List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew v10, by Eugene Sue
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

"Yes, madame," replied Rose-Pompon, affecting an air of still more
decided confidence; "first of all, you must not suppose I am unhappy, or
going to make a scene of jealousy, or cry like a forsaken damsel.  Do not
flatter yourself!  Thank heaven, I have no reason to complain of Prince
Charming--that is the pet name I gave him--on the contrary, he has made
me very happy.  If I left him, it was against his will, and because I

So saying, Rose-Pompon, whose heart was swelling in spite of her fine
airs, could not repress a sigh.

"Yes, madame," she resumed, "I left him because I chose--for he quite
doted on me.  If I had liked, he would have married me--yes, madame,
married me--so much the worse, if that gives you pain.  Though, when I
say 'so much the worse,' it is true that I meant to pain you.  To be sure
I did--but then, just now when I saw you so kind to poor Mother Bunch,
though I was certainly in the right, still I felt something.  However, to
cut matters short, it is clear that I detest you, and that you deserve
it," added Rose-Pompon, stamping her foot.

From all this it resulted, even for a person much less sagacious than
Adrienne, and much less interested in discovering the truth, that Rose-
Pompon, notwithstanding her triumphant airs in speaking of him whom she
represented as so much attached to her, and even anxious to wed her, was
in reality completely disappointed, and was now taking refuge in a
deliberate falsehood.  It was evident that she was not loved, and that
nothing but violent jealousy had induced her to desire this interview
with Mdlle. de Cardoville, in order to make what is vulgarly called a
scene, considering Adrienne (the reason will be explained presently) as
her successful rival.  But Rose-Pompon, having recovered her good-nature,
found it very difficult to continue the scene in question, particularly
as, for many reasons, she felt overawed by Adrienne.

Though she had expected, if not the singular speech of the grisette, at
least something of the same result--for she felt it was impossible that
the prince could entertain a serious attachment for this girl--Mdlle. de
Cardoville was at first delighted to hear the confirmation of her hopes
from the lips of her rival; but suddenly these hopes were succeeded by a
cruel apprehension, which we will endeavor to explain.  What Adrienne had
just heard ought to have satisfied her completely.  Sure that the heart
of Djalma had never ceased to belong to her, she ought, according to the
customs and opinions of the world, to have cared little if, in the
effervescence of an ardent youth, he had chanced to yield to some
ephemeral caprice for this creature, who was, after all, very pretty and
desirable--the more especially as he had now repaired his error by
separating from her.

Notwithstanding these good reasons, such an error of the senses would not
have been pardoned by Adrienne.  She did not understand that complete
separation of the body and soul that would make the one exempt from the
stains of the other.  She did not think it a matter of indifference to
toy with one woman whilst you were thinking of another.  Her young,
chaste, passionate love demanded an absolute fealty--a fealty as just in
the eyes of heaven and nature as it may be ridiculous and foolish in the
eyes of man.  For the very reason that she cherished a refined religion
of the senses, and revered them as an adorable and divine manifestation,
Adrienne had all sorts of delicate scruples and nice repugnances, unknown
to the austere spirituality of those ascetic prudes who despise vile
matter too much to take notice of its errors, and allow it to grovel in
filth, to show the contempt in which they hold it.  Mdlle. de Cardoville
was not one of those wonderfully modest creatures who would die of
confusion rather than say plainly that they wished for a young and
handsome husband, at once ardent and pure.  It is true that they
generally marry old, ugly, and corrupted men, and make up for it by
taking two or three lovers six months after.  But Adrienne felt
instinctively how much of virginal and celestial freshness there is in
the equal innocence of two loving and passionate beings--what guarantees
for the future in the remembrance which a man preserves of his first

We say, then, that Adrienne was only half-satisfied, though convinced by
the vexation of Rose-Pompon that Djalma had never entertained a serious
attachment for the grisette.

"And why do you detest me, miss?" said Adrienne mildly, when Rose-Pompon
had finished her speech.

"Oh! bless me, madame!" replied the latter, forgetting altogether her
assumption of triumph, and yielding to the natural sincerity of her
character; "pretend that you don't know why I detest you!--Oh, yes!
people go and pick bouquets from the jaws of a panther for people that
they care nothing about, don't they?  And if it was only that!" added
Rose-Pompon, who was gradually getting animated, and whose pretty face,
at first contracted into a sullen pout, now assumed an expression of real
and yet half-comic sorrow.

