If the gaiety of the French world had satisfied me, what was not my wonder and joy at discovering in it a reflective side; and for half an hour I remained in a leafy alcove listening to her refined converse,—dealing with books like “Corinne,” and “La Chaumiere Indienne,”—La Fontaine, Moliere, Montesquieu,—and especially interesting me in the society which moved around us, which as she touched it with her wand of history and eloquence, acquired an inconceivable interest for me, and I was for the first time proud of being a French-Canadian.
In the midst of these excitements, as I stood so listening, and now joined by two others,—
“Chamilly, my brother, I have come for you,” suddenly broke in Grace; and stood before me all radiance, dropping somebody’s arm. Excusing myself, I took her in charge and we moved gaily off. Waltzing with her was so easy that it made me feel my own motion graceful; the swirl of mingled feelings impelled me to recognize how superior she was in other things, and to proudly set her off against each lovely or dignified or sprightly figure there; and when the music closed abruptly, we started laughing together for the conservatory of which I have spoken, at the end of the vast rooms. This conservatory ended in a circular enlargement divided into several nooks or bowers, and we wandered into one in which the moonlight came faintly on our faces through the glass and the vines.
Again the Greek head with the light upon it!
Strains of other music floated in. Every sense was enraptured.
“Let Alexandra go!” I thought. “Let me live as my people have discovered how to live.”
“Mon cher, am I tending you faithfully.”
“Charmingly, my sister.”
She laughed at the way I said it, because I spoke with perfect resignation.
The thread running through all my other experiences of the evening had been admiration of Grace. Pleased as I was with this society, I had compared her with each of the best members of it, to her advantage. She had in her young way, the dignity of Madame de Rheims; all the gracefulness of the Southern girl with the pretty eyes; beauty as striking, though not the same as that girl’s sister; the gaiety of Chinic; and now I was to find that she was apparently as cultured as Mde. Fauteux. For she did talk seriously and brightly about books and languages and artistic subjects:
“I would abhor beyond everything a life of fashionable vanity. My desire for life is to always keep progressing.”
Whilst she talked I was reflecting, and mechanically looking around at the divisions into nooks.
“Don’t you think this arrangement inviting, Chamilly? It has a history. An engagement has taken place in each of these alcoves except one.”
I looked around at them again; then asked:
“Which is the one?”
“The alcove we are in, mon frere.”
I glanced at her, the moonlight still falling brokenly-upon the Venus head, and could see a crimson blush sweep over her countenance and her eyelids droop.