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Chapter 12

  • > Some pow'r impart the spear and shield, At which the wizard passions fly, B_hich the giant follies die.
  • >
  • > COLLINS
  • Madame Cheron's house stood at a little distance from the city of Tholouse, and was surrounded by extensive gardens, in which Emily, who had risen early, amused herself with wandering before breakfast. From a terrace, that extende_long the highest part of them, was a wide view over Languedoc. On the distan_orizon to the south, she discovered the wild summits of the Pyrenees, and he_ancy immediately painted the green pastures of Gascony at their feet. He_eart pointed to her peaceful home—to the neighbourhood where Valancour_as—where St. Aubert had been; and her imagination, piercing the veil o_istance, brought that home to her eyes in all its interesting and romanti_eauty. She experienced an inexpressible pleasure in believing, that sh_eheld the country around it, though no feature could be distinguished, excep_he retiring chain of the Pyrenees; and, inattentive to the scene immediatel_efore her, and to the flight of time, she continued to lean on the window o_ pavilion, that terminated the terrace, with her eyes fixed on Gascony, an_er mind occupied with the interesting ideas which the view of it awakened, till a servant came to tell her breakfast was ready. Her thoughts thu_ecalled to the surrounding objects, the straight walks, square parterres, an_rtificial fountains of the garden, could not fail, as she passed through it, to appear the worse, opposed to the negligent graces, and natural beauties o_he grounds of La Vallee, upon which her recollection had been so intensel_mployed.
  • 'Whither have you been rambling so early?' said Madame Cheron, as her niec_ntered the breakfast-room. 'I don't approve of these solitary walks;' an_mily was surprised, when, having informed her aunt, that she had been n_urther than the gardens, she understood these to be included in the reproof.
  • 'I desire you will not walk there again at so early an hour unattended,' sai_adame Cheron; 'my gardens are very extensive; and a young woman, who can mak_ssignations by moon- light, at La Vallee, is not to be trusted to her ow_nclinations elsewhere.'
  • Emily, extremely surprised and shocked, had scarcely power to beg a_xplanation of these words, and, when she did, her aunt absolutely refused t_ive it, though, by her severe looks, and half sentences, she appeared anxiou_o impress Emily with a belief, that she was well informed of some degradin_ircumstances of her conduct. Conscious innocence could not prevent a blus_rom stealing over Emily's cheek; she trembled, and looked confusedly unde_he bold eye of Madame Cheron, who blushed also; but hers was the blush o_riumph, such as sometimes stains the countenance of a person, congratulatin_imself on the penetration which had taught him to suspect another, and wh_oses both pity for the supposed criminal, and indignation of his guilt, i_he gratification of his own vanity.
  • Emily, not doubting that her aunt's mistake arose from the having observed he_amble in the garden on the night preceding her departure from La Vallee, no_entioned the motive of it, at which Madame Cheron smiled contemptuously, refusing either to accept this explanation, or to give her reasons fo_efusing it; and, soon after, she concluded the subject by saying, 'I neve_rust people's assertions, I always judge of them by their actions; but I a_illing to try what will be your behaviour in future.'
  • Emily, less surprised by her aunt's moderation and mysterious silence, than b_he accusation she had received, deeply considered the latter, and scarcel_oubted, that it was Valancourt whom she had seen at night in the gardens o_a Vallee, and that he had been observed there by Madame Cheron; who no_assing from one painful topic only to revive another almost equally so, spok_f the situation of her niece's property, in the hands of M. Motteville. Whil_he thus talked with ostentatious pity of Emily's misfortunes, she failed no_o inculcate the duties of humility and gratitude, or to render Emily full_ensible of every cruel mortification, who soon perceived, that she was to b_onsidered as a dependant, not only by her aunt, but by her aunt's servants.
  • She was now informed, that a large party were expected to dinner, on whic_ccount Madame Cheron repeated the lesson of the preceding night, concernin_er conduct in company, and Emily wished, that she might have courage enoug_o practise it. Her aunt then proceeded to examine the simplicity of he_ress, adding, that she expected to see her attired with gaiety and taste; after which she condescended to shew Emily the splendour of her chateau, an_o point out the particular beauty, or elegance, which she though_istinguished each of her numerous suites of apartments. she then withdrew t_er toilet, the throne of her homage, and Emily to her chamber, to unpack he_ooks, and to try to charm her mind by reading, till the hour of dressing.
  • When the company arrived, Emily entered the saloon with an air of timidity, which all her efforts could not overcome, and which was increased by th_onsciousness of Madame Cheron's severe observation. Her mourning dress, th_ild dejection of her beautiful countenance, and the retiring diffidence o_er manner, rendered her a very interesting object to many of the company; among whom she distinguished Signor Montoni, and his friend Cavigni, the lat_isitors at M. Quesnel's, who now seemed to converse with Madame Cheron wit_he familiarity of old acquaintance, and she to attend to them with particula_leasure.
  • This Signor Montoni had an air of conscious superiority, animated by spirit, and strengthened by talents, to which every person seemed involuntarily t_ield. The quickness of his perceptions was strikingly expressed on hi_ountenance, yet that countenance could submit implicitly to occasion; and, more than once in this day, the triumph of art over nature might have bee_iscerned in it. His visage was long, and rather narrow, yet he was calle_andsome; and it was, perhaps, the spirit and vigour of his soul, sparklin_hrough his features, that triumphed for him. Emily felt admiration, but no_he admiration that leads to esteem; for it was mixed with a degree of fea_he knew not exactly wherefore.
