Maximilian, I have often said it to you, I believe man incapable of tasting certain kinds of happiness, which are, so to speak, too complete, too immense for his circumscribed faculties; I think, too, that certain beings are too divinely endowed not to feel sometimes that they are alone here below, and that they feel at times vague regrets for their exquisite delicacy, which exposes them to so many deceptions, to so many chills which are unknown to less tender natures. It seemed to me that at that time the Princess Amelia felt the reaction of such a thought. Suddenly, by some strange chance (there is fatality about everything here), she mechanically turned her eyes toward the place where I was standing. You know how scrupulously etiquette and the hierarchy of rank is observed with us. Thanks to my title and to the ties of relationship which attach me to the grand duke, the persons in the midst of whom I had at first placed myself had receded gradually, so that I remained almost alone, and decidedly in the first row, in the embrasure of the gallery door. It must undoubtedly have been this circumstance which caused the princess, as she started from her reverie, to perceive and take notice of me, for she made a slight movement of surprise, and blushed. She had seen my portrait at the abbey, in my aunt's apartments, and she recognized me—nothing was more simple. The princess had scarcely looked at me for a second, but that look made me feel the most violent, the most profound emotion; I felt my cheeks on fire; I cast down my eyes, and remained some minutes without daring to raise them again toward the princess. When I ventured to lift them, she was talking in a low tone with the Archduchess Sophia, who appeared to listen with the most affectionate interest. Liszt having put an interval of some moments between the two pieces he was to play, the grand duke took advantage of that moment to express to him his admiration in the most gracious manner. The prince, as he turned to his place, perceived me, made a sign of the head to me with the greatest kindness, and said some words to the archduchess in pointing me out to her. The latter, after having looked at me for a moment, turned toward the grand duke, who could not help smiling as he replied to her and spoke to his daughter. The Princess Amelia seemed to be embarrassed, for she again blushed. I was in torments; unfortunately, etiquette did not permit me to quit the spot where I was until the concert was over, which was beginning. Two or three times I stole a glance at the Princess Amelia; she seemed pensive and thoughtful; my heart was oppressed. I suffered a slight feeling of uneasiness, as if I had been the cause of the pain she felt. Undoubtedly the grand duke had been asking her, jestingly, if she found any resemblance to the portrait of her cousin of the olden times; and, in her ingenuousness, she perhaps reproached hers. If for not having told her father that she had before recognized me. When the concert was over, I followed the aid-de-camp. He led me toward the grand duke, who advanced a few steps to meet me, took me cordially by the arm, and, approaching the Archduchess Sophia, said to her:
"I beg of your royal highness the permission to present to you my cousin, Prince Henry of Herkausen-Oldenzaal."
"I have already met the prince at Vienna, and I am happy to see him again here," replied the archduchess, before whom I made a profound bow.
"My dear Amelia," continued the prince, addressing himself to his daughter, "I present to you Prince Henry, your cousin; he is son of Prince Paul, one of my most venerable friends, whom I much regret not to see to-day at Gerolstein."
"Be so kind, sir, as to inform Prince Paul that I share deeply in my father's regrets, for I shall be always happy to become acquainted with his friends," replied my cousin, with a simplicity full of grace.
I had not before heard the sound of Princess Amelia's voice; imagine, my friend, the sweetest, the most delicious, the most harmonious tones; in fine, one of those accents which cause the most delicate chords of the soul to vibrate.
"I hope, my dear Henry, that you will remain some time with your aunt, to whom I am greatly attached. I respect her as a mother, as you know," said the grand duke kindly to me. "Come often to see us, familiarly, in the morning, at three o'clock. If we are going out, you can join us in our walk; you know I have always loved you, because you have one of the most noble hearts."
"I do not know how to express to your royal highness my gratitude for the kind reception you condescend to bestow on me."
"To prove to me your gratitude, then," said the prince, smiling, "ask your cousin for the second contra-dance; the first belongs of right to the archduke."
"Will your highness grant me this favor?" said I to the Princess Amelia, bowing before her.
"Call each other simply cousins, after the good old German custom," said the grand duke gayly; "ceremony is not proper among relatives!"
"Will my cousin do me the honor to dance this contra-dance with me?"
"Yes, cousin," replied the Princess Amelia.
PRINCE HENRY D'HERKAUSEN-OLDENZAAL TO COUNT MAXIMILIAN KAMINETZ.
"OLDENZAAL, August 25th, 1841.
I can hardly tell you, my friend, how pleased, and, at the same time, pained, I was at the fatherly cordiality of the grand duke; the confidence he testified toward me, the affectionate kindness with which he induced his daughter and myself to substitute for the formula of etiquette these family terms of a most tender intimacy, all penetrated me with gratitude; I reproached myself so much the more bitterly for the fatal attraction of a love which ought not, or could not be agreeable to the prince. I have promised myself, it is true (and I have not failed in this resolution), never to utter a word which might lead my cousin to suspect the love that I was nourishing; but I feared that my emotion, my glances, might betray me. In spite of myself, however, this sentiment, silent and concealed as it must be, seemed guilty to me. I had time to make these reflections while the Princess Amelia was dancing the first contra-dance with the Archduke Stanislaus. Here, as everywhere, dancing is no more than a kind of march which follows the measure of the orchestra; nothing could show to more advantage the serious grace of my cousin's carriage. With a happiness mingled with anxiety, I awaited the moment for that conversation that the liberty of the ball would allow me to hold with her. I was sufficiently master of myself to conceal my embarrassment, as I went to seek her with the Marchioness d'Harville. Thinking of the circumstances of the portrait, I expected to see the Princess Amelia share my embarrassment. I was not mistaken; I recall, almost word for word, our first conversation; let me relate it to you, my friend:
"Will your highness permit me," said I to her, "to say always my cousin, as the grand duke has authorized me?"
"Certainly, my cousin," she kindly answered me; "I am always happy to obey my father."
"And I am still more proud of this familiarity, my cousin; I have learned through my aunt to know you, that is to say, to appreciate you."
"My father has also spoken to me of you, cousin, and what will perhaps astonish you," added she, timidly, "I know you already, if I may say so, by sight. The lady superior of St. Hermangilda, for whom I have the most affectionate respect, one day showed to us, to my father and myself, a picture."
"Where I was represented as a page of the sixteenth century?"
"Yes, cousin, and my father even used the little deceit of telling me that this portrait was of one of our relations of the olden time, adding such kind words toward this cousin of former days, that our family must be happy to number him among our relations of the present day."
"Alas! my cousin, I fear I resemble no more the moral portrait that the grand duke designed to make of me, than I do the page of the sixteenth century."
"You deceive yourself, cousin," said the princess to me, gayly; "for at the end of the concert, casting my eyes, by chance, toward the side gallery, I recognized you directly, in spite of the difference of costume."
Then wishing, undoubtedly, to change a subject of conversation that embarrassed her, she said to me, "What a wonderful talent M. Liszt possesses! do you not think so?"
"Wonderful! With what pleasure you listened to him!"
"Because, indeed, it seems to me there is a double charm in music without words; not only is it played with excellent execution, but we can in a moment apply our own thoughts to the melodies that we hear, and which become, so to speak, their accompaniment, I know not if you understand me, cousin?"
"Perfectly. Our thoughts are, then, the words that we adapt mentally to the air that we hear."
"Just so, just so; you understand me," said she to me, with an expression of pleased satisfaction; "I fear I should explain but ill what I felt just now, while listening to that melody, so plaintive and so touching."
"God grant, my cousin," said I to her, smiling, "that you may have no words to put to an air so sad!"
Either because my question was indiscreet, and she wished to avoid answering me, or because she had not understood it, the Princess Amelia immediately said to me, pointing out the grand duke, who, giving his arm to the Archduchess Sophia was then traversing the dancing gallery:
"Cousin, look at my father: how handsome he is! how noble and fine his air! how eagerly all glances follow him! It seems to me he is more beloved even than he is revered."
"Ah!" I exclaimed, "it is not only here, in the midst of this court, that he is cherished. If the blessings of the people should be echoed to posterity, the name of Rudolph of Gerolstein would be, with justice, immortal."
In speaking thus, my enthusiasm was sincere; for you know, my friend, that the dominions of the prince are, with good reason, called the Paradise of Germany.
It is impossible to paint to you the grateful glance my cousin threw upon me on hearing me speak in this manner.
"To appreciate my father thus," said she to him, with emotion, "is to be worthy of the attachment he bears to you."
"And can no one but myself love and admire him! Beside those rare qualities that make great princes, has he not the genius of kindness that makes princes adored?"
"You know not how truly you speak," exclaimed the princess, still more moved.
"Ah, I know—I know it, and all those whom he governs know it as I do. They love him so much that they mourn in his sorrows, as they rejoice in his happiness; the eagerness of all to come and offer their homage to the Marchioness d'Harville is bestowed on the choice of his royal highness, as well as the true worth of the future grand duchess."
"The Marchioness d'Harville is more worthy than any one of the attachment of my father; this is the highest praise of her I can give you."
"And you can, doubtless, appreciate her justly. Have you not known her in France, my cousin?"
