BETWEEN TWO WOMEN.
BY ERNEST DAUDET.
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY LAURA E. KENDALL.
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"WHICH? OR, BETWEEN TWO WOMEN," is the latest and most powerful novel from the pen of the celebrated French novelist, Ernest Daudet. It is fully worthy of its famous author's great reputation, for a more absorbing and thrilling romance has seldom been published. The interest begins at once with the flight of the gypsy mother with her child and her death in the Chateau de Chamondrin, where the friendless little one is received and cared for. The plot is simple and without mystery, but never, perhaps, were so many stirring incidents crowded within the covers of a novel. The scene is laid in Paris and the country, and some of the most striking events of the times are vividly reproduced. The reader is given a very realistic glimpse of Paris, and part of the action takes place in that historic prison, the Conciergerie, where nobles and others accused of crimes against the French Republic were confined. History and fiction are adroitly mingled in the excellent novel, which may be termed a double love story in that two women are passionately attached to one man. On the thrilling adventures and heart experiences of this trio the romance turns, and the reader's attention is kept constantly riveted to the exciting narrative. The other characters are all naturally drawn, and the book as a whole is one of the best and most absorbing novels that can be found. It will delight everybody.
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NEW YORK: W. L. ALLISON COMPANY, PUBLISHERS, 1893.
BY T. B. PETERSON & BROTHERS.
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"WHICH? OR, BETWEEN TWO WOMEN," is the title of a new, very thrilling and intensely interesting novel, by Ernest Daudet, one of the best known and most widely read of the living French novelists. A highly romantic, attractive and touching love story, in which a gypsy girl of great beauty and heroism, named Dolores, and Antoinette de Mirandol, an heiress, are rivals for the possession of Philip de Chamondrin, the hero, forms the main theme, and it is most skilfully and effectively handled. About this double romance of the heart are clustered a series of exceedingly stirring episodes, many of which are historic. The adventures of Philip, Dolores and Antoinette in Paris are graphically described and hold the reader spell-bound. The book is highly dramatic from beginning to end, and especially so that portion where the Conciergerie prison and its noble inmates are depicted. Very stirring scenes also are the attack on the Chateau de Chamondrin, Coursegol's struggle with Vauquelas and Bridoul's rescue of the condemned prisoners on the Place de la Revolution. But the entire novel is exceedingly spirited, exciting and absorbing, and every character is finely drawn. "Which? or, Between Two Women," should be read by all who relish an excellent novel.
I. THE BOHEMIANS 21
II. THE CHATEAU DE CHAMONDRIN 36
III. THE CHILDHOOD OF DOLORES 53
IV. PERTAINING TO LOVE MATTERS 73
V. IN WHICH HISTORY IS MINGLED WITH ROMANCE 105
VI. PARIS IN 1792 131
VII. CITIZEN JEAN VAUQUELAS 163
VIII. AN EPISODE OF THE EMIGRATION 179
IX. THE MOVING CURTAIN 193
X. COURSEGOL'S EXPLOITS 209
XI. THE CONCIERGERIE 220
XII. ANTOINETTE DE MIRANDOL 238
XIII. LOVE'S CONFLICTS 249
XIV. THE THUNDERBOLT 263
XV. THE LAST FAREWELL 284
XVI. IN THE CHEVREUSE VALLEY 304
BY ERNEST DAUDET.
Early one morning in the month of March, 1770, a woman bearing in her arms a new-born infant, was hastening along the left bank of the Garden, a small river that rises in the Cevennes, traverses the department of the Gard, and empties into the Rhone, not far from Beaucaire. It would be difficult to find more varied and picturesque scenery than that which borders this stream whose praises have been chanted by Florian, and which certainly should not be unknown to fame since it was here the Romans constructed the Pont du Gard, that gigantic aqueduct which conveyed the waters of Eure to Nimes.
The woman of whom we speak was at that moment very near the famous Pont du Gard—which is only a short distance from the spot on which the little village of Lafous now stands, and directly opposite Remoulins, a town of considerable size situated on the right bank of the river—and at a point where the highway from Nimes to Avignon intersects the road leading up from the villages that dot the river banks. The woman paused on reaching the place where these roads meet, not to take breath, but to decide which course she should pursue. But she did not hesitate long. After casting an anxious glance behind her, she hastened on again, directing her steps toward the Pont du Gard, which was distant not more than half a mile.
The air was very cold; the wind had been blowing furiously all night, and at day-break it was still raging, ruffling the water, bending the trees, snatching up great clouds of dust, and moaning and shrieking through the clumps of willows that bordered the stream, while immense masses of gray and white clouds scudding rapidly across the sky, imparted to it the appearance of a tempest-tossed ocean. Some of these clouds were so low that they seemed almost to touch the earth as they rushed wildly on, pursued by the fury of the gale, and assuming strange and fantastic forms in their erratic course. Undeterred by the violence of the tempest, the stranger advanced steadily, apparently with but one aim in view: to reach her journey's end with all possible expedition in order to protect her sleeping infant from the inclemency of the weather.
She was a young woman, not yet twenty years of age. Her luxuriant golden hair hung in wild disorder from the brilliant-hued kerchief that was bound about her head; and her garments were as remarkable for their peculiarity of form as for their diversity of color. She wore a short, full dress of blue de laine bordered with yellow, and confined at the waist by a red silk girdle. Over this, she wore a gray cape of coarse woollen stuff. Her legs were bare, and her feet were protected only by rude sandals, held in place by leathern thongs. Many rents, more or less neatly repaired by the aid of thread or if material of another color, revealed the fact that these faded garments had been in long and constant use. Even the sandals were so dilapidated that the feet of their wearer were upon the ground. Her whole attire, in short, was wretched and poverty-stricken in the extreme.
But no face could be more charming. Her pure and delicate features shone out from their framework of golden hair with marvellous beauty, in spite of the sorrow and fatigue which had left their impress upon her face. Her eyes, shaded by long dark lashes and dewy with tears, were remarkably beautiful and expressive. The sunburn that disfigured her charming face, her exquisitely formed hands and her tiny feet, which were scarcely larger than those of a child, extended no further. Upon those portions of her body that were protected by her clothing, her skin was white and delicate, and scarcely colored by the young blood that coursed through her veins. Such was this woman, and it would have been difficult to divine her origin if the tambourine that hung at her girdle, and the hieroglyphics embroidered upon her sleeves had not revealed it beyond all question.
Tiepoletta, for that was her name, belonged to one of those wandering tribes that leave Spain or Hungary each spring to spend some months in Southern France, advancing as far as Beaucaire, Avignon and Arles—sleeping as fate wills, under the arches of bridges, in tumbledown barns, or in the open air; living sometimes by theft, but oftener by their own exertions; the men dealing in mules and in rags; the women telling fortunes, captivating young peasants, extorting money from them, and selling glassware of their own manufacture—the children imploring charity. These people, scattered throughout Europe—these people, whose manner of life is so mysterious and whose origin is more mysterious still—seem to be closely allied both to the Moors and to the Hindoos, not only in appearance but in their phlegm, fanaticism and rapacity. Such of our readers as have travelled in Southern Europe must have frequently encountered these Bohemians, who come from no one knows where only to disappear again like the swallows at the approach of winter.
Their language is a mixture of the Spanish and the Sclavonic. Some jabber a little French. The men are generally athletic, very dark complexioned and have strong, energetic features, wavy hair and sonorous voices. The women, when young, are remarkably beautiful; but like all who lead an exposed and migratory life, they become hideous before they are thirty. They live in families or tribes, each family consisting of fifteen or twenty members, and obeying the orders of the oldest woman, who is dignified by the title of queen, and from whose decisions there is no appeal, though she, in turn, owes allegiance to one great queen. These Bohemians are tolerated in the countries through which they pass; but people seldom enter into any closer relations with them than are necessary to effect the purchase of a horse or mule, or to obtain a prediction concerning the future. They know the feeling of repulsion they inspire, so they seldom approach thickly settled districts, and only the women and children venture into the villages to solicit alms.
It was to this race that Tiepoletta belonged; and though the color of her hair, the delicacy of her features and the fairness of her skin did not accord with her supposed origin, her memory hinted at nothing that did not harmonize with what had been told her concerning her parentage. It is not the aim of this story to investigate the truth or the falsity of this assertion. That Tiepoletta had Bohemian blood in her veins; that she had, as a child, been stolen from her friends; that she was the fruit of some mysterious love affair; all these hypotheses were equally plausible, but there was nothing to prove that the first was not the true one, nor had her imagination ever engaged in a search for any other; but the people of her tribe seemed to suspect that she was of different blood, for they evidently regarded her with aversion. Preserved from the pernicious counsels and examples of those around her by some secret instinct, she had remained pure. With the aid of a book picked up on the roadside, she had learned to read and to speak a few French words. This was more than enough to convince her companions that she was haughty and proud. When she was a child, they beat her unmercifully because she refused to beg. As she grew older, she had a most cruel enemy in her beauty, which was the cause of much of her misery. Subjected to temptations to which she saw young girls around her yield without a thought, she escaped only by a miracle, but it brought down upon her, anger, hatred and cruel vengeance. She increased these by refusing to choose a husband from among the young men with whom she had been reared.
They resolved to compel her to marry one of her companions. She fled, but they succeeded in recapturing her without much difficulty. They then shut her up, telling her that she should remain a prisoner until she promised obedience. It was the most trying time of her whole life. Beset on every side, beaten, buffetted, tyrannized over, fed on food that was only fit for a dog, she would certainly have died in the struggle had not destiny sent her a protector in the person of Borachio, a young man about twenty-five years of age, whose heart was touched by her misfortunes.
