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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAbbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 2 - Chapter 11
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Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 2 - Chapter 11 Post by :LloydM Category :Long Stories Author :Emile Zola Date :May 2012 Read :1929

Click below to download : Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 2 - Chapter 11 (Format : PDF)

Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 2 - Chapter 11

BOOK II CHAPTER XI

'Are we never going out again?' asked Serge some days later.

And when he saw Albine shrug her shoulders with a weary air, he added, in a teasing kind of way, 'You have got tired of looking for your tree, then?'

They joked about the tree all day and made fun of it. It didn't exist. It was only a nursery-story. Yet they both spoke of it with a slight feeling of awe. And on the morrow they settled that they would go to the far end of the park and pay a visit to the great forest-trees which Serge had not yet seen. Albine refused to take anything along with them. They breakfasted before starting and did not set off till late. The heat of the sun, which was then great, brought them a feeling of languor, and they sauntered along gently, side by side, seeking every patch of sheltering shade. They lingered neither in the garden nor the orchard, through which they had to pass. When they gained the shady coolness beneath the big trees, they dropped into a still slower pace; and, without a word, but with a deep sigh, as though it were welcome relief to escape from the glare of day, they pushed on into the forest's depths. And when they had nothing but cool green leaves about them, when no glimpse of the sunlit expanse was afforded by any gap in the foliage, they looked at each other and smiled, with a feeling of vague uneasiness.

'How nice it is here!' murmured Serge.

Albine simply nodded her head. A choking sensation in her throat prevented her from speaking. Their arms were not passed as usual round each other's waist, but swung loosely by their sides. They walked along without touching each other, and with their heads inclined towards the ground.

But Serge suddenly stopped short on seeing tears trickle down Albine's cheeks and mingle with the smile that played around her lips.

'What is the matter with you?' he exclaimed; 'are you in pain? Have you hurt yourself?'

'No, don't you see I'm smiling? I don't know how it is, but the scent of all these trees forces tears into my eyes.' She glanced at him, and then resumed: 'Why, you're crying too! You see you can't help it.'

'Yes,' he murmured, 'all this deep shade affects one. It seems so peaceful, so mournful here that one feels a little sad. But you must tell me, you know, if anything makes you really unhappy. I have not done anything to annoy you, have I? you are not vexed with me?'

She assured him that she was not. She was quite happy, she said.

'Then why are you not enjoying yourself more? Shall we have a race?'

'Oh! no, we can't race,' she said, disdainfully, with a pout. And when he went on to suggest other amusements, such as bird-nesting or gathering strawberries or violets, she replied a little impatiently: 'We are too big for that sort of thing. It is childish to be always playing. Doesn't it please you better to walk on quietly by my side?'

She stepped along so prettily, that it was, indeed, a pleasure to hear the pit-pat of her little boots on the hard soil of the path. Never before had he paid attention to the rhythmic motion of her figure, the sweep of her skirts that followed her with serpentine motion. It was happiness never to be exhausted, to see her thus walking sedately by his side, for he was ever discovering some new charm in the lissom suppleness of her limbs.

'You are right,' he said, 'this is really the best. I would walk by your side to the end of the world, if you wished it.'

A little further on, however, he asked her if she were not tired, and hinted that he would not be sorry to have a rest himself.

'We might sit down for a few minutes,' he suggested in a stammering voice.

'No,' she replied, 'I don't want to.'

'But we might lie down, you know, as we did in the meadows the other day. We should be quite comfortable.'

'No, no; I don't want to.'

And she suddenly sprang aside, as if scared by the masculine arms outstretched towards her. Serge called her a big stupid, and tried to catch her. But at the light touch of his fingers she cried out with such an expression of pain that he drew back, trembling.

'I have hurt you?' he said.

She did not reply for a moment, surprised, herself, at her cry of fear, and already smiling at her own alarm.

'No; leave me, don't worry me;' and she added in a grave tone, though she tried to feign jocularity: 'you know that I have my tree to look for.'

Then Serge began to laugh, and offered to help her in her search. He conducted himself very gently in order that he might not again alarm her, for he saw that she was even yet trembling, though she had resumed her slow walk beside him. What they were contemplating was forbidden, and could bring them no luck; and he, like her, felt a delightful awe, which thrilled him at each repeated sigh of the forest trees. The perfume of the foliage, the soft green light which filtered through the leaves, the soughing silence of the undergrowth, filled them with tremulous excitement, as though the next turn of the path might lead them to some perilous happiness.

And for hours they walked on under the cool trees. They retained their reserved attitude towards each other, and scarcely exchanged a word, though they never left each other's side, but went together through the darkest greenery of the forest. At first their way lay through a jungle of saplings with trunks no thicker than a child's wrist. They had to push them aside, and open a path for themselves through the tender shoots which threw a wavy lacework of foliage before their eyes. The saplings closed up again behind them, leaving no trace of their passage, and they struggled on and on at random, ignorant of where they might be, and leaving nothing behind them to mark their progress, save a momentary waving of shaken boughs. Albine, weary of being unable to see more than three steps in front of her, was delighted when they at last found themselves free of this jungle, whose end they had long tried to discover. They had now reached a little clearing, whence several narrow paths, fringed with green hedges, struck out in various directions, twisting hither and thither, intersecting one another, bending and stretching in the most capricious fashion. Albine and Serge rose on tip-toes to peep over the hedges; but they were in no haste, and would willingly have stayed where they were, lost in the mazy windings, without ever getting anywhere, if they had not seen before them the proud lines of the lofty forest trees. They passed at last beneath their shade, solemnly and with a touch of sacred awe, as when one enters some vaulted cathedral. The straight lichen-stained trunks of the mighty trees, of a dingy grey, like discoloured stone, towered loftily, line by line, like a far-reaching infinity of columns. Naves opened far away, with lower, narrower aisles; naves strangely bold in their proportions, whose supporting pillars were very slender, richly caned, so finely chiselled that everywhere they allowed a glimpse of the blue heavens. A religious silence reigned beneath the giant arches, the ground below lay hard as stone in its austere nakedness; not a blade of green was there, nought but a ruddy dust of dead leaves. And Serge and Albine listened to their ringing footsteps as they went on, thrilled by the majestic solitude of this temple.

Here, indeed, if anywhere, must be the much-sought tree, beneath whose shade perfect happiness had made its home. They felt that it was nigh, such was the delight which stole through them amidst the dimness of those mighty arches. The trees seemed to be creatures of kindliness, full of strength and silence and happy restfulness. They looked at them one by one, and they loved them all; and they awaited from their majestic tranquillity some revelation whereby they themselves might grow, expand into the bliss of strong and perfect life. The maples, the ashes, the hornbeams, the cornels, formed a nation of giants, a multitude full of proud gentleness, who lived in peace, knowing that the fall of any one of them would have sufficed to wreck a whole corner of the forest. The elms displayed colossal bodies and limbs full of sap, scarce veiled by light clusters of little leaves. The birches and the alders, delicate as sylphs, swayed their slim figures in the breeze to which they surrendered the foliage that streamed around them like the locks of goddesses already half metamorphosed into trees. The planes shot up regularly with glossy tattooed bark, whence scaly fragments fell. Down a gentle slope descended the larches, resembling a band of barbarians, draped in _sayons of woven greenery. But the oaks were the monarchs of all--the mighty oaks, whose sturdy trunks thrust out conquering arms that barred the sun's approach from all around them; Titan-like trees, oft lightning-struck, thrown back in postures like those of unconquered wrestlers, with scattered limbs that alone gave birth to a whole forest.

Could the tree which Serge and Albine sought be one of those colossal oaks? or was it one of those lovely planes, or one of those pale, maidenly birches, or one of those creaking elms? Albine and Serge still plodded on, unable to tell, completely lost amongst the crowding trees. For a moment they thought they had found the object of their quest in the midst of a group of walnut trees from whose thick foliage fell so cold a shadow that they shivered beneath it. Further on they felt another thrill of emotion as they came upon a little wood of chestnut trees, green with moss and thrusting out big strange-shaped branches, on which one might have built an aerial village. But further still Albine caught sight of a clearing, whither they both ran hastily. Here, in the midst of a carpet of fine turf, a locust tree had set a very toppling of greenery, a foliaged Babel, whose ruins were covered with the strangest vegetation. Stones, sucked up from the ground by the mounting sap, still remained adhering to the trunk. High branches bent down to earth again, and, taking root, surrounded the parent tree with lofty arches, a nation of new trunks which ever increased and multiplied. Upon the bark, seared with bleeding wounds, were ripening fruit-pods; the mere effort of bearing fruit strained the old monster's skin until it split. The young folks walked slowly round it, passing under the arched branches which formed as it were the streets of a city, and stared at the gaping cracks of the naked roots. Then they went off, for they had not felt there the supernatural happiness they sought.

'Where are we?' asked Serge.

Albine did not know. She had never before come to this part of the park. They were now in a grove of cytisus and acacias, from whose clustering blossoms fell a soft, almost sugary perfume. 'We are quite lost,' she laughed. 'I don't know these trees at all.'

'But the garden must come to an end somewhere,' said Serge. 'When we get to the end, you will know where you are, won't you?'

'No,' she answered, waving her hands afar.

They fell into silence; never yet had the vastness of the park filled them with such pleasure. They joyed at knowing that they were alone in so far-spreading a domain that even they themselves could not reach its limits.

'Well, we are lost,' said Serge, gaily; then humbly drawing near her he inquired: 'You are not afraid, are you?'

'Oh! no. There's no one except you and me in the garden. What could I be afraid of? The walls are very high. We can't see them, but they guard us, you know.'

Serge was now quite close to her, and he murmured, 'But a little time ago you were afraid of me.'

She looked him straight in the face, perfectly calm, without the least faltering in her glance. 'You hurt me,' she replied, 'but you are different now. Why should I be afraid of you?'

'Then you will let me hold you like this. We will go back under the trees.'

'Yes, you may put your arm around me, it makes me feel happy. And we'll walk slowly, eh? so that we may not find our way again too soon.'

He had passed his arm round her waist, and it was thus that they sauntered back to the shade of the great forest trees, under whose arching vaults they slowly went, with love awakening within them. Albine said that she felt a little tired, and rested her head on Serge's shoulder. The fabulous tree was now forgotten. They only sought to draw their faces nearer together that they might smile in one another's eyes. And it was the trees, the maples, the elms, the oaks, with their soft green shade, that whisperingly suggested to them the first words of love.

'I love you!' said Serge, while his breath stirred the golden hair that clustered round Albine's temples. He tried to think of other words, but he could only repeat, 'I love you! I love you!'

Albine listened with a delightful smile upon her face. The music of her heart was in accord with his.

'I love you! I love you!' she sighed, with all the sweetness of her soft young voice.

Then, lifting up her blue eyes, in which the light of love was dawning, she asked, 'How do you love me?'

Serge reflected for a moment. The forest was wrapped in solemn quietude, the lofty naves quivered only with the soft footsteps of the young pair.

'I love you beyond everything,' he answered. 'You are more beautiful than all else that I see when I open my window in the morning. When I look at you, I want nothing more. If I could have you only, I should be perfectly happy.'

She lowered her eyes, and swayed her head as if accompanying a strain of music. 'I love you,' he went on. 'I know nothing about you. I know not who you are, nor whence you came. You are neither my mother nor my sister; and yet I love you to a point that I have given you my whole heart and kept nought of it for others. Listen, I love those cheeks of yours, so soft and satiny; I love your mouth with its rose-sweet breath; I love your eyes, in which I see my own love reflected; I love even your eyelashes, even those little veins which blue the whiteness of your temples. Ah! yes, I love you, I love you, Albine.'

'And I love you, too,' she answered. 'You are strong, and tall, and handsome. I love you, Serge.'

For a moment or two they remained silent, enraptured. It seemed to them that soft, flute-like music went before them, that their own words came from some dulcet orchestra which they could not see. Shorter and shorter became their steps as they leaned one towards the other, ever threading their way amidst the mighty trees. Afar off through the long vista of the colonnades were glimpses of waning sunlight, showing like a procession of white-robed maidens entering church for a betrothal ceremony amid the low strains of an organ.

'And why do you love me?' asked Albine again.

He only smiled, and did not answer her immediately; then he said, 'I love you because you came to me. That expresses all. . . . Now we are together and we love one another. It seems to me that I could not go on living if I did not love you. You are the very breath of my life.'

He bent his head, speaking almost as though he were in a dream.

'One does not know all that at first. It grows up in one as one's heart grows. One has to grow, one has to get strong. . . . Do you remember how we loved one another though we didn't speak of it? One is childish and silly at first. Then, one fine day, it all becomes clear, and bursts out. You see, we have nothing to trouble about; we love one another because our love and our life are one.'

