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 Mademoiselle Source had adopted this boy under very sad circumstances. She was at the time thirty-six years old. Being disfigured through having as a child slipped off her nurse's lap into the fireplace and burned her face shockingly, she had determined1 not to marry, for she did not want any man to marry her for her money.  
A neighbor of hers, left a widow just before her child was born, died in giving birth, without leaving a sou. Mademoiselle Source took the new-born child, put him out to nurse, reared him, sent him to a boarding-school, then brought him home in his fourteenth year, in order to have in her empty house somebody who would love her, who would look after her, and make her old age pleasant.
She had a little country place four leagues from Rennes, and she now dispensed2 with a servant; her expenses having increased to more than double since this orphan3's arrival, her income of three thousand francs was no longer sufficient to support three persons.
She attended to the housekeeping and cooking herself, and sent out the boy on errands, letting him also occupy himself in cultivating the garden. He was gentle, timid, silent, and affectionate. And she experienced a deep happiness, a fresh happiness when he kissed her without surprise or horror at her disfigurement. He called her “Aunt,” and treated her as a mother.
In the evening they both sat down at the fireside, and she made nice little dainties for him. She heated some wine and toasted a slice of bread, and it made a charming little meal before going to bed. She often took him on her knees and covered him with kisses, murmuring tender words in his ear. She called him: “My little flower, my cherub4, my adored angel, my divine jewel.” He softly accepted her caresses5, hiding his head on the old maid's shoulder. Although he was now nearly fifteen, he had remained small and weak, and had a rather sickly appearance.
Sometimes Mademoiselle Source took him to the city, to see two married female relatives of hers, distant cousins, who were living in the suburbs, and who were the only members of her family in existence. The two women had always found fault with her, for having adopted this boy, on account of the inheritance; but for all that, they gave her a cordial welcome, having still hopes of getting a share for themselves, a third, no doubt, if what she possessed6 were only equally divided.
She was happy, very happy, always occupied with her adopted child. She bought books for him to improve his mind, and he became passionately7 fond of reading.
He no longer climbed on her knee to pet her as he had formerly8 done; but, instead, would go and sit down in his little chair in the chimney-corner and open a volume. The lamp placed at the edge of the Tittle table above his head shone on his curly hair, and on a portion of his forehead; he did not move, he did not raise his eyes or make any gesture. He read on, interested, entirely9 absorbed in the story he was reading.
Seated opposite to him, she would gaze at him earnestly, astonished at his studiousness, often on the point of bursting into tears.
She said to him occasionally: “You will fatigue10 yourself, my treasure!” hoping that he would raise his head, and come across to embrace her; but he did not even answer her; he had not heard or understood what she was saying; he paid no attention to anything save what he read in those pages.
For two years he devoured11 an incalculable number of volumes. His character changed.
After this, he asked Mademoiselle Source several times for money, which she gave him. As he always wanted more, she ended by refusing, for she was both methodical and decided12, and knew how to act rationally when it was necessary to do so. By dint13 of entreaties14 he obtained a large sum from her one night; but when he begged her for more a few days later, she showed herself inflexible15, and did not give way to him further, in fact.
He appeared to be satisfied with her decision.
He again became quiet, as he had formerly been, remaining seated for entire hours, without moving, plunged16 in deep reverie. He now did not even talk to Madame Source, merely answering her remarks with short, formal words. Nevertheless, he was agreeable and attentive17 in his manner toward her; but he never embraced her now.
She had by this time grown slightly afraid of him when they sat facing one another at night on opposite sides of the fireplace. She wanted to wake him up, to make him say something, no matter what, that would break this dreadful silence, which was like the darkness of a wood. But he did not appear to listen to her, and she shuddered18 with the terror of a poor feeble woman when she had spoken to him five or six times successively without being able to get a word out of him.
What was the matter with him? What was going on in that closed-up head? When she had remained thus two or three hours opposite him, she felt as if she were going insane, and longed to rush away and to escape into the open country in order to avoid that mute, eternal companionship and also some vague danger, which she could not define, but of which she had a presentiment19.
She frequently wept when she was alone. What was the matter with him? When she expressed a wish, he unmurmuringly carried it into execution. When she wanted anything brought from the city, he immediately went there to procure20 it. She had no complaint to make of him; no, indeed! And yet—
Another year flitted by, and it seemed to her that a fresh change had taken place in the mind of the young man. She perceived it; she felt it; she divined it. How? No matter! She was sure she was not mistaken; but she could not have explained in what manner the unknown thoughts of this strange youth had changed.
It seemed to her that, until now, he had been like a person in a hesitating frame of mind, who had suddenly arrived at a determination. This idea came to her one evening as she met his glance, a fixed21, singular glance which she had not seen in his face before.
Then he commenced to watch her incessantly22, and she wished she could hide herself in order to avoid that cold eye riveted23 on her.
He kept staring at her, evening after evening, for hours together, only averting24 his eyes when she said, utterly25 unnerved:
“Do not look at me like that, my child!”
Then he would lower his head.
But the moment her back was turned she once more felt that his eyes were upon her. Wherever she went, he pursued her with his persistent26 gaze.
Sometimes, when she was walking in her little garden, she suddenly noticed him hidden behind a bush, as if he were lying in wait for her; and, again, when she sat in front of the house mending stockings while he was digging some vegetable bed, he kept continually watching her in a surreptitious manner, as he worked.
It was in vain that she asked him:
“What's the matter with you, my boy? For the last three years, you have become very different. I don't recognize you. Do tell me what ails27 you, and what you are thinking of.”
He invariably replied, in a quiet, weary ............
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