Big tears were silently rolling down the poor girl’s cheeks. She murmured,—
“Perhaps you are right, Jacques. But, O Jacques, if they should condemn you!”
“Well, I should at least have done my duty. I should have met fate, and defended my honor. And, whatever the sentence may be, it will not overthrow me; for, as long as my heart beats within me, I mean to defend myself. And, if I die before I succeed in proving my innocence, I shall leave it to you, Dionysia, to your kindred, and to my friends, to continue the struggle, and to restore my honor.”
She was worthy of comprehending and of appreciating such sentiments.
“I was wrong, Jacques,” she said, offering him her hand: “you must forgive me.”
She had risen, and, after a few moments’ hesitation, was about to leave the room, when Jacques retained her, saying,—
“I do not mean to escape; but would not the people who have agreed to favor my evasion be willing to furnish me the means for passing a few hours outside of my prison?”
“I think they would,” replied the young girl; “And, if you wish it, I will make sure of it.”
“Yes. That might be a last resort.”
With these words they parted, exhorting each other to keep up their courage, and promising each other to meet again during the next days.
Dionysia found her poor aunt Lavarande very tired of the long watch; and they hastened home.
“How pale you are!” exclaimed M. de Chandore, when he saw his grand-daughter; “and how red your eyes are! What has happened?”
She told him every thing; and the old gentleman felt chilled to the marrow of his bones, when he found that it had depended on Jacques alone to carry off his grandchild. But he had not done so.
“Ah, he is an honest man!” he said.
And, pressing his lips on Dionysia’s brow, he added,—
“And you love him more than ever?”
“Alas!” she replied, “is he not more unhappy than ever?”
“Have you heard the news?”
“No: what is it?”
“Dionysia de Chandore has been to see M. de Boiscoran in prison.”
“Is it possible?”
“Yes, indeed! Twenty people have seen her come back from there, leaning on the arm of the older Miss Lavarande. She went in at ten minutes past ten, and she did not come out till a quarter-past three.”
“Is the young woman mad?”
“And the aunt—what do you think of the aunt?”
“She must be as mad as the niece.”
“And M. de Chandore?”
“He must have lost his senses to allow such a scandal. But you know very well, grandfather and aunts never had any will but Dionysia’s.”
“A nice training!”
“And nice fruits of such an education! After such a scandal, no man will be bold enough to marry her.”
Such were the comments on Dionysia’s visit to Jacques, when the news became known. It flew at once all over town. The ladies “in society” could not recover from it; for people are exceedingly virtuous at Sauveterre, and hence they claim the right of being exceedingly strict in their judgment. There is no trifling permitted on the score of propriety.