  • Cavigni was gay and insinuating as formerly; and, though he paid almos_ncessant attention to Madame Cheron, he found some opportunities o_onversing with Emily, to whom he directed, at first, the sallies of his wit, but now and then assumed an air of tenderness, which she observed, and shrun_rom. Though she replied but little, the gentleness and sweetness of he_anners encouraged him to talk, and she felt relieved when a young lady of th_arty, who spoke incessantly, obtruded herself on his notice. This lady, wh_ossessed all the sprightliness of a Frenchwoman, with all her coquetry, affected to understand every subject, or rather there was no affectation i_he case; for, never looking beyond the limits of her own ignorance, sh_elieved she had nothing to learn. She attracted notice from all; amused some, disgusted others for a moment, and was then forgotten.
  • This day passed without any material occurrence; and Emily, though amused b_he characters she had seen, was glad when she could retire to th_ecollections, which had acquired with her the character of duties.
  • A fortnight passed in a round of dissipation and company, and Emily, wh_ttended Madame Cheron in all her visits, was sometimes entertained, bu_ftener wearied. She was struck by the apparent talents and knowledg_isplayed in the various conversations she listened to, and it was long befor_he discovered, that the talents were for the most part those of imposture, and the knowledge nothing more than was necessary to assist them. But wha_eceived her most, was the air of constant gaiety and good spirits, displaye_y every visitor, and which she supposed to arise from content as constant, and from benevolence as ready. At length, from the over-acting of some, les_ccomplished than the others, she could perceive, that, though contentment an_enevolence are the only sure sources of cheerfulness, the immoderate an_everish animation, usually exhibited in large parties, results partly from a_nsensibility to the cares, which benevolence must sometimes derive from th_ufferings of others, and partly from a desire to display the appearance o_hat prosperity, which they know will command submission and attention t_hemselves.
  • Emily's pleasantest hours were passed in the pavilion of the terrace, to whic_he retired, when she could steal from observation, with a book to overcome, or a lute to indulge, her melancholy. There, as she sat with her eyes fixed o_he far-distant Pyrenees, and her thoughts on Valancourt and the belove_cenes of Gascony, she would play the sweet and melancholy songs of her nativ_rovince—the popular songs she had listened to from her childhood.
  • One evening, having excused herself from accompanying her aunt abroad, sh_hus withdrew to the pavilion, with books and her lute. It was the mild an_eautiful evening of a sultry day, and the windows, which fronted the west, opened upon all the glory of a setting sun. Its rays illuminated, with stron_plendour, the cliffs of the Pyrenees, and touched their snowy tops with _oseate hue, that remained, long after the sun had sunk below the horizon, an_he shades of twilight had stolen over the landscape. Emily touched her lut_ith that fine melancholy expression, which came from her heart. The pensiv_our and the scene, the evening light on the Garonne, that flowed at no grea_istance, and whose waves, as they passed towards La Vallee, she often viewe_ith a sigh,—these united circumstances disposed her mind to tenderness, an_er thoughts were with Valancourt, of whom she had heard nothing since he_rrival at Tholouse, and now that she was removed from him, and i_ncertainty, she perceived all the interest he held in her heart. Before sh_aw Valancourt she had never met a mind and taste so accordant with her own, and, though Madame Cheron told her much of the arts of dissimulation, and tha_he elegance and propriety of thought, which she so much admired in her lover, were assumed for the purpose of pleasing her, she could scarcely doubt thei_ruth. This possibility, however, faint as it was, was sufficient to haras_er mind with anxiety, and she found, that few conditions are more painfu_han that of uncertainty, as to the merit of a beloved object; an uncertainty, which she would not have suffered, had her confidence in her own opinions bee_reater.
  • She was awakened from her musing by the sound of horses' feet along a road, that wound under the windows of the pavilion, and a gentleman passed o_orseback, whose resemblance to Valancourt, in air and figure, for th_wilight did not permit a view of his features, immediately struck her. Sh_etired hastily from the lattice, fearing to be seen, yet wishing to observ_urther, while the stranger passed on without looking up, and, when sh_eturned to the lattice, she saw him faintly through the twilight, windin_nder the high trees, that led to Tholouse. This little incident so muc_isturbed her spirits, that the temple and its scenery were no longe_nteresting to her, and, after walking awhile on the terrace, she returned t_he chateau.
  • Madame Cheron, whether she had seen a rival admired, had lost at play, or ha_itnessed an entertainment more splendid than her own, was returned from he_isit with a temper more than usually discomposed; and Emily was glad, whe_he hour arrived, in which she could retire to the solitude of her ow_partment.
  • On the following morning, she was summoned to Madame Cheron, whose countenanc_as inflamed with resentment, and, as Emily advanced, she held out a letter t_er.
  • 'Do you know this hand?' said she, in a severe tone, and with a look that wa_ntended to search her heart, while Emily examined the letter attentively, an_ssured her, that she did not.
  • 'Do not provoke me,' said her aunt; 'you do know it, confess the trut_mmediately. I insist upon your confessing the truth instantly.'
  • Emily was silent, and turned to leave the room, but Madame called her back. '_ou are guilty, then,' said she, 'you do know the hand.' 'If you was before i_oubt of this, madam,' replied Emily calmly, 'why did you accuse me of havin_old a falsehood.' Madame Cheron did not blush; but her niece did, a momen_fter, when she heard the name of Valancourt. It was not, however, with th_onsciousness of deserving reproof, for, if she ever had seen his hand- writing, the present characters did not bring it to her recollection.
  • 'It is useless to deny it,' said Madame Cheron, 'I see in your countenance, that you are no stranger to this letter; and, I dare say, you have receive_any such from this impertinent young man, without my knowledge, in my ow_ouse.'
  • Emily, shocked at the indelicacy of this accusation, still more than by th_ulgarity of the former, instantly forgot the pride, that had imposed silence, and endeavoured to vindicate herself from the aspersion, but Madame Cheron wa_ot to be convinced.
  • 'I cannot suppose,' she resumed, 'that this young man would have taken th_iberty of writing to me, if you had not encouraged him to do so, and I mus_ow'—'You will allow me to remind you, madam,' said Emily timidly, 'of som_articulars of a conversation we had at La Vallee. I then told you truly, tha_ had only not forbade Monsieur Valancourt from addressing my family.'
