"HONORED MADAME, "Knowing your goodness of heart and generosity, I venture to address you with respectful confidence. During twenty years I served the late Count and Duke of Cardoville, your noble father, I believe I may truly say, with probity and zeal. The castle is now sold; so that I and my wife, in our old age, behold ourselves about to be dismissed, and left destitute of all resources: which, alas! is very hard at our time of life." "Poor creature!" said Adrienne, interrupting herself in reading: "my father, certainly, always prided himself upon their devotion to him, and their probity." She continued: "There does, indeed, remain to us a means of retaining our place here; but it would constrain us to be guilty of baseness; and, be the consequences to us what they may, neither I nor my wife wish to purchase our bread at such a price." "Good, very good," said Adrienne, "always the same--dignity even in poverty--it is the sweet perfume of a flower, not the less sweet because it has bloomed in a meadow." "In order to explain to you, honored madame, the unworthy task exacted from us, it is necessary to inform you, in the first place, that M. Rodin came here from Paris two days ago." "Ah! M. Rodin!" said Mademoiselle de Cardoville, interrupting herself anew; "the secretary of Abbe d'Aigrigny! I am not at all surprised at him being engaged in a perfidious or black intrigue. But let us see." "M. Rodin came from Paris to announce to us that the estate was sold, and that he was sure of being able to obtain our continuance in our place, if we would assist him in imposing a priest not of good character upon the new proprietress as her future confessor; and if, the better to attain this end, we would consent to calumniate another priest, a deserving and excellent man, much loved and much respected in the country. Even that is not all. I was required to write twice or thrice a week to M. Rodin, and to relate to him everything that should occur in the house. I ought to acknowledge, honored madame, that these infamous proposals were as much as possible disguised and dissimulated under sufficiently specious pretexts; but, notwithstanding the aspect which with more or less skill it was attempted to give to the affair, it was precisely and substantially what I have now had the honor of stating to you." "Corruption, calumny, and false and treacherous impeachment!" said Adrienne, with disgust: "I cannot think of such wretches without involuntarily feeling my mind shocked by dismal ideas of black, venomous, and vile reptiles, of aspects most hideous indeed. How much more do I love to dwell upon the consoling thought of honest Dupont and his wife!" Adrienne proceeded: "Believe me, we hesitated not an instant. We quit Cardoville, which has been our home for the last twenty years;--but we shall quit it like honest people, and with the consciousness of our integrity. And now, honored madame, if, in the brilliant circle in which you move--you, who are so benevolent and amiable--could find a place for us by your recommendation, then, with endless gratitude to you, we shall escape from a position of most cruel embarrassment." "Surely, surely," said Adrienne, "they shall not in vain appeal to me. To wrest excellent persons from the grip of M. Rodin, is not only a duty but a pleasure: for it is at once a righteous and a dangerous enterprise; and dearly do I love to brave powerful oppressors!" Adrienne again went on reading: "After having thus spoken to you of ourselves, honored madame, permit us to implore your protection for other unfortunates; for it would be wicked to think only of one's self. Three days ago, two shipwrecks took place upon our ironbound coast. A few passengers only were saved, and were conducted hither, where I and my wife gave them all necessary attentions. All these passengers have departed for Paris, except one, who still remains, his wounds having hitherto prevented him from leaving the house, and, indeed, they will constrain him to remain for some days to come. He is a young East Indian prince, of about twenty years of age, and he appears to be as amiable and good as he is handsome, which is not a little to say, though he has a tawny skin, like the rest of his countrymen, as I understand." "An Indian prince! twenty years of age! young, amiable, and handsome!" exclaimed Adrienne, gayly; "this is quite delightful, and not at all of an ordinary or vulgar nature! Oh! this Indian prince has already awakened all my sympathies! But what can I do with this Adonis from the banks of the Ganges, who has come to wreck himself upon the Picardy coast?" Adrienne's three women looked at her with much astonishment, though they were accustomed to the singular eccentricities of her character. Georgette and Hebe even indulged in discreet and restrained smiles. Florine, the tall and beautiful pale brown girl, also smiled like her pretty companions; but it was after a short pause of seeming reflection, as if she had previously been entirely engrossed