He was so bold, so strong and so terrible in his anger that the whole tribe stood in awe of him. He took compassion on their victim and compelled her tormentors to cease their persecution. Tiepoletta was not ungrateful, and she afterward married her preserver to the great disgust of the young girls of the tribe, with whom Borachio was a great favorite.
According to custom, the queen solemnized the marriage without delay; and at nineteen Tiepoletta had a master whose coarse tenderness was sweet, indeed, in comparison with the harsh treatment to which she had been subjected heretofore. But this happiness was destined to be of short duration. Borachio was found dead upon the roadside one morning, his breast pierced by eight dagger thrusts. Envious of his beauty, his authority and his lovely young wife, one of his comrades had assassinated him and made Tiepoletta a widow some time before she was to become a mother. Six months went by, during which they seemed to respect her grief. Then, in a cave near the Pont du Gard, she gave birth to a daughter. The very next evening, while she was lying, half asleep, on some straw on the floor of the cave, with her child beside her, she overheard a conversation that was going on outside. They were talking of her. She listened eagerly. Picture her fear and horror when she heard them scheming to deprive her of her infant and then drive her from their midst, thus ridding the tribe of a useless member and retaining Borachio's child. It was Corcovita, the mother of the poor heart-broken creature, who was the strongest advocate of this shameful outrage.
"We shall leave here to-morrow to go to Avignon," said she. "We must obtain possession of the child and then find an opportunity to abandon Tiepoletta on the road."
This plan gave general satisfaction, and Corcovita was charged with its execution. Tiepoletta had heard enough. Wild with terror she endeavored to devise some means of escape from this new peril, and during the long watches of the night she finally resolved to flee with her child. The next morning at day-break the little band was on its way. A seat in the carriage was offered to Tiepoletta. She accepted it, knowing she must save all her strength if she would carry her plan into successful execution.
After a long march, they paused at nightfall to encamp near Avignon. Tiepoletta, a prey to the most intense anxiety, had detected the interchange of divers signs that convinced her they were only waiting for her to fall asleep to steal her child from her. She watched. At eight o'clock the men had gone to stroll around the suburbs of the city; the old women were dozing; the young people were laughing and teasing one another, and the children were sound asleep. Tiepoletta profited by a moment when no one was observing her to steal from the camp on tip-toe. She proceeded perhaps a hundred paces in this way, then, seized with sudden fright, she began to run, holding her child pressed close to her heart; fancying she heard her mother's voice behind her, she rushed wildly on, never pausing until she sank exhausted on the lonely road.
She had pursued her flight for more than an hour without even asking herself where she was going, and with no thought save that of escaping from her persecutors. She was now beyond their reach. Still she could not dismiss her fears. Dreading pursuit, she soon resumed her journey, turning her steps in the direction of the Pont du Gard, in the hope that her former companions would not think of looking for her there, and that she might find in the cave they had just deserted a little straw upon which she could rest her weary limbs, and some fragments of food that would keep her alive until she had decided upon her future course. She walked all night. When she found herself near the Pont du Gard day was breaking.
The wind was still blowing; but the clouds had scattered before its violence like a flock of frightened sheep, and a pale light was beginning to shine upon the drenched fields. Gloomy and majestic in its century-old impassibility, the Pont du Gard—a colossus upheld by two mountains, and accustomed to defy alike the tempest and the ravages of time—seemed to laugh at the gale which beat against its massive pillars and rushed into its gigantic arches with a sound like thunder. These strong yet graceful arches seem so many frames through which the astonished eyes of the traveller seize the landscape bit by bit: the quiet valley, watered by the Gardon, the luxuriant green of the willows, the clear waves dancing along over their sandy bed, the blue sky reflected there, the mountains that border the horizon.
Nothing can be more wildly beautiful than this secluded spot, which is as silent and lonely as if it had never been trodden by the foot of man. Judging from the prodigality with which nature has lavished her riches here, it would seem that she wishes the sole credit of this superb panorama. The massive aqueduct alone attests the existence of man. Looming up in its mighty grandeur—the imperishable monument of a departed civilization, and the only one of its kind—the beholder feels that it is no unworthy rival of the works of Deity.
But the majestic scene made no impression upon Tiepoletta. That poor creature, fainting with hunger and fatigue, did not even notice the grandeur around her. With half-closed eyes, arms cramped by the weight of the precious burden upon which she now maintained her hold only by a superhuman effort, and lips parched by the wind, she plodded on with a measured, automatic step. She was hungry; she was thirsty; she was shivering with the cold. Her feet were swollen; but her sufferings were forgotten when she neared her journey's end. She passed under the Pont du Gard. The path on the other side of the aqueduct winds along between the base of the cliffs and the bed of the stream. Under one of these cliffs nature has hewn out a grotto of such liberal dimensions that the people of the neighborhood assemble there on fete days to dance and make merry.
It was there the Bohemians had encamped a few days before; it was there Tiepoletta had given birth to the tiny creature whom she had just rescued from the heartless wretches who had conspired to despoil a mother of her child. This comfortless cavern where she had suffered so much seemed to her now a Paradise, in which she would be content to dwell forever.
She rushed into the cave. The sunlight illumined only a small portion of the grotto; the rest of it was veiled in shadow. Tiepoletta glanced around her and uttered a cry of joy. In one dim corner she discerned a little straw, enough, however, to serve as a bed. She laid her sleeping infant upon it, covered the child with her mantle; then gathering up a few bits of bread and some half-picked bones which had been left upon the floor of the cave, she proceeded to appease her hunger. When this was satisfied, she ran to the river, quenched her thirst, bathed her sore and bleeding feet, and then returned to the cave after walking about awhile in the sunlight to warm herself. Flinging herself down upon the straw, she covered herself with her tattered garments as best she could, and drawing her child to her gave it the breast. The little one roused from its slumber uttered a moan and applied its pale lips to the bosom upon which it was dependent for sustenance; but it soon exhausted the supply of milk, whose abundance had been greatly diminished by the fatigues of the preceding night, and again fell asleep.
Then, in the midst of this profound silence and solitude, Tiepoletta, providentially rescued from her persecutors, experienced an intense joy that made her entirely forget the hardships she had just undergone. There were undoubtedly new misfortunes in store for her. She must, without delay, find some way to earn her own living and that of her child; but their wants were few. Birds and Bohemians are accustomed to scanty fare. She could work: she was accustomed to labor: she was inured to fatigue. Besides, who would be so hard-hearted as to refuse her bread when she said: "I am willing to earn it." This artless creature, whose ambition was so modest, consoled her troubled mind with these hopes, and trembled only when she thought of those from whom she had just fled. No one had ever told Tiepoletta that there was a God. She did not know how to pray; nevertheless, in the refuge she had found, her soul lifted itself up in fervent adoration to the unknown God whose power had protected her, though she was ignorant of His existence and of His name. It was in the midst of this feverish exaltation of spirit that sleep overcame her before she had even thought to ask herself what she should do on awaking.
For several hours she slumbered on undisturbed, but suddenly she woke. She fancied she heard in her sleep a frightful noise like the rumbling of heavy thunder, a noise which mingled with the shrieks of the wind and finally drowned them entirely. At first she thought she must be the victim of some terrible dream. But the sound grew louder and louder. This was no dream; it was reality. She sprang to her feet, seeking some loophole of escape from the unknown peril that threatened her. Above the tumult she could distinguish human cries. She thought these must come from her pursuers. But no; these distant voices were calling for succor. She caught up her child and ran from the cave. A grand but terrible sight met her gaze and riveted her to the spot in motionless horror.
The Gardon had overflowed its banks. With the rapidity that characterizes its sudden inundations and transforms this peaceful stream into the most impetuous of torrents, the water had risen over the banks that border it and flooded the fields, sweeping away everything that stood in its path. This water now laved the feet of the young Bohemian; and as far as the eye could reach she could see nothing but a mass of boiling, turbulent waves, bearing on their crests floating fragments of houses and furniture, as well as trees, animals and occasionally human bodies. The cries she had heard came from some women who had been overtaken by the torrent while engaged in washing their linen at the river, and who had taken refuge upon a rock on the side of the now inundated road.
The river continued to rise. This immense volume of water was vainly seeking an outlet through the narrow defile formed by the hills and which ordinarily sufficed for the bed of the Gardon; but, finding the passage inadequate now, it dashed itself violently against the rocks and against the supports of the aqueduct which haughtily defied the furious flood; then, converted into a mass of seething foam, it returned over the same road it had just traversed until it met the new waves that were being constantly formed by the current. It was the shock of this meeting that caused the noise which had roused Tiepoletta from her slumber. A stormy sea could not have appeared more angry, or formed more formidable billows. One might have called it a fragmentary episode of the universal deluge.
Five minutes more than sufficed to give Tiepoletta an idea of the extent of the inundation. She stood with wild eyes and unbound hair, the picture of terror and dismay. Suddenly an enormous wave broke not far from her with the roar of a wild beast, and the water dashed up to her very feet. She pressed her child closer to her breast and recoiled. Another wave dashed up, blinding her with its spray. Would the water invade the cave? Her blood froze in her veins. Frenzy seized her. This new misfortune, added to those she had suffered during the past three days, was more than she could bear. From that moment she acted under the influence of actual madness caused by her terror. She must flee. But by what road? To reach either of the neighboring villages was impossible. The foaming waters covered the entire plain.
