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Jacqueline, entire by Th. Bentzon (Mme. Blanc)

Part 5 out of 5

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"You have come! Oh! you have come at last!" cried Jacqueline, throwing
her arms around her, but Giselle repelled her with a gesture so severe
that the poor child could not but understand its meaning. She murmured,
pointing to the pile of newspapers: "Is it possible?--Can you have
believed all those dreadful things?"

"What things? I have read nothing," said Giselle, harshly. "I only know
that a man who was neither your husband nor your brother, and who
consequently was under no obligation to defend you, has been foolish
enough to be nearly killed for your sake. Is not that a proof of your
downfall? Don't you know it?"

"Downfall?" repeated Jacqueline, as if she did not understand her.
Then, seizing her friend's hand, she forcibly raised it to her lips:
"Ah! what can anything matter to me," she cried, "if only you remain my
friend; and he has never doubted me!"

"Women like you can always find defenders," said Giselle, tearing her
hand from her cousin's grasp.

Giselle was not herself at that moment. "But, for your own sake, it
would have been better he should have abstained from such an act of

"Giselle! can it be that you think me guilty?"

"Guilty!" cried Madame de Talbrun, her pale face aflame. "A little more
and Monsieur de Cymier's sword-point would have pierced his lungs."

"Good heavens!" cried Jacqueline, hiding her face in her hands. "But I
have done nothing to--"

"Nothing except to set two men against each other; to make them suffer,
or to make fools of them, and to be loved by them all the same."

"I have not been a coquette," said Jacqueline, with indignation.

"You must have been, to authorize the boasts of Monsieur de Cymier. He
had seen Fred so seldom, and Tonquin had so changed him that he spoke in
his presence--without supposing any one would interfere. I dare not tell
you what he said--"

"Whatever spite or revenge suggested to him, no doubt," said Jacqueline.

"Listen, Giselle--Oh, you must listen. I shall not be long."

She forced her to sit down; she crouched on a foot stool at her feet,
holding her hands in hers so tightly that Giselle could not draw them
away, and began her story, with all its details, of what had happened to
her since she left Fresne. She told of her meeting with Wanda; of the
fatal evening which had resulted in her expulsion from the convent;
her disgust at the Sparks family; the snare prepared for her by Madame
Strahlberg. "And I can not tell you all," she added, "I can not tell you
what drove me away from my true friends, and threw me among these

Giselle's sad smile seemed to answer, "No need--I am aware of it--I know
my husband." Encouraged by this, Jacqueline went on with her confession,
hiding nothing that was wrong, showing herself just as she had been, a
poor, proud child who had set out to battle for herself in a dangerous
world. At every step she had been more and more conscious of her own
imprudence, of her own weakness, and of an ever-increasing desire to be
done with independence; to submit to law, to be subject to any rules
which would deliver her from the necessity of obeying no will but her

"Ah!" she cried, "I am so disgusted with independence, with amusement,
and amusing people! Tell me what to do in future--I am weary of taking
charge of myself. I said so the other day to the Abbe Bardin. He is the
only person I have seen since my return. It seems to me I am coming back
to my old ideas--you remember how I once wished to end my days in the
cell of a Carmelite? You might love me again then, perhaps, and Fred and
poor Madame d'Argy, who must feel so bitterly against me since her son
was wounded, might forgive me. No one feels bitterly against the dead,
and it is the same as being dead to be a Carmelite nun. You would all
speak of me sometimes to each other as one who had been very unhappy, who
had been guilty of great foolishness, but who had repaired her faults as
best she could."

Poor Jacqueline! She was no longer a girl of the period; in her grief
and humiliation she belonged to the past. Old-fashioned forms of
penitence attracted her.

"And what did the Abbe Bardin tell you?" asked Giselle, with a slight
movement of her shoulders.

"He only told me that he could not say at present whether that were my

"Nor can I," said Giselle.

Jacqueline lifted up her face, wet with tears, which she had been leaning
on the lap of Giselle.

"I do not see what else I can do, unless you would get me a place as
governess somewhere at the ends of the earth," she said. "I could teach
children their letters. I should not mind doing anything. I never
should complain. Ah! if you lived all by yourself, Giselle, how I
should implore you to take me to teach little Enguerrand!"

