On entering, Mdlle. de Cardoville threw down upon a chair the gray beaver hat she had worn to cross the garden, and displayed her fine golden hair, falling on either side of her face in long, light ringlets, and twisted in a broad knot behind her head. She presented herself without boldness, but with perfect ease: her countenance was gay and smiling; her large black eyes appeared even more brilliant than usual. When she perceived Abbe d'Aigrigny, she started in surprise, and her rosy lips were just touched with a mocking smile. After nodding graciously to the doctor, she passed Baron Tripeaud by without looking at him, and saluted the princess with stately obeisance, in the most fashionable style. Though the walk and bearing of Mdlle. de Cardoville were extremely elegant, and full of propriety and truly feminine grace, there was about her an air of resolution and independence by no means common in women, and particularly in girls of her age. Her movements, without being abrupt, bore no traces of restraint, stiffness, or formality. They were frank and free as her character, full of life, youth, and freshness; and one could easily divine that so buoyant, straightforward, and decided a nature had never been able to conform itself to the rules of an affected rigor. Strangely enough, though he was a man of the world, a man of great talent, a churchman distinguished for his eloquence, and, above all, a person of influence and authority. Marquis d'Aigrigny experienced an involuntary, incredible, almost painful uneasiness, in presence of Adrienne de Cardoville. He--generally so much the master of himself, so accustomed to exercise great power--who (in the name of his Order) had often treated with crowned heads on the footing of an equal, felt himself abashed and lowered in the presence of this girl, as remarkable for her frankness as for her biting irony. Now, as men who are accustomed to impose their will upon others generally hate those who, far from submitting to their influence, hamper it and make sport of them, it was no great degree of affection that the marquis bore towards the Princess de Saint-Dizier's niece. For a long time past, contrary to his usual habit, he had ceased to try upon Adrienne that fascinating address to which he had often owed an irresistible charm; towards her he had become dry, curt, serious, taking refuge in that icy sphere of haughty dignity and rigid austerity which completely hid all those amiable qualities with which he was endowed and of which, in general, he made such efficient use. Adrienne was much amused at all this, and thereby showed her imprudence--for the most vulgar motives often engender the most implacable hatreds. From these preliminary observations, the reader will understand the divers sentiments and interests which animated the different actors in the following scene. Madame de Saint-Dizier was seated in a large arm-chair by one side of the hearth. Marquis d'Aigrigny was standing before the fire. Dr. Baleinier seated near a bureau, was again turning over the leaves of Baron Tripeaud's biography, whilst the baron appeared to be very attentively examining one of the pictures of sacred subjects suspended from the wall. "You sent for me, aunt, to talk upon matters of importance?" said Adrienne, breaking the silence which had reigned in the reception-room since her entrance. "Yes, madame," answered the princess, with a cold and severe mien; "upon matters of the gravest importance." "I am at your service, aunt. Perhaps we had better walk into your library?" "It is not necessary. We can talk here." Then, addressing the marquis, the doctor, and the baron, she said to them, "Pray, be seated, gentlemen," and they all took their places round the table. "How can the subject of our interview interest these gentlemen, aunt?" asked Mdlle. de Cardoville, with surprise. "These gentlemen are old family friends; all that concerns you must interest them, and their advice ought to be heard and accepted by you with respect." "I have no doubt, aunt, of the bosom friendship of M. d'Aigrigny for our family: I have still less of the profound and disinterested devotion of M. Tripeaud; M. Baleinier is one of my old friends; still, before accepting these gentlemen as spectators, or, if you will, as confidants of our interview, I wish to know what we are going to talk of before them." "I thought that, among your many singular pretensions, you had at least those of frankness and courage." "Really, aunt," said Adrienne, smiling with mock humility, "I have no more pretensions to frankness and courage than you have to sincerity and goodness. Let us admit, once for all, that we are what we are--without pretension." "Be it so," said Madame de Saint-Dizier, in a dry tone; "I have long been accustomed to the freaks of your independent spirit. I suppose, then, that, courageous and frank as you say you are, you will not he afraid to speak before such grave and respectable persons as these gentlemen what