Suddenly Tiepoletta recollected that on the summit of the hill above her there was a chateau which the Bohemians had visited sometimes in pursuit of alms. She could reach it by means of a broad footpath that intersected the road only a few yards from the grotto. It was there she resolved to go for shelter. But to reach this path she must walk through the raging flood. She did not hesitate. Each moment of delay aggravated her peril, and might place some insurmountable barrier between her and her only chance of salvation. She lifted her skirts, fastened her child upon her back and bravely waded into the torrent.
What agony she endured during that short journey. The water was higher than her waist; the ground was slippery; the current, rapid and capricious. It required an indomitable will to sustain her—to keep her from yielding twenty times to the might of this unchained monster. Frequently she was obliged to pause in order to regain her breath. The struggle lasted only ten minutes, but those ten minutes seemed so many ages. At last she reached the path leading to the chateau. She was saved!
She let fall her tattered skirts about her slender limbs, and, without wasting time in looking back upon the perilous road she had just traversed, she hastened up the hill. A few moments later she reached the door of the chateau in a plight most pitiable to behold. It was time. A moment more and her limbs trembling with excitement and exhaustion, would have refused to sustain her. She fell on her knees and deposited her burden upon some tufts of heather; then with a mighty effort she seized and pulled a chain suspended at the side of the door. The sound of a bell was instantly heard. As if her strength had only waited until this moment to desert her, she fell to the ground unconscious at the very instant the door opened.
THE CHATEAU DE CHAMONDRIN.
The man who appeared at the door was young, and, in spite of his swarthy complexion and formidable moustache, his features and the expression of his eyes indicated frankness and benevolence. His garb was that of a soldier rather than a servant, but the arms of the Marquis de Chamondrin, the owner of the chateau, were embroidered in silver upon it. On seeing the unconscious Tiepoletta and the child so quietly sleeping beside her, he could not repress a cry of astonishment and dismay.
"What is it, Coursegol?" inquired a gentleman who had followed him.
"Look, sir," replied Coursegol, pointing to Tiepoletta.
"Is she dead?" exclaimed the Marquis, springing forward; then, deeply impressed by the beauty of the unconscious girl, he knelt beside her and placed his hand upon her heart. It still throbbed, but so feebly that he could scarcely count its pulsations. The Marquis rose.
"She lives," said he, "but I do not know that we shall save her. Quick, Coursegol, have her and her child brought in and apply restoratives."
"Oh, the child is doing very well," replied the servitor. "All it needs is a little milk; for to-day, one of our goats must be its nurse."
As he spoke Coursegol summoned a servant to whom he confided the infant; then, taking the mother in his strong arms, he carried her up-stairs and placed her on a bed.
Coursegol was thirty years of age. Born in the chateau, where his father and his grandfather before him had served the Marquis de Chamondrin, he had shared the childish sports of the lad who afterwards became his master. He absolutely worshipped the Marquis, regarding him with a veritable idolatry that was compounded of respect and of love. Outside of the chateau and its occupants, there was nothing that could interest or attract this honest fellow. His heart, his intelligence and his life were consecrated to his master's service. In the neighboring villages he so lauded the name of Chamondrin that no one dared to let fall in his presence any word that did not redound to the glory and honor of Coursegol's idolized master. He had no particular office at the chateau, but he superintended everything, assuming the duties of lodge-keeper, gardener, major-domo and not unfrequently those of cook. It was he who instructed the son of the Marquis in the arts of horsemanship and of fencing, for he had served two years in His Majesty's cavalry and thoroughly understood these accomplishments. He was also an adept in the manufacture of whistles from willow twigs, in the training of dogs, falcons and ferrets, in snaring birds, in the capture of butterflies and in skipping stones.
He had already begun to teach Philip—his master's son, a bright boy of five—all these accomplishments. He had some knowledge of medicine also; and, as he had spent much of his life in the fields, he had become acquainted with the names and properties of many plants and herbs; and this knowledge had often been called into requisition for the benefit of many of the people as well as the animals of the neighborhood. Never had his skill been needed more than now, for poor Tiepoletta had not recovered consciousness, and her rigidity and the ghastly pallor which had overspread her features seemed to indicate that she had already been struck with death.
Anxious to resuscitate her, Coursegol set energetically to work, but not without emotion. It was the first time he had ever exercised his skill on a woman, and this pure and lovely face had made a deep impression on his heart. He would willingly have given a generous share of his own blood to hear Tiepoletta speak, to see her smile upon him.
"Look, sir," said he, "how beautiful she is! She certainly cannot be twenty years old. Her skin is as fine as satin, and what hair! Could anything be more lovely?"
While he spoke, Coursegol was endeavoring to unclose the teeth of the gypsy in order to introduce a few drops of warm, sweetened wine through her pallid lips. Then he rubbed the feet of the unfortunate woman vigorously with hot flannels.
"They are sore and swollen!" he added. "She must have come a long distance!"
"Is she recovering?" asked the Marquis, who stood by, watching Coursegol's efforts.
"I do not know; but see, sir, it seemed to me that she moved."
The Marquis came nearer. As he did so Tiepoletta opened her eyes. She looked anxiously about her, then faintly murmured a few words in a strange tongue.
"She speaks," said the Marquis, "but what does she say? She seems frightened and distressed."
"She wishes to see her child," exclaimed Coursegol, departing on the run.
During his absence Tiepoletta regained her senses sufficiently to recollect what had happened; but she was so weak that she could scarcely speak. Still, when Coursegol appeared with the child in his arms, she smiled and extended her hands.
"Kiss her, but do not take her," said the Marquis. "You are not strong enough for that yet."
Tiepoletta understood and obeyed. Then she said gently in bad French:
"Dolores! That is a pretty name!" remarked Coursegol, pleased to hear the poor woman speak.
"You will keep her, will you not?" said Tiepoletta, entreatingly. "You will not give her to those who will maltreat her? Make an honest girl of her. Teach her not to scorn the poor gypsies. Tell her that her father and her mother belonged to that despised race."
She uttered these phrases slowly, speaking, not without difficulty, French words that would clearly express her meaning.
"Have no fears," replied Coursegol. "The child shall want for nothing. Rest in peace."
"Yes," she repeated, "rest in death."
"She talks of dying!" exclaimed the Marquis. The words had hardly left his lips when the woman rose and extended her arms. Her features contracted; her large eyes seemed to start from her head; she placed her hand upon her heart, uttered a shrill cry and fell back upon the bed. It was the work of an instant. Coursegol and the Marquis both sprang forward, lifted her, and endeavored to restore her, but in vain. The unfortunate Tiepoletta was dead. Her heart had broken like a fragile vase, shattered by the successive misfortunes she had undergone. A great tear fell from the eyes of Coursegol.
"Poor woman!" said he.
"What shall we do with the child?" inquired the Marquis. "I would like to keep her and rear her. Heaven has sent her here; but who will act as a mother to the poor little waif? The condition of the Marquise renders it impossible for her to do so."
As he spoke, his voice trembled with emotion. It was not only because he was touched by the sight before him, but because the words he had uttered reminded him of his own misfortunes.
"If Monsieur le Marquis would but grant my request," said Coursegol, timidly.
"What is your request?"
"I have no wife, no child. The little apartment that I occupy is very gloomy when M. Philip is not with me. If you will consent to it, Dolores shall be my daughter."
"Your daughter, but who would take care of her?"
"Oh! I will attend to that. I know some very worthy people in Remoulins. The woman has a young child. She will have milk enough for this little thing too. I will entrust the child to her for a time."
"Very well; I have no objection, Coursegol," replied the Marquis. "Take the child, if you wish. As for the mother, may her soul rest in peace! She probably had no faith in religion; but I am sure she was guilty of no sin. I shall request the cure of Remoulins to allow her body to repose in his cemetery. I will now inform the authorities of what has occurred."
With these words, the Marquis left the room; and Coursegol, after covering the face of the dead with reverent hands, knelt and prayed for her as well as for the orphan who had been confided to his care.
The Chateau de Chamondrin was scarcely a century old. Erected on the site of a feudal castle which had been demolished because it threatened to fall into ruins, the present structure was destitute of the massive towers, moats and drawbridges that characterize the ancient castle. The building was square and enclosed an immense court; it was only two stories high, and the upper story was surrounded by a veranda. Such had been the very simple plan executed by the architect; and the result had been an unpretentious abode, but one to which the color of the bricks used in its construction, the delicate columns that supported the windows and doors and the graceful pavilions placed at each of the four corners lent an air of extreme elegance.
The building occupied the entire plateau on the brow of the hill and commanded a superb view of the Garden; while the park and farm-lands, vineyards and forests pertaining to the chateau covered the hill itself. This property was now the only possession of the house of Chamondrin, one of the oldest in Languedoc and Provence. It was not always thus. There had been a time when "As rich as a Chamondrin" was a proverb in the region thereabout. In those days this illustrious family had countless vassals and unbounded wealth, and enjoyed an income that enabled it for many successive generations to play a conspicuous role, first at the Court of Provence and later at the Court of France. The grandfather and father of the present Marquis lived to see the end of this proverbial opulence. They both led careers of extravagance and dissipation, taking part in all the gayeties and follies of the court. The grandfather was one of the favorite companions of Philippe d'Orleans; and wine, cards and women killed him when he should have been still in the prime of life.
