?” exclaimed Livette, in that barely exhaled voice which the emotion of love gives to lovers, a suave, veiled voice which the heart hears more than the ear.

Renaud did not hear him. He saw. —He saw the gipsy as if she had been there, much better even. In the dark of the night, her body, although brown, appeared to her in the clear, like an opaque substance which would allow a very pale light to exhale through its transparency. This naked form, dark at the same time and as if illuminating, was there motionless before his eyes… then it came to life… and he thought he saw the gypsy bathing in one of those phosphorescent seas of the summer months, where the swimmers wave in the dark water a liquid, cold light, which follows, draws and shows their contours, from which it seems to radiate…. “Do I have a fever?” he said to himself.

As if to answer him, Livette took his hand. She felt the dryness of this hand, of the wrist.

“Yes,” she said, “take care; my father is right, there is a little fever…. Come up there to seek the remedy.{79}

Happy with this diversion:

-Lets go! he said.

“Come on, then,” she repeated, “and say quietly: Grandmother is asleep!

Old Audiffrette was indeed asleep. Leaning against the wall, she didn’t move at all. The white handkerchief, tied in the Arles style, instead of taking only her bun, encircled her almost the whole of her head, letting escape, in a mist, on each side of her face, two tufts of coarse hair, whitening, and all twisted. .

She was sleeping, her mouth slightly open, a sparkle on her teeth, which she still had beautiful.

They left her.