in listening to and recollecting the minutest words of her mistress, who, though powerfully interested by the situation of the "Adonis from Ganges banks," as she had called him, continued to read Dupont's letter: "One of the countrymen of the Indian prince, who has also remained to attend upon him, has given me to understand that the youthful prince has lost in the shipwreck all he possessed, and knows not how to get to Paris, where his speedy presence is required by some affairs of the very greatest importance. It is not from the prince himself that I have obtained this information: no; he appears to be too dignified and proud to proclaim of his fate: but his countryman, more communicative, confidentially told me what I have stated, adding, that his young compatriot has already been subjected to great calamities, and that his father, who was the sovereign of an Indian kingdom, has been killed by the English, who have also dispossessed his son of his crown." "This is very singular," said Adrienne, thoughtfully. "These circumstances recall to my mind that my father often mentioned that one of our relations was espoused in India by a native monarch; and that General Simon: (whom they have created a marshal) had entered into his service." Then interrupting herself to indulge in a smile, she added, "Gracious! this affair will be quite odd and fantastical! Such things happen to nobody but me; and then people say that I am the uncommon creature! But it seems to me that it is not I, but Providence, which, in truth, sometimes shows itself very eccentric! But let us see if worthy Dupont gives the name of this handsome prince?" "We trust, honored madame, that you will pardon our boldness: but we should have thought ourselves very selfish, if, while stating to you our own griefs, we had not also informed you that there is with us a brave and estimable prince involved in so much distress. In fine, lady, trust to me; I am old; and I have had much experience of men; and it was only necessary to see the nobleness of expression and the sweetness of countenance of this young Indian, to enable me to judge that he is worthy of the interest which I have taken the liberty to request in his behalf. It would be sufficient to transmit to him a small sum of money for the purchase of some European clothing; for he has lost all his Indian vestments in the shipwreck." "Good heavens! European clothing!" exclaimed Adrienne, gayly. "Poor young prince! Heaven preserve him from that; and me also! Chance has sent hither from the heart of India, a mortal so far favored as never to have worn the abominable European costume--those hideous habits, and frightful hats, which render the men so ridiculous, so ugly, that in truth there is not a single good quality to be discovered in them, nor one spark of what can either captivate or attract! There comes to me at last a handsome young prince from the East, where the men are clothed in silk and cashmere. Most assuredly I'll not miss this rare and unique opportunity of exposing myself to a very serious and formidable temptation! No, no! not a European dress for me, though poor Dupont requests it! But the name--the name of this dear prince! Once more, what a singular event is this! If it should turn out to be that cousin from beyond the Ganges! During my childhood, I have heard so much in praise of his royal father! Oh! I shall be quite ravished to give his son the kind reception which he merits!" And then she read on: "If, besides this small sum, honored madame, you are so kind as to give him, and also his companion, the means of reaching Paris, you will confer a very great service upon this poor young prince, who is at present so unfortunate. "To conclude, I know enough of your delicacy to be aware that it would perhaps be agreeable to you to afford this succor to the prince without being known as his benefactress; in which case, I beg that you will be pleased to command me; and you may rely upon my discretion. If, on the contrary, you wish to address it directly to himself, his name is, as it has been written for me by his countrymen, Prince Djalma, son of Radja- sing, King of Mundi." "Djalma!" said Adrienne, quickly, and appearing to call up her recollections, Radja-sing! Yes--that is it! These are the very names that my father so often repeated, while telling me that there was nothing more chivalric or heroic in the world than the old king, our relation by marriage; and the son has not derogated, it would seem, from that character. Yes, Djalma, Radja-sing--once more, that is it--such names are not so common," she added, smiling, "that one should either forget or confound them with others. This Djalma is my cousin! Brave and good-- young and charming! above all, he has never worn the horrid European dress! And destitute of every resource! This is quite ravishing! It is too much happiness at once! Quick, quick let us improvise a pretty fairy tale, of which the handsome and beloved prince shall be the hero! The poor bird