Hardly had I uttered these words, when some sudden thought, I know not what, came into the Princess Amelia's mind, she cast down her eyes, and, for a second, her features wore an expression of sadness, that made me silent with surprise. We were then at the end of the contradance; the last figure separated me a moment from my cousin; when I led her back to the Marchioness d'Harville, it seemed to me her features were still slightly moved. I believed, and I believe still, that my allusion to the abode of the princess in France, having recalled to her the death of her mother, created in her the painful impression of which I have just spoken to you. During this evening, I remarked a circumstance which will, perhaps, appear to you puerile, but which has been to me a new proof of the fascination this young girl inspires in all. Her bandeau of pearls being a little deranged, the Archduchess Sophia, who was leaning upon her arm, was kind enough to be willing herself to replace the bijou upon her brow. Now, to one who knows the proverbial hauteur of the archduchess, such an act of graciousness from her seems scarcely conceivable. Besides, the Princess Amelia, whom I was observing attentively at the moment, appeared at the same time so confused, so grateful, I might almost say so embarrassed, at this graceful attention, that I thought I saw a tear sparkle in her eyes.
Such, my friend, was my first evening at Gerolstein. If I have related it to you with some detail, it is that almost all these circumstances have since had their results for me. I will now abridge: I will only speak to you of some of their principal circumstances relating to my frequent interviews with my cousin and her father. The day after this fete, I was among the very small number of persons invited to the celebration of the marriage of the grand duke and the Marchioness d'Harville. I never saw the countenance of the Princess Amelia more radiant and more serene than during this ceremony. She gazed upon her father and the marchioness with a kind of religious ecstasy, that gave a new charm to her features; it might have been said that they reflected the ineffable happiness of the prince and the Marchioness d'Harville. That day my cousin was very gay, very affable. I gave her my arm in a walk that we took after dinner in the palace gardens, which were magnificently illuminated. She said to me, on speaking of her father's marriage, "It seems to me that the happiness of those we cherish is yet more sweet to us than our own; for is there not always a shade of selfishness in the enjoyment of our own personal happiness?"
If I give you, from among a thousand, this reflection of my cousin's, my friend, it is that you may judge of the heart of this adorable creature, who possesses, like her father, the spirit of goodness. Some days after the marriage of the grand duke, I held quite a long conversation with him. He asked me of the past, of my plans for the future: he gave me the wisest counsel, the most flattering encouragement; he even spoke to me of several of his plans for government, with a confidence that made me feel as proud as I was flattered; in short—shall I tell it to you? For one moment a most foolish idea crossed my mind; I fancied that the prince had imagined my love, and that in this conversation he wished to study me, feel my sentiments, and perhaps lead me to an avowal.
Unhappily, this mad hope did not last long; the prince brought the conversation to a close by telling me that the time for great wars had passed away; that I ought to profit by my name, my connections, the education I had received, and the intimate friendship that had united my father and Prince M., prime minister to the emperor, and pass through the diplomatic instead of the military career; adding, that all the questions which were decided formerly upon the battle-field, would henceforth be decided by Congresses; that soon the intricate and base tradition of ancient diplomacy would give place to an enlarged and humane system of politics concerning the true interests of the people, who from day to day gained more knowledge of their rights; that a high, loyal, and generous spirit might have, before many years, a noble and great part to play in political affairs, and might thus do much good; he proposed to me, in short, the assistance of his high patronage to facilitate me at the outset of the career in which he solicited me to embark. You understand, my friend, that if the prince had had the least design upon me, he had not made me such overtures. I thanked him for his offers with warm gratitude, adding, that I felt all the worth of his counsel, and was determined to follow it. I had at first used some reserve in my visits to the palace, but in consequence of the urgency of the grand duke, I soon went there every day about three o'clock. They lived there in all the simplicity of our German courts. It was the life of the great castles in England, rendered still more attractive by the cordial simplicity, the pleasing liberty of German manners. When the weather permitted, we took long rides with the grand duke, the grand duchess, my cousin, and the people of their household. When we remained in the palace, we were occupied with music. I sung with the grand duchess and my cousin, whose voice was of a tone of unequaled sweetness and purity—such, that I could never hear it without being moved even to the depths of my soul. At other times, we examined in detail the wonderful collection of pictures and works of art, or the admirable library of the prince, who, you know, is one of the most learned and best-informed men in Europe; frequently I returned to dine at the palace, and on opera days I accompanied the grand ducal family to the theater.
Every day passed like a dream: my cousin gradually came to treat me with a true sisterly familiarity; she did not conceal from me the pleasure that she felt in seeing me; she confided to me all that interested her. Two or three times she begged me to accompany her when she went with the grand duchess to visit the young orphans; often, also, she spoke to me of my future plans with a maturity of reason, a serious and reflective interest, that astonished me, coming from a girl of her age; she was very fond, too, of inquiring of my infancy, and of my mother, alas! ever regretted. Every time that I wrote to my father, she begged me to recall her to his remembrance; then, for she embroidered to admiration, she gave me one day for him a charming piece of tapestry, upon which she had worked for a long time. What more shall I tell you, my friend? a brother and sister, meeting again after a long separation, would not have enjoyed a sweeter intimacy. Let me add that, when, by some unusual chance, we were left alone, the entrance of a third could never have changed the subject, or even the accent of our conversation. You will be perhaps astonished, my friend, at this brotherly feeling between two young people, especially as you recall what I have acknowledged to you; but the more confidence and familiarity my cousin showed me, the more I watched over, the more I constrained myself, for fear of putting an end to the adorable familiarity. And then, what increased still more my reserve, the princess showed, in her intercourse with me, so much frankness, so much noble confidence, and especially so little coquetry, that I am almost certain that she has always been ignorant of my violent passion, though there remains a slight doubt on this subject, arising from a circumstance that I will relate immediately. If this brotherly intercourse could always have lasted, perhaps this happiness might have been sufficient for me; but even while I was enjoying this with delight, I reflected that my service or the new career in which the prince was inducing me to engage would soon call me to Vienna or abroad; I reflected, in short that, presently, perhaps, the grand duke would think of marrying his daughter in a manner worthy of her. These thoughts became the more painful to me as the moment of my departure approached. My cousin soon observed the change that was at work in me. The evening before the day I left her, she told me for a long time she had found me gloomy and abstracted. I endeavored to elude her questions; I attributed my sadness to a vague ennui.
"I cannot believe you," said she to me; "my father treats you almost as a son; everybody loves you; to be unhappy would be ingratitude."
"Ah well!" said I to her, without being able to conquer my emotion, "it is not ennui; it is grief—yes, a penetrating grief that I feel."
"And why? What has happened to you?" she asked me, with interest.
"Just now, my cousin, you told me that your father treated me as a son; that everybody loved me. Ah! well, before long, I must renounce these precious attachments; I must, in short, leave Gerolstein, and, I confess to you, this thought fills me with despair."
"And the remembrance of those that are dear to us—is this then, nothing, my cousin?"
"Ah, yes—but years, but events bring so many unforeseen changes!"
"There are at least attachments which are not changed: such as my father has always shown you. What I feel for you is of this kind, you know full well; we are brother and sister—never to forget one another," added she, raising toward me her large blue eyes, filled with tears.
This glance overwhelmed me; I was on the point of betraying myself; fortunately, I restrained myself.
"It is true that feeling lasts," said I to her, in an embarrassed manner; "but circumstances alter. For instance, my cousin, when in a few years I shall return, do you think that then this intimacy, whose charm I value so fully, may yet continue?"
"Why should it not continue?"
"Because you will then be, undoubtedly, married, my cousin—you will have other duties—and you will have forgotten your poor brother."
* * * * *
I swear to you, my friend, I said no more to her. I know not yet if she saw in these words an avowal which was displeasing to her, or whether she, like myself, was sadly struck by the inevitable changes that the future must necessarily make in our intercourse; but, instead of answering me, she remained a moment silent, overwhelmed; then, rising suddenly, her countenance pale and disordered, she went out, after examining some embroidery by the young Countess d'Oppenheim, one of her ladies of honor, who was working in the embrasure of one of the windows of the saloon where our conversation took place. The evening of this day I received a new letter from my father, which recalled me suddenly here. The next morning I went to take leave of the grand duke; he told me that my cousin was a little unwell, that I might entrust to him my last words to her; he pressed me to his heart, like a father, regretting, he added, my sudden departure, and especially that this departure was occasioned by the anxiety that the health of my father gave me; then, recalling to me, with the greatest kindness, his counsel on the subject of the new career which he begged me to embrace immediately, he added, that on my return from my embassies, or on my leaves of absence, he should see me again at Gerolstein with warm pleasure. Happily, on my arrival here I found the state of my father a little improved; he still keeps his bed, and is constantly feeble, but his health no longer gives me any serious anxiety. Unfortunately, he has already noticed my depression, my gloomy taciturnity, several times; but he has supplicated me in vain to confide to him the cause of my melancholy grief. I should not dare it, notwithstanding his blind tenderness for me; you know his severity as regards everything which appears to him wanting in frankness and loyalty. Yesterday, I watched with him; when alone by his side, believing him asleep, I could not restrain my tears, which flowed in silence as I thought of my happy days at Gerolstein. He saw me weep, for he soon awaked while I was absorbed in my grief; he questioned me with the most touching kindness; I attributed my sadness to the anxiety that his health had caused me, but he was not deceived by this evasion. Now that you know all, my good Maximilian, say is not my fate forlorn enough! What shall I do—what resolve?
Ah, my friend, I cannot tell you my anguish. What is to happen, my God! All is utterably lost! I am the most wretched of men if my father does not renounce his project. I will tell you what has just happened; just now I had finished this letter, when, to my great astonishment, my father, whom I believed in bed, entered my cabinet, where I was writing to you; he saw upon my desk my first four great pages all filled; I was at the end of this last—"
"To whom do you write so at length?" he asked, smiling.
"To Maximilian, father."
"Oh!" said he to me, with an expression of affectionate reproach, "I know that he possessed your confidence entirely; he is very happy—he!"
