FOOTNOTES:  Flowing, not into, but out of, the Mississippi, and, like it, towards the Gulf.—Translator.
THE TWICE-MARRIED COUNTESS.
But with all the sluggishness of the flatboat, the toils, the anxieties, and the frights, what happy times, what gay moments, we passed together on the rough deck of our rude vessel, or in the little cells that we called our bedrooms.
It was in these rooms, when the sun was hot on deck, that my sister and I would join Alix to learn from her a new stitch in embroidery, or some of the charming songs she had brought from France and which she accompanied with harp or guitar.
Often she read to us, and when she grew tired put the book into my hands or Suzanne’s, and gave us precious lessons in reading, as she had in singing and in embroidery. At times, in these moments of intimacy, she made certain half-disclosures that astonished us more and more. One day Suzanne took between her own two hands that hand so small and delicate and cried out all at once:
“How comes it, Alix, that you wear two wedding rings?”
“Because,” she sweetly answered, “if it gives you pleasure to know, I have been twice married.”
We both exclaimed with surprise.
“Ah!” she said, “no doubt you think me younger [bocou plus jeune] than I really am. What do you suppose is my age?”
Suzanne replied: “You look younger than Francoise, and she is sixteen.”
“I am twenty-three,” replied Alix, laughing again and again.
Another time my sister took a book, haphazard, from the shelves. Ordinarily [audinaremend] Alix herself chose our reading, but she was busy embroidering. Suzanne sat down and began to read aloud a romance entitled “Two Destinies.”
“Ah!” cried my sister, “these two girls must be Francoise and I.”
“Oh no, no!” exclaimed Alix, with a heavy sigh, and Suzanne began her reading. It told of two sisters of noble family. The elder had been married to a count, handsome, noble, and rich; and the other, against her parents’ wish, to a poor workingman who had taken her to a distant country, where she died of regret and misery. Alix and I listened attentively; but before Suzanne had finished, Alix softly took the book from her hands and replaced it on the shelf.
“I would not have chosen that book for you; it is full of exaggerations and falsehoods.”
“And yet,” said Suzanne, “see with what truth the lot of the countess is described! How happy she was in her emblazoned coach, and her jewels, her laces, her dresses of velvet and brocade! Ah, Francoise! of the two destinies I choose that one.”
Alix looked at her for a moment and then dropped her head in silence. Suzanne went on in her giddy way:
“And the other: how she was punished for her plebeian tastes!”
“So, my dear Suzanne,” responded Alix, “you would not marry—”