His son did not learn wisdom from his father's example. He in his turn became the friend of the Regent, and to repair his shattered fortunes he engaged, at the advice of Lau, in those disastrous financial enterprises that paved the way for the Revolution. He failed completely in his ventures, left Paris insolvent, and took refuge in the Chateau de Chamondrin, where he hoped to escape the wrath of his creditors. But they complained to the king, and brought such influence to bear upon him that Louis XV., the Well-beloved, who had just ascended the throne, informed the Marquis de Chamondrin that he would allow him three months in which to choose between the payment of his debts and incarceration in the Bastile. The Marquis did not hesitate long. He sold all his property with the exception of this chateau and paid his debts. But when this plebeian duty was accomplished, it left him in receipt of an extremely modest income. Poverty had fallen upon this house at the very time that the favor of the king was withdrawn from it, and this two-fold misfortune was quickly followed by the birth of a son and the loss of his wife.
These afflictions completely prostrated this man who was wholly unprepared to meet them. He shut himself up in his chateau, and there, far from the pleasures for which he pined, far from the friends who had forgotten him, cursing God and man for his misfortunes, he lapsed into a misanthropy that rendered him nervous and eccentric almost to madness. He lived twenty years in this way, apparently taking no pleasure or interest in his son, whose youth was gloomy and whose education was entrusted entirely to the cure of a neighboring village. He died in 1765, in the middle of the eighteenth century, the first half of which had proved so fatal to the prosperity of his house.
His son, Hector—the same who had sheltered Tiepoletta—found himself, when he became of age, the owner of a name famous in the courts of Europe and upon many a field of battle, of an income of five thousand pounds and of the Chateau de Chamondrin. He was a gentle, serious young man of very simple tastes. He quickly resigned himself to the situation. After a close examination of the condition of affairs, he resolved to devote his life and all his efforts to the restoration of the glory of his name. He married, two years after the death of his father, the daughter of an impoverished Provencal nobleman, a lady whose domestic virtues seemed likely to aid him in the execution of his plans. He brought his wife home the day after their marriage and then said to her:
"My dear Edmee, you have entered a family which for the past forty years has been subjected to reverses which can only be repaired by great self-denial on our part. We cannot hope to enjoy the fruits of our labors ourselves, but our children, should God grant us any, may enjoy them, and it is for their sakes that we must endeavor to restore the house of Chamondrin to its former splendor and opulence; and since you have consented to share my humble lot I hope that you will unite your efforts with mine to lay aside each year a sum that will enable our oldest son, when he arrives at the age of manhood, to make a respectable appearance at court where he will perhaps be fortunate enough to win the king's favor, our only hope."
"You will ever find me ready to second you in your efforts," replied the young wife.
A son and a daughter were born to them during the two years that followed. Nor were these their only blessings. The crops were abundant and their savings considerable. The life of the young couple was serene and happy. The Marquis was hopeful; the Marquise, a charming and most lovable creature, shared his hopes. Undoubtedly their life in this isolated chateau was often lonely and monotonous. The winters were very long; but the Marquis read a great deal, hunted and superintended his farms with the diligence of a peasant. The Marquise, too, was obliged to have a finger in the pie, to use a common expression. She directed the affairs of her household with as much care and economy as the plainest bourgeoise and seemed to live only to second the efforts of her husband. If resignation is the chief element of happiness, they were happy at the Chateau de Chamondrin.
Four years passed in this way. Little Philip was growing finely; he had passed safely through the perils of teething and was beginning to talk.
"We will make a fine gentleman of him," said the Marquis. "He will create a sensation at court; the king will give him command of a regiment, and he will marry some rich heiress. As for this young lady," he added, caressing his daughter who was named Martha, "if we cannot give her a dowry we will obtain an appointment as lady abbess for her."
The Marquise encouraged her dear Hector in these projects with her sweetest smile; but a terrible accident, followed by a catastrophe no less horrible, destroyed these delightful dreams and brought desolation to this happy home.
Towards the close of the year 1769, Martha, the youngest child, began to lose her fine color and faded so rapidly that her parents became alarmed. They passed long nights at the bedside of the little sufferer, who seemed to be a victim of a sort of nervous debility or exhaustion. One night the Marquise volunteered to watch while her husband slept, and, in administering some medicine to her child, mistook the vial and poisoned her. Martha died and it was impossible to conceal the cause of her death from the grief-stricken mother. Her despair was even more poignant than that of her husband for with hers was mingled a frightful remorse which all the tenderness of the Marquis could not assuage. This despair caused an attack of fever from which she recovered, but which left her in a still more pitiable condition. A profound calm had succeeded the paroxysms of fever; and her sorrow no longer betrayed itself in sobs and lamentations, but only in silent tears and heart-breaking sighs. These alarming symptoms soon revealed the truth: reason had fled. For hours at a time poor Edmee rocked to and fro, with a bundle of rags clasped tightly to her breast, crooning over it the same lullaby she had been wont to sing over her sleeping child.
Physicians summoned from Avignon, Nimes and Montpellier tried in vain to overcome this deep despondency, which was far more dangerous than frenzy. Their skill was powerless; they could not give the Marquis even the slightest ray of hope. It was not long before the Marquise became frightfully pale and emaciated, while her mind was more than ever under the control of the monomania which saw her daughter in all the objects that surrounded her. She took, by turns, flowers, articles of clothing and of furniture, lavishing every mark of affection upon them and calling them by the most endearing names until their insensibility dispelled the illusion and she cast them aside with loathing to seek elsewhere the child for which she mourned.
These afflictions, the rapidity with which they had followed one another and their magnitude impaired the health of the Marquis. He fell ill in his turn, and for more than a month Coursegol thought the shadow of death was hovering over his master. But the Marquis was young and strong; and the thought that if he succumbed his son would be left an orphan produced a salutary reaction. He was soon on his feet again, and, though he was always sad, he accepted his misfortunes bravely and resolved to live for his son's sake.
These events occurred about a year before Tiepoletta dragged herself to the door of the chateau to die in Coursegol's arms, confiding her daughter to his care.
After he had prayed for the departed, Coursegol rose, took up little Dolores and went out into the court-yard, calling:
"Master Philip! Master Philip!"
The little fellow, who was playing in charge of one of the servant-maids, came running to answer the summons. He was now four years old. His pretty and rather delicate face was surrounded by a profusion of brown curls, and his large eyes revealed an intelligence and thoughtfulness unusual in a child of his age. He talked well enough to make himself clearly understood, and understood all that was said to him in reply.
"See this pretty baby!" said Coursegol, displaying Dolores.
"A doll!" exclaimed Philip, clapping his hands in rapture.
"Yes, in flesh and blood," replied Coursegol; "a doll that cries, that will grow and talk to you and amuse you."
"When?" demanded Philip.
"When she grows up."
"Then make her grow up immediately," ordered the little autocrat.
Then, seizing Coursegol's hand, he dragged him to the kitchen, for he wished to show every one his newfound treasure without delay. A crowd of servants soon gathered around Philip and Coursegol. The latter was explaining how the infant had come into his possession, and every one was marvelling at the strangeness of the adventure, when the Marquise suddenly appeared. The poor creature was always closely followed by a woman who was ordered never to lose sight of her mistress. She wandered about the chateau, never noisy or troublesome, but recognizing no one, not even her husband or her own child. She now advanced towards the little group which respectfully divided to make way for her. One could scarcely imagine a more pitiable sight than that presented by this beautiful young woman, whose haggard eyes, unbound hair and disordered garments revealed her insanity in spite of her attendant's efforts to keep her neatly dressed. At that moment, she was holding a piece of wood tightly to her bosom, and was singing softly as she advanced with measured steps as if trying to lull this supposed child to sleep. Suddenly she paused, threw the fragment of wood far from her and burst into tears.
All the spectators of this scene stood motionless, overcome with pity, though they witnessed a similar spectacle each day and many times a day. Little Philip in his terror clung closely to Coursegol. The Marquise passed, looked at him, and, shaking her head, murmured:
"That is not what I am looking for!" Suddenly she stopped as if riveted to the spot. Her eyes had fallen upon the sleeping Dolores cradled in Coursegol's arms. There was such an intentness in her gaze, she was regarding the child with so much persistence, that a strange thought flashed through the mind of the faithful servant.
"Good Heavens!" he exclaimed, "might it be possible? Retire," he said, hastily, addressing those around him; "take Master Philip away and call the Marquis."
They obeyed: all the servants vanished; the Marquise alone remained. Then Coursegol deposited the child upon a wide bench that stood against the wall, and, departing in his turn, ran to conceal himself behind a window where he could see his mistress without being seen. It was there the Marquis found him.
"Ah! sir," exclaimed Coursegol on beholding his master, "I believe madame is saved. Heaven has inspired me. But what if I am mistaken?" he added, anxiously. "What if she should kill the poor little thing?"
"What do you say? What have you done? Run and take the child from her. Have we not had misfortunes enough already? Go, I tell you!"
"It is too late!" replied Coursegol, terribly excited. "Look!"
After devouring Dolores with her eyes for several moments, the Marquise gently approached her with outstretched arms, her face strangely altered by the emotion that filled her heart. Curiosity, surprise and fear were imprinted upon her features. She leaned over the child and scrutinized it anew; then, with an eager movement, seized it, pressed it to her bosom and started as if to run away with it. But when she had gone perhaps twenty paces, she paused and looked around as if to assure herself that no one was following her. The Marquis and Coursegol were standing at the half-open window, not daring to breathe, so great was their anxiety. Suddenly they saw the Marquise press little Dolores still closer to her heart, and imprint frenzied kisses upon her brow, while for the first time for many a long month beneficent tears flowed from her eyes. At the same time she exclaimed in a clear, strong voice:
"Hector, my daughter! I have found my daughter!"