He pronounced these last words so sadly, in such a bounded tone, that, touched by his accent, I replied to him, giving him my letter, almost without reflection: "Read, father."
My friend, he has read all. Do you know what he said to me, after remaining for some time thoughtful?
"Henry, I am going to write to the grand duke all that passed during your stay at Gerolstein."
"My father, I conjure you, do not do it."
"Is what you relate to Maximilian perfectly true?"
"Yes, my father."
"In this case, until now your conduct has been upright. The prince will appreciate it. But in future you should not show yourself unworthy of his noble confidence; you would do so if, abusing his offer, you should return hereafter to Gerolstein, with the intention, perhaps, of making yourself beloved by his daughter."
"My father, could you think——"
"I think that you love with passion, and that passion is, sooner or later, an evil consoler."
"How, my father? you will write to the prince that——"
"'You love your cousin desperately.'"
"In the name of heaven, my father, I supplicate you, do nothing of this!"
"Do you love your cousin?"
"I love her to idolatry; but——"
My father interrupted me: "If this is the case, I shall write to the grand duke to demand of him for you the hand of his daughter."
"But, my father, such a claim is madness for me!"
"It is true; nevertheless, I ought frankly to make this demand of the prince, representing to him the reasons that lead me to this step. He has received you with the most true hospitality, he has shown you fatherly kindness; it would be unworthy me and you to deceive him. I know the greatness of his soul; he will feel that I am dealing as an honest man; if he refuses to give you his daughter, and this is almost unquestionable, he will know at least that in future, if you should return to Gerolstein, you ought to be no more in the same intimacy with her. You have shown me, my child," added my father, kindly, "the letter that you have written to Maximilian. I am now informed of everything; it is my duty to write to the grand duke, and I am going to write this very moment."
You know, my friend, that my father is the best of men, but he has an inflexible tenacity of will when the question is what regards his duty; judge of my anguish, my terror. Though the step he is going to take may be, after all, frank and honorable, it does not trouble me less. How will the grand duke receive this mad offer? Will he not be displeased with it? and will not the Princess Amelia be as much wounded that I have allowed my father to take such a step without her consent?
Ah, my friend, pity me, I know not what to think. It seems as though I were looking upon an abyss, and that a dizziness were coming over me.
I finish in haste this long letter; I shall write you soon. Yet once more pity me, for, in truth, I fear I shall become crazy if the fever that excites me lasts longer. Adieu, adieu! Yours from my heart, and ever,
* * * * *
We now conduct our reader to the palace of Gerolstein, where Fleur-de-Marie had dwelt since her return from France.
THE PRINCESS AMELIA.
The apartment occupied by Fleur-de-Marie (we shall call her the Princess Amelia only officially), in the grand ducal palace, had been furnished by Rudolph's care, with extreme taste and elegance. From the balcony of the young girl's oratory could be seen, in the distance, the two towers of the Convent of St. Hermangilda, which, rising above immense masses of verdure, were themselves commanded by a high wooded mountain, at the foot of which the abbey stood. On a beautiful morning in summer, Fleur-de-Marie was allowing her glances to wander over the splendid landscape, which extended far away in the distance. Her hair was dressed, but she wore a morning dress of thin material, white, with narrow blue stripes; a large handkerchief of plain cambric falling upon her shoulders, left visible the two ends and the knot of a little silk cravat, of the same blue as the girdle of her dress. Seated in a large, high-backed elbow chair made of carved ebony and cramoisie velvet, her elbow supported by one arm of this seat, her head a little bent down, she supported her cheek upon the back of her small white hand, delicately veined with azure. The languishing attitude of Fleur-de-Marie, her paleness, the fixedness of her gaze, the bitterness of her half-smile, revealed a deep melancholy. After some moments, a heavy, sad sigh relieved her breast. Then, letting her hand which supported her cheek fall again, she bent her head further upon her breast. You would have said that the wretched girl was bending beneath the weight of some heavy misfortune. At this moment a woman of mature age, with a grave and distinguished air, dressed in elegant simplicity, entered the oratory, almost timidily, and coughed slightly, to attract the attention of Fleur-de-Marie. Arousing herself from her reverie, she raised her head quickly, and said, saluting her with a motion full of grace,
"What do you wish, my dear countess?"
"I come to inform your highness that my lord begs you to await him; for he will meet you here in a few minutes," replied Princess Amelia's maid of honor, with respectful formality.
"I was wondering that I had not yet saluted my father to-day; I wait his visit each morning with so much impatience! But I hope that I do not owe to any illness of Fraeulein Harneim the pleasure of seeing you, my dear countess, at the palace two days in succession."
"Let your highness feel no uneasiness on that point; Fraeulein Harneim has begged me to take her place to-day; to-morrow she will have the honor of resuming her service of your highness, who will, perhaps excuse the change."
"Certainly, for I shall lose nothing by it; after having had the pleasure of seeing you two days in succession, my dear countess, I shall have for two other days Fraeulien Harneim with me."
"You highness honors us," replied the maid of honor, bending again; "this extreme kindness encourages me to ask a favor."
"Speak, speak; you know my eagerness to be of assistance to you."
"It is true that for a long time your highness has accustomed me to your goodness; but this regards a subject so painful, that I should not have the courage to enter upon it, if it did not concern a very deserving object; for this reason I dare to depend upon the extreme indulgence of your highness."
"Your have no need of any indulgence, my dear countess; I am always very grateful for every occasion that is given me for doing a little good."
"This concerns a poor creature who, unfortunately, had quitted Gerolstein before your highness had established that institution, which is so charitable, and so useful for young orphan or forsaken girls, whom nothing protects from evil passions."
"And what has happened to her? what do you beg for her?"
"Her father, a very adventurous man, went to seek his fortune in America, leaving his wife and daughter to a precarious mode of existence. The mother died; the daughter, hardly sixteen years old when left to herself, quitted the country to follow to Vienna a seducer, who soon forsook her. Then, as always happens, the first step in the path of vice led this wretched girl to an abyss of infamy; in a short time she became, like so many other miserable creatures, the opprobrium of her sex."
Fleur-de-Marie cast down her eyes, blushed, and could not conceal a slight shudder, which did not escape the maid of honor. Fearing to have wounded the chaste susceptibility of the princess by conversing with her upon such a creature, she continued, with embarrassment:
"I asks a thousand pardons of your royal highness; I have undoubtedly offended you by drawing your attention to so polluted a being; but the miserable one shows so sincere a repentance, that I thought I could solicit for her a little pity."
"And you were right. Go on, I pray you," said Fleur-de-Marie, conquering her sad emotion; "indeed, all errors are worthy of pity when repentance follows them."
"And that is the case here, as I have remarked to your highness. After two years of this abominable life, grace touched this abandoned one. A prey to a late remorse, she has returned here. Chance so favored her, that, on her arrival here, she was lodged at a house belonging to a worthy widow, whose gentleness and piety are well known. Encouraged by the pious goodness of the widow, the poor creature has confessed to her her faults, adding that she felt a just horror for her past life, and that she would purchase, at the price of the most severe penance, the happiness of entering a religious house, where she might expiate her errors and deserve their redemption. The worthy widow to whom she has intrusted this confidence, knowing that I had the honor to serve your highness, has written to me to recommend to me this unfortunate one, who, by means of the all-powerful agency of your highness with the Princess Juliana, lady superior of the abbey, might hope to enter St. Hermangilda Abbey as lay sister; she asks as a favor to be employed in the most painful hours that her penance may be more meritorious. I have several times desired to converse with this woman before allowing myself to implore for her the pity of your highness, and I am firmly convinced that her repentance will be lasting. It is neither want nor age that has brought her to the true good; she is scarcely eighteen years old; she is yet very beautiful, and possesses a small sum of money, that she wishes to devote to a charitable object if she obtains the favor that she solicits."
"I will take charge of her," said Fleur-de-Marie, restraining with difficulty her emotion, so much resemblance did her past life offer to that of the unfortunate one in whose favor she was solicited: she added, "the repentance of this miserable one is too praiseworthy to be left without encouragement."
"I know not how to express my gratitude to your highness. I hardly dared hope your highness would deign to be so charitably interested in such a creature."
"She has been guilty—she repents," said Fleur-de-Marie, with an accent of commiseration and inexpressible sadness; "it is right to nourish pity for her. The more sincere her remorse, the more painful must it be, my dear countess."
"I hear my lord, I believe," said the maid of honor, suddenly, without remarking the deep and increasing emotion of Fleur-de-Marie.
In fact, Rudolph was entering a saloon which opened into the oratory, holding in his hand an enormous bunch of roses. At the sight of the prince the countess discreetly retired. Hardly had she disappeared, when Fleur-de-Marie threw herself upon her father's neck, resting her forehead upon his shoulder, and remained thus some seconds without speaking.
"Good-morning, good-morning, my dear child," said Rudolph, pressing his daughter to his breast with feeling, without yet observing her sadness. "See this mass of roses; what a fine harvest I gathered for you this morning; it was this that prevented me from coming sooner; I hope that I have never brought you a more magnificent bouquet. Take it."
And the prince, still holding his bouquet in his hand, moved backward gently, to disengage his daughter from his arms and look at her; but seeing her burst into tears, he threw the bouquet upon the table, took Fleur-de-Marie's hands in his, and exclaimed, "You weep! Oh, what is the matter?"
"Nothing, nothing, my dear father," said Fleur-de-Marie, drying her tears and endeavoring to smile upon Rudolph.
"Tell me, I beg you, what is the matter? What can have made you sad?"
