It was close to midnight when, surprised, I heard the tinkling of bells, the sound of an approaching carriage. The wet earth sloshed under the horses' hoofs. With a torch in my hand, I went to the front door. Marianne sprang from the carriage; she was alone.
"What brings you home so early?" I asked.
She walked past me without kissing me, without even looking at me. I followed her into the library. She went over to the fire; she appeared to be shivering.
"Are you cold?" I asked, touching her hand.
She quickly recoiled. "No."
She turned her face toward me. Under her black hood, she was very pae, She looked at me as if she were seeing me for the first time. I had seen that expression in other eyes. It was horror.
"What's wrong," I repeated. But I knew.
"Is it true?" she asked.
"What are you talking about?"
"What Bompard told me, is it true?"
"You saw Bompard? Where?"
"A messenger brought a letter to the house. I went to his flat. I found him there sitting in a chair, paralyzed. He told me he wanted to take his revenge on you before dying." She spoke haltingly. Her eyes glared at me with hostility. She drew close. "He's right," she said. "Not a wrinkle on your face." She held out her hand and touched my hair. "It's been dyed, hasn't it?"
"What did he tell you?"
"Everything. Carmona, Charles V... It seems incredible. Is it true?"
"It's true," I said, dejectedly.
"True!" She recoiled a step and stared at me with wild, frightened eyes.
"Don't look at me like that, Marianne. I'm not a ghost."
"A ghost would be less of a stranger to me than you," she said slowly.
"Marianne! We love each other," I said in desperation. "Nothing can bring a love like ours to ruin. What does the past matter? Or the future? What Bompard told you changes absolutely nothing between us."
"Everything is changed, forever." She fell into a chair and hid her face in her hands. "Ah! I'd rather you were dead!"
I kneeled down in front of her and spread her hands apart. "Look at me," I said. "Don't you know me? It's I, your husband, the same man you were with earlier this evening."
"Why did you hide the truth from me?" she said vehemently.
"If I hadn't, would you have loved me?"
"Why not?" I asked. "Do you believe I'm accursed? Is there a demon inside me?"
"I gave myself to you completely," she said. "And I believed you had given yourself completely to me, in life as well as in death. And you were only lending yourself to me for a few scant years." A sob choked her voice. "Just another woman among millions. One day you won't even remember my name. And it will still be you. It will be you and no one else." She stood up. "No! No! It's not possible!" she cried out.
"Darling, listen to me. You know I belong to you alone. I've never belonged to anyone else like this, and I never will again."
I took her in my arms and she abandoned herself to me with a sort of indifference. She looked deathly tired.
"Listen," I said. "Listen to me!" She nodded her head. "You know that before I met you I was dead. It was you who brought me to life. And when you'll have left me, I'll become a phantom again."
"You weren't dead," she said, tearing herself away from me. "And you'll never really be a phantom. Never for a moment were you like me, like everyone else. Everything was false."
"You could never make a mortal man suffer more than I'm suffering right now," I said. "None of them could ever have loved you like I love you."
"Everything was false," she repeated. "Your suffering is of a different kind than mine, and you love me from the depths of another world. You're lost to me, lost."
"No," I said. "We've just found each other, because now we'll live in truth."
"There can be no truth between you and me."
"My love is true."
"What is your love?" she said scornfully. "When two mortal beings love each other, that love molds them together body and soul; it's their very substance. But for you, it's... it's an accident." She pressed her hand against her brow. "Oh, God! How alone I am!"
"I'm alone, too," I said.
For a long moment we sat side by side without speaking. Tears were trickling down her cheeks.
"Have you tried to understand what my lot in life is?" I asked.
"Yes," she answered. She looked at me and her face twisted and shuddered in horror. "It's terrible."
"Don't you want to help me?"
"Help you?" She shrugged her shoulders. "I can help you for ten or twenty years. But what's that?"
"You can give me strength for centuries."
"And after that? Another woman will come to your help." Passionately, she added, "All I want is to stop loving you."
"Forgive me," I said. "Please forgive me. I had no right to force so unhappy a destiny on you."
Tears formed in my eyes. She threw herself into my arms and began to sob desperately.
"And I can't even hope for another destiny," she said.
—Simone de Beauvoir, All Men Are Mortal, p. 276