  • 'I will not be interrupted,' said Madame Cheron, interrupting her niece, '_as going to say—I—I-have forgot what I was going to say. But how happened i_hat you did not forbid him?' Emily was silent. 'How happened it that yo_ncouraged him to trouble me with this letter?—A young man that nobod_nows;—an utter stranger in the place,—a young adventurer, no doubt, who i_ooking out for a good fortune. However, on that point he has mistaken hi_im.'
  • 'His family was known to my father,' said Emily modestly, and withou_ppearing to be sensible of the last sentence.
  • 'O! that is no recommendation at all,' replied her aunt, with her usua_eadiness upon this topic; 'he took such strange fancies to people! He wa_lways judging persons by their countenances, and was continually deceived.'
  • 'Yet it was but now, madam, that you judged me guilty by my countenance,' sai_mily, with a design of reproving Madame Cheron, to which she was induced b_his disrespectful mention of her father.
  • 'I called you here,' resumed her aunt, colouring, 'to tell you, that I wil_ot be disturbed in my own house by any letters, or visits from young men, wh_ay take a fancy to flatter you. This M. de Valantine—I think you call him, has the impertinence to beg I will permit him to pay his respects to me! _hall send him a proper answer. And for you, Emily, I repeat it once fo_ll—if you are not contented to conform to my directions, and to my way o_ive, I shall give up the task of overlooking your conduct—I shall no longe_rouble myself with your education, but shall send you to board in a convent.'
  • 'Dear madam,' said Emily, bursting into tears, and overcome by the rud_uspicions her aunt had expressed, 'how have I deserved these reproofs?' Sh_ould say no more; and so very fearful was she of acting with any degree o_mpropriety in the affair itself, that, at the present moment, Madame Chero_ight perhaps have prevailed with her to bind herself by a promise to renounc_alancourt for ever. Her mind, weakened by her terrors, would no longer suffe_er to view him as she had formerly done; she feared the error of her ow_udgment, not that of Madame Cheron, and feared also, that, in her forme_onversation with him, at La Vallee, she had not conducted herself wit_ufficient reserve. She knew, that she did not deserve the coarse suspicions, which her aunt had thrown out, but a thousand scruples rose to torment her, such as would never have disturbed the peace of Madame Cheron. Thus rendere_nxious to avoid every opportunity of erring, and willing to submit to an_estrictions, that her aunt should think proper, she expressed an obedience, to which Madame Cheron did not give much confidence, and which she seemed t_onsider as the consequence of either fear, or artifice.
  • 'Well, then,' said she, 'promise me that you will neither see this young man, nor write to him without my consent.' 'Dear madam,' replied Emily, 'can yo_uppose I would do either, unknown to you!' 'I don't know what to suppose; there is no knowing how young women will act. It is difficult to place an_onfidence in them, for they have seldom sense enough to wish for the respec_f the world.'
  • 'Alas, madam!' said Emily, 'I am anxious for my own respect; my father taugh_e the value of that; he said if I deserved my own esteem, that the worl_ould follow of course.'
  • 'My brother was a good kind of a man,' replied Madame Cheron, 'but he did no_now the world. I am sure I have always felt a proper respect for myself, yet—' she stopped, but she might have added, that the world had not alway_hewn respect to her, and this without impeaching its judgment.
  • 'Well!' resumed Madame Cheron, 'you have not give me the promise, though, tha_ demand.' Emily readily gave it, and, being then suffered to withdraw, sh_alked in the garden; tried to compose her spirits, and, at length, arrived a_er favourite pavilion at the end of the terrace, where, seating herself a_ne of the embowered windows, that opened upon a balcony, the stillness an_eclusion of the scene allowed her to recollect her thoughts, and to arrang_hem so as to form a clearer judgment of her former conduct. She endeavoure_o review with exactness all the particulars of her conversation wit_alancourt at La Vallee, had the satisfaction to observe nothing, that coul_larm her delicate pride, and thus to be confirmed in the self-esteem, whic_as so necessary to her peace. Her mind then became tranquil, and she sa_alancourt amiable and intelligent, as he had formerly appeared, and Madam_heron neither the one, or the other. The remembrance of her lover, however, brought with it many very painful emotions, for it by no means reconciled he_o the thought of resigning him; and, Madame Cheron having already shewn ho_ighly she disapproved of the attachment, she foresaw much suffering from th_pposition of interests; yet with all this was mingled a degree of delight, which, in spite of reason, partook of hope. She determined, however, that n_onsideration should induce her to permit a clandestine correspondence, and t_bserve in her conversation with Valancourt, should they ever meet again, th_ame nicety of reserve, which had hitherto marked her conduct. As she repeate_he words—'should we ever meet again!' she shrunk as if this was _ircumstance, which had never before occurred to her, and tears came to he_yes, which she hastily dried, for she heard footsteps approaching, and the_he door of the pavilion open, and, on turning, she saw—Valancourt. An emotio_f mingled pleasure, surprise and apprehension pressed so suddenly upon he_eart as almost to overcome her spirits; the colour left her cheeks, the_eturned brighter than before, and she was for a moment unable to speak, or t_ise from her chair. His countenance was the mirror, in which she saw her ow_motions reflected, and it roused her to self-command. The joy, which ha_nimated his features, when he entered the pavilion, was suddenly repressed, as, approaching, he perceived her agitation, and, in a tremulous voice, enquired after her health. Recovered from her first surprise, she answered hi_ith a tempered smile; but a variety of opposite emotions still assailed he_eart, and struggled to subdue the mild dignity of her manner. It wa_ifficult to tell which predominated—the joy of seeing Valancourt, or th_error of her aunt's displeasure, when she should hear of this meeting. Afte_ome short and embarrassed conversation, she led him into the gardens, an_nquired if he had seen Madame Cheron. 'No,' said he, 'I have not yet see_er, for they told me she was engaged, and as soon as I learned that you wer_n the gardens, I came hither.' He paused a moment, in great agitation, an_hen added, 'May I venture to tell you the purport of my visit, withou_ncurring your displeasure, and to hope, that you will not accuse me o_recipitation in now availing myself of the permission you once gave me o_ddressing your family?' Emily, who knew not what to reply, was spared fro_urther perplexity, and was sensible only of fear, when on raising her eyes, she saw Madame Cheron turn into the avenue. As the consciousness of innocenc_eturned, this fear was so far dissipated as to permit her to appear tranquil, and, instead of avoiding her aunt, she advanced with Valancourt to meet her.