"I assure you, father, it is nothing to distress you. The countess has just solicited my interest for a poor woman, so interesting, so unhappy, that in spite of myself I am moved by her recital."
"Truly? Is it only this?"
"It is only this," answered Fleur-de-Marie, taking from a table the flowers that Rudolph had thrown there; "but how you spoil me!" added she, "what a magnificent bouquet, and when I think that each day you bring me such, gathered by yourself."
"My child," said Rudolph, gazing upon his daughter with anxiety, "you conceal something from me; your smile is sad—constrained. Tell me, I beg you, what distresses you: do not occupy yourself with this bouquet."
"Ah, you know this bouquet is my joy every morning; and then I love roses so much—I have always loved them so much. You remember," added she, with an affecting smile, "you remember my poor little rose-bush. I have always kept its remains."
At this painful allusion to the past, Rudolph exclaimed, "Unhappy child! Are my suspicions founded? In the midst of the splendor that surrounds you, would you yet sometimes think of that horrible time? Alas, I had thought to have made you forget it by tenderness."
"Pardon, pardon, father! these words escaped me. I make you sad."
"I am myself sad, poor angel," said Rudolph sorrowfully, "because these returns to the past must be fearful to you—because they would poison your life if you were weak enough to abandon yourself to them."
"Father, this was by chance. Since our arrival here, this is the first time—"
"This is the first time you have spoken of it—yes; but, perhaps, this is not the first time that these thoughts have troubled you. I have perceived your moments of melancholy, and sometimes I have accused the past as causing your sadness. But, as I was uncertain, I dared not even attempt to combat the sad influence of these remembrances—to show you the uselessness, the injustice of them—for if your grief had arisen from another cause, if the past had been to you what it ought to be, a vain, bad dream, I should risk awakening in you painful ideas that I should wish to destroy."
"How good you are! how these fears show me your ineffable tenderness."
"What do you mean? My position was so difficult, so delicate. On another occasion I said nothing, but I was ever thinking of what concerned you. By contracting this marriage, which crowned all my desires, I also hoped to give another guarantee to your repose. I knew too well the excessive delicacy of your heart to hope that you could ever—ever cease to think of the past; but I said to myself, that if, by chance, your thoughts ever lingered there, you ought, feeling yourself cherished as a daughter by the noble woman who knew and loved you in the depth of your misfortunes—you ought, I say, to regard the past as sufficiently expiated for by your heavy miseries, and be indulgent, or rather just, toward yourself: for, indeed, my wife is entitled by her high qualities to the respect of all—is it not so? Ah, well, since you are to her a daughter, a cherished sister, ought you not to be encouraged? Is not her tender attachment an entire redemption? Does it not tell you that she knows, as I do, that you have been a victim—that you are not guilty—that others can, indeed, reproach you only with misfortune, that has overwhelmed you from your birth? Had you even committed great faults, would they not be a thousand times expiated, redeemed, by all the good you have done, by all that is excellent and adorable that has been developed in you?"
"Ah, let me—let me tell you all my thoughts, since an accident, for which indeed we ought to be grateful, has caused this conversation. For a long time I have desired, and at the same time dreaded it. God will that it may have a salutary result! It was mine to make you forget so many dreadful sorrows. I have a mission to fulfill towards you so august, so sacred, that I should have had the courage to sacrifice, for your repose, my love for Madame d'Harville—my friendship for Murphy, if I had thought their presence would have recalled to you too bitterly the past."
"On, my good father, could you think so? Their presence, the presence of those who know what I was, and who yet love me tenderly, does not it, on the contrary, personify forgetfulness and pardon? Indeed, my father, would not my whole life have been made desolate, had you renounced for me your marriage with Madame d'Harville?"
"Ah! I should not have been the only one to desire this sacrifice, if it would secure your happiness. You know not what self-denial Clemence has already voluntarily imposed upon herself, for she also comprehends all the extent of my duty to you."
"Your duty to me, my God! And what have I done to merit so much?"
"What have you done, poor dear angel! Until the moment you were restored to me, your life was only bitterness, misery, desolation; and for your past sufferings I reproach myself, as if I had caused them. And when I see you smiling, pleased, I believe myself pardoned; my only aim, my only wish, is to render you as entirely happy as you have been unfortunate; to raise you as much as you have been lowered, for it seems to me the last traces of the past are effaced when the most eminent, the most honorable persons pay you the respect which is due to you."
"Respect to me? no, no, my father; but to my rank, or, rather, to that you have given me."
"Ah! it is not your rank that is loved, that is revered—it is you, understand; indeed, my dear child, it is yourself, yourself alone. There is homage imposed by rank, but it is another imposed by powers of attraction and fascination! You know not how to distinguish between these, because you know not yourself; because you know not that, by a wonderful intelligence and tact, which renders me as proud as idolatrous of you, carry into all ceremonious intercourse, so new to you, a union of dignity, modesty, and grace, which is irresistible to the most stately characters."
"You love me so much, father, and all love you so much, that every one is sure of pleasing you by showing me deference."
"Oh, the wicked child!" exclaimed Rudolph, interrupting his daughter, and embracing her tenderly; "what a wicked child, who will not grant a single satisfaction to my fatherly pride!"
"Is not this pride sufficiently satisfied by attributing to you the good feeling that is shown me, my good father?"
"No, indeed, miss," said the prince, smiling, to his daughter, to chase away the sadness with which he still saw her affected; "no, miss, it is not the same thing; for it is not allowable for me to be proud of myself, and I can and ought to be proud of you—yes, proud. And, again, you know not how divinely you are endowed; in fifteen months your education has become so marvelously complete that the most difficult mother would be satisfied with you, and this education has increased still more the almost irresistible influence that you spread around you without being yourself aware of it."
"My father, your praises confuse me."
"I speak the truth, nothing but the truth. Do you wish for instances? Let us speak boldly of the past; it is an enemy that I wish to fight hand to hand; we must look it in the face. Do you not, then, remember La Louve, that courageous woman who saved you? Recall that prison scene which you have related to me; a crowd of prisoners, more hardened indeed than wicked, were bent upon tormenting one of their companions, feeble, infirm, and yet their drudge; you appear, you speak, and, behold, immediately these furies, blushing for their base cruelty toward their victim, show themselves as charitable as they were wicked. Is this, then, nothing? Again, is it—yes or no—owing to you that La Louve, that ungovernable woman, has felt repentance, and desired an honest and laborious life? Ah, believe me, my dear child, that which conquered La Louve, and her turbulent companions, merely by the ascendancy of goodness, combined with a rare elevation of mind; this, although in other circumstances and in an utterly different sphere, must by the same charm (do not smile at such a parallel, miss) fascinate the stately Archduchess Sophia and all the circle of my court; for the good and wicked, great and small, submit almost always to the influence of higher, nobler spirits. I do not wish to say that you were born princess in the aristocratic sense of the word; that would be a poor flattery to make you, my child; but you are of that small number of privileged beings who are born both to speak to a queen so as to charm her, and to earn her love, and also to speak to a poor, debased, and abandoned creature, so as to make her better, to console her, and thus gain her adoration."
"But, my dear father, I beg—"
"Oh, it is so much the worse for you, darling, that it is so long since my heart has poured forth. Think, then, how, with my fear of awakening in you the remembrances of the past which I wish to annihilate, and that I will forever annihilate in your mind, I dared not converse to you of these comparisons, these parallels, which render you so admirable in my eyes. How many times have Clemence and I been enraptured with you. How many times moved so that the tears rose in her eyes, has she said to me, 'Is it not wonderful that this child should be what she is, after misfortune has so pursued her? or, rather,' would Clemence continue, 'is it not wonderful that, far from impairing that noble and rare nature, misfortune has, on the contrary, given a higher range to what there was excellent in her?'"
At this moment the door opened, and Clemence, Grand Duchess of Gerolstein, entered, holding a letter in her hand.
"Here, my friend," said she to Rudolph, "is a letter from France. I wish to bring it to you, that I might say good-morning to my indolent child, whom I have not seen this morning," added Clemence, embracing Fleur-de-Marie tenderly.
"This letter comes just at the right moment," said Rudolph, gayly, after having read it through. "We were talking just now of the past; of that monster we must incessantly combat, my dear Clemence, for it threatens the repose and happiness of our dear child."
"Is this true, my friend? those attacks of melancholy which we have observed—"
"Have no other cause than wicked remembrances; but, fortunately, we now know our enemy, and we will triumph over it."
"But from whom, then, is this letter, my friend?" asked Clemence.
"From Rigolette, the wife of Germain."
"Rigolette!" exclaimed Fleur-de-Marie; "what happiness to hear from her!"
"My friend," said Clemence, aside to Rudolph, at the same time glancing at Fleur-de-Marie, "do you not fear that this letter may recall to her painful recollections?"
"These are those very remembrances I wish to put an end to, my dear Clemence: we must approach them boldly, and I am sure that I shall find in Rigolette's letter excellent arms against them, for this excellent little creature adored our child, and appreciated her as she should be."
And Rudolph read aloud the following letter:—
"Bouqueval Farm, August 15th, 1841.
"YOUR HIGHNESS, I take the liberty of writing to you again, to make you a sharer of a great happiness which has befallen us, and to ask a new favor of you, to whom we already owe so many, or, rather, to whom we owe the perfect paradise in which we live, I, my Germain, and his good mother.
