“And between ourselves,” added the abbe, “it is quite time that he made a position for himself. This young man, though modest and steady, has always been weak enough to yield to the prejudices of noble birth. He has been ashamed of his poverty, and has tried to hide it as one hides a leprosy. The result is that his efforts to prevent others from seeing the progress of his ruin, have now ruined him completely. Society attributes the rupture between Edmee and him to these reverses of fortune; and people even go so far as to say that he was but little in love with her person, and very much with her dowry. I cannot bring myself to credit him with contemptible views; and I can only think that he is suffering those mortifications which arise from a false estimate of the value of the good things of this world. If you happen to meet him, Edmee wishes you to show him some friendship, and to let him know how great an interest she has always taken in him. Your excellent cousin’s conduct in this matter, as in all others, has been full of kindness and dignity.”
One the eve of M. de la Marche’s departure, and after the abbe’s letter had been sent, a little incident had happened in Varenne which, when I heard of it in America, caused me considerable surprise and pleasure. Moreover, it is linked in a remarkable manner with the most important events of my life, as you will see later.
Although rather seriously wounded in the unfortunate affair of Savannah, I was actively engaged in Virginia, under General Greene, in collecting the remains of the army commanded by Gates, whom I considered a much greater hero than his more fortunate rival, Washington. We had just learnt of the landing of M. de Ternay’s squadron, and the depression which had fallen on us at this period of reverses and distress was beginning to vanish before the prospect of re-enforcements. These, as a fact, were less considerable than we had expected. I was strolling through the woods with Arthur, a short distance from the camp, and we were taking advantage of this short respite to have a talk about other matters than Cornwallis and the infamous Arnold. Long saddened by the sight of the woes of the American nation, by the fear of seeing injustice and cupidity triumphing over the cause of the people, we were seeking relief in a measure of gaiety. When I had an hour’s leisure I used to escape from my stern toils to the oasis of my own thoughts in the family at Sainte-Severe. At such a time I was wont to tell my kind friend Arthur some of the comic incidents of my entry into life after leaving Roche-Mauprat. At one time I would give him a description of the costume in which I first appeared; at another I would describe Mademoiselle Leblanc’s contempt and loathing for my person, and her recommendation to her friend Saint-Jean never to approach within arms’ length of me. As I thought of these amusing individuals,