« PoprzedniaDalej »
promptly replied in the negative, somewhat appeased by a request which she thought would justify her in addressing a similar one
He tore open the seal; but had not read ten lines, before he franticly threw the treacherous paper upon the table, and rushed wildly from her presence; leaving her both astonished and terrified by his singular conduct. In the hope of resolving her doubts, tremblingly and anxiously she seized the pernicious sheet which had produced such fatal effects, and hurriedly read the following “ mystification :"
« Ma chère amie,
“ We were all au désespoir at your sudden indisposition last night ; but your old adorer, M. de Melfort, was still more affected than any of us; another instance of fidelity, which again proves the truth of the old song,
Qu'on revient toujours
“ The poor man looked so disconsolate when you withdrew, that we were compelled in charity to do all we could to cheer him. I hope that you are better to-day; and that you will always believe in the attachment of
« Your devoted friend,
" MARIA L'ESTRANGE."
This note conveyed to Madame de St. Armand the first intimation of M. de Melfort's
return to France; a circumstance, however,
which was so perfectly indifferent to her, that she looked upon this announcement of it merely as a mauvaise plaisanterie of Madame de L'Estrange, a species of amusement in which that lady delighted. It was, however, evident, that this foolish jest, as she supposed it to be, had offended Jules; and, gratified at the idea that he still loved her suf
ficiently to be jealous, she left the room to seek him, and avow all that had shocked and grieved her during the last few hours.
He was nowhere to be found ; but, on the table in her boudoir, she observed a twisted billet containing a few hurried lines, stating that he should not dine at home, and would not return till very late. Poor Alicia burst into tears while she perused this frigid announcement of an absence which would endure for several hours. And where was he gone? Jealousy answered the question, and darted its fiery fangs to her heart, as the thought struck her, that, even in that very moment, perhaps he was with her rival, and lavishing upon her those endearing affections which had been
hitherto all her own, and were the sole base of her happiness.
She had half resolved to set forth in pursuit of him, when the recollection of her ignorance of both the person and abode of her rival arrested her. Her rival! what bitterness was in the thought of this hateful person! and the gentle, the hitherto reasonable Alicia, who, a few hours before, had never experienced an angry passion, now felt her very temples bursting, and her respiration impeded almost to suffocation, by jealous rage and disappointed affection.
At this moment, her femme de charge entered, as was her usual custom, to present the ménu for dinner, and receive her mistress' orders; when the agitated Madame St. Armand was obliged to quell her emotions, and assume an air of unconcern.
“I have prepared the soup, and the pou
larde au jus, for monsieur, as madame commanded yesterday,” said the housekeeper; " and I think it will please him."
These few words brought a train of reflections, now fraught with bitterness, to the mind of Alicia. It was only the previous morning, that, anxious to please her husband, she had ordered his farourite plat for the dinner of the following day. How happy did she feel in expressing this desire! and now, though but so few hours had elapsed, what a dreadful change had occurred in her position and sentiments, and what intensity of wretchedness had she not endured in that brief interval !
She could scarcely assume sufficient composure to tell the femme de charge that M. St. Armand would not dine at home; and that, as she herself was rather unwell, she should only require a little bouillon. The expression of surprise in the v oman's face awakened her