you would speak to me alone?" "Is it a formal examination that I am to submit to? if so, upon what subject?" "It is not an examination: but, as I have a right to watch over you, and as you take advantage of my weak compliance with your caprices, I mean to put an end to what has lasted too long, and tell you my irrevocable resolutions for the future, in presence of friends of the family. And, first, you have hitherto had a very false and imperfect notion of my power over you." "I assure you, aunt, that I have never had any notion, true or false, on the subject--for I have never even dreamt about it." "That is my own fault; for, instead of yielding to your fancies, I should have made you sooner feel my authority; but the moment has come to submit yourself; the severe censures of my friends have enlightened me in time. Your character is self-willed, independent, stubborn; it must change-- either by fair means or by force, understand me, it shall change." At these words, pronounced harshly before strangers, with a severity which did not seem at all justified by circumstances, Adrienne tossed her head proudly; but, restraining herself, she answered with a smile: "You say, aunt, that I shall change. I should not be astonished at it. We hear of such odd conversions." The princess bit her lips. "A sincere conversion can never be called odd, as you term it, madame," said Abbe d'Aigrigny, coldly. "It is, on the contrary, meritorious, and forms an excellent example." "Excellent?" answered Adrienne: "that depends! For instance, what if one converts defects into vices?" "What do you mean, madame?" cried the princess. "I am speaking of myself, aunt; you reproach me of being independent and resolute--suppose I were to become hypocritical and wicked? In truth, I prefer keeping my dear little faults, which I love like spoiled children. I know what I am; I do not know what I might be." "But you must acknowledge, Mdlle. Adrienne," said Baron Tripeaud, with a self-conceited and sententious air, "that a conversion--" "I believe," said Adrienne, disdainfully, "that M. Tripeaud is well versed in the conversion of all sorts of property into all sorts of profit, by all sorts of means--but he knows nothing of this matter." "But, madame," resumed the financier, gathering courage from a glance of the princess, "you forget that I have the honor to be your deputy guardian, and that--" "It is true that M. Tripeaud has that honor," said Adrienne, with still more haughtiness, and not even looking at the baron; "I could never tell exactly why. But as it is not now the time to guess enigmas, I wish to know, aunt, the object and the end of this meeting?" "You shall be satisfied, madame. I will explain myself in a very clear and precise manner. You shall know the plan of conduct that you will have henceforth to pursue; and if you refuse to submit thereto, with the obedience and respect that is due to my orders, I shall at once see what course to take." It is impossible to give an idea of the imperious tone and stern look of the princess, as she pronounced these words which were calculated to startle a girl, until now accustomed to live in a great measure as she pleased: yet, contrary perhaps to the expectation of Madame de Saint- Dizier, instead of answering impetuously, Adrienne looked her full in the face, and said, laughing: "This is a perfect declaration of war. It's becoming very amusing." "We are not talking of declarations of war," said the Abbe d'Aigrigny, harshly, as if offended by the expressions of Mdlle. de Cardoville. "Now, M. l'Abbe!" returned Adrienne, "for an old colonel, you are really too severe upon a jest!--you are so much indebted to 'war,' which gave you a French regiment after fighting so long against France--in order to learn, of course, the strength and the weakness of her enemies." On these words, which recalled painful remembrances, the marquis colored; he was going to answer, but the princess exclaimed: "Really, madame, your behavior is quite intolerable!" "Well, aunt, I acknowledge I was wrong. I ought not to have said this is very amusing--for it is not so, at all; but it is at least very curious-- and perhaps," added the young girl, after a moment's silence, "perhaps very audacious and audacity pleases me. As we are upon this subject, and you talk of a plan of conduct to which I must conform myself, under pain of (interrupting herself)--under pain of what, I should like to know, aunt?" "You shall know. Proceed." "I will, in the presence of these gentlemen, also declare, in a very plain and precise manner, the determination that I have come to. As it required some time to prepare for its execution, I have not spoken of it sooner, for you know I am not in the habit of saying, 'I will do so and so!' but I do it." "Certainly; and it is just this habit of culpable independence of which you must break yourself." "Well, I had intended only to inform you of my determination at a later period; but I cannot resist the pleasure