Albine's head was cast back, her eyes were tightly closed, and she scarce drew her breath. Serge's caressing words enraptured her: 'Do you really, really love me?' she murmured, without opening her eyes.

Serge remained silent, sorely troubled that he could find nothing further to say to prove to her the force of his love. His eyes wandered over her rosy face, which lay upon his shoulder with the restfulness of sleep. Her eyelids were soft as silk. Her moist lips were curved into a bewitching smile, her brow was pure white, with just a rim of gold below her hair. He would have liked to give his whole being with the word which seemed to be upon his tongue but which he could not utter. Again he bent over her, and seemed to consider on what sweet spot of that fair face he should whisper the supreme syllables. But he said nothing, he only breathed a little sigh. Then he kissed Albine's lips.

'Albine, I love you!'

'I love you, Serge!'

Then they stopped short, thrilled, quivering with that first love kiss. She had opened her eyes quite widely. He was standing with his lips protruding slightly towards hers. They looked at each other without a blush. They felt they were under the influence of some sovereign power. It was like the realisation of a long dreamt-of meeting, in which they beheld themselves grown, made one for the other, for ever joined. For a moment they remained wondering, raising their eyes to the solemn vault of greenery above them, questioning the tranquil nation of trees as if seeking an echo of their kiss. But, beneath the serene complacence of the forest, they yielded to prolonged, ringing lovers' gaiety, full of all the tenderness now born.

'Tell me how long you have loved me. Tell me everything. Did you love me that day when you lay sleeping upon my hand? Did you love me when I fell out of the cherry tree, and you stood beneath it, stretching out your arms to catch me, and looking so pale? Did you love me when you took hold of me round the waist in the meadows to help me over the streams?'

'Hush, let me speak. I have always loved you. And you, did you love me; did you?'

Until the evening closed round them they lived upon that one word 'love,' in which they ever seemed to find some new sweetness. They brought it into every sentence, ejaculated it inconsequentially, merely for the pleasure they found in pronouncing it. Serge, however, did not think of pressing a second kiss to Albine's lips. The perfume of the first sufficed them in their purity. They had found their way again, or rather had stumbled upon it, for they had paid no attention to the paths they took. As they left the forest, twilight had fallen, and the moon was rising, round and yellow, between the black foliage. It was a delightful walk home through the park, with that discreet luminary peering at them through the gaps in the big trees. Albine said that the moon was surely following them. The night was balmy, warm too with stars. Far away a long murmur rose from the forest trees, and Serge listened, thinking: 'They are talking of us.'

When they reached the parterre, they passed through an atmosphere of sweetest perfumes; the perfume of flowers at night, which is richer, more caressing than by day, and seems like the very breath of slumber.

'Good night, Serge.'

'Good night, Albine.'

They clasped each other by the hand on the landing of the first floor, without entering the room where they usually wished each other good night. They did not kiss. But Serge, when he was alone, remained seated on the edge of his bed, listening to Albine's every movement in the room above. He was weary with happiness, a happiness that benumbed his limbs.

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Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 2 - Chapter 12 Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 2 - Chapter 12

Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 2 - Chapter 12
BOOK II CHAPTER XIIFor the next few days Albine and Serge experienced a feeling of embarrassment. They avoided all allusion to their walk beneath the trees. They had not again kissed each other, or repeated their confession of love. It was not any feeling of shame which had sealed their lips, but rather a fear of in any way spoiling their happiness. When they were apart, they lived upon the dear recollection of love's awakening, plunged into it, passed once more through the happy hours which they had spent, with their arms around each other's waist, and their faces close together.
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Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 2 - Chapter 10 Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 2 - Chapter 10

Abbe Mouret's Transgression (la Faute De L'abbe Mouret) - Book 2 - Chapter 10
BOOK II CHAPTER XA week later there was another expedition to the park. They had planned to extend their rambles beyond the orchard, striking out to the left through the meadows watered by the four streams. They would travel several miles over the thick grass, and they might live on fish, if they happened to lose themselves. 'I will take my knife,' said Albine, holding up a broad-bladed peasant's knife. She crammed all kinds of things into her pockets, string, bread, matches, a small bottle of wine, some rags, a comb, and some needles. Serge took a rug, but by the
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