Obrazy na stronie

anxiety which was knocking so at her heart, and of the fast friendloudly at the heart.

ship she had loyally sworn to me. The Marquis excused himself I felt that above all I must screen for not having made my acquaint- her from further trouble, and use ance earlier, on the ground that he all my diplomacy to carry out my had entirely lost the habits of intentions. society, which he now never fre- Happily the dinner-table was a quented, and believed I was not a round one, and thus no great disinember of the “ Cercle” or club tance would separate us, and we to which he generally devoted his could contrive to slip in a word evenings.

not destined for other ears; while All this was very polite and re- the fact of my sitting on the quired no answer, but presently Countess's left' enabled

enabled me to Raymond de Chantalis came in, escape the direct observation of and brought with him a little the Marquis, who sat on her right. breath of activity, refreshing to It is true that on the other side our overstrained nerves.

of Diane was her mother, but there “Good evening, Léontine; sorry was quite space enough between I am late, but I was detained by them for the girl's words not to be Carolus Duran, who showed me his heard if she chose to speak low. latest picture-a chef-d'æuvre of As soon as the soup was over, I art and good taste.

said to the Count across the table “Ah, Gaspard, I wish you had that, if he were anxious to buy a been with me this afternoon ! never half-brother to the mare he had so saw such a splendid mare in my life much admired, I would willingly as Bonnefois has just purchased in undertake the commission, as BonEngland.

nefois had told me of his recent Bon jour, l'ami Anglais. Com- visit to England, and of his regret ment çà va, mon garçon? And little not to have purchased this horse, Diane too! What am I to say? I which he thought he could have have heard some wonderful reports had at a bargain. of your success."

“Why," asked Raymond, “are Finally, turning to his wife, you leaving us?” “Why, my dear, is dinner not I quickly took in an attentive announced ? we are as hungry as look from all around, and saw my wolves."

advantage. At that moment the folding- "Not for long, I trust; but this doors of the adjoining room were evening a telegram has reached me opened, and a groom of the chamber, couched in very English brevity." irreproachably got up in black silk « From whoin?" stockings and pumps, announced “ From a friend in a Governthat “Madame la Comtesse est ment Office, who merely says, servie.”

• Come over at once'; and were it The Count gave his arm to his not that I so particularly wished sister-in-law, the Marquis to his to dine with you to-night to make sister, and thrice-blessed message, M. de Breteuille's acquaintance, I I was requested to take in Made- would probably now be on my way moiselle Diane.

to London.” She gave me a sorrowful smile It is singular how often the when I offered her my arm, which simplest statements produce the in its simple eloquence told me greatest effects. The mere anof the grief which was gnawing nouncement of my probable de

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

parture, coupled with my artful such lovely roses, which I would disguise of my real motives in like you to remember when you coming to this dinner, and the are away. Roses,” she added, slight compliment to Diane's father " are such princes among flowers : I had interpolated, cleared at once they have so much beauty and the whole atmosphere of gloom such sweet scent; and they rewhich had pursued us till now, mind one of so many things, do and which even Raymond's gay they not?”. manner had not effectually dis- Diane," said her mother, "you pelied.

must not detain Monsieur Vere, One little being alone hung her if he has important business to head and said nothing, while the attend. Official summonses canothers poured question upon ques- not be delayed. And roses are tion as to when I would leave or roses all the world over; besides return, what I would or would which, I think M. de Maupert not do, what the dancing world intends to bring his mother and would or would not think of my sisters to see you to-morrow." deserting them in the midst of Once more Diane was silent, the season, and a thousand other and I declined to take the hint queries of the same futile nature, conveyed in the Marquise's last which came tumbling out of their words. mouths with a rapidity that sa- I talked awhile with the hostvoured too plainly to me of that ess, and then, addressing Diane inmost thought I could read, and again, I asked her whether she which said in so many words that was weather-wise. iny absence was the best ending to Guessing at. my purpose, she a disagreeable matter they could smiled and answered, “ If you have wished or anticipated.

mean whether I can discourse on Not relishing this fact, I hap- a cloud or a sky and read the fupened to drop a napkin, or a fork, ture by it, I think I can.” or something When stooping to " What would you say is the pick it up, I saw a pearl tremu- colour of the sky this evening ?" lously hanging to the eyelash of « Rather overcast when I came," poor Diane; and though the pearl she said, laughing; “but though I dissolved as does a tear, I rose to cannot see across these thick curthe occasion and swore inwardly tains, I somehow feel it very blue that before the evening was out now. her tears would be dried by me, "How odd !” I said ; " that is and by no one else.

