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he dreams only of Montreuil peaches and prize grapes, and totally forgets the existence of such a being as Adolphine. Shall we join them ?".
Instead of replying, Mademoiselle Bailleul fixed her eyes on the carpet with a stern air.
"Don't you think we had better go down into the garden ?" anxiously repeated the honest old man, after a moment's silence.
"You must remain here," answered Adolphine's aunt imperiously, seeming to awake suddenly from a painful dream, to play a decided part. “I tell you again, you must not interfere one jot in this affair. Remember that on no pretext must you quit this apartment till my return.”
" But, at least, let me have the newspaper,” pleaded the well-disciplined brother, casting a longing glance at the Constitutionnel, which the lady convulsively crupled up during this conversation.
Every one knows that in those households where there is no male head, the right of breaking the postal envelope of the newspaper, and of reading it before any one else, belongs incontestably to the ruling lady. There was no Madame Bailleul in existence, and consequently Mademoiselle Bailleul rigorously exercised this prerogative, and from it her brother, a zealous national guard, and an elector full of patriotism, suffered more than from any other abuse, but suffered submissively, according to his temperament. On this occasion, the politician was silenced in the aunt, who, without a word, and with unparalleled condescension, deposited on the table the newspaper which she had only half read.
" Thank you, my dear sister !" cried the old man, eagerly taking possession of the print. Speedily forgetting the flirtations of his daughter, and the easy, careless disposition of his son-in-law, in the leaders of his favourite newspaper, the father of the family was merged in the citizen.
Before he had fairly balanced his spectacles on his nose, Mademoiselle Bailleul was out of the apartment, and had descended into the garden. What she had heard from her brother, as well as her natural shrewdness, led her to seek her niece and M. Laboissière at the extremity of a shaded winding avenue, which was terminated by a bower, whence the eye could follow the capricious course of the Seine. This was the spot where a confidential conversation could best escape interruption. Instead of proceeding thither by the avenue, Mademoiselle Bailleul took a little bye-path which led to the bower, and which enabled her to reach the place without any one seeing or hearing her. As she drew near, she redoubled her precautions against making the slightest noise, and walked, we might say, were not a lady in question, with the step of a cat. After proceeding in this fashion for a few moments, she took up a position behind an enormous ash-tree, which completely shaded her from the sight of any one occupying the rustic bank in front, upon which, at this very instant, were seated Madame Adolphine Chaudieu and M. Gustave Laboissière.
Scarcely three paces separated Mademoiselle Bailleul from her niece and M. Laboissière, and, though they spoke in a low tone, their conversation could be Catight by her. The solicitude of an aunt alone could not satisfactorily explain the emotion with which Mademoiselle Bailleul gave ear to their dialogue.
Madame Adolphine Chaudieu was a pretty brunette, some twenty-three years old; and, allowing for the difference in age, was a tolerably close copy of her father's sister. If the slightly-curved, black eyebrow, the aquiline nose, the decided lines of the mouth-and if, more than all, the easy, confident glance revealed aught, it might be surmised that this attractive young lady was nowise disposed to allow a prerogative to fall into desuetude which, in her family, permitted to its female members supreme power. The conduct of her father and aunt towards her, combined with the contrast afforded by their character, had produced the fruits which might have been predicted. To the weak nature of her father she responded by an ever-changing, capricious mood; towards the stern character of her aunt she displayed a sullen subordination ; loving the one without fearing, and fearing the other without loving.
As for her husband, during the past five months no opportunity had offered for engaging with him in one of those decisive encounters which are, in married life, what a great debate, involving a change of ministry, is under a constitutional government. Provisionally, she exercised the power which usually belongs to a bride during the honeymoon period. To convert this power into something solid and unchangeable, she reckoned on two things—her own strong will, in the first place, and next, the easy, sluggish good-nature of which Benoit Chaudien every day gave proofs. Like her father, he was all docility, amiability, abnegation even. Young husband and elder brother, each appeared equally created to serve as the very obedient servants of a lady.
On her marriage, Madame Chaudieu prepared herself for a struggle, and not for spontaneous submission. Determined to fight valiantly for victory, she was overcome with surprise and embarrassment when she found herself a conqueror without an engagement. Against the passive obedience of her husband how could she employ the wonderful artifices she had prepared ?-caprices, poutings, imperious airs, persuasive wheedlings, irresistible smiles, dramatic tears, nervous catastrophes, and as many more matrimonial stratagems as her own instinct might have placed at her disposal, if the example of her aunt had not long ago taught her their use ? Madame Chaudieu was, accordingly, constrained to stow away in magazineready to be produced on the first alarm-her material of war; not, however, without experiencing a little of that vexation which a skilful engineer may be supposed to feel when, just as he is about to open fire from his trenches, he sees the flag of truce flying on the enemy's ramparts.
If, however, the young wife found her life monotonous, and complained of the length of each day, a sympathetic being had presented himself who was ready to reconcile her with her existence. On this occasion, the charitable individual who had imposed upon himself this task could the more easily appear on the scene, as he was already at the wing. A very old friend of M. Bailleul, it was quite natural that Gustave Laboissière should be introduced into the house of Chaudieu. The personage in question possessed all the qualities necessary to impress the imagination of such a lady as Madame Adolphine. Agreeable, without being handsome, hiding his lack of wit and accomplishments by an easy, confident raillery, insincere even to perfidy, bold even to effrontery, enjoying the prestige accompanying a number of successful duels, of which he was only eager to increase the number; in a word, braggart in speech and soul, he was precisely the man to fascinate many women who, like Madame de Sévigné, love so much a neat thrust with the sword.
Adolphine was not exempt from this weakness. When adventures came to be spoken of in which M. Laboissière had been victorious, and in which he had behaved with the insolent bravery of the duellist, a little thrill passed through
her which was not at all unpleasant; and when in her presence she beheld him subdued, tender, and submissive, it was with a secret pride that she enjoyed the transformation. Involuntarily she lent an ear to the gentle bleatings of this wolf, changed by herself into a lamb.
It was from the several causes which we have set forth, that, at the commencement of this narrative, there existed, between M. Gustave Laboissière and Madame Adolphine Chaudieu, a very dangerous flirtation, which one, at least, of the parties wished might enjoy a long and prosperous existence. This was the person whose pleading accents Mademoiselle Bailleul heard.
“Oh! were this Spain, I would entreat you to grant me this interview," said Laboissière.
“You would not dream of it,” responded Adolphine, absently tearing in pieces a rose she held in her hand. “I could not consent to such a piece of extravagance."
"Perhaps you would prefer my dispensing with your consent ?"
“ You would not dare !" said the young woman, tossing her head with an air of defiance.
“On my word, I would dare !" replied Laboissière in the most resolute tone. “ As midnight struck I would be under your window."
" Then you would climb the wall ?”
“ That would be an easy affair. But why need I climb, when I could enter by the door?"
“ What door ?" ". The door of the garden." " And who would open it for you ?" asked Adolphine, with a mocking smile. * This !" calmly replied Laboissière, taking from his pocket a key. “ The key which has been missing for some time, and which we thought lost !" - It was not lost to every one, you see." " Then it was you who had taken it?" “ It was." “ But this is the act of a thief !" " No; it is the ruse of an admirer." * And you would dare to use it?". “ Not later than to-night - Were this Spain !"
Madame Chaudieu shrugged her shoulders. “This is so absurd," she said, * that I must not allow it to anger me."
" Much as I might fear your displeasure, it would not alter my determination."
“ Well, madman that you are, we will suppose you really had the audacity to admit yourself into the garden. Do you know whom you would find there ?"
** Turk!" said Laboissière.
“Yes, Turk; and you would count yourself lucky if he only barked at you. The other day he almost devoured a poor workman."
“You forget that it was I who gave him to you. Turk is a discreet and intelligent dog, incapable of ingratitude to his old master. He would not open his mouth."
" And was it with this intention that you made us a present of him?"
" With no other, I assure you," answered Laboissière in a lively tone. "I must tell you I am a marvel of foresight; and in prudence I am sixty years old."
There was an interval of silence. A prey to poignant emotion, Mademoiselle
Bailleul could only restrain herself by a strong effort. Her breathing was suspended, her eyes sparkled with fury, she leaned against the tree which favoured her curiosity.
“You are in the garden, then," replied Adolphine, destroying the beautiful flower in her hand. “Instead of tearing you in pieces, the traitor Turk allows you to pass. What next ?"
“I advance softly-like a sylph, like a shadow. In a moment I am before your window, and your room is on the ground floor."
“What next ?" repeated Madame Chaudieu with increased irony.