  • The look of haughty and impatient displeasure, with which Madame Chero_egarded them, made Emily shrink, who understood from a single glance, tha_his meeting was believed to have been more than accidental: having mentione_alancourt's name, she became again too much agitated to remain with them, an_eturned into the chateau; where she awaited long, in a state of tremblin_nxiety, the conclusion of the conference. She knew not how to account fo_alancourt's visit to her aunt, before he had received the permission h_olicited, since she was ignorant of a circumstance, which would have rendere_he request useless, even if Madame Cheron had been inclined to grant it.
  • Valancourt, in the agitation of his spirits, had forgotten to date his letter, so that it was impossible for Madame Cheron to return an answer; and, when h_ecollected this circumstance, he was, perhaps, not so sorry for the omissio_s glad of the excuse it allowed him for waiting on her before she could sen_ refusal.
  • Madame Cheron had a long conversation with Valancourt, and, when she returne_o the chateau, her countenance expressed ill-humour, but not the degree o_everity, which Emily had apprehended. 'I have dismissed this young man, a_ast,' said she, 'and I hope my house will never again be disturbed wit_imilar visits. He assures me, that your interview was not preconcerted.'
  • 'Dear madam!' said Emily in extreme emotion, 'you surely did not ask him th_uestion!' 'Most certainly I did; you could not suppose I should be s_mprudent as to neglect it.'
  • 'Good God!' exclaimed Emily, 'what an opinion must he form of me, since you, Madam, could express a suspicion of such ill conduct!'
  • 'It is of very little consequence what opinion he may form of you,' replie_er aunt, 'for I have put an end to the affair; but I believe he will not for_ worse opinion of me for my prudent conduct. I let him see, that I was not t_e trifled with, and that I had more delicacy, than to permit any clandestin_orrespondence to be carried on in my house.'
  • Emily had frequently heard Madame Cheron use the word delicacy, but she wa_ow more than usually perplexed to understand how she meant to apply it i_his instance, in which her whole conduct appeared to merit the very revers_f the term.
  • 'It was very inconsiderate of my brother,' resumed Madame Cheron, 'to leav_he trouble of overlooking your conduct to me; I wish you was well settled i_ife. But if I find, that I am to be further troubled with such visitors a_his M. Valancourt, I shall place you in a convent at once;—so remember th_lternative. This young man has the impertinence to own to me,—he owns it!
  • that his fortune is very small, and that he is chiefly dependent on an elde_rother and on the profession he has chosen! He should have concealed thes_ircumstances, at least, if he expected to succeed with me. Had he th_resumption to suppose I would marry my niece to a person such as he describe_imself!'
  • Emily dried her tears when she heard of the candid confession of Valancourt; and, though the circumstances it discovered were afflicting to her hopes, hi_rtless conduct gave her a degree of pleasure, that overcame every othe_motion. But she was compelled, even thus early in life, to observe, that goo_ense and noble integrity are not always sufficient to cope with folly an_arrow cunning; and her heart was pure enough to allow her, even at thi_rying moment, to look with more pride on the defeat of the former, than wit_ortification on the conquests of the latter.
  • Madame Cheron pursued her triumph. 'He has also thought proper to tell me, that he will receive his dismission from no person but yourself; this favour, however, I have absolutely refused him. He shall learn, that it is quit_ufficient, that I disapprove him. And I take this opportunity o_epeating,—that if you concert any means of interview unknown to me, you shal_eave my house immediately.'
  • 'How little do you know me, madam, that you should think such an injunctio_ecessary!' said Emily, trying to suppress her emotion, 'how little of th_ear parents, who educated me!'
  • Madame Cheron now went to dress for an engagement, which she had made for th_vening; and Emily, who would gladly have been excused from attending he_unt, did not ask to remain at home lest her request should be attributed t_n improper motive. When she retired to her own room, the little fortitude, which had supported her in the presence of her relation, forsook her; sh_emembered only that Valancourt, whose character appeared more amiable fro_very circumstance, that unfolded it, was banished from her presence, perhaps, for ever, and she passed the time in weeping, which, according to her aunt'_irection, she ought to have employed in dressing. This important duty was, however, quickly dispatched; though, when she joined Madame Cheron at table, her eyes betrayed, that she had been in tears, and drew upon her a sever_eproof.
  • Her efforts to appear cheerful did not entirely fail when she joined th_ompany at the house of Madame Clairval, an elderly widow lady, who had latel_ome to reside at Tholouse, on an estate of her late husband. She had live_any years at Paris in a splendid style; had naturally a gay temper, and, since her residence at Tholouse, had given some of the most magnificen_ntertainments, that had been seen in that neighbourhood.
  • These excited not only the envy, but the trifling ambition of Madame Cheron, who, since she could not rival the splendour of her festivities, was desirou_f being ranked in the number of her most intimate friends. For this purpos_he paid her the most obsequious attention, and made a point of bein_isengaged, whenever she received an invitation from Madame Clairval, of who_he talked, wherever she went, and derived much self-consequence fro_mpressing a belief on her general acquaintance, that they were on the mos_amiliar footing.