"This is the cause, my lord; for ten days I have been mad with joy, for it is ten days since I have possessed the love of a little girl: I fancy that she is the very picture of Germain; be, that she is of me; our dear Mamma George says that she resembles both; the fact is she has charming blue eyes like Germain, and black hair, curly, like mine. Just now, contrary to his custom, my husband is unjust; he wishes to have our little one always upon his knees, while it is my right, is it not, my lord?"
"Fine, worthy young persons! they ought to be happy," said Rudolph. "If ever couple were well matched, it is they."
"And Rigolette deserves her happiness," said Fleur-de Marie.
"I have always blessed the good fortune that caused me to meet them," said Rudolph, and he continued, "But, indeed, my lord, pardon my burdening you with these little family quarrels that end always with a kiss. Certainly your ears must tingle well, my lord, for there does not pass a day that we do not say, looking at each other, we too, Germain and I, 'How happy we are! O, God, how happy we are!' and, naturally, your name follows directly after these words. Excuse the scrawl there is just here, my lord, and the blot; I had written without thinking, M. Rudolph, as I used to say, and I have scratched it out. I hope, by the way, that you will find my writing has improved much, as well as my orthography, for Germain always shows me how, and I no longer make great blots stretching all across, as when you made my pens."
"I must confess," said Rudolph, laughing, "that my friend is under a slight illusion, and I am sure that Germain is occupied rather with kissing the hand of his pupil than directing it."
"Come, come, my dear, you are right," said Clemence, looking at the letter, "the writing is rather large, but very legible."
"In truth, there is some progress," said Rudolph; "formerly it would have taken eight pages to contain what she writes now in two."
And he continued: "It is, however, true, that you have made pens for me, my lord; when we think of it, Germain and I, we are quite ashamed, in recalling how far from proud you were. Oh, here again do I find myself speaking to you of something besides what we wish to ask you, my lord; for my husband unites with me, and it is very important; we have formed a plan. You shall see. We supplicate you, then, my lord, to have the goodness to choose and give us a name for our dear girl; it is agreed upon with the godfather and godmother, and this godfather and godmother, do you know who they are, my lord? Two persons whom you and her ladyship the Marchioness d'Harville have raised from misery to render happy, happy as we are. In a word, they are Morel, the jeweler, and Jeanne Duport, the sister of a poor prisoner named Pique-Vinaigre, a worthy woman whom I saw in prison when I went to visit my poor Germain there, and whom, afterward, her ladyship, the marchioness, brought out from the hospital. Now, my lord, you must know why we have chosen M. Morel for godfather, and Jeanne Duport for godmother. We said one to another, Germain and I, this will be a way of thanking M. Rudolph again for his kindness, by taking for godfather and godmother of our little girl worthy people who owe everything to him and to the marchioness, without taking into consideration that Morel the jeweler and Jeanne Duport are the cream of honest people. They are of our class, and besides, as Germain and I say, they are our kindred in happiness, for they are like us, of the family of your protegees, my lord."
"Oh, father, has not this idea a charming delicacy," said Fleur-de-Marie, with emotion, "to take as godfather and godmother of their child those who owe everything to you and my second mother."
"You are right, dear child," said Clemence; "I am most deeply touched by this token."
"And I am very glad that I have so well bestowed my benefits," said Rudolph, continuing to read.
"Besides, with the aid of the money you have given him, M. Rudolph, Morel is now a dealer in precious stones; he gains something to bring up his family upon, and the means of teaching his children some trade. The good Louise will, I think, marry a worthy laborer, who loves and respects her, as he should, for she has been unfortunate, but not guilty, and the betrothed of Louise has heart enough to understand this."
"I was very certain," exclaimed Rudolph, addressing his daughter, "of finding in dear little Rigolette's letter arms against our enemy! You hear, it is the expression of the plain common sense of this honest and upright soul. She says of Louise, 'She has been unfortunate, but not guilty, and her betrothed has heart enough to understand this.'"
Fleur-de-Marie, more and more moved and saddened by the reading of this letter, trembled at the glance that her father fixed upon her, for a moment, as he emphasized the above last words.
The prince continued: "I will tell you also, my lord, that Jeanne Duport, through the generosity of the marchioness, has been able to be separated from her husband, that wicked man who ate her out of everything and beat her; she has taken her eldest daughter with her, and she keeps a little lace shop, where she sells what she and her children make; their trade prospers. There are nowhere such happy people, and thanks to whom! thanks to you, my lord, to the marchioness, who both know how to give so much, and to give to so good purpose.
"By the way, Germain will write to you as usual, my lord, at the end of the month, on the subject of the Bank for Laborers out of employment, and of gratuitous loans; the reimbursements are seldom behindhand, and we perceive already much good that this spreads in this quarter. Now, at least, poor families can get through the dull season for work without putting their linens and beds in pledge. Then when work returns, you should see with what spirit they put themselves to it; they are so proud that confidence is placed in their work and their probity! And, indeed, it is not only this you should see. Besides, how they bless you for having lent them the wherewithal. Yes, my lord, they bless you, you, for although you say you have done nothing in its institution but to nominate Germain for head cashier, and that it is an unknown who has done this good work, we like better to believe that it is to you we owe it; it is more natural. Besides, there is a famous trumpet to repeat on every occasion that it is you we should bless; this trumpet is Madame Pipelet, who repeats to every one that it is only her prince of tenants (excuse me, M. Rudolph, she always calls you so) who can have done this charitable work, and her Darling Alfred is of her opinion. As to him, he is so proud and so pleased with his office of bank porter, that he says that the employment of M. Cabrion would be nothing to him. To end your family of protegees, my lord, I will add that Germain has read in the papers that Martial, a planter in Algiers, has been spoken of with great praises for the courage he had shown in repulsing, at the head of his farmers, an attack of thievish Arabs, and that his wife, as intrepid as himself, had been slightly wounded in the side while she was discharging her gun like a real grenadier. From that time, they say in the papers, she has been called 'Mrs. Rifle.' Excuse this long letter, my lord, but I thought you would not be sorry to hear from us concerning those whose good Providence you have been. I write to you from the farm at Bouqueval, where we have been since spring with our good mother. Germain leaves every morning for his business, and returns at night. In the autumn we shall go back to live in Paris. How strange it is, M. Rudolph, I, who never loved the country, adore it now. I make it clear to myself: it is because Germain loves it so much. Speaking of the farm, M. Rudolph, you, who undoubtedly know where that good little Goualeuse is—if you have an opportunity, tell her how we always remember her as one of the sweetest and best beings in the world; and that I myself never think of our happiness without saying, since M. Rudolph was also the M. Rudolph of dear Fleur-de-Marie, through his care she must be as happy as we; and this makes my happiness yet more perfect. How I run on! What will you say to me, my lord? But oh! you are so good! And then, you see, it is your fault if I chatter as much and as joyously as Papa Cretu and Ramonette, who no longer dare to rival me in singing. Indeed, M. Rudolph, I can tell you, I put it into their mouths. You will not refuse us one request, will you, my lord? If you give a name to our dear little child, it seems to us it will bring her good fortune, it will be like a happy star for her; believe it, M. Rudolph, sometimes my good Germain and I almost congratulate ourselves for having known so much sorrow, because we feel doubly how happy our child will be not to know what is the misery through which we have passed. If I close by telling, M. Rudolph, that we endeavor to aid poor people here and there, according to our means, it is not to boast of ourselves, but that you may know we do not keep to ourselves alone all the happiness you have given us; beside, we always say to those we succor, 'It is not we that you must thank and bless, it is M. Rudolph, the best, most generous man that there is in the world; 'and they take you for a kind of saint, if nothing more. Adieu, my lord! believe me, when our little girl shall begin to spell, the first words she shall read will be your name, M. Rudolph, and afterward, those words you caused to be written upon my wedding gift:
"Labor, and wisdom—honor and happiness."
"With the help of these four words, our tenderness and our care, we hope, my lord, that our child will be always worthy to speak the name of him who has been our good Providence, and that of all the wretched ones he has known. Pardon, my lord, for finishing thus; I have such large tears in my eyes-they are good tears—excuse, if you please—it is not my fault—but I cannot see clearly, so that I write badly.
"I have the honor, my lord, to salute you with as much respect as gratitude, RIGOLETTE GERMAIN."
"P.S.—Oh! my lord, in reading over my letter, I perceive that I have very often written M. Rudolph. You will pardon me? I may hope so? You know well that under one name or another, we respect and bless you the same, my lord."
"Dear little Rigolette," said Clemence, softened by the letter which Rudolph had just read. "This simple epistle is full of sensibility."
"Undoubtedly," replied Rudolph, "a benefit was never better bestowed. Our friend is endowed with an excellent disposition; she has a heart of gold, and our dear child appreciates her as we do," added he, addressing his daughter. Then, struck with her paleness and emotion, he cried:
"But what is the matter?"
"Alas, what a sad contrast between my position and Rigolette's. Work and wisdom—honor and happiness—those four words tell all that has happened to her. A laborious and sensible daughter, a beloved wife, a happy mother, an honored woman—such is her destiny—while I—"
"Great God, what are you saying?"
"Pardon, my good father, do not accuse me of ingratitude, but notwithstanding your ineffable tenderness, notwithstanding that of my second mother, notwithstanding your sovereign power, notwithstanding the respect and splendor with which I am surrounded, my shame is incurable. Nothing can annihilate the past—once more, pardon me, my father. I have until now concealed it from you, but the remembrance of my former degradation throws me into despair—it kills me."
"Clemence, do you hear her?" cried Rudolph, in despair.
"But, my poor child," said Clemence, taking affectionately the hands of Fleur-de-Marie in her own, "our tenderness, the affection of those who surround you, and which you so well merit, does not all this prove to you that the past should be to you only a vain and bad dream?"