" What next !" he said in a soft voice, and slightly bending, as though, on the slightest smile of encouragement, he would fall on his knee. “Listen! Don't interrupt me, but say afterwards if I am too presumptuous. Remember, we are in Spain. There senoras often elude the vigilance of the duenna, and, night come, when all sleeps but love, in the shadow of some low-barred window, they refuse not to allow themselves to be seen by their slaves. Would you be more cruel ?"
"My window is low, truly, but it is not barred," replied Adolphine maliciously. " Ilas it not shutters?" " They are not as secure as bars." " What have you to fear ?"
“What have I to fear from a burglar! That is a charming question! Come, give me that key !".
“Never! and, although you would treat me as a burglar, the happiness of seeing you might cause me to make use of it. A window and shutters are not 50 difficult to open from the outside as you suppose."
"Better and better! I see you are determined, at any rate, to destroy my night's rest. I am certain to dream of nothing but burglary and assassination. At the slightest noise, I shall imagine a band of brigands are rushing into the house."
“What if you heard that noise at midnight ?"
“And what if others besides me heard it?" said Adolphine in a serious tone, with a stern glance at Laboissière, and rising suddenly from her seat. “But this is a waste of words. You are mad!"
With all his effrontery, Laboissière felt it would be best to make no reply. He well knew that women dislike to have matters which they consider serious regarded as a mere pleasantry.
"Let us return to the house," said Adolphine ; “I am tired of playing senor and senora ; we are not in Spain. Your cab was seen to drive up to the house, and our absence may have been remarked."
“By whom? I saw your husband perched on a ladder, painting his trellis ; and that is an occupation too absorbing for him even to dream of anything else. As for your father, isn't it the time when your aunt hands him over the newspaper ?"
“It is my aunt I fear."
“Bah !" replied Laboissière with a contemptuous laugh. "I wager that at this moment she is putting on her rouge. She couldn't dine without it!"
On hearing herself spoken of so disrespectfully, Mademoiselle Bailleul's emotion became most violent. She trembled like a wounded tigress in her leafy hiding-place. She made a movement, as though she were about to rush
g on her role 60 disrespetike a woundede about
upon the man who was turning her into pidicule, and from whom she had received other wrongs beside this impertinence. Passion urged her forward, but reflection held her back,
"I will be revenged," she muttered between her teeth. “But the time has not come !"
Whilst Madame Chaudieu and Laboissière were slowly walking towards the house, Mademoiselle Bailleul, with her brain bewildered, rushed, almost without knowing it, along the narrow side-path which led to the house. As she reached the door she perceived her brother.
“What brings you here? Did I not beg of you to remain up-stairs ?"
"Heavens! my dear sister, what has happened ?" exclaimed the worthy man in the greatest alarm; “your face is crimson !''
"Do you not perceive it is my rouge 9" replied his sister with a forced laugh. " Your rouge ?"
"Yes, I wear rouge! A wig, also, no doubt, And, perhaps, artificial teeth," she continued, gnashing her teeth as though she would pulverize them.
M. Bailleul believed his sister was attacked with a violent fever. Strongly impressed with this idea, he looked around him uneasily, as if in quest of some assistance. At this moment Adolphine and Laboissière came unexpectedly in sight. They were slowly approaching, when they first perceived the strange motions of the old man, who was making signals to them like a shipwrecked seaman on a raft. As she perceived them, Mademoiselle Bailleul mastered, with a mighty effort, her emotion. She attributed her flushed face to a severe headache, from which she had suffered all the last night. The barking of Turk had robbed her of her sleep; it was all owing to that wicked Turk. She said all this in a natural tone, and even carried her heroism so far as to smile when she spoke to the man who had mortally insulted her!
"Poor soul!" said her brother, in the simplicity of his heart; “ how loss of sleep will upset us."
As for Laboissière, he played his part with a perfect ease, and conducted himself like a man determined to make himself agreeable to all the world. To M. Bailleul, who had funded property, he spoke of the Exchange, and the price of shares. He narrated the plot of the last new piece to Mademoiselle Bailleul, who tisually affected that taste for literary conversation which, in a lady, denotes superior attainments. Finally, in his anxiety to constitute himself a general favourite, he inquired after the master of the house, of whom nobody thought.
"Where is the King of the Castle ?" asked he suddenly. “I have a letter for him."
"A letter !" said Adolphine. “From whom ?"
"I do not know. Seeing it in your porter's hand as I drove past the lodge, I took charge of it."
"Your husband is in the kitchen-garden,” said Mademoiselle Bailleul to her niece. “For the last two days, he has thought about nothing else than painting his trellis. Shall we go in search of him ?"