  • The entertainments of this evening consisted of a ball and supper; it was _ancy ball, and the company danced in groups in the gardens, which were ver_xtensive. The high and luxuriant trees, under which the groups assembled, were illuminated with a profusion of lamps, disposed with taste and fancy. Th_ay and various dresses of the company, some of whom were seated on the turf, conversing at their ease, observing the cotillons, taking refreshments, an_ometimes touching sportively a guitar; the gallant manners of the gentlemen, the exquisitely capricious air of the ladies; the light fantastic steps o_heir dances; the musicians, with the lute, the hautboy, and the tabor, seate_t the foot of an elm, and the sylvan scenery of woods around wer_ircumstances, that unitedly formed a characteristic and striking picture o_rench festivity. Emily surveyed the gaiety of the scene with a melanchol_ind of pleasure, and her emotion may be imagined when, as she stood with he_unt, looking at one of the groups, she perceived Valancourt; saw him dancin_ith a young and beautiful lady, saw him conversing with her with a mixture o_ttention and familiarity, such as she had seldom observed in his manner. Sh_urned hastily from the scene, and attempted to draw away Madame Cheron, wh_as conversing with Signor Cavigni, and neither perceived Valancourt, or wa_illing to be interrupted. A faintness suddenly came over Emily, and, unabl_o support herself, she sat down on a turf bank beneath the trees, wher_everal other persons were seated. One of these, observing the extrem_aleness of her countenance, enquired if she was ill, and begged she woul_llow him to fetch her a glass of water, for which politeness she thanked him, but did not accept it. Her apprehension lest Valancourt should observe he_motion made her anxious to overcome it, and she succeeded so far as to re- compose her countenance. Madame Cheron was still conversing with Cavigni; an_he Count Bauvillers, who had addressed Emily, made some observations upon th_cene, to which she answered almost unconsciously, for her mind was stil_ccupied with the idea of Valancourt, to whom it was with extreme uneasines_hat she remained so near. Some remarks, however, which the Count made upo_he dance obliged her to turn her eyes towards it, and, at that moment, Valancourt's met hers. Her colour faded again, she felt, that she wa_elapsing into faintness, and instantly averted her looks, but not before sh_ad observed the altered countenance of Valancourt, on perceiving her. Sh_ould have left the spot immediately, had she not been conscious, that thi_onduct would have shewn him more obviously the interest he held in her heart; and, having tried to attend to the Count's conversation, and to join in it, she, at length, recovered her spirits. But, when he made some observation o_alancourt's partner, the fear of shewing that she was interested in th_emark, would have betrayed it to him, had not the Count, while he spoke, looked towards the person of whom he was speaking. 'The lady,' said he,
  • 'dancing with that young Chevalier, who appears to be accomplished in ever_hing, but in dancing, is ranked among the beauties of Tholouse. She i_andsome, and her fortune will be very large. I hope she will make a bette_hoice in a partner for life than she has done in a partner for the dance, fo_ observe he has just put the set into great confusion; he does nothing bu_ommit blunders. I am surprised, that, with his air and figure, he has no_aken more care to accomplish himself in dancing.'
  • Emily, whose heart trembled at every word, that was now uttered, endeavoure_o turn the conversation from Valancourt, by enquiring the name of the lady, with whom he danced; but, before the Count could reply, the dance concluded, and Emily, perceiving that Valancourt was coming towards her, rose and joine_adame Cheron.
  • 'Here is the Chevalier Valancourt, madam,' said she in a whisper, 'pray let u_o.' Her aunt immediately moved on, but not before Valancourt had reache_hem, who bowed lowly to Madame Cheron, and with an earnest and dejected loo_o Emily, with whom, notwithstanding all her effort, an air of more tha_ommon reserve prevailed. The presence of Madame Cheron prevented Valancour_rom remaining, and he passed on with a countenance, whose melanchol_eproached her for having increased it. Emily was called from the musing fit, into which she had fallen, by the Count Bauvillers, who was known to her aunt.
  • 'I have your pardon to beg, ma'amselle,' said he, 'for a rudeness, which yo_ill readily believe was quite unintentional. I did not know, that th_hevalier was your acquaintance, when I so freely criticised his dancing.'
  • Emily blushed and smiled, and Madame Cheron spared her the difficulty o_eplying. 'If you mean the person, who has just passed us,' said she, 'I ca_ssure you he is no acquaintance of either mine, or ma'amselle St. Aubert's: _now nothing of him.'
  • 'O! that is the Chevalier Valancourt,' said Cavigni carelessly, and lookin_ack. 'You know him then?' said Madame Cheron. 'I am not acquainted with him,'
  • replied Cavigni. 'You don't know, then, the reason I have to call hi_mpertinent;—he has had the presumption to admire my niece!'
  • 'If every man deserves the title of impertinent, who admires ma'amselle St.
  • Aubert,' replied Cavigni, 'I fear there are a great many impertinents, and _m willing to acknowledge myself one of the number.'
  • 'O Signor!' said Madame Cheron, with an affected smile, 'I perceive you hav_earnt the art of complimenting, since you came into France. But it is crue_o compliment children, since they mistake flattery for truth.'
  • Cavigni turned away his face for a moment, and then said with a studied air,
  • 'Whom then are we to compliment, madam? for it would be absurd to compliment _oman of refined understanding; SHE is above all praise.' As he finished th_entence he gave Emily a sly look, and the smile, that had lurked in his eye, stole forth. She perfectly understood it, and blushed for Madame Cheron, wh_eplied, 'You are perfectly right, signor, no woman of understanding ca_ndure compliment.'
  • 'I have heard Signor Montoni say,' rejoined Cavigni, 'that he never knew bu_ne woman who deserved it.'
  • 'Well!' exclaimed Madame Cheron, with a short laugh, and a smile o_nutterable complacency, 'and who could she be?'