"I think you might do better than that," said Giselle, wiping her
friend's eyes almost as a mother might have done, "if you would only
listen to Fred."

Jacqueline's cheeks became crimson.

"Don't mock me--it is cruel--I am too unworthy--it would pain me to see
him. Shame--regret--you understand! But I can tell you one thing,
Giselle--only you. You may tell it to him when he is quite old, when he
has been long married, and when everything concerning me is a thing of
the past. I never had loved any one with all my heart up to the moment
when I read in that paper that he had fought for me, that his blood had
flowed for me, that after all that had passed he still thought me worthy
of being defended by him."

Her tears flowed fast, and she added: "I shall be proud of that all the
rest of my life! If only you, too, would forgive me."

The heart of Giselle was melted by these words.

"Forgive you, my dear little girl? Ah! you have been better than I.
I forgot our old friendship for a moment--I was harsh to you; and I have
so little right to blame you! But come! Providence may have arranged
all for the best, though one of us may have to suffer. Pray for that
some one. Good-by--'au revoir!"

She kissed Jacqueline's forehead and was gone, before her cousin had
seized the meaning of her last words. But joy and peace came back to
Jacqueline. She had recovered her best friend, and had convinced her of
her innocence.



Before Giselle went home to her own house she called on the Abbe Bardin,
whom a rather surly servant was not disposed to disturb, as he was just
eating his breakfast. The Abbe Bardin was Jacqueline's confessor, and he
held the same relation to a number of other young girls who were among
her particular friends. He was thoroughly acquainted with all that
concerned their delicate and generally childish little souls. He kept
them in the right way, had often a share in their marriages, and in
general kept an eye upon them all their lives. Even when they escaped
from him, as had happened in the case of Jacqueline, he did not give them
up. He commended them to God, and looked forward to the time of their
repentance with the patience of a father. The Abbe Bardin had never been
willing to exercise any function but that of catechist; he had grown old
in the humble rank of third assistant in a great parish, when, with a
little ambition, he might have been its rector. "Suffer little children
to come unto me," had been his motto. These words of his Divine Master
seemed more often than any others on his lips-lips so expressive of
loving kindness, though sometimes a shrewd smile would pass over them and
seem to say: "I know, I can divine." But when this smile, the result of
long experience, did not light up his features, the good Abbe Bardin
looked like an elderly child; he was short, his walk was a trot, his face
was round and ruddy, his eyes, which were short-sighted, were large,
wide-open, and blue, and his heavy crop of white hair, which curled and
crinkled above his forehead, made him look like a sixty-year-old angel,
crowned with a silvery aureole.

Rubbing his hands affably, he came into the little parlor where Madame de
Talbrun was waiting for him. There was probably no ecclesiastic in all
Paris who had a salon so full of worked cushions, each of which was a
keepsake--a souvenir of some first communion. The Abbe did not know his
visitor, but the name Talbrun seemed to him connected with an honorable
and well-meaning family. The lady was probably a mother who had come to
put her child into his hands for religious instruction. He received
visits from dozens of such mothers, some of whom were a little tiresome,
from a wish to teach him what he knew better than they, and at one time
he had set apart Wednesday as his day for receiving such visits, that he
might not be too greatly disturbed, as seemed likely to happen to him
that day. Not that he cared very much whether he ate his cutlet hot or
cold, but his housekeeper cared a great deal. A man may be a very
experienced director, and yet be subject to direction in other ways.

The youth of Giselle took him by surprise.

"Monsieur l'Abbe," she said, without any preamble, while he begged her to
sit down, "I have come to speak to you of a person in whom you take an
interest, Jacqueline de Nailles."

He passed the back of his hand over his brow and said, with a sigh: "Poor
little thing!"

"She is even more to be pitied than you think. You have not seen her,
I believe, since last week."

"Yes--she came. She has kept up, thank God, some of her religious

"For all that, she has played a leading part in a recent scandal."

The Abbe sprang up from his chair.

"A duel has taken place because of her, and her name is in all men's
mouths--whispered, of course--but the quarrel took place at the Club.
You know what it is to be talked of at the Club."

"The poison of asps," growled the Abbe; "oh! those clubs--think of all
the evil reports concocted in them, of which women are the victims!"

"In the present case the evil report was pure calumny. It was taken up
by some one whom you also know--Frederic d'Argy."

"I have had profound respect these many years for his excellent and pious

"I thought so. In that case, Monsieur l'Abbe, you would not object to
going to Madame d'Argy's house and asking how her son is."

"No, of course not; but--it is my duty to disapprove--"

"You will tell her that when a young man has compromised a young girl by
defending her reputation in a manner too public, there is but one thing
he can do afterward-marry her."

"Wait one moment," said the Abbe, who was greatly surprised; "it is
certain that a good marriage would be the best thing for Jacqueline.
I have been thinking of it. But I do not think I could so suddenly--so
soon after--"

"Today at four o'clock, Monsieur l'Abbe. Time presses. You can add that
such a marriage is the only way to stop a second duel, which will
otherwise take place."

"Is it possible?"

"And it is also the only way to bring Frederic to decide on sending in
his resignation. Don't forget that--it is important."

"But how do you know--"

The poor Abbe stammered out his words, and counted on his fingers the
arguments he was desired to make use of.

"And you will solemnly assure them that Jacqueline is innocent."

"Oh! as to that, there are wolves in sheeps' clothing, as the Bible tells
us; but believe me, when such poor young things are in question, it is
more often the sheep which has put on the appearance of a wolf--to seem
in the fashion," added the Abbe, "just to seem in the fashion. Fashion
will authorize any kind of counterfeiting."

"Well, you will say all that, will you not, to Madame d'Argy? It will be
very good of you if you will. She will make no difficulties about money.
All she wants is a quietly disposed daughter-in-law who will be willing
to pass nine months of the year at Lizerolles, and Jacqueline is quite
cured of her Paris fever."

"A fever too often mortal," murmured the Abbe; "oh, for the simplicity of
nature! A priest whose lot is cast in the country is fortunate, Madame,
but we can not choose our vocation. We may do good anywhere, especially
in cities. Are you sure, however, that Jacqueline--"

"She loves Monsieur d'Argy."

"Well, if that is so, we are all right. The great misfortune with many
of these poor girls is that they have never learned to love anything;
they know nothing but agitations, excitements, curiosities, and fancies.
All that sort of thing runs through their heads."

"You are speaking of a Jacqueline before the duel. I can assure you that
ever since yesterday, if not before, she has loved Monsieur d'Argy, who
on his part for a long time--a very long time--has been in love with

Giselle spoke eagerly, as if she forced herself to say the words that
cost her pain. Her cheeks were flushed under her veil. The Abbe, who
was keen-sighted, observed these signs.

"But," continued Giselle, "if he is forced to forget her he may try to
expend elsewhere the affection he feels for her; he may trouble the peace
of others, while deceiving himself. He might make in the world one of
those attachments--Do not fail to represent all these dangers to Madame
d'Argy when you plead the cause of Jacqueline."

"Humph! You are evidently much attached, Madame, to Mademoiselle de

"Very much, indeed," she answered, bravely, "very much attached to her,
and still more to him; therefore you understand that this marriage must--
absolutely must take place."

She had risen and was folding her cloak round her, looking straight into
the Abbe's eyes. Small as she was, their height was almost the same; she
wanted him to understand thoroughly why this marriage must take place.

He bowed. Up to that time he had not been quite sure that he had not to
do with one of those wolves dressed in fleece whose appearance is as
misleading as that of sheep disguised as wolves: now his opinion was

"Mon Dieu! Madame," he said, "your reasons seem to me excellent--a duel
to be prevented, a son to be kept by the side of his sick mother, two
young people who love each other to be married, the saving, possibly, of
two souls--"

"Say three souls, Monsieur l'Abbe!"

He did not ask whose was the third, nor even why she had insisted that
this delicate commission must be executed that same day. He only bowed
when she said again: "At four o'clock: Madame d'Argy will be prepared to
see you. Thank you, Monsieur l'Abbe." And then, as she descended the
staircase, he bestowed upon her silently his most earnest benediction,
before returning to the cold cutlet that was on his breakfast table.