"Oh, fatality, fatality!" resumed Rudolph. "Now I curse my fears and silence; that sad idea, so long rooted in her mind, has made there, unknown to us, dreadful ravages, and it is too late to contend against this deplorable error; alas! how unfortunate I am."
"Courage, my dear," said Clemence to Rudolph; "you just now said it is better to know the enemy which threatens us. We now know the cause of our dear child's sorrow! we shall triumph over it, because we shall have reason, justice, and tenderness on our side."
"And then at last, because she will see that her affliction, if it were incurable, would render ours incurable also," replied Rudolph, "for in truth it would be to despair of all justice, human and Divine, if our poor child had only a change of sufferings."
After a silence of some moments, during which Fleur-de-Marie appeared to be collecting herself, she took with one hand Rudolph's, with the other Clemence's, and said to them, with a voice expressive of deep emotion: "Listen to me, my good father, and you also, my loving mother, this day is a solemn one—God has granted, and I thank Him for it, that it should be impossible for me to conceal from you any longer what I feel. In a little time I should, in any event, have made to you the confession you are now about to hear, for all suffering has an end, and concealed as mine has been, I should not have been able to keep silence to you much longer."
"Oh! I understand all," cried Rudolph; "there is no longer any hope for her."
"I hope for the future, my father, and this hope gives me strength to speak to you thus."
"And what can you hope for the future, my poor child, since your present fate causes you only grief and bitterness?"
"I am going to tell you, my father; but, before all, permit me to recall the past to you, to own to you, before God who hears me, what I have felt up to this time."
"Speak, speak, we hear you," said Rudolph, seating himself with Clemence, by Fleur-de-Marie.
"While I remained at Paris, near you, my father," said Fleur-de-Marie, "I was so happy, oh! so completely happy, that those delicious days would not be too well paid for by years of suffering. You see I have at least known what happiness is."
"During some days, perhaps?"
"Yes, but what pure and unmingled felicity! Love surrounded me then, as ever, with the tenderest care. I gave myself up without fear to the emotions of gratitude and affection which every moment raised my heart to you. The future dazzled me: a father to adore, a second mother to love doubly, for she had taken the place of my own, whom I had never known—I must own everything; my pride was excited in spite of myself, so much was I honored in belonging to you. Then the few persons of your household who at Paris had occasion to speak to me called me 'your highness,' I could not prevent myself from being proud of this title. If I thought then, at times, vaguely of the past, it was to say to myself, 'I, formerly so humble, the beloved daughter of a sovereign prince who is blessed and revered by every one; I, formerly so miserable, I am enjoying all the splendors of luxury, and of an almost royal existence.' Alas! my father, my fortune was so unforeseen, your power surrounded me with such a splendid eclat that; I was excusable perhaps in allowing myself to become so blinded."
"Excusable! nothing was more natural, my poor beloved angel; what wrong was there in being proud of a rank which was your own, of enjoying the advantages of the position to which I had restored you! At that time I recollect you were delightfully gay; how many times have I seen you fall into my arms as if overpowered with happiness, and heard you say to me, with an enchanting accent, 'My father, it is too much, too much happiness!' Unfortunately, these are only recollections; they lulled me into a deceitful security, and since then I have not been enough alarmed at the cause of your melancholy."
"But, tell us then, my child," asked Clemence, "what has changed into sadness this pure, this legitimate joy which you first felt?"
"Alas! a very sad and entirely unforeseen circumstance."
"You recollect, my father," said Fleur-de-Marie, without being able to conquer a shuddering of horror; "you remember the sad scene which preceded our departure from Paris, when your carriage was stopped near the barrier?"
"Yes," replied Rudolph, sadly. "Brave Slasher, after having again saved my life; he died there before us, saying, 'Heaven is just; I have killed, they kill me.'"
"Oh well, father, at the moment when this unfortunate man was expiring, do you know whom I saw looking intently at me? Oh, that look, that look! it has pursued me ever since," added Fleur-de-Marie, shuddering.
"What look? of whom do you speak?" cried Rudolph.
"Of the Ogress of the White Rabbit," murmured Fleur-de-Marie.
"That monster seen again?—where?"
"You did not perceive her in the tavern where the Slasher breathed his last. She was among the women who surrounded him."
"Oh, now!" said Rudolph, dejectedly, "I understand: already struck with terror by the murder of the Slasher, you thought there was something providential in this dreadful meeting."
"It is but too true, my father. At the sight of the Ogress I felt a mortal shudder. It seemed to me that, under her look, my heart, until then radiant with happiness and hope, was suddenly frozen. Yes; to meet this woman at the moment when the Slasher was dying and repeating the words 'Heaven is just,' this seemed to me a providential reproof of my proud forgetfulness of the past, which I ought to expiate by humiliation and repentance."
"But the past was laid upon you; you can answer for it before high heaven! You were constrained, intoxicated, unfortunate child. Once precipitated, in spite of yourself, in this abyss, you could not leave it, notwithstanding your remorse, your terror your despair, thanks to the atrocious indifference of that society of which you were the victim. You saw yourself forever chained in that cavern; the chance which placed you in my path could alone have dragged you from it."
"And then, my child, as your father has told you, you were the victim, not the accomplice, of the infamy," cried Clemence.
"But to this infamy I have submitted, my mother," sadly rejoined Fleur-de-Marie; "nothing can annihilate these horrible recollections. They pursue me incessantly, no longer as formerly, in the midst of the peaceable inhabitants of a farm, or of the degraded women, my companions in Saint Lazare, but they pursue me even to this palace, peopled with the elite of Germany. They pursue me even to the arms of my father, even to the steps of his throne."
Fleur-de-Marie melted into tears. Rudolph and Clemence remained mute before this frightful expression of invincible remorse. They, too wept, for they felt the powerlessness of their consolations.
"Since then," resumed Fleur-de-Marie, drying her tears, "every moment of the day I say to myself, with bitter shame, 'I am honored, I am revered; the most eminent and most venerable surround me with respect; in sight of the whole court, the sister of an emperor has deigned to fasten the bandeau upon my head; yet I had lived in the mud of the city-have been spoken to familiarly by thieves and assassins!' Oh, father, forgive me! but the more my position is elevated, the more I have been struck with the profound degradation into which I had fallen. At each new homage which is rendered me, I feel myself guilty of a profanation. Think of it, oh, heaven! after having been what I have been to suffer old men to bow before me—to suffer noble young women, women justly respected, to feel themselves flattered to approach me—to suffer finally, that princesses, doubly august by age and their sacerdotal character should heap upon me favors and praises, is not this impious and sacrilegious? And then, if you knew, my father, what I have suffered—what I still suffer every day, in saying, 'If it should please God that the past should be known, with what merited scorn would she be treated who is now elevated so high. What a just—what a frightful punishment!'"
"But, unfortunate one, my wife and I, who know the past, are worthy of our rank, and we love, we adore you."
"You have for me the blind tenderness of a father and a mother."
"And all the good you have done since your abode here—this beautiful and holy institution, this asylum opened by you to orphans and poor abandoned girls—those admirable cares of intelligence and devotion with which you watch over them—you insisting that they call themselves your sisters—wishing that they should call you so, since in fact you treat them as such, is this nothing to atone for faults which were not your own? Finally, the affection which is shown for you by the worthy abbess of Saint Hermangilda, who did not know you till after your arrival here—do you not owe it altogether to the elevation of your mind, the beauty of your soul, and your sincere piety?"
"While the praises from the abbess are addressed only to my present conduct, I enjoy them without scruple, my father; but when she quotes my example to the noble ladies who are engaged in religious offices in the abbey—when they see in me a model of all the virtues, I am ready to die of confusion, as if I were the accomplice of a wicked falsehood."
After a long silence, Rudolph resumed, with deep dejection: "I see—I must despair of persuading you: reason is weak when opposed to a conviction, the more firm because it has its source in a generous and elevated sentiment. Since every moment you throw back a look on the past, the contrast between these remembrances and your present position must be indeed a continual punishment to you. Pardon me in turn, poor child."
"You, my good father, ask pardon of me, for what? Good heaven, what?"
"For not having foreseen your susceptibility. From the exceeding delicacy of your heart, I ought to have divined it; and yet, what could I do? It was my duty solemnly to acknowledge you as my daughter. Then this respect, of which the homage is so painful to you, comes of necessity to surround you. Yes; but I was wrong in one point. I have been, do you see, too proud of you—I have wished too much to enjoy the charms of your beauty—those charms of the mind which surprised every one who approached you. I ought to have hidden my treasure—to have lived almost in retirement with Clemence and you; I should have renounced these fetes—these numerous receptions, at which I loved so much to see you shine, thinking, foolishly, to elevate you so high—so high, that the past would disappear entirely from your eyes. But, alas! the reverse has taken place, and, as you have told me, the more elevated you have been, the deeper and more dark has seemed the abyss from which I drew you. Yet once again it is my fault. I meant, however, to do right, but I was mistaken," said Rudolph, drying his eyes, "but I was mistaken; and then I supposed myself pardoned too soon. The vengeance of God was not satisfied; it still pursues me in the unhappiness of my daughter!"
A discreet knock at the door of the saloon which adjoined the oratory of Fleur-de-Marie interrupted this sad conversation.
Rudolph rose, and half opened the door. He saw Murphy, who said, "I ask pardon of your royal highness for disturbing you, but a courier from Prince Herkausen-Oldenzaal has just brought a letter, which, he says, is very important, and must be delivered immediately to your royal highness."
