She prayed to him, wildly, at first, stammering forth words of true, passionate, and despairing invocations.
Then, the ardor of her appeal slackening, she raised her eyes towards him, and was struck with anguish.
He resembled Pretty-boy so strongly, in the trembling light of this solitary candle, lighting the picture from below, that it was no longer Christ--it was her lover who was looking at her.
They were his eyes, his forehead, the expression of his face, his cold and haughty air.
She stammered: "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!" and the name
"George" rose to her lips.
All at once she thought that at that very moment, perhaps, George had her daughter.
He was alone with her somewhere.
He with Susan!
She repeated: "Jesus, Jesus!" but she was thinking of them--her daughter and her lover.
They were alone in a room, and at night.
She saw them.
She saw them so plainly that they rose up before her in place of the picture.
They were smiling at one another.
They were embracing.
She rose to go towards them, to take her daughter by the hair and tear her from his clasp.
She would seize her by the throat and strangle her, this daughter whom she hated--this daughter who was joining herself to this man.
She touched her; her hands encountered the canvas; she was pressing the feet of Christ.
She uttered a loud cry and fell on her back.
Her candle, overturned, went out.
What took place then?
She dreamed for a long time wild, frightful dreams.
George and Susan continually passed before her eyes, with Christ blessing their horrible loves.
She felt vaguely that she was not in her room.
She wished to rise and flee; she could not.
A torpor had seized upon her, which fettered her limbs, and only left her mind on the alert, tortured by frightful and fantastic visions, lost in an unhealthy dream--the strange and sometimes fatal dream engendered in human minds by the soporific plants of the tropics, with their strange and oppressive perfumes.
The next morning Madame Walter was found stretched out senseless, almost asphyxiated before "Jesus Walking on the Waters."
She was so ill that her life was feared for.
She only fully recovered the use of her senses the following day.
Then she began to weep.
The disappearance of Susan was explained to the servants as due to her being suddenly sent back to the convent.
And Monsieur Walter replied to a long letter of Du Roy by granting him his daughter's hand.
Pretty-boy had posted this letter at the moment of leaving Paris, for he had prepared it in advance the evening of his departure.
He said in it, in respectful terms, that he had long loved the young girl; that there had never been any agreement between them; but that finding her come freely to him to say,
"I wish to be your wife," he considered himself authorized in keeping her, even in hiding her, until he had obtained an answer from her parents, whose legal power had for him less weight than the wish of his betrothed.
He demanded that Monsieur Walter should reply, "post restante," a friend being charged to forward the letter to him.
When he had obtained what he wished he brought back Susan to Paris, and sent her on to her parents, abstaining himself from appearing for some little time.
They had spent six days on the banks of the Seine at La Roche-Guyon.
The young girl had never enjoyed herself so much.
She had played at pastoral life.
As he passed her off as his sister, they lived in a free and chaste intimacy--a kind of loving friendship.
He thought it a clever stroke to respect her.
On the day after their arrival she had purchased some linen and some country-girl's clothes, and set to work fishing, with a huge straw hat, ornamented with wild flowers, on her head.
She thought the country there delightful.
There was an old tower and an old chateau, in which beautiful tapestry was shown.
George, dressed in a boating jersey, bought ready-made from a local tradesman, escorted Susan, now on foot along the banks of the river, now in a boat.
They kissed at every moment, she in all innocence, and he ready to succumb to temptation.
But he was able to restrain himself; and when he said to her,
"We will go back to Paris to-morrow; your father has granted me your hand," she murmured simply,