of doing so to-day, you seem so well disposed to hear and receive it. Still, I would beg of you to speak first: it may just so happen, that our views are precisely the same." "I like better to see you thus," said the princess. "I acknowledge at least the courage of your pride, and your defiance of all authority. You speak of audacity--yours is indeed great." "I am at least decided to do that which others in their weakness dare not--but which I dare. This, I hope, is clear and precise." "Very clear, very precise," said the princess, exchanging a glance of satisfaction with the other actors in this scene. "The positions being thus established, matters will be much simplified. I have only to give you notice, in your own interest, that this is a very serious affair-- much more so than you imagine--and that the only way to dispose me to indulgence, is to substitute, for the habitual arrogance and irony of your language, the modesty and respect becoming a young lady." Adrienne smiled, but made no reply. Some moments of silence, and some rapid glances exchanged between the princess and her three friends, showed that these encounters, more or less brilliant in themselves, were to be followed by a serious combat. Mdlle. de Cardoville had too much penetration and sagacity, not to remark, that the Princess de Saint-Dizier attached the greatest importance to this decisive interview. But she could not understand how her aunt could hope to impose her absolute will upon her: the threat of coercive measures appearing with reason a mere ridiculous menace. Yet, knowing the vindictive character of her aunt, the secret power at her disposal, and the terrible vengeance she had sometimes exacted-- reflecting, moreover, that men in the position of the marquis and the doctor would not have come to attend this interview without some weighty motive--the young lady paused for a moment before she plunged into the strife. But soon, the very presentiment of some vague danger, far from weakening her, gave her new courage to brave the worst, to exaggerate, if that were possible, the independence of her ideas, and uphold, come what might, the determination that she was about to signify to the Princess de Saint- Dizier. CHAPTER XL. THE REVOLT. "Madame," said the princess to Adrienne de Cardoville, in a cold, severe tone, "I owe it to myself, as well as to these gentlemen, to recapitulate, in a few words, the events that have taken place for some time past. Six months ago, at the end of the mourning for your father, you, being eighteen years old, asked for the management of your fortune, and for emancipation from control. Unfortunately, I had the weakness to consent. You quitted the house, and established yourself in the extension, far from all superintendence. Then began a train of expenditures, each one more extravagant than the last. Instead of being satisfied with one or two waiting-women, taken from that class from which they are generally selected, you chose governesses for lady-companions, whom you dressed in the most ridiculous and costly fashion. It is true, that, in the solitude of your pavilion, you yourself chose to wear, one after another, costumes of different ages. Your foolish fancies and unreasonable whims have been without end and without limit: not only have you never fulfilled your religious duties, but you have actually had the audacity to profane one of your rooms, by rearing in the centre of it a species of pagan altar, on which is a group in marble representing a youth and a girl"--the princess uttered these words as if they would burn her lips--"a work of art, if you will, but a work in the highest degree unsuitable to a person of your age. You pass whole days entirely secluded in your pavilion, refusing to see any one; and Dr. Baleinier, the only one of my friends in whom you seem to have retained some confidence, having succeeded by much persuasion in gaining admittance, has frequently found you in so very excited a state, that he has felt seriously uneasy with regard to your health. You have always insisted on going out alone, without rendering any account of your actions to any one. You have taken delight in opposing, in every possible way, your will to my authority. Is all this true?" "The picture of my past is not much flattered," said Adrienne; smiling, "but it is not altogether unlike." "So you admit, madame," said Abbe d'Aigrigny, laying stress on his words, "that all the facts stated by your aunt are scrupulously true?" Every eye was turned towards Adrienne, as if her answer would be of extreme importance. "Yes, M. l'Abbe," said she; "I live openly enough to render this question superfluous." "These facts are therefore admitted," said Abbe d'Aigrigny, turning towards the doctor and the baron. "These facts are completely established," said M. Tripeaud, in a pompous voice. "Will you tell me, aunt," asked Adrienne, "what is the good of this long preamble?"
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