  • 'O!' replied Cavigni, 'it is impossible to mistake her, for certainly there i_ot more than one woman in the world, who has both the merit to deserv_ompliment and the wit to refuse it. Most women reverse the case entirely.' H_ooked again at Emily, who blushed deeper than before for her aunt, and turne_rom him with displeasure.
  • 'Well, signor!' said Madame Cheron, 'I protest you are a Frenchman; I neve_eard a foreigner say any thing half so gallant as that!'
  • 'True, madam,' said the Count, who had been some time silent, and with a lo_ow, 'but the gallantry of the compliment had been utterly lost, but for th_ngenuity that discovered the application.'
  • Madame Cheron did not perceive the meaning of this too satirical sentence, an_he, therefore, escaped the pain, which Emily felt on her account. 'O! her_omes Signor Montoni himself,' said her aunt, 'I protest I will tell him al_he fine things you have been saying to me.' The Signor, however, passed a_his moment into another walk. 'Pray, who is it, that has so much engaged you_riend this evening?' asked Madame Cheron, with an air of chagrin, 'I have no_een him once.'
  • 'He had a very particular engagement with the Marquis La Riviere,' replie_avigni, 'which has detained him, I perceive, till this moment, or he woul_ave done himself the honour of paying his respects to you, madam, sooner, a_e commissioned me to say. But, I know not how it is—your conversation is s_ascinating—that it can charm even memory, I think, or I should certainly hav_elivered my friend's apology before.'
  • 'The apology, sir, would have been more satisfactory from himself,' sai_adame Cheron, whose vanity was more mortified by Montoni's neglect, tha_lattered by Cavigni's compliment. Her manner, at this moment, and Cavigni'_ate conversation, now awakened a suspicion in Emily's mind, which, notwithstanding that some recollections served to confirm it, appeare_reposterous. She thought she perceived, that Montoni was paying seriou_ddresses to her aunt, and that she not only accepted them, but was jealousl_atchful of any appearance of neglect on his part.—That Madame Cheron at he_ears should elect a second husband was ridiculous, though her vanity made i_ot impossible; but that Montoni, with his discernment, his figure, an_retensions, should make a choice of Madame Cheron—appeared most wonderful.
  • Her thoughts, however, did not dwell long on the subject; nearer interest_ressed upon them; Valancourt, rejected of her aunt, and Valancourt dancin_ith a gay and beautiful partner, alternately tormented her mind. As sh_assed along the gardens she looked timidly forward, half fearing and hal_oping that he might appear in the crowd; and the disappointment she felt o_ot seeing him, told her, that she had hoped more than she had feared.
  • Montoni soon after joined the party. He muttered over some short speech abou_egret for having been so long detained elsewhere, when he knew he should hav_he pleasure of seeing Madame Cheron here; and she, receiving the apology wit_he air of a pettish girl, addressed herself entirely to Cavigni, who looke_rchly at Montoni, as if he would have said, 'I will not triumph over you to_uch; I will have the goodness to bear my honours meekly; but look sharp, Signor, or I shall certainly run away with your prize.'
  • The supper was served in different pavilions in the gardens, as well as in on_arge saloon of the chateau, and with more of taste, than either of splendour, or even of plenty. Madame Cheron and her party supped with Madame Clairval i_he saloon, and Emily, with difficulty, disguised her emotion, when she sa_alancourt placed at the same table with herself. There, Madame Cheron havin_urveyed him with high displeasure, said to some person who sat next to her,
  • 'Pray, who IS that young man?' 'It is the Chevalier Valancourt,' was th_nswer. 'Yes, I am not ignorant of his name, but who is this Chevalie_alancourt that thus intrudes himself at this table?' The attention of th_erson, who whom she spoke, was called off before she received a second reply.
  • The table, at which they sat, was very long, and, Valancourt being seated, with his partner, near the bottom, and Emily near the top, the distanc_etween them may account for his not immediately perceiving her. She avoide_ooking to that end of the table, but whenever her eyes happened to glanc_owards it, she observed him conversing with his beautiful companion, and th_bservation did not contribute to restore her peace, any more than th_ccounts she heard of the fortune and accomplishments of this same lady.
  • Madame Cheron, to whom these remarks were sometimes addressed, because the_upported topics for trivial conversation, seemed indefatigable in he_ttempts to depreciate Valancourt, towards whom she felt all the pett_esentment of a narrow pride. 'I admire the lady,' said she, 'but I mus_ondemn her choice of a partner.' 'Oh, the Chevalier Valancourt is one of th_ost accomplished young men we have,' replied the lady, to whom this remar_as addressed: 'it is whispered, that Mademoiselle D'Emery, and her larg_ortune, are to be his.'
  • 'Impossible!' exclaimed Madame Cheron, reddening with vexation, 'it i_mpossible that she can be so destitute of taste; he has so little the air o_ person of condition, that, if I did not see him at the table of Madam_lairval, I should never have suspected him to be one. I have beside_articular reasons for believing the report to be erroneous.'
  • 'I cannot doubt the truth of it,' replied the lady gravely, disgusted by th_brupt contradiction she had received, concerning her opinion of Valancourt'_erit. 'You will, perhaps, doubt it,' said Madame Cheron, 'when I assure you, that it was only this morning that I rejected his suit.' This was said withou_ny intention of imposing the meaning it conveyed, but simply from a habit o_onsidering herself to be the most important person in every affair tha_oncerned her niece, and because literally she had rejected Valancourt. 'You_easons are indeed such as cannot be doubted,' replied the lady, with a_ronical smile. 'Any more than the discernment of the Chevalier Valancourt,'
  • added Cavigni, who stood by the chair of Madame Cheron, and had heard he_rrogate to herself, as he thought, a distinction which had been paid to he_iece. 'His discernment MAY be justly questioned, Signor,' said Madame Cheron, who was not flattered by what she understood to be an encomium on Emily.
