> Some pow'r impart the spear and shield, At which the wizard passions fly, B_hich the giant follies die.
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.'
'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.