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II

Gallop! Gallop! The General brooks no delay. Make way, good people, and scatter out of his path, you, and your hens, and your dogs, and your children. The General is returned from Egypt, and is come in a `caleche' and four to visit his new property. Throw open the gates, you, Porter of Malmaison. Pull off your cap, my man, this is your master, the husband of Madame. Faster! Faster! A jerk and a jingle and they are arrived, he and she. Madame has red eyes. Fie! It is for joy at her husband's return. Learn your place, Porter. A gentleman here for two months? Fie! Fie, then! Since when have you taken to gossiping. Madame may have a brother, I suppose. That — all green, and red, and glitter, with flesh as dark as ebony — that is a slave; a bloodthirsty, stabbing, slashing heathen, come from the hot countries to cure your tongue of idle whispering.

A fine afternoon it is, with tall bright clouds sailing over the trees.

"Bonaparte, mon ami, the trees are golden like my star, the star I pinned to your destiny when I married you. The gypsy, you remember her prophecy! My dear friend, not here, the servants are watching; send them away, and that flashing splendour, Roustan. Superb — Imperial, but . . . My dear, your arm is trembling; I faint to feel it touching me! No, no, Bonaparte, not that — spare me that — did we not bury that last night! You hurt me, my friend, you are so hot and strong. Not long, Dear, no, thank God, not long."

The looped river runs saffron, for the sun is setting. It is getting dark. Dark. Darker. In the moonlight, the slate roof shines palely milkily white.

The roses have faded at Malmaison, nipped by the frost. What need for roses? Smooth, open petals — her arms. Fragrant, outcurved petals — her breasts. He rises like a sun above her, stooping to touch the petals, press them wider. Eagles. Bees. What are they to open roses! A little shivering breeze runs through the linden-trees, and the tiered clouds blow across the sky like ships of the line, stately with canvas.

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