Third great adventure
June 22, 2020
A few days before St. Louis Day, Julien, walking alone and saying his breviary in a small wood called the Belvedere, which dominates the Cours de la Fidélité, had tried in vain to avoid his two brothers, whom he saw coming from afar along a solitary path. The jealousy of these coarse workers had been so provoked by their brother's beautiful black habit, by his extremely clean air, by the sincere contempt he had for them, that they had beaten him to the point of leaving him unconscious and all bloody. Mrs. de Rênal, walking with Mr. Valenod and the sub-prefect, arrived by chance in the small wood; she saw Julien lying on the ground and thought he was dead. Her seizure was such that it gave jealousy to Mr. Valenod.
In a small town of the Aveyron or the Pyrenees, the slightest incident would have been made decisive by the fire of the climate. Under our darker skies, a poor young man, and who is only ambitious because the delicacy of his heart makes him need some of the pleasures that money gives, sees every day a thirty year old woman, sincerely wise, busy with her children, and who does not take in the novels any examples of conduct. Everything goes slowly, everything is done little by little in the provinces, there is more naturalness.
As soon as he arrives in Verrières, Julien reproaches himself for his injustice towards Mme de Rênal. I would have despised her like a sissy if, out of weakness, she had missed her scene with Mr de Rênal! She gets away with it like a diplomat, and I sympathize with the vanquished who is my enemy. There is in my fact bourgeois smallness; my vanity is shocked, because Mr. de Rênal is a man! illustrious and vast corporation to which I have the honor to belong; I am only a fool.
Mrs. de Rênal shivers. Her husband was four steps away, she hastened to give her hand to Julien, and at the same time to push him away a little. As Mr. de Rênal continued his insults against people of nothing and the Jacobins who are getting rich, Julien covered the hand that had been left to him with passionate kisses, or at least that seemed like that to Mme de Rênal. However, the poor woman had had the proof, on that fatal day, that the man she adored without admitting it loved elsewhere! Throughout Julien's absence, she had been in the grip of extreme misfortune, which had made her think.
Two games of billiards were in progress. The boys were shouting out the points; the players were running around the billiard tables crowded with spectators. Floods of tobacco smoke from everyone's mouths enveloped them in a blue cloud. The high stature of these men, their rounded shoulders, their heavy gait, their huge sideburns, the long redingotes that covered them, all attracted Julien's attention. These noble children of the ancient Bisontium spoke only in shouting; they gave themselves the air of terrible warriors. Julian admired motionless; he thought of the immensity and magnificence of a great capital such as Besançon. He did not feel at all brave enough to ask for a cup of coffee from one of those gentlemen with a haughty look, who were shouting the points of the billiard table.