The agitated Marquis sprang towards her. She saw him approaching and advanced to meet him, laughing and crying and displaying the child; then, overcome by the violence of her emotion, she fell in his extended arms, devoid of consciousness.
"She is saved!"' said Coursegol, who had followed his master.
"Ah, Coursegol, can it be true?" demanded the Marquis, who could scarcely believe his own eyes.
"Did she not recognize you? Did she not speak to you? Her madness disappeared as soon as her maternal instincts were re-awakened."
They carried the Marquise to her chamber and laid her upon the bed. In obedience to Coursegol's directions a cradle was placed in her room and the infant deposited in it; then the devoted servant mounted a horse and started for Nimes in quest of a physician.
When he returned at the end of three hours, accompanied by the doctor, the Marquise had regained consciousness. They had shown her the sleeping Dolores and, reassured by the sight of the child, she had fallen asleep. Occasionally she roused a little and those around her heard her murmur:
"My daughter! my daughter!"
Then, raising herself upon her elbow, she watched the babe in silent ecstasy until overcome with exhaustion she again closed her eyes in slumber.
"I can be of no service here," said the physician. "Her reason has returned unquestionably; and her weakness will be overcome by good care and absolute quiet."
It was in this way that the Marquise was restored to her right mind. From that day her hold upon life slowly but surely strengthened; she recognized her husband and her son, and it was not long before they could without danger reveal the circumstances attendant upon Dolores' arrival at the chateau. Three months later her recovery was complete.
One morning the Marquis sent for Coursegol.
"I gave you Dolores," said he, abruptly; "will you not return her to me? Henceforth she shall be my daughter."
"She is my daughter as well," replied Coursegol, "but you may take her, sir. Though I relinquish her to you, I do not lose her since I shall live near her, and we can both love her."
The Marquis de Chamondrin offered his hand to Coursegol, thus consenting to the compact that gave Dolores two protectors; and so the daughter of the gypsy, though she had lost her parents, was not an orphan.
THE CHILDHOOD OF DOLORES.
Dolores passed a happy childhood in the Chateau de Chamondrin, where she was loved, petted and caressed as if she had been the little Martha whose loss had deprived the Marquise of reason for many dreary months. Nothing was left undone to render the illusion complete in the eyes of the members of the household and in her own. The first companion of her childish play was Philip, who called her sister; and she pillowed her fair head on the bosom of the Marquise without a shadow of fear and fondly called her mother. The Marquise loved her as devotedly as she had loved her own daughter; Coursegol regarded her with an affection whose fervor was mingled with the deference he owed to the children of his master. As for the servants, they treated Philip and Dolores with equal respect; and there were no relatives or friends of the family who did not take pleasure in exhibiting their fondness for the little creature whose presence had cured the Marquise of the most terrible of maladies.
It is true that Dolores was such a lovely child no one could help loving her. She promised to resemble her mother. She had the same luxuriant golden hair, the same large, dark eyes, the same energy, the same sweetness of disposition and of voice. The Marquis and Coursegol, who had seen the gypsy, and who still remembered her, were often struck by the strong resemblance that seemed to make Tiepoletta live again in Dolores. The child also possessed the same tender heart, vivid imagination and honorable instincts. Her mind absorbed with marvellous facility the instruction which she received from the Marquis and which she shared with his son. She had a wonderful memory, and what she learned seemed to be indelibly imprinted upon her mind. She was loving in disposition, docile and sweet-tempered, and had already won the love of all who came in contact with her.
Philip actually worshipped his little sister. He was five years her senior, a large, noisy, almost coarse boy, rather vain of his birth and of the authority which enabled him to lord it over the little peasants who sometimes played with him. But these faults, which were destined to be greatly modified by time, concealed a thoroughly good heart and disappeared entirely when he was with Dolores.
It was amusing to see the tenderness and care with which he surrounded her. If they were walking together in the park, he removed all the stones which might hurt her tiny feet or cause her to stumble. If a dainty morsel fell to his share at the table, he transferred it from his plate to that of Dolores. If they dressed her in any new garment, he was never weary of admiring her, of telling her how beautiful she was, and of fondling her luxuriant golden curls. If it was necessary to punish Philip, they had only to deprive him of the society of Dolores. But unfortunately this punishment, the most severe that could be inflicted upon him, grieved his sister as much as it did him, so it was used rarely and only in grave cases. One of the favorite amusements of the two children was to walk with Coursegol, and this was not a delight to them alone, for that faithful fellow was never so happy as when roving about the fields with them.
Often, during those lovely spring mornings that are so charming in the south, they descended the hill and strolled along the banks of the Garden. The delicately-tinted willows that grew on the banks drooped over the stream, caressing it with their flexible branches. Above the willows, fig trees, olives and vineyards covered the base of the hill with foliage of a darker hue, which in turn contrasted with the still deeper green of the cypress trees and pines that grew upon the rocky sides of the cliff. This luxuriant vegetation, of tints as varied as those of an artist's palette, mirrored itself in the clear waters below together with the arches of the massive Pont du Gard, whose bold yet graceful curves were festooned with a dense growth of creeping vines.
Coursegol called the children's attention to the beauties of the scene, thus awakening in their young hearts appreciation of the countless charms of nature. They played in the sand; they fished for silver carp; hunted for birds' nests among the reeds. There were merry shouts of laughter, continual surprises and numberless questions. In answering these, all Coursegol's rather primitive but trusty knowledge on scientific subjects was called into requisition. When they returned home they were obliged to pass the cave, and Dolores, who knew nothing of her history, often entered it in company with Philip if they found it unoccupied by the much-dreaded gypsies.
At certain seasons of the year, early in the spring and late in the summer, roving bands of Bohemians encamped on the banks of the Gardon, and Philip and Dolores took good care not to approach them, especially after an evening when an old gypsy woman, struck perhaps by the child's resemblance to Tiepoletta, pointed Dolores out to some of the tribe who went into ecstasies over her beauty. One of the gypsies approached the children to beg, which so terrified them that they clung frantically to Coursegol, who found it difficult to reassure them.
These pleasant rambles, the lessons which she recited to her adopted father, the religious instruction she received from the Marquise and long hours of play with Philip made up the life of Dolores. Day succeeded day without bringing anything to break the pleasant monotony of their existence, for the capture of a mischievous fox, an encounter with some harmless snake, or the periodical overflow of the Gardon could scarcely be dignified by the name of an event: yet these, or similar incidents furnished the children with topics of conversation for weeks together.
They took little interest in the news that came from Paris, and though they sometimes observed a cloud on the brow of the Marquis, or tears in the eyes of his wife, they were ignorant of the cause. Nor was it possible for them to understand the gravity of the political situation or the well-founded fears of the Royalists, which were frequently mentioned in the letters received at the chateau.
Thirteen serene and happy years passed after Dolores became the adopted daughter of the Marquis de Chamondrin, before she made her first acquaintance with real sorrow. She had grown rapidly and her mental progress had kept pace with her physical development. She promised to be an honor to her parents and to justify them in their determination to keep her with them always.
But the Marquis had not lost sight of the projects formed years before in relation to his son's future. As we have previously stated, the Marquis, even before the birth of his son, dreamed of restoring in him and through him the glory of the house of Chamondrin—a glory which had suffered an eclipse for more than a quarter of a century. It was now time to carry these plans into execution. Philip was eighteen, a vigorous youth, already a man in stature and in bearing, endowed with all the faults and virtues of his race, but possessed of more virtues than faults and especially of an incontestable courage and a profound reverence for the name he bore. The Marquis had about decided that the time to send him to Paris had come. He had been preparing for this event for some months and, thanks to the economy in which he had been so admirably seconded by his wife, he had laid by a very considerable amount; enough to supply Philip's wants for five years at least—that is, until he would be in a position to obtain some office at court or a command in the army.
But the Marquis had taken other measures to insure his son's success. He had appealed to family friends, and through the Chevalier de Florian, an occasional guest at the chateau, he had received an assurance that Philip would find an earnest champion in the Duke de Penthieore. Fortune seemed inclined to smile on the young man; nevertheless the Marquis was beset with doubts, for all this occurred in the year 1783, just as the hostility to the king was beginning to manifest itself in an alarming manner, and the Marquis asked himself again and again if this was a propitious moment to send so young a man, almost a boy, into a divided and disaffected court—a court, too, that was subjected to the closest espionage on the part of a people already deeply incensed and irritated by the scandal and debauchery of the nobility, and utterly insensible to the king's well-meant efforts to institute a much-needed reform.
But the birth of the Dauphin, which occurred that same year, dissipated M. de Chamondrin's doubts. He was completely reassured by the enthusiasm of a nation, which, even in its dire extremity, broke into songs of rejoicing over the new-born heir. Philip's departure was decided upon.
The young people had been aware of their father's intentions for some time. They knew the hour of separation was approaching, and the tears sprang to their eyes whenever any allusion to Philip's intended departure was made in their presence; but, with the characteristic light-heartedness of youth, they dismissed the unwelcome thought from their minds, and in present joys forgot the sorrow the future held in store for them. But the flight of time is rapid, and that which causes us little anxiety because it was the future, that is, a possibility, becomes the present, in other words, reality. One day the Marquis, not without emotion, made known his plans to his wife and afterwards to his son. Philip was to start for Paris at the close of autumn, or in about two months, and Coursegol was to accompany him. This news carried despair to the heart of Dolores, for she loved Philip devotedly. Had he not been her brother, her protector, and the sharer of all her joys since she was old enough to talk? Could it be she was about to lose him?
