The Right of Way by Gilbert Parker
Chapter LIII. The Seigneur and the Cure Have a Suspicion
Presently the Seigneur and the Cure stood before the door of the tailor- shop. The Cure was about to knock, when the Seigneur laid a hand upon his arm.
"There is no use; he has been gone several days," he said.
"Gone--gone!" said the Cure.
"I came to see him yesterday, and not finding him, I asked at the post- office." M. Rossignol's voice lowered. "He told Mrs. Flynn he was going into the hills, so Rosalie says."
The Cure's face fell. "He went away also just before the play began. I almost fear that--that we get no nearer. His mind prompts him to do good and not evil, and yet--and yet. . . . I have dreamed a good dream, Maurice, but I sometimes fear I have dreamed in vain."
M. Loisel looked towards the post-office musingly. "I have thought sometimes that what man's prayers may not accomplish a woman's love might do. If--but, alas, what do we know of his past! Nothing. What do we know of his future? Nothing. What do we know of the human heart? Nothing--nothing!"
The Seigneur was astounded. The Cure's meaning was plain. "What do you mean?" he asked, almost gruffly.
"She--Rosalie--has changed--changed." In his heart he dwelt sorrowfully upon the fact that she had not been to confession to him for many, many months.
"Since her father's death--since her illness?"
"Since she went to Montreal seven months ago. Even while she was so ill these past weeks, she never asked for me; and when I came . . . Ah, if it is that her heart has gone out to the man, and his does not respond!"
"A good thing, too!" said the other gloomily. "We don't know where he came from, and we do know that he is a pagan."
"Yet there she sits now, hour after hour, day after day--so changed."
"She has lost her father," urged M. Rossignol anxiously.
"I know the grief of children--this is not such a grief. There is something more. But I cannot ask. If she were a sinner--but she is without fault. Have we not watched her grow up here, mirthful, brave, pure-souled--"
"Fitted for any station," interposed the Seigneur huskily. Presently he laid a hand upon the Cure's arm. "Shall I ask her again?" he said, breathing hard. "Do you think she has found out her mistake?"
The Cure was so taken aback that at first he could not speak. When he realised, however, he could scarce suppress a smile at the other's simple vanity. But he mastered himself, and said: "It is not that, Maurice. It is not you."
"How did you know I had asked her?" asked his friend querulously.
"You have just told me."
M. Rossignol felt a kind of reproval in the Cure's tone. It made him a little nervous. "I'm an old fool, but she needed some one," he protested. "At least I am a gentleman, and she would not be thrown away."
"Dear Maurice!" said the Cure, and linked his arm in the other's. "In all respects save one, it would have been to her advantage. But youth is the only comrade for youth. All else is evasion of life's laws."
The Seigneur pressed his arm. "I thought you less worldly-wise than myself; I find you more," he said.
"Not worldly-wise. Life is deeper than the world or worldly wisdom. Come, we will both go and see Rosalie."
M. Rossignol suddenly stopped at the post-office door, and half turned towards the tailor-shop. "He is young. Suppose that he drew her love his way, but gave her nothing in return, and--"
"If it were so"--the Cure paused, and his face darkened--"if it were so, he should leave her forever; and so my dream would end."
"Rosalie would forget. To remember, youth must see and touch and be near, else it wears itself out in excess of feeling. Youth feels more deeply than age, but it must bear daily witness."
"Upon my honour, Cure, you shall write your little philosophies for the world," said M. Rossignol, and then knocked at the door.
"I will go in alone, Maurice," the Cure urged. "Good-you are right," answered the other. "I will go write the proclamation denying strangers the valley after Wednesday. I will enforce it, too," he added, with vigour, and, turning, walked up the street, as Mrs. Flynn admitted the Cure to the post-office.
A half-hour later M. Loisel again appeared at the post-office door, a pale, beautiful face at his shoulder.
He had not been brave enough to say what was on his mind. But as he bade her good-bye, he plucked up needful courage.
"Forgive me, Rosalie," he said, "but I have sometimes thought that you have more griefs than one. I have thought"--he paused, then went on bravely--"that there might be--there might be unwelcomed love, or love deceived."
A mist came before her eyes, but she quietly and firmly answered: "I have never been deceived in love, Monsieur Loisel."
"There, there!" he hurriedly and gently rejoined. "Do not be hurt, my child. I only want to help you." A moment afterwards he was gone.
As the door closed behind him, she drew herself proudly up.
"I have never been deceived," she said aloud. "I love him--love him--love him."