exactly my feeling; but I have Presently she mustered a little often found many a storm lurking courage, and in the hearing of her on the fringe of a blue sky." mother asked me whether I intend- " What matters the storm if ed to leave the next day,

protected against it?“No, Mademoiselle, not to-mor- " So I think; but it is somerow—though perhaps it might be times difficult to find protection at well for me if I did-nor even the a moment's notice.” next day, if I can be of use to my “The blue of the sky would friends by staying."

give you warning." "You will come and see us be- " It would if it faded; but fore you go," she boldly added. sometimes there is no gradual dis6. You have never yet seen our colouring, but a sudden black cloud house and our garden, and I have that travels faster than thought, and breaks more speedily than the efit of the table generally, which will."

we did, both of us laughing and “ It seems to me,” said Diane, enjoying the mystification to our warming to this conversation, of the hearts' content. covered meaning of which she and When all we had said had been I alone possessed the secret, and rehearsed a second time, and no one glowing with radiancy as each hint seemed the wiser, Diane brightly we conveyed one another brought addressed me again, not a trace of with it a corresponding under- care or a shadow of anxiety lingstanding as to our future action, ering on her radiant young face. while its seemingly unimportant - Revenons à nos moutons," she tenor lulled to sleep the vigilance said; “of course, I referred to a of her parents and restored to her man who, wishing to save his propher freedom of talk and gesture- erty from the effects of the storm " it seems to me that there is about to break over his head, and " nothing so grand in nature as (with an inflexion on the word) “on those sudden storms you speak that property, may deem that propof, because they are tangible and erty his own and nobody else's." definite, and when over leave you I was beside myself with joy, to repair a disaster or rejoice over and finished our weather talk by an escape, and at any rate make assuring her that, were I the man the property which had been in so suddenly threatened, I would danger all the more valuable in defend my property before even one's eyes."

thinking of my personal safety. Had I not had the conviction, “ You seem to have a good deal which amounted almost to a creed, of fun between you," said the against which any doubt would Marquis, “and you must allow us have appeared to me profane, that to share it." Diane was a deep, loving, earnest, “Would you like, petit père," and strong nature, albeit she was said Diane, with a laugh, to be gifted with the loveliest human our lightning - conductor ? for M. form it was possible to see, I Vere and I have agreed that we would have set down this speech dislike a storm very much, but of hers to an attempt at coquetterie, will bravely weather it if it cannot almost reprehensible in one who, be avoided." speaking purposely in metaphors, I chuckled with delight, and knew that by property she meant indeed my joy was so great that her own dear self, and by the I was in mental fear lest this last storm that battle she urged me to remark of Diane's might be too fight for her.

pointed, and would reveal the I was so struck by this coura- drift of our allusions; but fortungeous appeal, that looking straight ately for us, and somewhat oddly, into her clear bright eyes, I point- considering the exceptional inteledly remarked how true was her ligence of our hearers, our obserobservation provided the owner of vations and our mirth excited no the property knew that property to apparent surprise; and Diane's be his, and neither borrowed nor parents, while warming to the conmortgaged.

versation, which became general at She laughed so merrily at this this time, seemed to consider me that it attracted the attention of of no account whatsoever, while all the others, and we had to re- they relaxed their fixed attention peat our conversation for the ben- on their daughter's movements.


I knew too well the hold which one who could have seen it would propriety has over French people have required no other sign of our of all classes and all ages, to ex- determination to settle matters hibit even to the girl I so passion- ourselves, and at the same time so ately loved, and whose love I now infinitely tender, that it amply felt authorised to win for myself, compensated for the absence of any other sign or token of my those more usual, but in France admiration than those which words less customary, pressures of the allowed or the play of the coun- hand and arm, which, if they are tenance revealed; but with a girl only natural and excusable, are like Diane, whose heart laid bare less respectful to the beloved obthe warm feelings of her soul, and ject before the words have been whose soul was so pure that it pronounced which consecrate the could not hide the truth of what engagement. she felt, words and looks were Soon after the coffee had been ample to convey all I wished, and served, the Marquise's carriage I can never forget how singularly was announced, and she took her beautiful the reception of leave with Diane. Happily, M. those messages of love from one de Breteuille remained; so I had young heart to another, and with the satisfaction of seeing Diane to what rapture I marked in Diane's her carriage, while the Count gave eyes her appreciation of the love his arm to her mother. I then she had resolved to accept and to told her I should call on her fareturn.

