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superiority, which thoroughly disgusted Adrienne, to whom he paid the most extravagant compliments.
The behaviour of Frederic De la Villetti was very different ;-respectful and attentive in his manners to the marquis, and particularly attentive to Louise; he spoke little to Adrienne, but that little would have prejudiced her in his favour, if his noble and expressive countenance had not already done it. He was then about five-and-twenty; nature had been prodigal of her gifts to him in every respect, and he had made the noblest use of them. Brave, generous, and humane, he was loved by all who knew him; yet Adrienne, for the first time in her life, hesitated when she was asked what she thought of him.
The question was put to her with seeming negligence, but real malice by the baroness; that heartless coquet had long been weary of her connexion with the marquis; a connexion which had its origin only in interest and vanity. Her husband, as contemptible as herself, was not ignorant of her infidelity; but he did not trouble himself with her pursuits, so long as she gave him no disturbance about his. The early days of their marriage had been embittered by frequent quarrels, owing to her desire to go to Paris. From the time that she meditated and made the conquest of the marquis these quarrels had ceased; and she left him at liberty to enjoy peaceably the field-sports in which he delighted, and which occupied nearly the whole of his time; while she occupied hers in coquetting with every handsome man who came in her way. The marquis, however, was the only avowed cicesbeo; though the scandalous chronicles of those days said that he was by no means her only favoured lover.
Struck with the manly graces of the young De la Villetti, she neglected no art to draw his attention; but her coquettish advances were lost upon him; he bore a charmed heart; for the first sight of Mademoiselle de Touranges had been fatal to his liberty. His coldness had no other effect than that of piquing the vanity of the baroness, who vowed to subjugate him; and the baron unknowingly aided her plans by inviting him to pass some days at his house, to enjoy the pleasures of hunting. We will not trace the disgusting picture of the arts which this modern Messalina employed to compass her aim; suffice it to say that they failed. De la Villetti terminated his visit abruptly, and took with him the everlasting hatred of the enraged baroness.
He spurred his horse unconsciously as he rode back to the chateau; unable to analyze the mingled sensations which agitated him. The most predominant of them was pleasure at the thought of seeing Adrienne again. He found her alone; and had he been capable of observing, he
would have seen that her manner was not less agitated and embarrassed than his own. The arrival of the marquis was a relief to both; he led the conversation to the visit which the young soldier had just been making, and spoke with warmth of the baroness. Adrienne's heart beat with a new and strange emotion as she listened for the reply of De la Villetti. The coldness of his tone, and the expression of his countenance reassured her, and she felt, without knowing why, delighted to see that the arts of that coquet had made no impression upon him.
Unfortunately, everything tended to increase the passion which from the first moment these young people had conceived for each other. De la Villetti, himself the most noble-minded of beings, was not less charmed with all that he heard, than with all that he saw of Adrienne. He saw in her the worthy dispenser of her father's wishes, the friend, the protectress, the benefactress of all who wanted her assistance. Could he think, then, her mind was less angelic than her form; and is it wonderful that young, ardent, and romantic, he forgot, in gazing on an object so lovely and so worthy to be loved, the utter impossibility of their ever being united?
Had Adrienne at first been aware of the nature of her sentiments for Frederic, her excessive pride might have enabled her to resist the attacks of love; but she suspected not the state of her heart, till it was his beyond recall; and at the moment that accident revealed it to her, she acquired the certainty that his love equalled her own. Those ambitious projects of her father, to which she had till then so willingly lent herself, because they flattered the haughtiness of her own spirit, filled her with disgust. The family of De la Villetti, though not so illustrious as her own, was noble; his merit, his talents would justify her choice in the eyes of the world; and her father, who loved her so tenderly, would be unable to refuse his consent, when he found that it was her solemn purpose, if he did not grant it, to suffer the illustrious name of de Touranges to die with her.
Until then Adrienne and Louise had not had a thought concealed from each other, but the moment was arrived when confidence between them became, on the part of Louise, impossible. She had not seen Frederic with insensibility. Circumstances had, without the smallest intention on his part to deceive her, led her to think that she was the object of his preference. True and sincere love is always timid; thus Frederic, not daring to show to Adrienne the state of his heart, had no pleasure so great as that of talking to Louise about her; and Louise, on her part, was never tired of dwelling on the amiable qualities of Adrienne; and the warmth of her eulogiums drew
from Frederic expressions which might easily be misconstrued. It was at these moments, when Louise found his eyes fixed upon hers with the tenderest expression, while he praised her sensibility, and the warmth of her friendship for Adrienne, that she believed herself beloved; and the idea inspired her with a delight as exquisite as it was transient; for accident had no sooner revealed to Adrienne the state of her own heart, and that of Frederic, than she hastened to confide it to Louise.
By an effort of resolution, of which women alone perhaps are capable, that heroic girl stifled all selfish feelings. She did not attempt to argue Adrienne out of a passion, which her own heart told her the merit of the object must render eternal; but she strove to guard her against the blow that awaited her, for she foresaw but too clearly that ambition would render De Touranges utterly insensible to the prayers and tears of his child.
Her anticipations were but too just. Frederic, emboldened by the permission of Adrienne, prayed his uncle to reveal the situation of their hearts to the marquis. The commission was a stroke of thunder to the abbé. He argued in vain with his nephew upon the absolute madness of the step. He made the same representations to Adrienne, but neither would hear him. Well assured that he would not succeed, he at first resolved to decline the mission; but a little reflection induced him to fulfil it. He thought that when Adrienne knew the will of her father, she would conform herself to it, at least, so far as to give up the idea of immediately espousing De la Villetti ; and that time and absence might render her docile to the marquis's avowed intention of matching her nobly.
Conscious that no selfish wish to aggrandize his family, no mean-souled views of interest or ambition wrought upon his mind, the abbé opened his unwelcome mission with the mild dignity that suited his character. A sudden start of surprise, and a momentary change of countenance were the only indications of the marquis's feelings. "And my daughter," said he, in a calm tone, "does she sanction the passion of your nephew?"
"Had she not done so," replied the venerable pastor, "Frederic could never have prevailed upon me to make this disclosure to you."
"Very well; it is to her, then, that I will explain my will upon this subject; and De la Villetti shall learn my intentions within a few hours, from her lips."
And then, without appearing to notice the emotion of the abbé, he instantly turned the conversation to indifferent things; nor could the worthy pastor by any means lead him back to the subject he had so much at heart. It was not, however, difficult for him to conceive that the answer which the marquis meant to give to Adrienne would be anything but favourable. He
hastened to prepare her for the disappointment of her wishes, and at the same time, to dispose her mind to render the marquis that obedience which he had a right to demand.
Oh,” cried she, with quickness, "you mistake my father; it cannot be that if he had the project to destroy my happiness, he would himself desire to give me the blow. No, no, he means to try my firmness; and when he sees that he cannot shake it, he will not doom me to despair." At that moment a servant came to tell her that the marquis waited for her in the library. For an instant her firmness appeared to forsake her, but speedily recovering herself, she attended the summons.
The marquis received her with an air of such calmness, that for a moment she believed herself on the point of seeing all her wishes realized. “Sit down by me, my daughter," said he, in a kind tone." I ought to be angry with you, but anger is a sentiment I have not yet learned to feel for my Adrienne; and I cannot believe that she will force her old father to learn so hard a lesson." At these words she was upon the point of interrupting him. “Be silent," said he, in a calm, but determined voice; "you have already sufficiently grieved me. What, is it possible that a daughter for whom I have done so much, and to whom, in return, I looked for the happiness of my declining years-is it possible, I say, that she should sacrifice me and herself to the indulgence of a childish fancy ?-that she should reward the indulgence with which I have treated her, the confidence which I have placed in her, by seriously planning the destruction of my dearest hopes. No, Adrienne, I will not believe it. It could be the delusion of a moment only, that caused the application made to me this morning, and——”
"No, my father," impetuously interrupted Adrienne," it is no delusion. I love De la Villetti; he alone can make me happy, and I will be his wife,
"What!” cried the marquis, still preserving his calmness, but in the most despotic tone ; "have you not yet learned to know me ?-have you not seen, throughout your life, that my resolves are unalterable ?-and think you that, to satisfy the baby loves of a boy and girl, I will forego the object which my whole life has been spent in endeavouring to obtain. Hope it not; nor force me, by your opposition to my will, to take effectual means to sever you for ever from that lover whom, by a weakness unworthy of a De Touranges, you prefer to your duty, and the glory of your father."
At these words Adrienne became deadly pale; she saw in idea, herself, or the lover a thousand times dearer than herself, already immured in the Bastile. The marquis saw that his point was gained, and he added, in a softer tone, "You are still the mistress of your fate, act as my daughter should
act, and retain still the liberty which it has been my pride to bestow upon you. I do not fear your abusing it, but if that were possible, if you could
"Say no more, my father," cried Adrienne; "I know my duties, and I will conform myself to them."
"Enough, my child, thy word is a sufficient guarantee. A De Touranges cannot stoop to the meanness of deceiving. Be then thyself the messenger of my resolves to Frederic ;—I love the youth, and I would spare his feelings as much as they may be spared. Tell him, then, that in avowing my unalterable resolution never to consent to your marriage with him, I am not actuated by disdain of his alliance, but by the impossibility of giving you to him without destroying my cherished views. The man who, by his interest with my royal master, can aid me to gain the proud eminence which I aspire to, is the only one that shall ever, with my consent, obtain your hand. But this resolution does not prevent me from regarding Frederic with friendship; I will say more,-I look on him with paternal kindness, I will do for him all that a father could do for a younger son, and I authorize you to love him and to trust him as a brother."
It was thus that a man whose heart pride deadened to all sensations but those of ambition, believed that he could regulate the feelings of two youthful and impetuous spirits; fatal and criminal mistake! bitter in its consequences to him who committed it, and destructive to those whose love he would have immolated at the shrine of ambition.
The marquis had two motives for thus permitting the continuance of that intimacy which a father less blinded by pride would have instantly checked; the first was the one he avowed; the other, and perhaps the stronger of the two, was a compound one; he feared to compromise, even in the smallest, degree, his daughter's reputation, by breaking off on a sudden the acquaintance between the young people; and he shrunk from the idea of taking a step which would shew even to his dear baroness, that he had for once in his life been mistaken, and that the boasted blood of De Touranges could not preserve his daughter from the weakness of passion.
The baroness, whom jealousy and a passion that she called love, but which was in reality much too gross to deserve that name, rendered sharp-sighted, had forewarned him of the state of his daughter's affections, and had urged an immediate separation of the lovers, as the only means to recall Adrienne to her duty. But he had treated her belief with ridicule, and protested that the noble pride of Adrienne's character was a sufficient security for her prudence. To have acknowledged after this that the baroness was right, would have been a humiliation which his self-love could not support.