Giselle did not breakfast much better than he. In truth, M. de Talbrun
being absent, she sat looking at her son, who was eating with a good
appetite, while she drank only a cup of tea; after which, she dressed
herself, with more than usual care, hiding by rice-powder the trace of
recent tears on her complexion, and arranging her fair hair in the way
that was most becoming to her, under a charming little bonnet covered
with gold net-work which corresponded with the embroidery on an entirely
new costume.

When she went into the dining-room Enguerrand, who was there with his
nurse finishing his dessert, cried out: "Oh! mamma, how pretty you are!"
which went to her heart. She kissed him two or three times--one kiss
after another.

"I try to be pretty for your sake, my darling."

"Will you take me with you?"

"No, but I will come back for you, and take you out."

She walked a few steps, and then turned to give him such a kiss as
astonished him, for he said:

"Is it really going to be long?"


"Before you come back? You kiss me as if you were going for a long time,
far away."

"I kissed you to give myself courage."

Enguerrand, who, when he had a hard lesson to learn, always did the same
thing, appeared to understand her.

"You are going to do some thing you don't like."

"Yes, but I have to do it, because you see it is my duty."

"Do grown people have duties?"

"Even more than children."

"But it isn't your duty to write a copy--your writing is so pretty.
Oh! that's what I hate most. And you always say it is my duty to write
my copy. I'll go and do it while you do your duty. So that will seem as
if we were both together doing something we don't like--won't it, mamma?"

She kissed him again, even more passionately.

"We shall be always together, we two, my love!"

This word love struck the little ear of Enguerrand as having a new
accent, a new meaning, and, boy-like, he tried to turn this excess of
tenderness to advantage.

"Since you love me so much, will you take me to see the puppet-show?"

"Anywhere you like--when I come back. Goodby."



Madame D'Argy sat knitting by the window in Fred's chamber, with that
resigned but saddened air that mothers wear when they are occupied in
repairing the consequences of some rash folly. Fred had seen her in his
boyhood knitting in the same way with the same, look on her face, when he
had been thrown from his pony, or had fallen from his velocipede. He
himself looked ill at ease and worried, as he lay on a sofa with his arm
in a sling. He was yawning and counting the hours. From time to time
his mother glanced at him. Her look was curious, and anxious, and
loving, all at the same time. He pretended to be asleep. He did not
like to see her watching him. His handsome masculine face, tanned that
pale brown which tropical climates give to fair complexions, looked odd
as it rose above a light-blue cape, a very feminine garment which, as it
had no sleeves, had been tied round his neck to keep him from being cold.
He felt himself, with some impatience, at the mercy of the most tender,
but the most sharp-eyed of nurses, a prisoner to her devotion, and made
conscious of her power every moment. Her attentions worried him; he knew
that they all meant "It is your own fault, my poor boy, that you are in
this state, and that your mother is so unhappy." He felt it. He knew as
well as if she had spoken that she was asking him to return to reason, to
marry, without more delay, their little neighbor in Normandy,
Mademoiselle d'Argeville, a niece of M. Martel, whom he persisted in not
thinking of as a wife, always calling her a "cider apple," in allusion to
her red cheeks.

A servant came in, and said to Madame d'Argy that Madame de Talbrun was
in the salon.

"I am coming," she said, rolling up her knitting.

But Fred suddenly woke up:

"Why not ask her to come here?"

"Very good," said his mother, with hesitation. She was distracted
between her various anxieties; exasperated against the fatal influence of
Jacqueline, alarmed by the increasing intimacy with Giselle, desirous
that all such complications should be put an end to by his marriage, but
terribly afraid that her "cider apple" would not be sufficient to
accomplish it.

"Beg Madame de Talbrun to come in here," she said, repeating the order
after her son; but she settled herself in her chair with an air more
patient, more resigned than ever, and her lips were firmly closed.

Giselle entered in her charming new gown, and Fred's first words, like
those of Enguerrand, were: "How pretty you are! It is charity," he
added, smiling, "to present such a spectacle to the eyes of a sick man;
it is enough to set him up again."

"Isn't it?" said Giselle, kissing Madame d'Argy on the forehead. The
poor mother had resumed her knitting with a sigh, hardly glancing at the
pretty walking-costume, nor at the bonnet with its network of gold.

"Isn't it pretty?" repeated Giselle. "I am delighted with this costume.
It is made after one of Rejane's. Oscar fell in love with it at a first
representation of a vaudeville, and he gave me over into the hands of the
same dressmaker, who indeed was named in the play. That kind of
advertising seems very effective."

She went on chattering thus to put off what she had really come to say.
Her heart was beating so fast that its throbs could be seen under the
embroidered front of the bodice which fitted her so smoothly. She
wondered how Madame d'Argy would receive the suggestion she was about to

She went on: "I dressed myself in my best to-day because I am so happy."

Madame d'Argy's long tortoise-shell knitting-needles stopped.

"I am glad to hear it, my dear," she said, coldly, "I am glad anybody can
be happy. There are so many of us who are sad."

"But why are you pleased?" asked Fred, looking at her, as if by some
instinct he understood that he had something to do with it.

"Our prodigal has returned," answered Giselle, with a little air of
satisfaction, very artificial, however, for she could hardly breathe,
so great was her fear and her emotion. "My house is in the garb of

"The prodigal? Do you mean your husband?" said Madame d'Argy,

"Oh! I despair of him," replied Giselle, lightly. "No, I speak of a
prodigal who did not go far, and who made haste to repent. I am speaking
of Jacqueline."

There was complete silence. The knitting-needles ticked rapidly,
a slight flush rose on the dark cheeks of Fred.

"All I beg," said Madame d'Argy, "is that you will not ask me to eat the
fatted calf in her honor. The comings and going of Mademoiselle de
Nailles have long ceased to have the slightest interest for me."

"They have for Fred at any rate; he has just proved it, I should say,"
replied Giselle.

By this time the others were as much embarrassed as Giselle. She saw it,
and went on quickly:

"Their names are together in everybody's mouth; you can not hinder it."

"I regret it deeply-and allow me to make one remark: it seems to me you
show a want of tact such as I should never have imagined in telling us--"

Giselle read in Fred's eyes, which were steadily fixed on her, that he
was, on that point, of his mother's opinion. She went on, however, still
pretending to blunder.

"Forgive me--but I have been so anxious about you ever since I heard
there was to be a second meeting--"

"A second meeting!" screamed Madame d'Argy, who, as she read no paper
but the Gazette de France, or occasionally the Debats, knew nothing of
all the rumors that find their echo in the daily papers.

"Oh, 'mon Dieu'! I thought you knew--"

"You need not frighten my mother," said Fred, almost angrily; "Monsieur
de Cymier has written a letter which puts an end to our quarrel. It is
the letter of a man of honor apologizing for having spoken lightly, for
having repeated false rumors without verifying them--in short, retracting
all that he had said that reflected in any way on Mademoiselle de
Nailles, and authorizing me, if I think best, to make public his
retraction. After that we can have nothing more to say to each other."

"He who makes himself the champion to defend a young girl's character,"
said Madame d'Argy, sententiously, "injures her as much as those who have
spoken evil of her."

"That is exactly what I think," said Giselle. "The self-constituted
champion has given the evil rumor circulation."

There was again a painful silence. Then the intrepid little woman
resumed: "This step on the part of Monsieur de Cymier seems to have
rendered my errand unnecessary. I had thought of a way to end this sad
affair; a very simple way, much better, most certainly, than men cutting
their own throats or those of other people. But since peace has been
made over the ruins of Jacqueline's reputation, I had better say nothing
and go away."

"No--no! Let us hear what you had to propose," said Fred, getting up
from his couch so quickly that he jarred his bandaged arm, and uttered a
cry of pain, which seemed very much like an oath, too.

Giselle was silent. Standing before the hearth, she was warming her
small feet, watching, as she did so, Madame d'Argy's profile, which was
reflected in the mirror. It was severe--impenetrable. It was Fred who
spoke first.

"In the first place," he said, hesitating, "are you sure that
Mademoiselle de Nailles has not just arrived from Monaco?"

"I am certain that for a week she has been living quietly with Modeste,
and that, though she passed through Monaco, she did not stay there--
twenty-four hours, finding that the air of that place did not agree with

"But what do you say to what Monsieur Martel saw with his own eyes, and
which is confirmed by public rumor?" cried Madame d'Argy, as if she were
giving a challenge.

"Monsieur Martel saw Jacqueline in bad company. She was not there of her
own will. As to public rumor, we may feel sure that to make it as
flattering to her tomorrow as it is otherwise to-day only a marriage is
necessary. Yes, a marriage! That is the way I had thought of to settle
everything and make everybody happy."

"What man would marry a girl who had compromised herself?" said Madame
d'Argy, indignantly.

"He who has done his part to compromise her."

"Then go and propose it to Monsieur de Cymier!"

"No. It is not Monsieur de Cymier whom she loves."

"Ah!" Madame d'Argy was on her feet at once. "Indeed, Giselle, you are
losing your senses. If I were not afraid of agitating Fred--"

He was, in truth, greatly agitated. The only hand that he could use was
pulling and tearing at the little blue cape crossed on his breast, in
which his mother had wrapped him; and this unsuitable garment formed such
a queer contrast to the expression of his face that Giselle, in her
nervous excitement, burst out laughing, an explosion of merriment which
completed the exasperation of Madame d'Argy.

"Never!" she cried, beside herself. "You hear me--never will I consent,
whatever happens!"

At that moment the door was partly opened, and a servant announced
"Monsieur l'Abbe Bardin."

Madame d'Argy made a gesture which was anything but reverential.

"Well, to be sure--this is the right moment with a vengeance! What does
he want! Does he wish me to assist in some good work--or to undertake to
collect money, which I hate."

"Above all, mother," cried Fred, "don't expose me to the fatigue of
receiving his visit. Go and see him yourself. Giselle will take care of
your patient while you are gone. Won't you, Giselle?"

His voice was soft, and very affectionate. He evidently was not angry at
what she had dared to say, and she acknowledged this to herself with an
aching heart.

"I don't exactly trust your kind of care," said Madame d'Argy, with a
smile that was not gay, and certainly not amiable.

She went, however, because Fred repeated:

"But go and see the Abbe Bardin."

Hardly had she left the room when Fred got up from his sofa and
approached Giselle with passionate eagerness.

"Are you sure I am not dreaming," said he. "Is it you--really you who
advise me to marry Jacqueline?"

"Who else should it be?" she answered, very calm to all appearance.
"Who can know better than I? But first you must oblige me by lying down
again, or else I will not say one word more. That is right. Now keep
still. Your mother is furiously displeased with me--I am sorry--but she
will get over it. I know that in Jacqueline you would have a good wife--
a wife far better than the Jacqueline you would have married formerly.
She has paid dearly for her experience of life, and has profited by its
lessons, so that she is now worthy of you, and sincerely repentant for
her childish peccadilloes."

"Giselle," said Fred, "look me full in the face--yes, look into my eyes
frankly and hide nothing. Your eyes never told anything but the truth.
Why do you turn them away? Do you really and truly wish this marriage?"

She looked at him steadily as long as he would, and let him hold her
hand, which was burning inside her glove, and which with a great effort
she prevented from trembling. Then her nerves gave way under his long
and silent gaze, which seemed to question her, and she laughed, a laugh
that sounded to herself very unnatural.

"My poor, dear friend," she cried, "how easily you men are duped! You
are trying to find out, to discover whether, in case you decide upon an
honest act, a perfectly sensible act, to which you are strongly inclined
--don't tell me you are not--whether, in short, you marry Jacqueline, I
shall be really as glad of it as I pretend. But have you not found out
what I have aimed at all along? Do you think I did not know from the
very first what it was that made you seek me?