ther next day early, if, indeed, I By the end of dinner we were had not the opportunity of seeone in heart, soul, mind, and pur- ing him that very evening; that pose, without having said one syl- I trusted she knew for what molable which any one could take tives; and that, had I by any misup; without on my part having fortune mistaken her sanction to made any formal declaration, or this proceeding, I implored of her obliged her to give a single ex- to say so. pressed answer to any specified She smiled one of those maddenrequest.

ing smiles, which simply sent all But for all that, the electric my senses reeling with intoxicated spark which prepares the storm pleasure, and merely said in her had been struck; and strong in ordinary voice, as if she wished her one another's love, young and in- mother to hearexperienced though we were, we “Do not forget my roses before had made up our minds to fight you leave for England. Madefor one another, and to bear cheer- moiselle Garoux would be furious fully the evils that would ensue, if you did not admire them. She certain of a heavenly peace on is certain there is nothing in the earth when the strong will of our world like them, and I hope you earnest natures had successfully will subscribe to that sentiment." weathered the tempest about to "I shall certainly call, with rage upon our devoted heads.

your mother's permission,” I reAs we rose after dinner, and all plied ; “though I am already of returned to the drawing-room in Mademoiselle Garoux's opinion.” the order in which we had come “Mother,” said Diane to Madinto dinner, we gave each other ame de Breteuille, "at what time but one look-a look so full of did you say M. de Maupert's family deep, passionate love, that any are coming to see you to-morrow?":

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

" At about three, I believe,” re- Certainly with her mother." plied the Marquise, while her cloak " That may be.” was being put on.

“Two parents against you is too - Then at what time can Mr much." Vere come and bid us good-bye ?” "I must bear that evil.”

" Will five o'clock suit him?" " Come and have a cigar before

" It is too late for him, mamma, you commit suicide." said Diane,“ if he has to leave in the « How?" evening.”

"By marrying, or by attempt"Would monsieur prefer two ing to defeat a French marriage o'clock ?"

by English ways.” " Could he not come to breakfast " I shall be happy to die in either at half-past eleven ?"

“ Diane,” said Madame de Bre- “Surely your English blood is teuille, “what a child you are! Mr calmer than that phrase would Vere knows you are a fiancée.

imply?" " So I am !” exclaimed Diane, " Its calmness lies in its deterlaughing, and looking at me. mination." " Comme c'est drôle !" she replied. " And its determination is to

“ How the part suits you!” I ruin the happiness of a young and remarked.

beautiful girl, in order to prove “I suppose,” she said, “that that her parents, who love her and dinner must have some influence have sought her happiness only, on these things; because, curiously may be shown to be in the wrong, enough, I do feel a fiancée now, and because an agreeable young man of I did not before."

twenty-five years


has chosen “Does a fiancée write?” I asked, to fall in love with their only child.” as her mother stepped into the “My dear Raymond, you quite carriage.

mistake me.

Had I not the know“ By the governess's post some- ledge that M. de Maupert was times,” she replied, smiling; and positively distasteful to Mademoithen shaking hands with me, en- selle Diane, I would never have altered the brougham laughing. lowed my own feelings to be known

As soon as she had disappeared, or perceived.” Raymond de Chantalis, who was “ But,” said the Count, “ surely really an intimate friend of mine you must be aware that there is -so much so, that we called each nothing new in a girl disliking the other by our Christian names- husband chosen for her. Our said

French girls are no exception to " You could have married that the rule of humanity, that we all girl if you had been clever.” prefer what we select ourselves to

"I will marry her, though I am what others consider best in our not,” I replied.

interest; but they get over it in He looked at me a moment. time, and end by wondering how

" That's well said,” he remarked, it is that they ever opposed their or but difficult of accomplishment.

parents' wish. Why?"

“I quite understand what you Parbleu ! because another man say; but characters differ, and has forestalled you."

Diane's nature is not that of an "Yes—with the father."

ordinary French girl, and will not “And maybe with the girl." submit to that despotic rule which “ I don't think so."

may answer in a few cases, seldom

[ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »