Possible things are done

“She is enraged! Said Count Sant’Anna as he left Madame Ronald. What Helene was experiencing was far more serious and painful than a wound of self-esteem. After her visitor left, she remained standing, kneading her handkerchief, longing to free her heart from the weight that oppressed her, but without succeeding.

And this interview was only the first stop on this way of the cross of painful love that so many women have made before her. She had to undergo the congratulations of her acquaintances and the confidences of Dora. The young girl had such a natural way of forgetting her wrongs, of not being aware of people’s displeasure, that it was difficult to keep her at a distance. She had thus forced Helene to make a kind of peace. At any moment, she entered her home to talk to him about her fiancé, about her marriage, about her plans for the future. Madame Ronald was desperately closing her ears, trying to think of something else; in spite of herself, however, the words registered in her brain and, when she was alone, she heard them again and they hurt her. Instead of Jack Ascott’s modern ring, Semper . The sight of this historic ring, worn by a famous French beauty whom Louis XIV had married to an ancestor of Lelo, caused Hélène a painful envy, exerted on her a kind of fascination. She had the odd feeling that it belonged to him, this ring: she wanted to try it on, to feel it on her finger, if only for a moment.

Every day, Lelo had lunch or dinner at the Hotel du Quirinal. Out of pure feminine instinct, without any consented desire to win it back, Hélène took extreme care in her adornment. Whatever it was, the count’s presence brought her a happiness that no human being had ever given her; but this happiness was crossed by anguish, cut off by sudden pangs of the heart, which made these daily meals hours of exquisite suffering. Fearing that her coldness might be attributed to annoyance, she tried to be kind, without succeeding in making her reception even and completely natural. Lelo, he treated her with affectionate familiarity, he often called her “my aunt”, and this title which aged her caused him an irritation which she could hardly control. Dora amused Sant’Anna, but Helene interested her. His conversation had more continuity, he liked to hear her talk. When she remained silent too long, he would say to her with a smile:

– Well ! are you silent today?

And this simple word gave Hélène extraordinary joy. Sometimes the radiance of her beauty stopped the young man’s eyes, but without bringing back what she had seen there; then, under the influence of an unconscious pain, she became hard, sharp, sarcastic. When she let herself be carried away like this, he turned to her a surprised, questioning look, a smile passed under his mustache: this smile wounded her like an insult and pursued her for days on end.

In Madame Ronald’s place, a European, a Catholic, accustomed to examining her conscience, would soon have known what to hold on to her feelings towards Sant’Anna. According to her degree of honesty, she would have fought more or less energetically against her love and would not have failed to find in this moral combat fine pleasures and special pleasures. Hélène, despite her developed and cultivated intelligence, had, like the majority of her compatriots, only a childish knowledge of the human heart. She believed, and she repeated over and over, that principles, a good education, were enough not only to keep a woman from falling, but also to make her invulnerable. And, in spite of these defenses, love had penetrated into her like the agents of nature. There he was, the infinitely tall, in some unknown cell,

Elegant meetings annoyed her nervously, admiration left her indifferent, her life seemed dull and stupid to her. Driven by the need to escape the society of Mademoiselle Beauchamp, des Verga, and especially Dora, she had herself driven to the right and to the left to visit again the places which had interested her; and it was a singular spectacle to see this New York socialite, this brilliant woman, wandering all alone through the Colosseum, the circus of Maxentius, the tombs of the Appian Way, and, like a helpless being, trying to ‘hang your thought on something big. During these solitary walks, Helena’s worked soul suddenly entered into communication with that soul of Rome which is given to so few to feel. All these lines of beauty and harmony so cruelly broken, all these human works mutilated through the centuries, filled his heart with an impersonal and soothing sadness. Churches especially attracted him. Until then, she had admired them as monuments; now, unwittingly, she was looking for someone there. She loved their very odor, that odor of sepulcher, of old age, of extinguished candles, of chilled incense, which is peculiar to the churches of Rome and which would make them recognized among all those in the world. She approached the altars, listened to the prayers of the humble, marveled at their faith, and instinctively also raised her anxious glances to the beaming Madonnas. she had admired them as monuments; now, unwittingly, she was looking for someone there. She loved their very odor, that odor of sepulcher, of old age, of extinguished candles, of chilled incense, which is peculiar to the churches of Rome and which would make them recognized among all those in the world. She approached the altars, listened to the prayers of the humble, marveled at their faith, and instinctively also raised her anxious glances to the beaming Madonnas. she had admired them as monuments; now, unwittingly, she was looking for someone there. She loved their very odor, that odor of sepulcher, of old age, of extinguished candles, of chilled incense, which is peculiar to the churches of Rome and which would make them recognized among all those in the world. She approached the altars, listened to the prayers of the humble, marveled at their faith, and instinctively also raised her anxious glances to the beaming Madonnas.

Saint-Pierre moved him in a strange way. Neither gold nor genius could make the great Christian basilica a place of devotion and prayer. Despite the majesty of its proportions, the coldness of its marbles, the severity of its symbols, it awakens the senses more than any other Catholic temple. Towards evening there is, under the Dome of Confession, mysterious shadows, exquisite lightings, a set of things visible and invisible, which envelops you, embraces you, which exalts love or faith. The pagan soul has taken refuge there. The sacrifice of the Mass, the exorcisms, the papal blessings could not drive him out. She still wanders, this soul, behind the white statues and spreads in the sanctuary a penetrating pleasure, which cannot escape those whom a great pain or some great passion has sensitized.wicked – “perverse” – and often, seized with irrational terror, she fled to seek outside the protection of the full light.

These disconcerting impressions frightened the young woman and made her believe that she was threatened with some serious illness. For the first time she felt alone, all alone. Her husband’s persistent silence irritated her more and more. She had believed herself necessary for his happiness, and it deeply humiliated her to see that he could do without her. He would come find her, or she would never come back to New York. This resolution, which she took twenty times a day, did not fail to be painful to her. She often thought with regret of this beautiful home she had created, which was her work, which contained so much of herself. Sometimes he wanted to see her again. She then stubbornly pressed her lips to react against her weakness, she was doing some extravagant project, that of going to India, for example, or of getting divorced and settling in Paris with Mademoiselle Beauchamp. She was trying to resign herself to Dora’s wedding, to get used to it; she couldn’t. It oppressed her like a nightmare, barred her heart. She attributed this disturbance to her friendship with Mr. Ascott. She thought she was being held back in Rome only by fear of the bad effect her sudden departure would produce; it was above all because of the occult charm which the presence of Sant’Anna exercised on her. Against this charm, however, and without her will interfering with it, her fine intellectual faculties valiantly defended her. She felt more and more the need to escape from someone or something, the desire to flee far away;

Providence was going to help him in an unexpected way. One evening, during dinner, they gave him a dispatch. The thought that she might have been of her husband gave her fingers a slight tremor. After reading it, she cried out with joy.

– Ah! the good surprise! she said, her face beaming, – Charley is in Monte-Carlo! He invites us, Aunt Sophie and I, to join him there. This is the thing I wanted the most. We will surely go.

– We bet that your brother brings you Henri back and gives you a new honeymoon! said Miss Carroll thoughtlessly.

Helene blushed violently, her eyes met Lelo’s mocking gaze, her eyelids fluttered.

– Mr. Ronald is not in the habit of being brought in or taken back! she replied in her dryest tone.

– No ; but, in conjugal sulks, the intervention of a third person can be very useful to save self-esteem, – explained Dora immediately, with that practical sense that could have made believe in a completed experience of life. – In any case, if my dear uncle comes, reconcile him with me, while you are there! I wrote to him twice, he did not answer me. Oh ! these perfect men, what a pestilence!

– You are not going to leave us alone here! said Mrs. Carroll with a look of distress.

– You have the Verga; they will be a thousand times more useful to you than Aunt Sophie and me! replied Helene.

– Yes, but the family! …

– Don’t worry, mammy  ! interrupted Dora; we will join her, the family. We have a wonderful project… haven’t we, Lelo?

The Earl replied with a nod, then, addressing Madame Ronald:

– I’m sure you’re going to break the bank in Monte Carlo! he said smiling.

Sant’Anna had launched this sentence without thinking of the proverb which promises fortune to the unhappy in love. The saying was formulated in the young woman’s mind: she paled a little and her lips contracted.

Lelo caught this fleeting expression: he guessed the cause and remained confused by his thoughtlessness.

– Why are you sure I’ll be happy at the game? asked Helene bravely.

This sort of challenge irritated the Italian; he smirked.

– Because I believe you can influence even that damn roulette! he replied with treacherous gallantry. – It’s an impression of a player. If I were with you in Monte-Carlo, I would blindly follow your inspiration. I repeat, you are capable of breaking the bank.

– I hope not ! said Mademoiselle Beauchamp curtly.