"Thank you, my good Murphy; do not go away," said Rudolph, with a sigh; "presently I shall want to talk with you."
And the prince, having shut the door, remained a moment in the saloon, to read the letter which Murphy had just brought him. It was in these words:
"My Lord,—May I hope that the ties of relationship which attach me to your royal highness, and the friendship with which you have always deigned to honor me, will excuse me for a proceeding which might be considered very rash, if it was not imposed by the conscience of an honest man. It is fifteen months, my lord, since you returned from France, bringing with you a daughter, so much the more beloved because you had thought her forever lost, while, on the contrary, she had never quitted her mother, whom you married at Paris in extremis, in order to legitimatize the birth of the Princess Amelia, who is thus the equal of the other princesses of the Germanic Confederation. Her birth is, therefore, sovereign, her beauty is incomparable, her heart is as worthy of her birth as her mind is worthy of her beauty, as my sister, the Abbess of Saint Hermangilda, has written me. The abbess, as you know, has often the honor of seeing this well-beloved daughter of your royal highness. During the time which my son passed at Gerolstein he saw, almost every day, the Princess Amelia; he loves her desperately, but he has always concealed this passion. I have thought it my duty, my lord, to inform you of this circumstance. You have deigned, as a father, to receive my son, and have invited him to the bosom of your family, and to live in that intimacy which was so precious to him. I should fail in loyalty to your highness if I dissimulated a circumstance which modified the reception which was reserved for my son. I know that it would be madness in us to dare hope to ally ourselves more nearly to the family of your royal highness. I know that the daughter of whom you have so good a right to be proud may aspire to a higher destiny. But I know, also, that you are the most tender of fathers, and that if you ever judged my son worthy of belonging to you, and of contributing to the happiness of the Princess Amelia, you would not be deterred by the grave disproportion which places such a fortune beyond our hopes. It is not for me to make a eulogium of Henry, my lord, but I appeal to the encouragement and to the praise you have so often condescended to bestow on him. I dare not and I cannot say more to you, my lord; my emotion is too profound. Whatever may be your determination, believe that we Shall submit to it with respect, and that I shall be always faithful to the sentiments of the most profound devotion with which I have the honor to be, your royal highness's most humble and obedient servant,
GUSTAVUS PAUL, "Prince of Herkausen-Oldenzaal."
After reading the prince's letter, Rudolph remained for some time sad and thoughtful: a ray of hope then lighted up his face; he returned to his daughter, on whom Clemence was vainly lavishing the most tender consolations.
"My child, you have yourself said it was heaven's will that this day should he one of solemn explanations." said Rudolph to Fleur-de-Marie; "I did not anticipate a new and grave circumstance which was to justify your words."
"To what does it refer, father?"
"My dear, what is it?"
"New causes of fear!"
"You have confessed to us but half your troubles, my poor child."
"Be so kind as to explain yourself, my father," said Fleur-de-Marie, blushing.
"Now I can do it; I could not sooner, not knowing how much you despaired of your fate. Listen, my beloved daughter! You believe yourself, or rather, you are, very unhappy. When, at the beginning of our conversation, you spoke to me of the hopes which remained to you, I understood—my heart was broken, for I was to part with you forever—that I was to see you shut yourself up in a cloister—to see you descend living to a tomb. Is it your wish to enter a convent?"
"My child, is this true?"
"Yes, if you will permit me to do it," replied Fleur-de-Marie, with a stifled voice.
"Leave us!" cried Clemence.
"The Abbey of Saint Hermangilda is very near Gerolstein. I shall often see you and father."
"Do you consider that such vows are eternal, my dear child? you are only eighteen years old, and perhaps some day—"
"Oh, I shall never repent the resolution I have taken. I shall never find repose and forgetfulness but in the solitude of the cloister, if you, my father, and you my second mother, continue your affection to me."
"The duties and consolations of a religious life might, indeed," said Rudolph, "if they could not heal, at least calm, the sorrows of your poor depressed and distracted spirit. And though half the happiness of my life is the forfeit, I may perhaps approve your resolution. I know what you suffer, and I do not say that renouncing the world may not be the fatally logical end of your sorrowful existence."
"What, you also, Rudolph?" cried Clemence.
"Permit me, my dear, to express all my thoughts," replied Rudolph. Then, addressing his daughter, "But before taking this last determination, we must examine if there may not be other prospects for the future, more agreeable to your wishes and ours. In this case, I should not regard any sacrifice, if I could secure you such a future existence."
Fleur-de-Marie and Clemence started with surprise. Rudolph continued, fixing his eyes on his daughter, "What do you think of your cousin Henry?" After a moment of hesitation, she threw herself weeping into the arms of the prince.
"You love him, my poor child?"
"You never asked me, father," replied Fleur-de-Marie, drying her tears.
"My dear, we were not deceived," said Clemence.
"So you love him," added Rudolph, taking his daughter's hands in his own, "you love him well, my dear child?"
"Oh, if you knew," replied Fleur-de-Marie, "how much it has cost me to hide from you the sentiment as soon as I discovered it in my heart—alas, at the least question from you, I should have owned everything. But shame restrained me, and would always have restrained me."
"And do you think that Henry knows your love for him?" said Rudolph.
"Great Heaven, father, I do not think so," cried Fleur-de-Marie, in terror.
"And do you think he loves you?"
"No, father, no—oh, I hope not—he would suffer too much."
"And how did this love come, my beloved angel?"
"Alas, almost without my knowing it-you remember the picture of the page?"
"Which is in the apartment of the Abbess of Saint Hermangilda—it was Henry's portrait."
"Yes, dear father, believing this to be a painting of another age, one day in your presence, I did not conceal from the superior that I was struck with the beauty of this portrait. You said to me then, in jest, that the picture represented one of our relations of the olden time, who, when very young, had displayed great courage and excellent qualities. The grace of this figure, joined to what you told me of the noble character of this relative, added yet to my first impression. From that day, I often took pleasure in recalling this portrait, and that without the least scruple, believing that it belonged to one of my cousins long since dead. Little by little I habituated myself to these gentle thoughts, knowing that it was not permitted me to love on this earth," added Fleur-de-Marie with a heart-rending expression, and her tears bursting forth anew. "I gave to these romantic reveries a sort of melancholy interest, half smiles, half tears. I looked upon the pretty page of the past time as a lover beyond the grave, whom I should perhaps one day meet in eternity. It seemed to me that such a love was alone worthy of a heart which belonged entirely to you, my father. But pardon me these sad, childish imaginations."
"Nothing can be more touching, on the contrary, poor child," said Clemence.
"Now," replied Rudolph, "I understand why you one day reproached me with an air of regret for having deceived you about the picture."
"Alas, yes, dear father. Judge of my confusion when, afterward, the superior informed me that this picture was that of her nephew, one of our relations. Then my trouble was extreme; I endeavored to forget my first impressions, but the more I endeavored, the more they became rooted in my heart, in consequence even of the perseverance of my efforts. Unfortunately, yet, I often hear you, dear father, praising the heart, the mind, the character of Prince Henry."
"You already loved him, my dear child, even when you had as yet seen only his portrait, and heard of his rare qualities!"
"Without loving him, I felt toward him an attraction, for which I bitterly reproached myself. But I consoled myself by thinking that no one in the world would know this sad secret which covered me with shame in mine own eyes. To dare to love, me, me, and then not to be contented with your tenderness and that of my second mother! Did I not owe to you enough to employ all my strength, all the resources of my heart, in loving you both? Oh, believe me, among the reproaches I made myself, these last were the most painful. Finally, I saw my cousin for the first time at that grand fete you gave to the Archduchess Sophia. Prince Henry resembled his portrait in such a striking manner, that I recognized him immediately. The same evening, dear father, you presented my cousin to me, authorizing between us the intimacy which our relationship permitted."
"And soon you loved each other?"
"Ah, my father, he expressed his respect, his attachment, his admiration, with so much eloquence; you had yourself told me so much good of him."
"He deserved it; there is no more elevated character; there is no better or braver heart."
"Your pardon, dear father, do not praise him so much; I am already so unhappy."
"And I must convince you of all the rare qualities of your cousin. What I say surprises you; I understand it, my child—go on."
"I felt the danger that I incurred in seeing Prince Henry every day, and yet I could not withdraw myself from the danger. Notwithstanding my blind confidence in you, dear father, I dared not express my fears to you. I directed all my courage to concealing my love; however, I own to you, dear father, notwithstanding my remorse, often in this fraternal intimacy of every day, forgetting the past, I felt gleams of happiness till then unknown to me, but followed soon, alas! by dark despair, when I again fell under the influence of my sad recollections. For, alas! if they pursued me in the midst of the homage and respect of persons almost indifferent to me, judge, judge, dear father, of my tortures when Prince Henry lavished on me the most delicate praises, followed me with such frank and pious adoration; putting, as he said, the brotherly attachment that he felt for me under the holy protection of his mother, whom he lost when he was Very young. I endeavored to merit this sweet name of sister, which he bestowed upon me, by advising my cousin respecting his future prospects, according to my weak knowledge; by interesting myself in all which related to him; by promising always to ask of you such assistance for him as you might be able to give. But often, also, what torments have I felt, how I have restrained my tears when, by chance, Prince Henry interrogated me about my infancy, my early youth! to deceive—always to deceive, always to fear, always to lie, always to tremble, before the inexorable look of one's judge. Oh! my father, I was guilty, I know it; I had no right to love; but I expiated this sad love by many bitter sorrows. What shall I say to you? The departure of the Prince Henry, in causing me a new and violent chagrin, enlightened me—I saw that I loved him more than I imagined. Thus," added Fleur-de-Marie, with deep dejection, and as if this confession had exhausted her strength, "I should have soon made you this avowal, for this fatal love has filled up the measure of my sufferings. Say, now that you know all, my father, is there any future prospect for me but that of the cloister?"