of the golden and azure plumage has wandered into our dismal climate; but he will find here, at least, something to remind him of his native region of sunshine and perfumes!" Then, addressing one of her women, she said: "Georgette, take paper and write, my child!" The young girl went to the gilt, illuminated table, which contained materials for writing; and, having seated herself, she said to her mistress: "I await orders." Adrienne de Cardoville, whose charming countenance was radiant with the gayety of happiness and joy, proceeded to dictate the following letter to a meritorious old painter, who had long since taught her the arts of drawing and designing; in which arts she excelled, as indeed she did in all others: "MY DEAR TITIAN, MY GOOD VERONESE, MY WORTHY RAPHAEL. --You can render me a very great service,--and you will do it, I am sure, with that perfect and obliging complaisance by which you are ever distinguished. "It is to go immediately and apply yourself to the skillful hand who designed my last costumes of the fifteenth century. But the present affair is to procure modern East Indian dresses for a young man--yes, sir--for a young man,--and according to what I imagine of him, I fancy that you can cause his measure to be taken from the Antinous, or rather, from the Indian Bacchus; yes--that will be more likely. "It is necessary that these vestments be at once of perfect propriety and correctness, magnificently rich, and of the greatest elegance. You will choose the most beautiful stuffs possible; and endeavor, above all things, that they be, or resemble, tissues of Indian manufacture; and you will add to them, for turbans and sashes, six splendid long cashmere shawls, two of them white, two red, and two orange; as nothing suits brown complexions better than those colors. "This done (and I allow you at the utmost only two or three days), you will depart post in my carriage for Cardoville Manor House, which you know so well. The steward, the excellent Dupont, one of your old friends, will there introduce you to a young Indian Prince, named Djalma; and you will tell that most potent grave, and reverend signior, of another quarter of the globe, that you have come on the part of an unknown friend, who, taking upon himself the duty of a brother, sends him what is necessary to preserve him from the odious fashions of Europe. You will add, that his friend expects him with so much impatience that he conjures him to come to Paris immediately. If he objects that he is suffering, you will tell him that my carriage is an excellent bed-closet; and you will cause the bedding, etc., which it contains, to be fitted up, till he finds it quite commodious. Remember to make very humble excuses for the unknown friend not sending to the prince either rich palanquins, or even, modestly, a single elephant; for alas! palanquins are only to be seen at the opera; and there are no elephants but those in the menagerie,--though this must make us seem strangely barbarous in his eyes. "As soon as you shall have decided on your departure, perform the journey as rapidly as possible, and bring here, into my house, in the Rue de Babylone (what predestination! that I should dwell in the street of BABYLON,--a name which must at least accord with the ear of an Oriental),--you will bring hither, I say, this dear prince, who is so happy as to have been born in a country of flowers, diamonds, and sun! "Above all, you will have the kindness, my old and worthy friend, not to be at all astonished at this new freak, and refrain from indulging in extravagant conjectures. Seriously, the choice which I have made of you in this affair,--of you, whom I esteem and most sincerely honor,--is because it is sufficient to say to you that, at the bottom of all this, there is something more than a seeming act of folly." In uttering these last words, the tone of Adrienne was as serious and dignified as it had been previously comic and jocose. But she quickly resumed, more gayly, dictating to Georgette. "Adieu, my old friend. I am something like that commander of ancient days, whose heroic nose and conquering chin you have so often made me draw: I jest with the utmost freedom of spirit even in the moment of battle: yes, for within an hour I shall give battle, a pitched battle--to my dear pew-dwelling aunt. Fortunately, audacity and courage never failed me, and I burn with impatience for the engagement with my austere princess. "A kiss, and a thousand heartfelt recollections to your excellent wife. If I speak of her here, who is so justly respected, you will please to understand, it is to make you quite at ease as to the consequences of this running away with, for my sake, a charming young prince,--for it is proper to finish well where I should have begun, by avowing to you that he is charming indeed! "Once more, adieu!" Then, addressing Georgette, said she, "Have you done writing, chit?" "Yes, madame." "Oh, add this postscript."
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