In spite of all their efforts to conceal the fact, the grief was general. The departure of Philip would be a sore trial to all the inmates of the chateau. Dolores was inconsolable. A dozen times a day, the Marquise, conquering her own sadness, endeavored to console Dolores by descanting on the advantages Philip would derive from this journey; but the poor girl could understand but one thing—that her brother was to leave her for an indefinite time. For several days before his departure she scarcely left his side. How many plans were made to be carried into execution on his return! How many bright hopes were mingled with the sadness of those last hours! Philip, who had become grave and serious as befitted his new role, declared that he would never forget Dolores—that he should love her forever. The hours flew swiftly by and the day appointed for the separation came all too quickly for those who were awaiting and dreading it.
The morning that Philip was to start his father sent for him. The young man was in the court-yard, superintending the preparations for departure. The servants, superintended by Coursegol, were fastening the trunks upon the carriage that was to convey the travellers and their baggage to Avignon, where places had been bespoken for them in the coach which was then the only mode of conveyance between Marseilles and Paris.
Dolores was standing near Coursegol. Her red eyes, still moist with tears, and her pale face showed that her sorrow had made sleep impossible during the previous night; but, in spite of this, she looked so lovely that Philip was more deeply impressed by her beauty than he had ever been before. He kissed her tenderly, as he tried to console her.
"Ah! Philip, why do you leave us?" she exclaimed, reproachfully.
"Because it is necessary both for your sake and mine," he responded. "Do you not know my father's plans? And if he commands me to go, must I not obey?"
"That is what I was just telling mademoiselle," began Coursegol. "I explained to her that the Marquis, your father, was acting wisely in sending you to court. You will soon make a fortune there, and then you will return to us laden with laurels and with gold. Shall we not be happy then, mademoiselle?"
Even while speaking thus, Coursegol found it very difficult to conceal his own emotion, for though he was pleased to accompany Philip, it cost him a bitter pang to part with Dolores. Rescued by him, reared under his very eyes, he loved her as devotedly as he would have loved a child of his own, had the thought of any other family than that of his master ever occurred to him.
But his words and Philip's caresses seemed to comfort Dolores. Her sobs ceased and she dried her tears; but, as Philip was about to leave her in obedience to a summons from his father, she suddenly exclaimed:
"Will you not forget me in the midst of the splendor that will surround you? Will you not cease to love me?"
"Forget you! Cease to love you!" replied Philip, with a shudder, as if such a fear expressed at such a moment was an evil omen. "I shall never forget you! I shall never cease to love you!"
He was about to say still more when he saw his mother approaching. He led Dolores gently to her, kissed them both, and hastened to join his father.
The latter was pacing to and fro in his chamber, thoughtful and sad, for the departure of his son made his heart heavy with grief.
"You sent for me, father," said Philip.
"Yes, my son," responded the Marquis, seating himself and motioning his son to a chair beside him. "I wish to say a few words to you. You are about to leave me, Philip. In a few hours you will be your own master. I shall no longer be near you; nor will your mother be at hand to advise you. Moreover, you are deprived of our counsel and experience just when you most need them, at a time when your life must undergo a radical change and you are beset with difficulties. I have decided that Coursegol shall accompany you, for his judgment may be of service to you in the absence of ours. You must regard his advice as that of a friend rather than of a servant; but do not accept his counsels or the counsels of any other person without reflection. There are cases, it is true, in which one must decide hastily. If you have not time to consult those in whom you repose confidence, you must be guided by your own judgment; and in order that you may not err, engrave upon your heart the words I am about to utter."
The Marquis paused a moment, then resumed:
"'God, your country and the king'—this should be your motto. You are about to go out into the world. You will meet many fanatics, atheists and libertines. Shun their example; do not be led astray by their sophistries, and before you speak or act, ask yourself if what you are about to say or do does not conflict with the respect you owe to your religion, to France and to your king."
This was the general tenor of the conversation, which lasted nearly an hour. His father, it is true, told him nothing he had not heard already. His advice was nothing more than a resume of the lessons he had always taught him; but Philip was deeply moved, and he promised with an emotion closely akin to ardent enthusiasm that he would never depart from the line of conduct his father had marked out for him.
Then the Marquis, with a sudden change of tone, said to his son:
"Since you are about to leave home, perhaps for several years, I will tell you a secret which I should no longer withhold."
"What is it?" demanded Philip, in surprise.
"Dolores is not your sister!"
"Dolores not my sister! Then—"
Philip paused. He dare not utter the thought that had suddenly entered his mind. On hearing the Marquis' words and learning the truth in regard to Dolores from his lips, he had experienced an emotion of joy. If he had given expression to what was passing in his soul, his father would have heard these words:
"Dolores not my sister! Then she shall be my wife!"
But he controlled himself and his father little suspected the emotion caused by this revelation. The Marquis related the history of Dolores in detail, and Philip could scarcely believe his ears when he heard that the charming girl was the offspring of one of those Bohemians he had frequently seen by the roadside.
"You must not love her the less," said the Marquis in conclusion. "She has filled Martha's place in our hearts; we owe to her your mother's restoration to reason. We should always love and cherish her. She has no suspicion of the truth; and I wish her to remain in ignorance until I think proper to acquaint her with the facts."
"Oh! I shall never cease to love her," replied Philip, quickly, thus repeating to his father the promise he had made to Dolores a few moments before.
Then, agitated by the news he had heard, he left the Marquis and rejoined Dolores. He wished to see her alone once more before his departure. When he approached her, his heart throbbed wildly.
"She is not my sister," he said to himself, exultantly.
She seemed to him an entirely different being. For the first time he observed that she had exquisitely formed hands of marvellous whiteness for the first time he shrank from the light of the dark eyes uplifted to his. He wished that Dolores knew the secret of her birth, and that she could hear him once again say:
"I love you!"
It was a new emotion to the pure and artless heart of an eighteen-year old lad; and, yielding to its influence, Philip threw his arms about Dolores, and, pressing her to his heart, said tenderly:
"I shall always love you—always—I swear it! Remember this promise. Some day you will understand it better."
Dolores looked at him in astonishment. Though she was deeply moved she made no reply, but throwing her arms around his neck she kissed him again and again, thus unconsciously arousing a new passion in what had been the soul of a child only a few moments before, but what had suddenly become the soul of a man.
But the hour of departure had come. The char-a-banc drawn by two strong horses was in waiting at the base of the hill. They were to walk down the hill with Philip and bid him farewell there. Philip gave his arm to his mother; Dolores walked between Coursegol and the Marquis, with an expression of profound sorrow upon her features.
An air of sadness and gloom pervaded everything. It was the close of autumn; the air was full of withered leaves; they rustled beneath the tread at every step, and the wind moaned drearily through the pines.
"Take care of your health," said the Marquise.
"Write to me," pleaded Dolores.
"Be brave and upright," said the father; then all three, turning as if with one accord to Coursegol, placed Philip under his protection.
Again they embraced their beloved; again they wept; then one more embrace, one last kiss, and he was gone. The carriage that bore him away was hidden from their sight by clouds of dust, and the loving hearts left behind sadly wondered if this cruel parting was not, after all, a dream.
Dolores, in spite of her earnest efforts to fill the void that had been made in her life, spent a month in tears. A deep despair seemed to have taken possession of her heart. In vain her adopted parents endeavored to divert her mind; in vain they concealed their own grief to console her; in vain they lavished a wealth of tenderness upon her; she would not be consoled and her silent sorrow revealed a soul peculiarly sensitive to suffering.
It was Philip who persuaded her to conquer this despondency; for he, even at a distance, exerted a much more powerful influence over her than either the Marquis or his wife. His first letter, which arrived about a month after his departure, was more potent in its effects than all the efforts of her adopted parents. It was to Dolores that Philip had written. He described his journey to Paris; the cordial welcome he had received from the Duke de Penthieore and the Princess de Lamballe, to whom he had been presented by the Chevalier de Florian; the condescension this Princess had displayed in taking him to Versailles, and in commending him to the kindly notice of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI.; the promises made by their majesties, and lastly the promptitude with which the Duke, as a proof of his interest, had attached him to his own household. So Philip was on the highway to wealth and honor at last. The Princess de Lamballe had evinced a very decided interest in him; he enjoyed the friendship of the Chevalier de Florian and would soon accompany the Duke de Penthieore to Brittany. Moreover, these kind friends were only waiting until he should attain the age of twenty to request the king to give him command of a company in one of his regiments.
This good news filled the heart of the Marquis with joy. He immediately wrote to the Duke, thanking him for his kindness, and that gentleman in his reply, manifested such an earnest desire to insure Philip's success that the Marquis and his wife were consoled for their son's absence by the thought of the brilliant career that seemed to be in store for him. As for Dolores, what comforted her was not so much her brother's success as the expressions of affection with which his letter was filled. All his happiness and all his good fortune were to be shared with her. It was for her sake he desired fame, in order that he might make her proud and happy. Thus Philip expressed the still confused sentiments that filled his young heart, though he did not betray the secret that his father had confided to him.
This letter seemed to restore to Dolores the natural light-heartedness of youth. She no longer lamented her brother's absence, but spent most of her time in writing to him, and in perusing and re-perusing his letters. The months passed, but brought nothing to disturb the tranquillity of this monotonous existence. At the end of two years Philip announced that he had been appointed to the command of a company of dragoons. This appointment, which he owed entirely to the kindness of the Princess de Lamballe and the Duke de Penthieore, was only the first step. The queen had promised not to forget him and to prove her interest in some conclusive manner. That he might not be obliged to leave his young master, Coursegol asked and obtained permission to enlist in the same regiment.
Two more years passed.
It would be a difficult task to describe Dolores as she appeared in those days. The cleverest pen would be powerless to give an adequate conception of her charms. Her simple country life had made her as strong and vigorous as the sturdy young trees that adorned the landscape ever beneath her eyes. In health and strength she was a true daughter of the Bohemians, a race whose vigor has never been impaired by the luxuries and restraints of civilization. She had not the olive complexion and fiery temper of her father, but she had inherited from her mother that delicate beauty and that refinement of manner which made it almost impossible for one to believe that Tiepoletta was the daughter of Corcovita.
Dolores was as energetic as her father and as lovely as her mother. Her brilliant dark eyes betrayed an ardent temperament and unusual power of will. She was no fragile creature, but a healthy, spirited, beautiful young girl, the robust scion of a hardy and fruitful tree. Had she been reared among the gypsies, she might have been coarsely handsome; but education had softened her charms while it developed her intellect, and though but seventeen she was already one of those dazzling beauties who defy description and who eclipse all rivals whenever they appear. The soul was worthy of the casket that enshrined it; and the reader who follows this narrative to its close cannot fail to acknowledge the inherent nobility of this young girl, who was destined to play a role as heroic as it was humble in the great drama of the Revolution, and whose devotion, purity, unselfishness and indomitable courage elevated her high above the plane of poor, erring humanity.
Had it not been for Philip's prolonged absence, Dolores would have been perfectly happy at this period of her life. Separated from their son, the Marquis and his wife seemed to regard her with redoubled tenderness. Her wishes were their law. To amuse her, they took her to Nimes, to Montpellier and to Avignon; and she was everywhere welcomed as the daughter of the great house of Chamondrin, whose glory had been veiled in obscurity for a quarter of a century, only to emerge again more radiant than ever. Dolores was really happy. She was looking forward to a speedy meeting with her beloved Philip; and he shared this hope, for had he not written in a recent letter: "I expect to see you all soon and to spend several weeks at Chamondrin, as free from care and as happy as in days gone by?" In a still later letter Philip said: "I am eager to start for home, but sometimes the journey seems to be attended by many difficulties. Should it prove an impossibility, I shall expect to see you all in Paris."
So either in Chamondrin, or in Paris, Dolores would soon embrace her brother. This thought intoxicated her with happiness, and her impatience led her to interrogate the Marquis.
"Why does Philip speak of his return as impossible?" she asked again and again. "What does he fear?"
"There may be circumstances that will detain him at his post near the king," replied the Marquis, sadly, but evasively.
In the letters which he, himself, received from his son, the latter spoke freely of the danger that menaced the throne. There was, indeed, abundant cause of alarm to all thoughtful and observant minds, and especially to men who were living like the Marquis in the heart of the provinces, and who were consequently able to judge understandingly of the imminence of the peril. Of course, no person could then foresee the catastrophes which were to succeed one another so rapidly for several years; but a very general and undeniable discontent prevailed throughout the entire kingdom, a discontent that could not fail to engender misfortunes without number.
The year 1788 had just opened under the most unfavorable auspices. Marepas, Turgot, Necker and Calonne had held the reins of power in turn, without being able to restore the country to peace and prosperity. Their efforts proving powerless from divers causes they had been dismissed in disgrace; some through the intrigues of the court; some by reason of their own incapacity. Brienne was now in office; but he was no more fortunate than his predecessors. Instead of subsiding, the discord was continually on the increase.
The convention of leading men, upon which Calonne had based such flattering hopes, adjourned without arriving at any satisfactory result. The treasury was empty; and, as the payment of government obligations was consequently suspended, the murmurs of the people became long and loud. Parliament refused to notice the royal edicts, and the army showed open hostility to the court. In the provinces, poverty everywhere prevailed; and the dissatisfaction was steadily increasing.
The condition of affairs in Southern France was extremely ominous. At Nimes, the religious factions, which were as bitterly at variance as they had been at the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes had arrayed themselves in open warfare one against the other. Avignon, eager to shake off the pontifical yoke and annex itself to France, was the scene of daily outbreaks. As the Chateau de Chamondrin was situated between these two cities, its inmates could not fail to be aware of these dissensions.
Conventions were held in most of the large towns, and the situation of the country was discussed with much heat and bitterness. The nobility and clergy, who trembled for their threatened privileges, and the people, who had suffered so long and so uncomplainingly, took part in these discussions; and their utterances betrayed great intolerance on the one side and excessive irritation on the other. The discontent had reached a class which, up to that date, had been allowed no voice in the management of affairs; but now, the peasants, oppressed by taxes as exorbitant as they were unjust, began to cast angry and envious glances at the nobility. The hovel was menacing the castle; and France seemed to be on the watch for some great event.
In the midst of this general perturbation, the king, anxious and undecided, was running from one adviser to another, listening to all kinds of counsel, consenting to all sorts of intrigues and making a thousand resolutions without possessing the requisite firmness to carry any good one into execution.
The Marquis de Chamondrin was a witness to some of these facts. The letters of his son revealed others. He was extremely anxious in regard to the future, and more than once Dolores and his wife saw his brow overcast and his eyes gloomy.
A letter received from Philip early in May, 1788, increased his disquietude. It was written on the day following the arrest of Espremenil. Philip had witnessed the disturbance; had seen the people applaud the officers of the municipal government, and insult the representatives of royal authority. He described the scene in his letter to his father. The Marquis, at the solicitation of Dolores, read her Philip's letter and made her the confidante of his fears. She understood now why Philip's return had been postponed. After this, she took a deep interest in the progress of events not so much on account of their gravity, which she did not comprehend as clearly as her adopted parents, but because Philip was a witness of them, and because his return depended upon a peaceful solution of the difficulty. She could not foresee that an event, as sorrowful as it was unexpected, would soon recall him to Chamondrin.
PERTAINING TO LOVE MATTERS.
A fortnight later, Philip, who was stationed at Versailles with his command, received the following letter from Dolores:
"It is my sad duty, my dear Philip, to inform you of the irreparable misfortune which has just befallen us. Summon all your fortitude, my dear brother. Your mother died yesterday. The blow was so sudden, the progress of the malady so rapid, that we could not warn you in time to give you the supreme consolation of embracing for the last time her whom we mourn, and who departed with the name of her son upon her lips.
"Only four days ago she was in our midst, full of life, of strength and of hope. She was talking of your speedy return, and we rejoiced with her. One evening she returned from her accustomed walk a trifle feverish and complaining of the cold. It was a slight indisposition which was, unfortunately, destined to become an alarming illness by the following day. All our efforts to check the disease were unavailing; and we could only weep and bow in submission to the hand that had smitten us.
"Weep then, my dear Philip, but do not rebel against the will of God. Be resigned. You will have strength, if you will but remember the immortal life in which we shall be united forever. It is this blessed hope that has given me strength to overcome my own sorrow, to write to you, and to bestow upon your father the consolation of which he stands so sorely in need. Still, I shall be unable to assuage his grief if his son does not come to my assistance. You must lose no time, Philip. The Marquis needs you. In his terrible affliction, he calls for you. Do not delay.
"Now to you, whom I called my brother only yesterday, I owe an avowal. Perhaps you have already learned my secret. I know the truth in regard to my birth. Before her death, the Marquise told me the details of that strange adventure which threw me, an orphan and a beggar, upon the mercy of your parents. Just as she breathed her last sigh, your father threw himself in my arms, weeping and moaning. He called me by the tenderest names, as if wishing to find solace for his grief in the caresses of his child. I fell at his feet.
"'I know all, sir,' I cried.
"'What! She has told you!' he exclaimed. 'Ah, well! Would you refuse me your affection at a moment like this?'
"'Never!' I cried, clasping my arms about his neck.
"'I shall never leave him, Philip. I will do my best to make his old age happy and serene, and since I continue to be his daughter, it is for you to decide whether or not I shall still be your sister. "DOLORES."
A few hours after the receipt of this letter, which carried desolation to his heart, Philip, accompanied by Coursegol, left Versailles for Chamondrin. In spite of the ever increasing gravity of the political situation it had not been difficult for him to obtain leave of absence for an indefinite time on account of the bereavement that summoned him to his father's side and might detain him there. He made the journey in a post-chaise, stopping only to change horses.
Dolores was little more than a child when they parted and they had been separated more than four years, but absence had not diminished the love that was first revealed to him on the day he left the paternal roof, and the thought of meeting her again made his pulses quicken their throbbing. Time and change of scene had proved powerless against the deep love and devotion that filled his heart, and he was more than ever determined to wed the companion of his youth; and now that she was no longer ignorant of the truth concerning her birth, he could press his suit as a lover. As the decisive moment approached, the moment when Dolores' answer would make or mar the happiness of his life, he experienced a profound emotion which was increased by the host of memories that crowd in upon a man when he returns to his childhood's home after a long absence to find some one of those he loved departed never to return.
Philip thought of the mother he would never see again, of his father, heart-broken and desolate, of Dolores, whose grief he understood. His sadness increased in proportion as he approached the Pont du Gard. Yet the road was well-known to him; the trees seemed to smile upon their old companion as if in greeting, and the sun shone with more than its usual brightness as if to honor his return. How many times he had journeyed from Avignon to Chamondrin on such a day as this! Every object along the roadside awakened some pleasant recollection; but the joy of again beholding his beloved home and these familiar scenes was clouded by regret, doubts and uncertainty; and Philip was far from happy. During their journey, Coursegol had done his best to cheer his young master, but as they neared Chamondrin he, too, became a victim to the melancholy he had endeavored to dissipate.