"There is another, my child; yes, and this future is as sweet, as smiling, as happy, as the other is dark and gloomy."
"What do you say, dear father?"
"Hear me in my turn. You must feel that I love you too much, that my tenderness is too clear-sighted, to have allowed your love and that of Henry to have escaped me; at the end of a few days I was certain that he loved you, more even, perhaps, than you loved him."
"My father, no, no; it is impossible; he does not love me at this time."
"He loves you, I tell you; he loves you passionately, to madness, almost."
"Listen further. When I told you that pleasantry about the picture, I did not know that Henry was about to visit his aunt at Gerolstein. When he came I yielded to the inclination I have always felt toward him; I invited him to come and see us often. I had before always treated him like my son; I changed in no degree my manner toward him. At the end of some days, Clemence and myself no longer doubted the regard you felt for each other. If your position was painful, my poor child, mine was not less so; it was extremely delicate. As a father, knowing the rare and excellent qualities of Henry, I could not but be profoundly happy at your attachment, for I could never have dreamed of a husband more worthy of you."
"Ah! dear father, pity, pity!"
"But, as a man of honor, I thought of the sad past life of my child. Thus, far from encouraging the hopes of Henry, I gave him, in several conversations, advice absolutely contradictory from what he would have expected from me if I had thought of giving him your hand. In such a situation, one so delicate, as a father and a man of honor, it was incumbent on me to keep a rigorous neutrality, not to encourage the love of your cousin, but to treat him with the same affability as formerly. You have been hitherto so unhappy, my beloved child, that seeing you, so to speak, reviving under the impulse of this noble and pure love, I could not for anything in the world have deprived you of its divine and rare joys. Admitting even that this love must afterward be broken off, you would at least have known some days of innocent happiness, and then, finally, this love might secure your future repose."
"Listen again. The father of Henry, Prince Paul, has just written to me—here is his letter. Though he regards this alliance as an unhoped-for favor, he asks of me your hand for his son, who, he says, feels for you the most respectful, the most passionate love."
"Oh!" said Fleur-de-Marie, hiding her face in her hands, "I might have been so happy!"
"Courage, my well-beloved daughter; if you wish it, this happiness is yours," cried Rudolph, tenderly.
"Oh! never, never; do you forget?"
"I forget nothing; but if to-morrow you enter the convent, riot only I lose you forever, but you quit me for a life of tears and austerity. Oh! to lose you! to lose you! Let me at least know that you are happy, and married to the man you love and who adores you."
"Married to him! Me, dear father!"
"Yes; but on condition that, immediately after your marriage, contracted here at night, without other witnesses than Murphy for you and Baron Graun for Henry, you shall both go to some tranquil retreat in Switzerland or Italy, to live unknown as wealthy citizens. Now, my beloved daughter, do you know why I resign myself to a separation from you? Do you know why I desire Henry to quit his title when he is out of Germany. It is because I am sure that, in the midst of a solitary happiness, concentrated in an existence deprived of all display, little by little you will forget this odious past, which is especially painful to you because it forms such a bitter contrast to the ceremonious homage with which you are constantly surrounded."
"Rudolph is right," cried Clemence: "alone with Henry, continually happy with his happiness and your own, you will no longer have time to think, my dear child, of your former sorrows."
"Then, as it will be impossible for me to be long without seeing you, every year Clemence and I will go to visit you."
"And some day, when the wound of which you suffer, poor little angel, shall be healed, when you shall have found forgetfulness in happiness, and this moment will come sooner than you think, you will return to us, never to leave us."
"Forgetfulness in happiness," murmured Fleur-de-Marie, who, in spite of herself, was soothed by this enchanting vision.
"Yes, yes, my child," replied Clemence, "when at every moment of the day you see yourself blessed, respected, adored by the husband of your choice, by the man whose noble and generous heart your father has extolled to you a thousand times, shall you have leisure to think of the past, and even if you should think of it, why should the past sadden you? why should it prevent you from believing in the radiant felicity of your husband?"
"Finally it is true, for tell me, my child," replied Rudolph, who could scarcely restrain his tears at seeing that his daughter hesitated, "adored by your husband, when you shall have the knowledge and the proof of the happiness which he owes to you, what reproaches can you make yourself?"
"Father," said Fleur-de-Marie, forgetting the past for this ineffable hope, "can so much happiness be reserved for me?"
"Ah, I was sure of it," cried Rudolph, in an ecstasy of triumphant joy; "is there a father who wishes it, who cannot restore happiness to an adored child?"
"She merits so much that we ought to be heard, my friend," said Clemence, sharing the transport of her husband.
"To marry Henry, and some day to pass my whole life between him, my second mother, and my father," replied Fleur-de-Marie, yielding more and more to the sweet intoxication of her thoughts.
"Yes, my beloved angel, we shall all be happy. I will reply to Henry's father that I consent to the marriage," cried Rudolph, pressing Fleur-de Marie in his arms with indescribable emotion. "Take courage, our separation will be short; the new duties which your marriage will impose upon you will confirm your steps still more in the path of forgetfulness and felicity in which you will henceforth tread, for finally, if you should one day be a mother, it would not be only for yourself that it would be necessary you should be happy."
"Ah!" cried Fleur-de-Marie, with a heart-rending cry, for this word mother awoke her from the enchanting dream which was lulling her. "Mother? me!—Oh, never! I am unworthy that holy name; I should die with shame before my child, if I had not died with shame before its father, in making him the avowal of the past."
"What does she say, gracious heaven!" cried Rudolph, stunned by the abrupt change.
"I a mother!" resumed Fleur-de-Marie, with bitter despair, "I respected, I blessed by an innocent and pure child, I, formerly the object of everybody's scorn, I profane thus the sacred name of mother? Oh, never! miserable thing that I was to allow myself to be drawn away to an unworthy hope!"
"My daughter, listen to me, in pity."
Fleur-de-Marie stood upright, pale, and beautiful, in the majesty of incurable misfortune.
"My father, we forget that before marrying me Prince Henry must know my past life."
"I have not forgotten it," cried Rudolph. "He must know all, he shall know all."
"And would you not rather see me die than see me so degraded in his eyes?"
"But he shall also know what an irresistible fatality plunged you into the abyss. He shall know your restoration."
"And he will finally feel," replied Clemence, pressing Fleur-de-Marie in her arms, "that when I call you my daughter, he may without shame call you his wife!"
"And I, mother, I love Prince Henry too much, I esteem him too much, ever to give him a hand which has been touched by the ruffians of the city."
* * * * *
A short time after this sad scene, the "Official Gazette" of Gerolstein contained the following announcement:
"Yesterday took place, at the Grand-Ducal Abbey of Saint Hermangilda, in presence of his royal highness the reigning grand duke and all the court, the taking of the veil by the very high and most puissant princess, her Royal Highness Amelia of Gerolstein. The novice was received by the most illustrious and most reverend Lord Charles Maximilian, Archbishop-Duke of Oppenheim; Lord Hannibal, Andre Montano, of the Princes of Delpha, Bishop of Ceuta in partibus infidelium and apostolic nuncio, gave the salutation and the Papal benediction. The sermon was pronounced by the most reverend Lord Peter von Asfeld, Canon of the Chapter of Cologne, Count of the Holy Roman Empire—VENI CREATOR OPTIME."
Rudolph to Clemence.
GEROLSTEIN, January 12th, 1842. [Footnote: About six months have passed since Fleur-de-Marie entered St. Hermangilda Abbey as a novice.]
In assuring me to-day of the complete restoration of your father's health, my dear, you give me reason to hope that you can, by the end of the week, bring him back here. I foresaw that in the residence at Rosenfeld, situated in the midst of forests, he would be exposed, notwithstanding all possible precaution, to the severity of our cold; unfortunately, his passion for hunting rendered our advice useless. I conjure you, Clemence, as soon as your father can bear the motion of the carriage, to set out immediately, quit that wild country and wild dwelling, only habitable for those old Germans of iron frame whose race has disappeared. I fear lest you should also fall sick: the fatigues of this hurried journey, the anxiety which preyed upon you until you reached your father, all these causes must have affected you sadly. Why could I not accompany you? Clemence, I beg of you, be not imprudent; I know how bold and how devoted you are. I know how anxiously you will attend to your father; but he will be as much in despair as myself if your health should be impaired by this journey. I deplore doubly the illness of the count, for it takes you from me at a moment when I could have drawn deeply up from the fountain of consolation of your tenderness. The ceremony of the profession of our poor child is fixed for to-morrow—to-morrow, the 13th of January, fatal epoch. It was upon the 13th of January that I drew the sword against my father. Ah! my friend, I too soon thought myself forgiven. The intoxicating hope of passing my life with you and my daughter made me forget that it was not myself, but that it was she who had been punished thus far, and that my punishment was still to come. And it did come—when, six months since, the unhappy one unveiled to us the double torment of her heart; "her incurable shame at the past, added to her unhappy love for Henry." These two bitter and burning sensations, the one heightened by the other by a fatal logic, caused her to take up the unconquerable resolution to take the veil. You know, my dear friend, how, in combating this design with all the strength of our adoration for her, we could not deny that her worthy and courageous conduct should have been ours. How could we answer those terrible words? I love Prince Henry too well to give him a hand which has been touched by the ruffians of the city."