  • 'Alas!' exclaimed Cavigni, surveying Madame Cheron with affected ecstasy, 'ho_ain is that assertion, while that face—that shape— that air—combine to refut_t! Unhappy Valancourt! his discernment has been his destruction.'
  • Emily looked surprised and embarrassed; the lady, who had lately spoke, astonished, and Madame Cheron, who, though she did not perfectly understan_his speech, was very ready to believe herself complimented by it, sai_milingly, 'O Signor! you are very gallant; but those, who hear you vindicat_he Chevalier's discernment, will suppose that I am the object of it.'
  • 'They cannot doubt it,' replied Cavigni, bowing low.
  • 'And would not that be very mortifying, Signor?'
  • 'Unquestionably it would,' said Cavigni.
  • 'I cannot endure the thought,' said Madame Cheron.
  • 'It is not to be endured,' replied Cavigni.
  • 'What can be done to prevent so humiliating a mistake?' rejoined Madam_heron.
  • 'Alas! I cannot assist you,' replied Cavigni, with a deliberating air. 'You_nly chance of refuting the calumny, and of making people understand what yo_ish them to believe, is to persist in your first assertion; for, when the_re told of the Chevalier's want of discernment, it is possible they ma_uppose he never presumed to distress you with his admiration.—But the_gain—that diffidence, which renders you so insensible to your ow_erfections—they will consider this, and Valancourt's taste will not b_oubted, though you arraign it. In short, they will, in spite of you_ndeavours, continue to believe, what might very naturally have occurred t_hem without any hint of mine—that the Chevalier has taste enough to admire _eautiful woman.'
  • 'All this is very distressing!' said Madame Cheron, with a profound sigh.
  • 'May I be allowed to ask what is so distressing?' said Madame Clairval, wh_as struck with the rueful countenance and doleful accent, with which this wa_elivered.
  • 'It is a delicate subject,' replied Madame Cheron, 'a very mortifying one t_e.' 'I am concerned to hear it,' said Madame Clairval, 'I hope nothing ha_ccurred, this evening, particularly to distress you?' 'Alas, yes! within thi_alf hour; and I know not where the report may end;—my pride was never s_hocked before, but I assure you the report is totally void of foundation.'
  • 'Good God!' exclaimed Madame Clairval,' what can be done? Can you point ou_ny way, by which I can assist, or console you?'
  • 'The only way, by which you can do either,' replied Madame Cheron, 'is t_ontradict the report wherever you go.'
  • 'Well! but pray inform me what I am to contradict.'
  • 'It is so very humiliating, that I know not how to mention it,' continue_adame Cheron, 'but you shall judge. Do you observe that young man seated nea_he bottom of the table, who is conversing with Mademoiselle D'Emery?' 'Yes, _erceive whom you mean.' 'You observe how little he has the air of a person o_ondition; I was saying just now, that I should not have thought him _entleman, if I had not seen him at this table.' 'Well! but the report,' sai_adame Clairval, 'let me understand the subject of your distress.' 'Ah! th_ubject of my distress,' replied Madame Cheron; 'this person, whom nobod_nows—(I beg pardon, madam, I did not consider what I said)— this impertinen_oung man, having had the presumption to address my niece, has, I fear, give_ise to a report, that he had declared himself my admirer. Now only conside_ow very mortifying such a report must be! You, I know, will feel for m_ituation. A woman of my condition!—think how degrading even the rumour o_uch an alliance must be.'
  • 'Degrading indeed, my poor friend!' said Madame Clairval. 'You may rely upo_t I will contradict the report wherever I go;' as she said which, she turne_er attention upon another part of the company; and Cavigni, who had hithert_ppeared a grave spectator of the scene, now fearing he should be unable t_mother the laugh, that convulsed him, walked abruptly away.
  • 'I perceive you do not know,' said the lady who sat near Madame Cheron, 'tha_he gentleman you have been speaking of is Madame Clairval's nephew!'
  • 'Impossible!' exclaimed Madame Cheron, who now began to perceive, that she ha_een totally mistaken in her judgment of Valancourt, and to praise him alou_ith as much servility, as she had before censured him with frivolou_alignity.
  • Emily, who, during the greater part of this conversation, had been so absorbe_n thought as to be spared the pain of hearing it, was now extremely surprise_y her aunt's praise of Valancourt, with whose relationship to Madame Clairva_he was unacquainted; but she was not sorry when Madame Cheron, who, thoug_he now tried to appear unconcerned, was really much embarrassed, prepared t_ithdraw immediately after supper. Montoni then came to hand Madame Cheron t_er carriage, and Cavigni, with an arch solemnity of countenance, followe_ith Emily, who, as she wished them good night, and drew up the glass, sa_alancourt among the crowd at the gates. Before the carriage drove off, h_isappeared. Madame Cheron forbore to mention him to Emily, and, as soon a_hey reached the chateau, they separated for the night.
  • On the following morning, as Emily sat at breakfast with her aunt, a lette_as brought to her, of which she knew the handwriting upon the cover; and, a_he received it with a trembling hand, Madame Cheron hastily enquired fro_hom it came. Emily, with her leave, broke the seal, and, observing th_ignature of Valancourt, gave it unread to her aunt, who received it wit_mpatience; and, as she looked it over, Emily endeavoured to read on he_ountenance its contents. Having returned the letter to her niece, whose eye_sked if she might examine it, 'Yes, read it, child,' said Madame Cheron, in _anner less severe than she had expected, and Emily had, perhaps, never befor_o willingly obeyed her aunt. In this letter Valancourt said little of th_nterview of the preceding day, but concluded with declaring, that he woul_ccept his dismission from Emily only, and with entreating, that she woul_llow him to wait upon her, on the approaching evening. When she read this, she was astonished at the moderation of Madame Cheron, and looked at her wit_imid expectation, as she said sorrowfully—'What am I to say, madam?'
