ADVENTURES OF THE LETTER U DELIVERED OVER TO CONJECTURES
Isolation, detachment, from everything, pride, independence,
the taste of nature, the absence of daily and material activity,
the life within himself, the secret conflicts of chastity,
a benevolent ecstasy towards all creation, had prepared Marius
for this possession which is called passion. His worship of his
father had gradually become a religion, and, like all religions,
it had retreated to the depths of his soul. Something was required
in the foreground. Love came.
A full month elapsed, during which Marius went every day to
the Luxembourg. When the hour arrived, nothing could hold him
back.--"He is on duty," said Courfeyrac. Marius lived in a state
of delight. It is certain that the young girl did look at him.
He had finally grown bold, and approached the bench. Still, he did
not pass in front of it any more, in obedience to the instinct
of timidity and to the instinct of prudence common to lovers.
He considered it better not to attract "the attention of the father."
He combined his stations behind the trees and the pedestals of
the statues with a profound diplomacy, so that he might be seen
as much as possible by the young girl and as little as possible
by the old gentleman. Sometimes, he remained motionless by the
half-hour together in the shade of a Leonidas or a Spartacus,
holding in his hand a book, above which his eyes, gently raised,
sought the beautiful girl, and she, on her side, turned her charming
profile towards him with a vague smile. While conversing in the most
natural and tranquil manner in the world with the white-haired man,
she bent upon Marius all the reveries of a virginal and passionate eye.
Ancient and time-honored manoeuvre which Eve understood from the
very first day of the world, and which every woman understands
from the very first day of her life! her mouth replied to one,
and her glance replied to another.
It must be supposed, that M. Leblanc finally noticed something,
for often, when Marius arrived, he rose and began to walk about.
He had abandoned their accustomed place and had adopted the bench
by the Gladiator, near the other end of the walk, as though with
the object of seeing whether Marius would pursue them thither.
Marius did not understand, and committed this error. "The father"
began to grow inexact, and no longer brought "his daughter"
every day. Sometimes, he came alone. Then Marius did not stay.
Marius paid no heed to these symptoms. From the phase of timidity,
he had passed, by a natural and fatal progress, to the phase
of blindness. His love increased. He dreamed of it every night.
And then, an unexpected bliss had happened to him, oil on the fire,
a redoubling of the shadows over his eyes. One evening, at dusk,
he had found, on the bench which "M. Leblanc and his daughter"
had just quitted, a handkerchief, a very simple handkerchief,
without embroidery, but white, and fine, and which seemed to
him to exhale ineffable perfume. He seized it with rapture.
This handkerchief was marked with the letters U. F. Marius knew
nothing about this beautiful child,--neither her family name,
her Christian name nor her abode; these two letters were the first
thing of her that he had gained possession of, adorable initials,
upon which he immediately began to construct his scaffolding.
U was evidently the Christian name. "Ursule!" he thought,
"what a delicious name!" He kissed the handkerchief, drank it in,
placed it on his heart, on his flesh, during the day, and at night,
laid it beneath his lips that he might fall asleep on it.
"I feel that her whole soul lies within it!" he exclaimed.
This handkerchief belonged to the old gentleman, who had simply
let it fall from his pocket.
In the days which followed the finding of this treasure, he only
displayed himself at the Luxembourg in the act of kissing the
handkerchief and laying it on his heart. The beautiful child understood
nothing of all this, and signified it to him by imperceptible signs.
"O modesty!" said Marius.