Twenty gray houses around the leaning church tower shape the whole village. Here and there the folded rocks form a skeleton sticking out of the ground, — that’s the landscape. Only a few thin, weak trees grow bent towards the ground, as if afraid of the sea attacking them. The Miralez family arrived at their villa here on July 5.
The landscape from Etienne was very beautiful. From the church tower, you could see in all directions for 25 kilometers.
However, this strangeness of nature was not Rose-Marie’s intention to draw Etienne’s attention.
Until now, Mrs. Miralez had not cared much about the scribe. What he had talked to him about had happened to show him the temptations and trials he had been trying to invent.
At Saint-Kerohic, where he was not surrounded by his usual flock of admirers, he had time to take a closer look at Etienne, and before long he was explaining to Dominica that he was “a really pretty boy.”
So it wasn’t too hard for him to start getting lazy.
* * * * *
Eight months in Paris had greatly shaped Etienne’s appearance. His features had become refined, his hands had become white, he was no longer thin in the evenings, his dress was always impeccable, his manners fine and graceful.
His manners had also changed. Although he preferred vegetarian food, he also ate other foods so as not to attract attention. Sometimes he also drank wine, though not liquor. He no longer drew a cross at the beginning of his letters, and he was now, if not a brilliant cavalier, yet a polite and considerate young man, whose natural calmness and shyness attracted women more than usual.
This time, Rose-Marie didn’t think it was necessary to make any program. She noted in front of the mirror that her eyes were still beautiful, her features clean, her lips red, her hair shiningly fine, her body lean, and as she shook her long black curls she smiled confidently at her own image.
— Monsieur Etienne! — he said one rainy evening — you probably like to read Legoavés books, do you want to read me one of those novels? I miss you so much!
— Which novel shall I read, Mrs. Miralez?
— It doesn’t matter! Take something fun, not too Parisian, if possible.
— Shall I take »Heaven’s Gate«?
— Yes, read “Heaven’s Gate” to me!
And Etienne read.
At the beginning, his voice was clear and bright, but gradually the content of the book made it more and more restrained.
– It is fun! — exclaimed Rose-Marie, getting up. And he moved closer to the reader.
Lazare made a move.
— No, no, live, I’m going away! — said the young lady. I came closer until I could hear better. I wouldn’t want to waste a single word of that book, which I like very much.
Reading continued. But the passionate content of the book and the enchanting scent of Mrs. Miralez suddenly made the reader stop.
— Would you like some sugar water, Monsieur Etienne? — asked the lady. — Or not. Well, go on then. Take that last point again.
He had a lot of fun. The ex-monk blushed like a young girl, squealed and continued reading, swallowing half the words like a sick person trying to finish a dose of medicine handed to him in one gulp.
Claiming that he needed to hear even better, he leaned over the reader’s shoulder, so that Etienne had to dry his eyes every now and then for fear of dizziness.
When the chapter did not end, Rose-Marie asked to stop for a moment. It was almost 7 o’clock, and when the air had cleared outside, he wanted to go for a walk in the garden.
— Will you offer me your arm? — he said. — I’m afraid I’ll end up in this squat.
Etienne’s head drooped and he gracefully offered his arm.
He felt the lady lean against him and he went forward, straight ahead, seeing nothing in the damp garden.
— Come on, I’m going so fast, Mr. Etienne, not so fast. No hunter could keep up with you at that speed.
And he, according to the word, hung on the arm of the former monk.
Suddenly he stopped at the foot of a ledge of rock that overshadowed the house.
— Monsieur Etienne, would you like to do me a favor? You could probably do it, because your hands and fingers are so small and fine. Try to fasten my collar button, which has come off at the neck.
Rose-Marie laid down on her back, revealing her dazzling white neck, and the young man bravely set about the work he was told to do. At this point, the owner of the beautiful neck felt her hands tremble to her joy.
— The table is set, Dominic was heard to say right next to them.
And the scribe blushed before the maid’s significant glance.
She didn’t eat much of her dinner, and Mrs. Miralez’s appetite seemed to be even worse .
A few days passed.
He left the young man alone to let him dream, collect his thoughts, and give time for the seeds of love he had sown to germinate.
When she was alone with Etienne among the rocks or down on the beach, she let her head droop and became sad. In between, he talked about the whim of fate, which sometimes brings people together in the same way as the sea throws rocks against each other on the shore.
And Rose-Marie wondered herself how lightly she could deliver these sentimental words. He sighed in the most natural way and almost brought tears to his eyes.
And Etienne collected the scraps in full truth!
This teased Mrs. Miralez, and she furrowed her brows as she thought of Geneviève’s friend. He was quite rude. Why wasn’t he already head over heels in love with her? In all this time they had been alone, he hadn’t given her a single admiring glance, let alone the confession of love she was waiting for!
And the Rose of Granada made what he thought was an excellent fraud plan for the next day, July 14th.