  • 'Why—we must see the young man, I believe,' replied her aunt, 'and hear wha_e has further to say for himself. You may tell him he may come.' Emily dare_carcely credit what she heard. 'Yet, stay,' added Madame Cheron, 'I will tel_im so myself.' She called for pen and ink; Emily still not daring to trus_he emotions she felt, and almost sinking beneath them. Her surprise woul_ave been less had she overheard, on the preceding evening, what Madame Chero_ad not forgotten—that Valancourt was the nephew of Madame Clairval.
  • What were the particulars of her aunt's note Emily did not learn, but th_esult was a visit from Valancourt in the evening, whom Madame Cheron receive_lone, and they had a long conversation before Emily was called down. When sh_ntered the room, her aunt was conversing with complacency, and she saw th_yes of Valancourt, as he impatiently rose, animated with hope.
  • 'We have been talking over this affair,' said Madame Cheron, 'the chevalie_as been telling me, that the late Monsieur Clairval was the brother of th_ountess de Duvarney, his mother. I only wish he had mentioned hi_elationship to Madame Clairval before; I certainly should have considere_hat circumstance as a sufficient introduction to my house.' Valancourt bowed, and was going to address Emily, but her aunt prevented him. 'I have, therefore, consented that you shall receive his visits; and, though I will no_ind myself by any promise, or say, that I shall consider him as my nephew, yet I shall permit the intercourse, and shall look forward to any furthe_onnection as an event, which may possibly take place in a course of years, provided the chevalier rises in his profession, or any circumstance occurs, which may make it prudent for him to take a wife. But Mons. Valancourt wil_bserve, and you too, Emily, that, till that happens, I positively forbid an_houghts of marrying.'
  • Emily's countenance, during this coarse speech, varied every instant, and, towards its conclusion, her distress had so much increased, that she was o_he point of leaving the room. Valancourt, meanwhile, scarcely les_mbarrassed, did not dare to look at her, for whom he was thus distressed; but, when Madame Cheron was silent, he said, 'Flattering, madam, as you_pprobation is to me—highly as I am honoured by it—I have yet so much to fear, that I scarcely dare to hope.' 'Pray, sir, explain yourself,' said Madam_heron; an unexpected requisition, which embarrassed Valancourt again, an_lmost overcame him with confusion, at circumstances, on which, had he bee_nly a spectator of the scene, he would have smiled.
  • 'Till I receive Mademoiselle St. Aubert's permission to accept you_ndulgence,' said he, falteringly—'till she allows me to hope—'
  • 'O! is that all?' interrupted Madame Cheron. 'Well, I will take upon me t_nswer for her. But at the same time, sir, give me leave to observe to you, that I am her guardian, and that I expect, in every instance, that my will i_ers.'
  • As she said this, she rose and quitted the room, leaving Emily and Valancour_n a state of mutual embarrassment; and, when Valancourt's hopes enabled hi_o overcome his fears, and to address her with the zeal and sincerity s_atural to him, it was a considerable time before she was sufficientl_ecovered to hear with distinctness his solicitations and inquiries.
  • The conduct of Madame Cheron in this affair had been entirely governed b_elfish vanity. Valancourt, in his first interview, had with great candou_aid open to her the true state of his present circumstances, and his futur_xpectancies, and she, with more prudence than humanity, had absolutely an_bruptly rejected his suit. She wished her niece to marry ambitiously, no_ecause she desired to see her in possession of the happiness, which rank an_ealth are usually believed to bestow, but because she desired to partake th_mportance, which such an alliance would give. When, therefore, she discovere_hat Valancourt was the nephew of a person of so much consequence as Madam_lairval, she became anxious for the connection, since the prospect i_fforded of future fortune and distinction for Emily, promised the exaltatio_he coveted for herself. Her calculations concerning fortune in this allianc_ere guided rather by her wishes, than by any hint of Valancourt, or stron_ppearance of probability; and, when she rested her expectation on the wealt_f Madame Clairval, she seemed totally to have forgotten, that the latter ha_ daughter. Valancourt, however, had not forgotten this circumstance, and th_onsideration of it had made him so modest in his expectations from Madam_lairval, that he had not even named the relationship in his firs_onversation with Madame Cheron. But, whatever might be the future fortune o_mily, the present distinction, which the connection would afford for herself, was certain, since the splendour of Madame Clairval's establishment was suc_s to excite the general envy and partial imitation of the neighbourhood. Thu_ad she consented to involve her niece in an engagement, to which she saw onl_ distant and uncertain conclusion, with as little consideration of he_appiness, as when she had so precipitately forbade it: for though she hersel_ossessed the means of rendering this union not only certain, but prudent, ye_o do so was no part of her present intention.
  • From this period Valancourt made frequent visits to Madame Cheron, and Emil_assed in his society the happiest hours she had known since the death of he_ather. They were both too much engaged by the present moments to give seriou_onsideration to the future. They loved and were beloved, and saw not, tha_he very attachment, which formed the delight of their present days, migh_ossibly occasion the sufferings of years. Meanwhile, Madame Cheron'_ntercourse with Madame Clairval became more frequent than before, and he_anity was already gratified by the opportunity of proclaiming, wherever sh_ent, the attachment that subsisted between their nephew and niece.
  • Montoni was now also become a daily guest at the chateau, and Emily wa_ompelled to observe, that he really was a suitor, and a favoured suitor, t_er aunt.
  • Thus passed the winter months, not only in peace, but in happiness, t_alancourt and Emily; the station of his regiment being so near Tholouse, a_o allow this frequent intercourse. The pavilion on the terrace was th_avourite scene of their interviews, and there Emily, with Madame Cheron, would work, while Valancourt read aloud works of genius and taste, listened t_er enthusiasm, expressed his own, and caught new opportunities of observing, that their minds were formed to constitute the happiness of each other, th_ame taste, the same noble and benevolent sentiments animating each.