"I was not the rope, but I had lived near the rose; I reminded you of her
continually. We two loved her; each of us felt we did. Even when you
said harm of her, I knew it was merely because you longed to utter her
name, and repeat to yourself her perfections. I laughed, yes, I laughed
to myself, and I was careful how I contradicted you. I tried to keep you
safe for her, to prevent your going elsewhere and forming attachments
which might have resulted in your forgetting her. I did my best--do me
justice--I did my best; perhaps sometimes I pushed things a little far
in her interest, in that of your mother, but in yours more than all; in
yours, for God knows I am all for you," said Giselle, with sudden and
involuntary fervor.

"Yes, I am all yours as a friend, a faithful friend," she resumed, almost
frightened by the tones of her own voice; "but as to the slightest
feeling of love between us, love the most spiritual, the most platonic--
yes, all men, I fancy, have a little of that kind of self-conceit. Dear
Fred, don't imagine it--Enguerrand would never have allowed it."

She was smiling, half laughing, and he looked at her with astonishment,
asking himself whether he could believe what she was saying, when he
could recollect what seemed to him so many proofs to the contrary. Yet
in what she said there was no hesitation, no incoherence, no false note.
Pride, noble pride, upheld her to the end. The first falsehood of her
life was a masterpiece.

"Ah, Giselle!" he said at last, not knowing what to think, "I adore you!
I revere you!"

"Yes," she replied, with a smile, gracious, yet with a touch of sadness,
"I know you do. But her you love!"

Might it not have been sweet to her had he answered "No, I loved her
once, and remembered that old love enough to risk my life for her, but in
reality I now love only you--all the more at this moment when I see you
love me more than yourself." But, instead, he murmured only, like a man.
and a lover: "And Jacqueline--do you think she loves me?" His anxiety, a
thrill that ran through all his frame, the light in his eyes, his sudden
pallor, told more than his words.

If Giselle could have doubted his love for Jacqueline before, she would
have now been convinced of it. The conviction stabbed her to the heart.
Death is not that last sleep in which all our faculties, weakened and
exhausted, fail us; it is the blow which annihilates our supreme illusion
and leaves us disabused in a cold and empty world. People walk, talk,
and smile after this death--another ghost is added to the drama played on
the stage of the world; but the real self is dead.

Giselle was too much of a woman, angelic as she was, to have any courage
left to say: "Yes, I know she loves you."

She said instead, in a low voice: "That is a question you must ask of

Meantime, in the next room they could hear Madame d'Argy vehemently
repeating: "Never! No, I never will consent! Is it a plot between you?"

They heard also a rumbling monotone preceding each of these vehement
interruptions. The Abbe Bardin was pointing out to her that, unmarried,
her son would return to Tonquin, that Lizerolles would be left deserted,
her house would be desolate without daughter-in-law or grandchildren;
and, as he drew these pictures, he came back, again and again, to his
main argument:

"I will answer for their happiness: I will answer for the future."

His authority as a priest gave weight to this assurance, at least Madame
d'Argy felt it so. She went on saying never, but less and less
emphatically, and apparently she ceased to say it at last, for three
months later the d'Etaples, the Rays, the d'Avrignys and the rest,
received two wedding announcements in these words:

"Madame d'Argy has the honor to inform you of the marriage of her son,
M. Frederic d'Argy, Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, to Mademoiselle de

The accompanying card ran thus:

"The Baroness de Nailles has the honor to inform you of the
marriage of Mademoiselle Jacqueline de Nailles, her
stepdaughter, to M. Frederic d'Argy."

Congratulations showered down on both mother and stepmother. A love-
match is nowadays so rare! It turned out that every one had always
wished all kinds of good fortune to young Madame d'Argy, and every one
seemed to take a sincere part in the joy that was expressed on the
occasion, even Dolly, who, it was said, had in secret set her heart on
Fred for herself; even Nora Sparks, who, not having carried out her
plans, had gone back to New York, whence she sent a superb wedding
present. Madame de Nailles apparently experienced at the wedding all the
emotions of a real mother.

The roses at Lizerolles bloomed that year with unusual beauty, as if to
welcome the young pair. Modeste sang 'Nunc Dimittis'. The least
demonstrative of all those interested in the event was Giselle.


As we grow older we lay aside harsh judgments and sharp words
Blow which annihilates our supreme illusion
Death is not that last sleep
Fool (there is no cure for that infirmity)
The worst husband is always better than none

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