"And if it was only the nosegay!" resumed she.  "Though it gave me a
dreadful turn to see Prince Charming leap like a kid upon the stage, I
might have said to myself: 'Pooh! these Indians have their own way of
showing politeness.  Here, a lady drops her nosegay, and a gentleman
picks it up and gives it to her; but in India it is quite another thing;
the man picks up the nosegay, and does not return it to the woman--he
only kills a panther before her eyes.'  Those are good manners in that
country, I suppose; but what cannot be good manners anywhere is to treat
a woman as I have been treated.  And all thanks to you, madame!"

These complaints of Rose-Pompon, at once bitter and laughable, did not at
all agree with what she had previously stated as to Djalma's passionate
love for her; but Adrienne took care not to point out this contradiction,
and said to her, mildly: "You must be mistaken, miss, when you suppose
that I had anything to do with your troubles.  But, in any case, I regret
sincerely that you should have been ill-treated by any one."

"If you think I have been beaten, you are quite wrong," exclaimed Rose-
Pompon.  "Ah! well, I am sure!  No, it is not that.  But I am certain
that, had it not been for you, Prince Charming would have got to love me
a little.  I am worthy of the trouble, after all--and then there are
different sorts of love--I am not so very particular--not even so much as
that," added Rose-Pompon, snapping her fingers.

"Ah!" she continued, "when Ninny Moulin came to fetch me, and brought me
jewels and laces to persuade me to go with him, he was quite right in
saying there was no harm in his offers."

"Ninny Moulin?" asked Mdlle. de Cardoville, becoming more and more
interested; "who is this Ninny Moulin, miss?"

"A religious writer," answered Rose-Pompon, pouting; "the right-hand man
of a lot of old sacristans, whose money he takes on pretense of writing
about morality and religion.  A fine morality it is!"

At these words--"a religious writer"--"sacristans" Adrienne instantly
divined some new plot of Rodin or Father d'Aigrigny, of which she and
Djalma were to have been the victims.  She began vaguely to perceive the
real state of the case, as she resumed: "But, miss, under what pretence
could this man take you away with him?"

"He came to fetch me, and said I need not fear for my virtue, and was
only to make myself look pretty.  So I said to myself: 'Philemon's out of
town, and it's very dull here all alone: This seems a droll affair; what
can I risk by it?'--Alas! I didn't know what I risked," added Rose-
Pompon, with a sigh.  "Well! Ninny Moulin takes me away in a fine
carriage.  We stop in the Place du Palais-Royal.  A sullen-looking man,
with a yellow face, gets up in the room of Ninny Moulin, and takes me to
the house of Prince Charming.  When I saw him--la! he was so handsome, so
very handsome, that I was quite dizzy-like; and he had such a kind, noble
air, that I said to myself, 'Well! there will be some credit if I remain
a good girl now!'--I did not know what a true word I was speaking.  I
have been good--oh! worse than good."

"What, miss! do you regret having been so virtuous?"

"Why, you see, I regret, at least, that I have not had the pleasure of
refusing.  But how can you refuse, when nothing is asked--when you are
not even thought worth one little loving word?"

"But, miss, allow me to observe to you that the indifference of which you
complain does not see to have prevented your making a long stay in the
house in question."

"How should I know why the prince kept me there, or took me out riding
with him, or to the play?  Perhaps it is the fashion in his savage
country to have a pretty girl by your side, and to pay no attention to
her at all!"

"But why, then, did you remain, miss?"

"Why did I remain?" said Rose-Pompon, stamping her loot with vexation.
"I remained because, without knowing how it happened, I began to get very
fond of Prince Charming; and what is queer enough, I, who am as gay as a
lark, loved him because he was so sorrowful, which shows that it was a
serious matter.  At last, one day, I could hold out no longer.  I said:
'Never mind; I don't care for the consequences.  Philemon, I am sure, is
having his fun in the country.'  That set my mind at ease.  So one
morning, I dress myself in my best, all very pretty, look in my glass,
and say: 'Well, that will do--he can't stand that! and, going to his
room, I tell him all that passes through my head; I laugh, I cry--at last
I tell him that I adore him.  What do you think he answers, in his mild
voice, and as cold as a piece of marble?  Why, 'Poor child--poor child--
poor child!'" added Rose-Pompon, with indignation; "neither more nor less
than if I had come to complain to him of the toothache.  But the worst of
it is that I am sure, if he were not in love elsewhere, he would be all
fire and gunpowder.  Only now he is so sad, so dejected!"

Then, pausing a moment, Rose-Pompon added: "No, I will not tell you that;
you would be too pleased." But, after another pause, she continued:
"Well, never mind; I will tell you, though"; and this singular girl
looked at Mdlle. de Cardoville with a mixture of sympathy and deference.
"Why should I keep it from you?  I began by riding the high horse, and
saying that the prince wished to marry me; and I finished by confessing
that he almost turned me out.  Well, it's not my fault; when I try to
fib, I am sure to get confused.  So, madame, this is the plain truth:--
When I met you at poor Mother Bunch's, I was at first as angry as a
little turkey-cock; but when I heard you, that are such a fine great
lady, speak so kindly to the poor girl, and treat her as your sister, do
what I would, my anger began to go away.  Since we have been here, I have
done my utmost to get it up again; but I find it impossible, and the more
I see the difference between us, the more I perceive that Prince Charming
was right in thinking so much of you.  For you must know, madame, that he
is over head and ears in love with you.  I don't say so merely because he
killed the panther for you at the Porte-Saint-Martin; but if you knew all
the tricks he played with your bouquet, and how he will sit up all night
weeping in that room where he saw you for the first time--and then your
portrait, that he has drawn upon glass, after the fashion of his country,
and so many other things--the fact is, that I, who was fond of him, and
saw all this was at first in a great rage; but afterwards it was so
touching that it brought the tears into my eyes.  Yes, madame, just as it
does now, when I merely think of the poor prince.  Oh, madame!" added
Rose-Pompon, her eyes swimming in tears, and with such an expression of
sincere interest, that Adrienne was much moved by it; "oh, madame, you
look so mild and good, that you will not make this poor prince miserable.
Pray love him a little bit; what can it matter to you?"

So saying, Rose-Pompon, with a perfectly simple, though too familiar,
gesture, took hold of Adrienne's hand, as if to enforce her request.  It
had required great self-command in Mdlle. de Cardoville to repress the
rush of joy that was mounting from her heart to her lips, to check the
torrent of questions which she burned to address to Rose-Pompon, and to
restrain the sweet tears of happiness that for some seconds had trembled
in her eyes; and, strangely enough, when Rose-Pompon took her hand,
Adrienne, instead of withdrawing it, pressed the offered hand almost
affectionately, and led her towards the window, as if to examine her
sweet face more attentively.

On entering the room, the grisette had thrown her bonnet and shawl down
upon the bed, so that Adrienne could admire the thick and silky masses of
light hair that crowned the fresh face of the charming girl, with its
firm, rosy cheeks, its mouth as red as a cherry, and its large blue
laughing eyes; and, thanks to the somewhat scanty dress of Rose-Pompon,
Adrienne could fully appreciate the various graces of her nymph-like
figure.  Strange as it may appear, Adrienne was delighted at finding the
girl still prettier than she had at first imagined.  The stoical
indifference of Djalma to so attractive a creature was the best proof of
the sincerity of the passion by which he was actuated.

Having taken the hand of Adrienne, Rose-Pompon was herself confused and
surprised at the kindness with which Mdlle. de Cardoville permitted this
familiarity.  Emboldened by this indulgence, and by the silence of
Adrienne, who for some moments had been contemplating her with almost
grateful benevolence, the grisette resumed: "Oh, you will not refuse,
madame?  You will take pity on this poor prince?"

We cannot tell how Adrienne would have answered this indiscreet question
of Rose-Pompon, for suddenly a loud, wild, shrill, piercing sound,
evidently intended to imitate the crowing of a cock, was heard close to
the door of the room.

Adrienne started in alarm; but the countenance of Rose Pompon, just now
so sad, brightened up joyously at this signal, and, clapping her hands
she exclaimed, "It is Philemon!"

"What--who?" said Adrienne, hastily.

"My lover; oh, the monster! he must have come upstairs on tiptoe, to take
me by surprise with his crowing.  Just like him!"

A second cock-a-doodle-doo, still louder than the first, was heard close
to the door.  "What a stupid, droll creature it is!  Always the same
joke, and yet it always amuses me," said Rose-Pompon.

And drying her tears with the back of her hand, she began to laugh like
one bewitched at Philemon's jest, which, though well known to her, always
seemed new and agreeable.

"Do not open the door," whispered Adrienne, much embarrassed; "do not
answer, I beg of you."

"Though the door is bolted, the key is on the outside; Philemon can see
that there is some one at home."

"No matter--do not let him in."

"But, madame, he lives here; the room belongs to him."

In fact, Philemon, probably growing tired of the little effect produced
by his two ornithological imitations, turned the key in the lock, and

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: