Lazare found himself in the enclosure of the castle. At once he arrived at the great gate of the castle. Opposite this gate and facing the road was a wide sycamore grove with a snow-white canopy. This park, shadowing it, extended up to the hill, from which the figure of the castle could be seen. Next to the pavilion next to the second gate was a small gatehouse, I guess for the servants. Now the monk rang the bell in this corridor.
A porter came, opened the door and asked in amazement:
— What do you want, dear brother?
— I would like to speak to Miss Sartilly, replied Lazare.
— Miss Sartilly herself?
— Yes, if that’s possible.
— I don’t know if the lady will receive you right now, but in any case I will inform her aunt, Countess Manzanil, who will probably receive you with pleasure. Do you want to follow me?
And the gatekeeper started walking down the sycamore park road.
Lazare followed with downcast eyes. He did not dare to look at the green lawns and flower arrangements. Such splendor frightened the poor monk, who had spent years in a hole and a gloomy monastery. What could he do in this foreign castle? Wasn’t his intrusion there an unheard of intrusion? What could he say to Miss Sartilly if he could be spoken to? Why did he imagine this castle maid singing in the park? Doesn’t such a lady hold herself in high esteem? Would he throw half an apple?
Lazare shuddered. His steps became slower and slower as if he wanted to turn back. But he heard the clock in the church tower strike 10, and the thought again shifted to Martin, who, shooting, was waiting for his rescue. This gave him the courage to follow the gatekeeper again.
They came to the castle. He noticed the large main building and the red-roofed barns in the distance.
— Please come in! — said the gatekeeper and opened the door for
Lazare. — I will immediately report you to the countess.
The monk found himself in a long, oval room furnished with high leather-covered chairs. His heart was beating violently. Before long, he saw an old woman enter, after which the servant closed the door behind her. He was tall, thin, manly looking. When he spoke, Lazare noticed at once to his delight that it was not yesterday’s voice. What a mistake it would have been to think that this ugly, withered and unpleasant woman could have the kind of voice that had enchanted him yesterday!
The woman, clearly breaking into Spanish, crocheted:
— Sit down, dear brother! You want to talk to me?
— No, madam — answered the monk innocently — I want to speak with Miss Sartilly and make a request to her.
The old countess looked that remarkable stranger straight in the eyes.
Then he stood up and said:
— Good, I’ll let my niece know.
And Lazare did not understand that he had insulted the old lady.
He was left alone. He crossed his fingers. It started with a buzzing in his ears and objects seemed to dance around him. He had never been in such a mental state before, and he was already beginning to fear that he would faint in front of the castle nurse.
But soon he got up. Light steps were heard, the door suddenly opened and Lazare felt something white, light and airy left in the room, swaying towards him.
— Did you want to talk to me? Here I am. Sit here.
I’m happy to listen to you.
Lazare half closed his eyes It was a voice ! The young monk’s lips turned white, and he could not squeeze out a single word.
The little white creature meanwhile had sat down and seemed to be waiting, moving back and forth its little foot, which Lazare could see sticking out from under the pale dress.
The voice started again a little impatiently.
— I heard that you have a request to make to me. What is it about? I am prepared to listen.
— My lady — said Lazare, and his voice became so weak that it surprised even him — I have not spoken to a woman for eight years, and I tremble to appear before you. Be generous and forgive me for approaching you! I am only a poor monk from the monastery of Montségur, and I must have never seen a young lady in my life. But I have been very unhappy since yesterday and have forgotten my promise for one day. My lady, it is in your power to give the poor monk, who will soon live in poverty and denial, the only earthly happiness he can still hope for himself. Be a freak if I talk confusedly and act stupid. What I would like to say will seem very childish to you and you may laugh at it. Have mercy, Miss Sartilly, don’t you think I’m too intrusive or too ridiculous! I would like to talk to you about a certain animal, a bullfrog from my home region, who came to the monastery at the same time as me, and who would come to be killed in the evening, unless I happen to find some knowledgeable creature who would like to buy it. It is already an old bull that has worked for my late parents. And I’m attached to it. It evokes in me all the memories that are dear to my heart, and it feels as if they wanted to kill my youth with it. To save it, I have disobeyed my superiors, I have broken the rules of order, I have committed grave sins. I have escaped from the convent and spent most of the night in search of my bull, which indeed I found in a few stables in Montségur. Miss Sartilly, this ox now belongs to M. Dubourdieu, the village butcher. It is strong and worthy and knows how to work; it doesn’t kick and doesn’t eat much. It is pious and tuneful like a sheep so that even a child could drive it. Be merciful to me and to it! Buy it and keep it for a few days. And if you are not satisfied with its working, I will come in 8 days to take it back, when my grandfather, who is rich, and whom I hope to persuade, will give the 400 francs necessary to buy it.
Lazare fell silent. He was very pale. He had never once dared to look at the young girl, and his heart seemed to stop beating. But he heard a light, spirit-like being moving towards him, and a voice said:
— I like your bull and I want to get to know it.
Miss stretched out her right hand and pressed the button of the bell,
A chambermaid came forward.
— Has Mr. Peyroux gone out yet, asked the voice.
— No, miss.
— Ask him to come here at once.
And the voice added by way of explanation:
— Mr. Peyroux is my representative. He can come with you
A little gentleman appeared.
— Mr. Peyroux, please follow this Lord and buy the bull he shows you at my expense!
When Lazare heard these words, he wanted to speak, but could not get a word out. Her eyes filled with tears.
— Go now, dear brother, said the voice , also a little moved.
You can thank me another time.
And the white, light, spirit-like being disappeared like a spring cloud.