At last the post-chaise rolled noisily under one of the arches of the Pont du Gard, and a few moments later the horses, panting and covered with foam after climbing the steep ascent, entered the court-yard of the chateau.
The Marquis and Dolores, who were waiting for supper to be served, had seated themselves on the terrace overlooking the park. The sound of carriage wheels drew them into the court-yard just as Philip and Coursegol were alighting. There was a cry of joy, and then the long separated friends embraced one another. It would be impossible to describe this meeting and the rapture of this return.
It was Dolores whom Philip saw first. Her wonderful beauty actually startled him. Four years had transformed the child into an exquisitely and lovely young girl. Her delicate features, her golden hair, her lustrous dark eyes, her vermillion lips, her musical yet penetrating voice, her willowy figure and her beautifully shaped hands aroused Philip's intense admiration. A pure and noble love had filled his heart during his absence, and had exerted a powerful and restraining influence over his actions, his thoughts, his hopes and his language. He had endowed his idol with beauty in his fancy, but, beautiful as he had pictured her, he was obliged to confess on beholding her that the reality surpassed his dreams, and he loved her still more ardently.
The Marquis led his son to the drawing-room. He, too, wished to observe the changes that time had wrought in Philip. He scrutinized him closely by the light of the candles, embraced him, and then looked at him again admiringly. His son was, indeed, the noble heir of an illustrious race.
They talked of the past and of the dead. They wept, but these were not the same bitter tears the Marquis had shed after his bereavement. The joy of seeing his son consoled him in a measure, and death seemed to him less cruel because, when he was surrounded by his children, his faith and his hope gathered new strength.
The first evening flew by on wings. Philip, to divert his father, described the stirring events and the countless intrigues of which the court had been the theatre; and together they talked of the hopes and the fears of the country. Philip spoke in the most enthusiastic terms of the kind-hearted Duke de Penthieore who had aided him so much in life, of the Chevalier de Florian, and of the charming Princess de Lamballe who had become the favorite friend of the queen. Dolores did not lose a word of the conversation, and gave her love and homage unquestioningly to those Philip praised even though they were strangers to her. She admired the soundness of judgment her adopted brother displayed in his estimate of people and of things, and the eloquence with which he expressed his opinions.
Coursegol was present. Often by a word he completed or rectified the statements of his young master, and Dolores loved him for the devotion testified by his every word. As for him, notwithstanding the familiarity which had formerly characterized his daily relations with the girl, he felt rather intimidated by her presence, though his affection for her was undiminished.
About eleven o'clock the Marquis rose and, addressing his son, said:
"Do you not feel the need of rest?"
"I am so happy to see you all again that I am not sensible of the slightest fatigue," replied Philip, "and I have so many things to tell and to ask Dolores that I am not at all sleepy."
"Ah, well, my dear children, talk at your ease. As for me, I will retire."
And the Marquis, after tenderly embracing them, quitted the room, followed by Coursegol. Philip and Dolores were left alone together. There was a long silence. Seated beside an open window, Dolores, to conceal her embarrassment, fixed her eyes upon the park and the fields that lay quiet and peaceful in the bright moonlight of the clear and balmy summer evening. Philip, even more agitated, paced nervously to and fro, seeking an opportunity to utter the avowal that was eager to leave his lips. At last, he summoned the necessary courage, and, seating himself opposite Dolores, he said:
"You wrote me a long letter. You asked me to bring you the response. Here it is."
Dolores looked up and perceived that he was greatly agitated. This discovery increased her own embarrassment, and she could not find a word to say in reply. Philip resumed:
"But, first, explain the cause of the coldness betrayed by that letter. Why did you address me so formally? Why did you not call me your brother as you had been accustomed to do in the past?"
"How was I to know that you would not regard me as a stranger, as an intruder?" responded Dolores, gently.
"An intruder! You!" exclaimed Philip, springing up. "I have known the truth for more than four years and never have I loved you so fondly! What am I saying? I mean that from the day I first knew the truth I have loved you with a far greater and entirely different love!"
Dolores dare not reply. How could she confess that she, too, since she learned she was not his sister, had experienced a similar change of feeling? Philip continued:
"You asked me if I would consent to still regard you as a sister. My sister, no! Not, as my sister, but as my wife, if you will but consent!"
"Your wife!" exclaimed Dolores, looking up at him with eyes radiant with joy.
Then, as if fearing he would read too much there, she hastily covered them with her trembling hands. The next instant Philip was on his knees before her, saying, eagerly:
"I have cherished this hope ever since the day that my father made me acquainted with your history. I told myself that we would never part, that I should always have by my side the loved one I had so long called sister, the gentle girl who had restored my mother's reason, who had cheered her life, consoled her last moments, and comforted my desolate father in his bereavement! Dolores, do not refuse me; it would break my heart!"
She could not believe her ears. She listened to Philip's pleading as if in a dream, and he, alarmed by her silence, added:
"If my mother were here, she would entreat you to make me happy."
Suddenly Dolores remembered the projects which had been confided to her by the Marquis, who had often made her his confidante—those projects in which Philip's marriage with a rich heiress of illustrious birth played such an important part. And yet, in the presence of the profound love she had inspired and which she shared, she had not courage to make Philip wretched by an immediate refusal, or to renounce the hope that had just been aroused in her heart.
"In pity, say no more!" she exclaimed, hastily. "We are mad!"
"Why is it madness to love you?" demanded Philip.
"Listen," she replied. "I cannot answer you now. Wait a little—I must have time to think—to consult my conscience and my heart. You also must have time for reflection."
"I have reflected for four years."
"But I have never before thought of the new life you are offering me."
"Do you not love me?"
"As a sister loves a brother, yes; but whether the love I bear you is of a different character I do not yet know. Go now, my dear Philip," she added, endeavoring by calming herself to calm him; "give me time to become accustomed to the new ideas you have awakened in my mind. They will develop there, and then you shall know my answer. Until that time comes, I entreat you to have pity on my weakness, respect my silence and wait."
Philip instantly rose and said:
"The best proof of love that I can give you is obedience. I will wait, Dolores, I will wait, but I shall hope."
Having said this he retired, leaving her oppressed by a vague sorrow that sleep only partially dispelled.
During the days that followed this conversation, Philip, faithful to his promise, made no allusion to the scene we have just described. For four years he had buried his secret so deeply in his own heart that even Coursegol had not suspected it, so he did not find it difficult to continue this role under the eyes of his father; and, though the burden he imposed upon himself had become much heavier by reason of the presence of Dolores, his hopes supplied him with strength to endure it.
For his hopes were great! Youthful hearts have no fear. He was not ignorant of his father's plans; but he told himself that his father loved him too much to cause him sorrow, and that he would probably be glad to sacrifice his ambitious dreams if he could ensure the happiness of both his children. Philip was sure of this. If he invoked the memory of his mother and the love she bore Dolores, the Marquis could not refuse his consent. He confidently believed that before six mouths had elapsed he should be married and enjoying a felicity so perfect as to leave nothing more to be desired. Cheered by this hope, he impatiently awaited the decision of Dolores, happy, however, in living near her, in seeing her every day, in listening to her voice and in accompanying her on her walks. He watched himself so carefully that no word revealed the real condition of his mind, and not even the closest observer of his language and actions could have divined the existence of the sentiments upon which he was, at that very moment, basing his future happiness.
Dolores was grateful to him for his delicacy and for the faithfulness with which he kept his promise. She appreciated Philip's sacrifice the more because she was obliged to impose an equally powerful restraint upon herself in order to preserve her own secret. She loved him. All the aspirations of an ardent and lofty soul, all the dreams of a pure felicity based upon a noble affection were hers; and Philip's avowal, closely following the revelations of the dying Marquise, had convinced her that her happiness depended upon a marriage in accordance with the dictates of her heart, and that the one being destined from all eternity to crown her life with bliss unspeakable was Philip. Reared together, they thoroughly understood and esteemed each other; they had shared the same joys and the same impressions. There was a bond between them which nothing could break, and which made their souls one indissolubly. In her eyes, Philip was the handsomest, the most honorable, the most noble and the most perfect of men. Was not this love? Why then did Dolores persist in her silence when her lover was anxiously waiting to learn his fate? Simply because she feared to displease the Marquis. She owed everything to his generosity. She had no fortune. If she became Philip's wife, she could confer upon the house of Chamondrin none of those advantages which the Marquis hoped to gain from a grand alliance, and for the sake of which he had condemned himself to a life of obscurity and privation. Would he ever consent to a marriage that so ruthlessly destroyed his ambitious dreams? And if he did not consent, how terrible would be her position when compelled to choose between the love of the son and the wrath of the father! And, even if he consented, would it not cost him the most terrible of sacrifices? Shattered already by the untimely death of his wife, would he survive this blow to his long-cherished hopes? Such were the sorrowful thoughts that presented themselves to the mind of Dolores and deprived her of the power to speak. She dare not make Philip a confidant of her fears; and to declare that she did not love him was beyond her strength. Even when the impossibility of this marriage became clearly apparent to her, she had not courage to lie to her lover and to trample her own heart underfoot. One alternative remained: to reveal the truth to the Marquis. But this would imperil all. A secret presentiment warned her if she, herself, disclosed the truth, that it would be to her that the Marquis would appeal in order to compel Philip to renounce his hopes, since it was in her power to destroy them by a single word. Day followed day, and Dolores, beset alternately by hopes and fears, was waiting for fate to solve the question upon which her future happiness depended.