ePub 版

she sought to deceive herself, because in the moment when she saw herself about to be stripped of that reputation which was the idol of her heart, it became more dear to her than ever.

She would not, however, have been able to resist the warnings and the prayers of Louise, had not the consummate art of the baroness imposed upon the generous and unsuspecting nature of Frederic. She saw him in the course of the day, and persuaded him effectually, that finding all hopes to separate him from Adrienne were vain, she would, by protecting their loves, force him to bestow upon her at least his friendship. Deceived by the warmth and apparent sincerity of her manners, Frederic gave into the snare; and disregarding like Adrienne the prophetic warnings of Louise, renounced the project of flying, and thought only of taking the necessary steps to conceal the situation of Mademoiselle de Touranges.

Frederic's most passionate wish was that his child might remain near its mother; and a discovery which he made gave him the prospect of accomplishing this wish without in any way compromising that reputation which Adrienne held so dear. Chance had discovered to him some time before a subterraneous passage which led from the tower to the park; as the tower had been used as a place of security in the civil wars, which had so long desolated France, it struck him that this passage which led to it, might also conduct to underground apartments; for though there were none known to exist, it appeared unlikely that in the time when the building was erected, it would have been constructed without them, since such places of refuge were always deemed necessary in those times for the women, in case of siege, which too often look place:

Impressed with this idea, Frederic provided himself with a flambeau, and without informing Adrienne or Louise of his intentions, explored the subterraneous passage. His hopes were not deceived; after following it for some time he came to a massive door, the hinges of which, nearly destroyed by time, soon yielded to his efforts, and gave him admission to a chamber, the solidity of which had been proof to the ravages of time. It seemed to have served as an ante-chamber to a much larger apartment, which still preserved some remains of the rude magnificence of the times in which it was built. The floor and ceiling were of marble, the hearth of enormous size, and the bronze lamp suspended from the wall proved that the builders had the intention of rendering it habitable for any length of time.

(To be continued.)


(Translated from the French.)

In a parlour furnished with much taste, and from the half-opened windows of which were seen the winding walks, and alleys green, of a park, filled with magnificent and shady trees, two young ladies were employing themselves in these delicate works which have become the portion of our sex, and which, whilst they appear to occupy the fingers only, serve also to divert the mind in a pleasant manner, and even to give a greater facility to the current of thought. One of the females, either by chance or design, had placed her. self opposite a mirror, where she could not lift her eyes from her work without seeing herself reflected therein, adorned in all the brightness of a beauty of seventeen years, who might have served as a model to the sculptor, or a study to the painter. A rich profusion of black hair, in the tasteful adjustment of which art had so nicely seconded the gift of Nature that it was scarcely possible to say to which its elegance was owing, set off the snowy whiteness of the neck and face; and I would add, (if I may once more be permitted to avail myself of the superannuated comparison), that the freshest rose could alone match the carnation of her cheek and lip; to these charms were added a form of the most graceful proportions; and all that the youthful may borrow with discernment, from the art of the toilette, had been employed to increase, still farther, beauty already so attractive.

Half concealed beneath the draperies of the window, near which she had placed herself to obtain a more favourable light, the other female pursued her occupation with undistracted attention; a certain gravity appeared in her dress, in her countenance, and in her physiognomy altogether. Her eyes were lovely, but calmness was their chief expression; her smile was obliging, but momentary; the brilliant hues of youth, now evidently fading on her cheeks, less rounded than once they were, appeared but as the lightest shadings of a picture; sometimes, indeed, deepened by sudden and transient emotion, like the colours which meteors throw on the clouds of the heavens in the evening storms of summer. The gauzes, the rubies, the jewels, with which the young adorn themselves, were not by her employed merely as ornaments; she availed herself of them to conceal with taste the outrages of years; for the weight of more than thirty winters was already upon her; and the ingenious head-dress with which she had surmounted her hair served to hide, at the same time, some silent (tell-tales which had dared thus prematurely to mingle with her long tresses of blond.

"There, it's broken again! look at that detestable silk!" said the younger female, throwing her work on to a sofa; " I will not do another stitch to-day.',

She rose, and aproaching the mirror before her, amused herself by putting up afresh the curls of her hair.

"You want patience, Leopoldine," answered her sister, looking on her affectionately," and without that will accomplish nothing. You will require patience, as well to conduct you through the world, as to enable you to finish a purse."

"Do you

"I know the rest, my sister," replied the younger, smiling. forget that a certain person has charged himself with the duty of teaching me the lesson? Ten purses like that which I am embroidering would not put me out of patience so much as this silence of M. de Berville. Can you conceive what detains him thus ?" added she, seating herself near her sister," for in truth he loves me, that is certain, and noth❜ng remains but for him to avow the fact to my aunt Dorothée."

"This looks very like presumption, my dear Leopoldine," pursued the elder sister," and that is not good; what can it signify to you what he thinks? I hope your happiness does not depend on him."

"My happiness? oh! doubtless not, but in a word, Stephanie, he is a suitable person, and if he will explain himself—"

"It will then be time to think of him; until then, my sister, I beg of you to see in M. de Berville but an estimable friend of our family, an amiable man whose society we honour. A young person should never hasten to give up her heart, above all-to one who has not asked it."

"Be easy on that subject, sister; I mean to keep a good watch over mine ; the venture of your heroine of romance will never tempt me; but this is the fact, sister, I do not wish to remain an old maid."

At these words, which Leopoldine spoke inconsiderately, the countenance of Stephanie was flushed with a sudden crimson, and for a (moment shone with as beautiful a brightness as that of her young sister.

There is a condition worse than that," answered the former, with lively emotion; it is to have formed an ill-assorted union."

"Indeed, my sister, I did not dream I should give you offence," replied the young female, much embarrassed, "but the world is so strange! you know this yourself. Thus I cannot conceive how it is that you have remained single."

"If no one has wished to espouse me?" added Stephanie, smiling. "What! in reality? Can such a thing be possible ?"

"Assuredly, although I believe it is a case which rarely happens, and I grant that it did not happen to me; for I found many opportunities of entering the married state, but not one which was suitable."

"You were, perhaps, difficult to please?"

"I think not. Whilst yet young, about your age, my hand was sought

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

by one who lacked nothing but a fortune, or at least an estate capable of supporting him in respectable society. Our parents, at that time deprived of the rich heritage which they have recovered since your birth, refused him my hand, for a motive which I have since, though by slow degrees, learnt to appreciate, but which then rent my heart. My thwarted inclination left me with an indifference as to marriage; it was the way in which my youth resented its injury. I would have none but a husband after my own heart; not finding such a one, I resigned myself to be no more then an old maid, finding it more easy to bear the unjust scorn and ridicule of frivolous people, than to drag on to my tomb under a yoke, troublesome and oppressively heavy."

"Do you not sometimes feel regret?"

"No, Leopoldine; that condition which appears to you so frightful, has its happiness, as well as the other states of life. I have shaped my resolution with a regard to the wounds of self-love, which I have had to endure; I have called unto my aid the arts and letters, which it is so difficult for married females to cultivate with constancy, without prejudice to their domestic duties; and lastly, when by the death of our dear parents, I found myself in charge of your childhood, in concert with our worthy aunt, my liberty became doubly dear to me. Had I been a wife and mother, I should not have been able to devote myself to you as I have done. Have I not had reason, then, to remain unmarried ?"

"Well, if I should tell the truth, Stephanie, after all you have said, I should better like to be ill-matched, than not matched at all.”

"This perverseness gives me pain, my child,” replied the elder sister; "but I will believe that it is for want of reflecting on the matter that you talk thus."

An aged lady, the aunt of the two sisters, came in at this moment, holding in her hand a closed parasol, which she used as a support. She seated herself in an arm-chair, resting her feet on a footstool, which Leopoldine placed for her. After regarding for awhile both her nieces with a look of complacency, she addressed them.

f 66 They tell me that M. de Berville it at the entrance of the avenue. For which of your sakes is it he honours us with so frequent visits? For my own part I am quite at a loss to say. The more I observe him, the less I can divine his intentions."

"You would be jocular with us, aunt," answered Stephanie; "there can be no doubt as to his choice; it is as if any one could hesitate between a mother and her daughter."

"But he has not explained his views," rejoined the aunt, "and it is very

fine for you to make out you are old, my niece; I find you still very young, compared with me."

"You forget, too, aunt," added Leopoldine, in a lively tone, "that M. de Berville is, to the full, as old as my sister. If merit alone was sufficient, I should have reason to fear in her a dangerous rival; but my amiable sister is without pretensions; she knows that youth is an all-powerful advantage, although in reality a very frivolous one perhaps---"

"Good heavens !" exclaimed the aunt, "take heed, my child; reckon not too much upon that youth, nor even on the beauty which accompanies it; I have seen strange things in my time; and a man capable of holding himself neutral so long, is not one of those who may be subjugated with a ruby, or caught by a well-disposed bouquet of flowers."

A smile of incredulity passed upon the lips of Leopoldine, who was about to make an answer in accordance with that smile, when M. de Berville was announced. Although of an age somewhat too mature for a very young man, his dignified and elegant manners, his fine figure, his distinguished intellect, his reputation as a man of honour, together with his fortune, made him "a match" which no young lady could deem unworthy; and I have made the reader already acquainted with the favourable sentiments entertained towards him by the beautiful Leopoldine. Stephanie entertained fully as high an opinion of his merits as her younger sister; it may be even, that being best able to appreciate the estimable character of M. de Berville, she rendered to it the most justice; but she received him simply as a mother who believes she has met the future protector of her daughter, and strove by innocent means, to bring to a successful issue the plan of happiness she had secretly conceived. The aunt, piquing herself on her skill in finesse, sat observant of the actors in the scene, hoping to penetrate from their behaviour into their most hidden thoughts. As to Leopoldine, the veil of modesty, beneath which she thought to conceal her real feeling, was not sufficient entirely to hide the joy of the coquette, rejoicing in the triumph of her charms. Yet that joy and that triumph received some checks; for she did not appear, even during that visit, to occupy exclusively the attention of M. de Berville, as though she alone was the object he came to visit. The conversation took a serious and instructive turn-one little suited to the young and frivolous. They discoursed of the sciences, the arts, and of literature. I have said that Stephanie had made these things a source of comfort and recreation -that she had occupied her mind in such pursuits, not for the purpose of display, but as a charm to her leisure hours; such a companion as M. de Berville was well adapted to value rightly the mind and the knowledge of Stephanie. She suffered herself to be drawn into the current of the various topics of conversation with a pleasure very natural; and Madame Dorothée

« 上一頁繼續 »