There is an island about 10 kilometers from Mr. Miralez’s villa, where you can go with dry feet during the flood. This Ile des Marches, as the island is called, offers travelers mind-blowing ruins and strangely formed cliffs. Its only inhabitants are white rats.
Rose-Marie had visited the island several times and knew it perfectly. He now wanted to show it to Etienne. For this purpose, he ordered a carriage and urged his mother to make preparations for the longer journey. Dominica also followed along.
When Miralez expressed his intention to go on a pleasure trip, he too asked
Rose-Marie to take him aside, saying:
— My friend, you’ve been coughing a lot the last few days, you’re getting thinner and thinner, and that’s why you should be careful. Sea air is not healthy for you, you can be assured of that. You’d be wiser to take the book and sit in the shade of the trees in Saint-Jacut. Now come eat breakfast and try showing a good appetite for once.
Lorenzo could never deny anything to his wife. So he promised to be reasonable and stay away from the pleasure trip.
Good food and even champagne was served at breakfast.
— It’s because of the national holiday, explained Rose-Marie.
Dominica filled Etienne’s glass three times and Mrs. Miralez emptied her glass three times. Everyone was happy. Mother Stefana — that’s how Rose-Marie’s mother was called in everyday speech — was in love and her cheeks were as red as the tomatoes from her home country. And Rose-Marie had never been more adorable.
The tights creaked and the wagons pulled out. Dominica was allowed to book the lunch, because the group might stay late. As she left, Rose-Marie kissed her husband, saying heartily:
— Now take care of yourself and live and go very far!
The group set off, and before long exclamations of admiration for the beauty of nature could be heard. Only Rose-Marie carefully studied a few tables about the times of ebb and flow.
After exclaiming from love to exhaustion, Rose-Marie got out of the carriage on the sandy beach, shouting:
— Who wants to follow me to the Ile des Marches?
– Me! — was answered from all sides.
There were too many of them to see, because Mrs. Miralez turned to her mother and said:
— You know it’s a tiring trip, right?
— Do you think so?
— I think so, mother!
Fat Mrs. Ramazeilhes was soon convinced of this. And Dominica understood at once that it was not right for her to leave the old lady alone.
Mother Stefana and the maid landed on the beach and Rose-Marie went alone with Etienne to the Ile des Marches, which could be seen about 1,600 meters away.
— Ah, I forgot one thing! — exclaimed Rose-Marie, turning back. You’re not hungry yet, are you? Give me a lunch bag, I’m starting to need it.
— Are you going to eat on the island? — asked Mrs. Ramazeilhes.
– Why not? It would taste excellent there among the rocks.
— Do as you will, but live do not tarry too long; you know the water rises. After a few hours it will be too late to go back.
– Do not worry! We will be here again soon.
Etienne took the lunch bag and ran after Rose-Marie, who scurried forward on the wet sand like a schoolgirl.
— We must hurry, — he said to his young male companion.
He was shaking with impatience and his eyes were shining.
They jumped over small streams, hurrying towards the rocky island. The waves crashed against a rock so that the foam splashed up on the rock.
— It’s good, — isn’t it, said the lady.
After a quarter of an hour they were on the island.
— Now it begins, — said Rose-Marie and lifted the sleeves of her dress.
Etienne saw her little feet climbing the rocks and he followed them happily.
He was no longer a gloomy monk who closed his eyes to all the beauty of nature. His poetic mind enjoyed everything in full gulps.
They had to sled over a large black pile of stones, where here and there a patch of greenish turf could be seen. Then, as it were, we went down stone steps and finally came to a kind of corridor, where the wild tongues of rock wept slowly flowing salty tears.
— Look at that! — said Rose-Marie when she had come up to one of the large, flat stones.
And he made a move as if he wanted to embrace the whole world.
Etienne devoured the magnificently handsome painting.
— Ah, how beautiful it is! — he said quietly.
— It’s not the prettiest yet. Save your admiration for the rocks over there, those pretty little paas of mine, to whom I have professed my love every time I have seen them. They are so attractive you could eat them.
Mrs. Miralez was possessed. Etienne had never heard him speak like that. Even his external vision was something else — more radiant than usual. After looking at her, the young man would have wanted to close his eyes for a moment, like on a summer day when the sun shines directly into his eyes. What a wonderful evening!
On the highest peak of the island, Rose-Marie showed the ruins of a fortress, old walls, where lizards scuttled with graceful movements.
But they didn’t stop there. Mrs. Miralez climbed up onto a rock ledge.
Here it is, Monsieur Etienne, here it is! Hurry up!
The island ended in a line of black rocks, looking like giants stopped on their wayward journey. Some long, straight, others shorter, crooked or as if motionless bodies. All bore deep scars, as if the hostile sea had wielded its most invisible sword against them. A few of the giants seemed to be about to flee, with their heads bowed, while others were in a threatening position to take on the enemy or to attack afterwards.
Etienne and Rose-Marie exchanged glances of admiration. They placed themselves side by side on a ledge of rock that jutted forward to watch very carefully the strange forms over which the sea threw its foamy waves.
The wind rolled great sea waves, and sometimes it sounded like a cannon shot from the rugged rock caves. As the sun set, it cast its reddish light like a great coal flame. Now you could no longer see drops of water when the foam broke, but sparks of fire and a little later drops of blood. A nearby giant boulder had acquired a coral-like crown that radiated multi-hued in the red glow of the setting sun.
Enenne lost herself in watching this beauty, completely forgetting the passage of time.
Rose-Marie must not have been equally enraptured and enraptured, for she seemed at intervals to attend impatiently to the indistinct cries from the other shore, which echoed from here to there, and as they grew louder, she spoke in a louder voice of the setting sun, of the clouds, of the flagstones, and thus confused the cries with the power of his own voice.
— But now we should return from here, — said the young man suddenly, rising. — The water will probably rise very soon…
— Ah! look at that boat over there! Isn’t it funny looking? — cried Rose-Marie.
And the little boat caught his attention for a moment. But Etienne broke off this look by asking: — When does high tide begin, Mrs. Miralez? I guess if we don’t want to spend the night here then…
— And that tower far away, on that island, look at it!
It took a few more blinks to look at the tower, and the lady was in love.
— I think we are being shouted at! — said the scribe in a hurry.
— What! They are children who scream while swimming.
— Are you sure about that?
— Can’t you see them over there between the two rocks? How poor your eyesight is! Are you nearsighted?
— No, as far as I know.
— You won’t be, though? Try wearing my glasses! They are #10.
— I don’t see anything with them.
— Try again! You won’t see it anytime soon. Keep closer, like this! … Do you still not see?
But now Etienne started running. He ran to the ruins to see if the sea had separated the island from the mainland.
And this time Rose-Marie quite calmly allowed him to run.
— Run my boy, run! — he smiled. My plot has succeeded and you are my prisoner until tomorrow morning. It will be fun!
He took out his watch.
— A quarter to nine.
For 20 minutes we have been surrounded by water.
After a while, Etienne returned, looking horrified.
— It’s too late! — he shouted when he saw Rose-Marie. Water surrounds the island on all sides.
— What the hell! — exclaimed Mrs. Miralez in the most innocent way.
— Come soon, soon! They call us on the other shore. Maybe we’ll find some way to save ourselves. Let’s run! Otherwise, we’ll be stuck here. There aren’t any boats here.
— No, — replied Rose-Marie, there is no boat nearer than in Saint
— What fate!
He complained, that boardhead!
But Rose-Marie was willing to run to save the position. He came to the highest point of the island. A beautiful green strip about 500 meters wide separated them from those left on the beach. There were women waving their handkerchiefs on the beach, receding ever so slightly from the path of the rising water.
Then Rose-Marie began to complain aloud.
– Oh God! what can we do. Those unfortunate rocks! We have to spend the night here now. A person forgets himself in the midst of them. A reminder should be attached to them: »Remember high tide!»
Chatting like that, he ran forward out of breath. Suddenly he stopped to look at his schedule.
— Ah, that whistler! — he exclaimed suddenly. That’s who did this trick. Look at Mr. Etienne! At eight and fifteen minutes high tide begins! Look at this junk! 8: 15. See?
– So what?
— What then? I thought it was 8:45. This looks like 4. If I hadn’t mistaken this one for four, we would have left half an hour ago. That bad number is the cause of all this.
— Can you swim, Mrs. Miralez?
– I do not know; I can try.
Etienne immediately wanted to throw himself into the water.
— That’s beautiful! So you’re going to leave me alone here?
— I’ll carry you, — he suggested. — I am convinced that there is no more than half a meter of water. Let’s try!
— Let’s try!
Etienne lifted Rose-Marie in his arms and ran forward.
— Please don’t drop me! — he shouted.
He closed his eyes — this was so much fun for him.
— Wait until I take my skirt up! — he said quickly.
But Etienne stepped into the water without hesitation.
— Are you crazy? — cried Mrs. Miralez. — Let me go further! The water will rise over your head! Stop!
And Etienne had to turn back.
And Rose-Marie shouted as loud as she could to the other shore:
– Good night!
Then he went back to the top of the island completely calm and happy.
And now he could no longer contain his mirth and burst into laughter.
— Don’t you think it’s fun to spend the night on an uninhabited island and play Robinson for one night?
Etienne stood silent. He showed signs of restlessness.
If the outflow begins after a quarter past 8, then we cannot leave the island until 3 o’clock in time, at daybreak, — he said.
– What does it do?
— Mr. Miralez becomes restless.
After hearing these words, Rose-Marie was startled.
— That jester! How could he be thinking of Miralez now? — he said very quietly.
And his mind made him give him quite an earful.