“Madame,” said the princess to Adrienne de Cardoville, in a cold, severe tone, “I owe it to myself, as well as to these gentlemen, to recapitulate, in a few words, the events that have taken place for some time past. Six months ago, at the end of the mourning for your father, you, being eighteen years old, asked for the management of your fortune, and for emancipation from control. Unfortunately, I had the weakness to consent. You quitted the house, and established yourself in the extension, far from all superintendence. Then began a train of expenditures, each one more extravagant than the last. Instead of being satisfied with one or two waiting-women, taken from that class from which they are generally selected, you chose governesses for lady-companions, whom you dressed in the most ridiculous and costly fashion. It is true, that, in the solitude of your pavilion, you yourself chose to wear, one after another, costumes of different ages. Your foolish fancies and unreasonable whims have been without end and without limit: not only have you never fulfilled your religious duties, but you have actually had the audacity to profane one of your rooms, by rearing in the centre of it a species of pagan altar, on which is a group in marble representing a youth and a girl”—the princess uttered these words as if they would burn her lips—“a work of art, if you will, but a work in the highest degree unsuitable to a person of your age. You pass whole days entirely secluded in your pavilion, refusing to see any one; and Dr. Baleinier, the only one of my friends in whom you seem to have retained some confidence, having succeeded by much persuasion in gaining admittance, has frequently found you in so very excited a state, that he has felt seriously uneasy with regard to your health. You have always insisted on going out alone, without rendering any account of your actions to any one. You have taken delight in opposing, in every possible way, your will to my authority. Is all this true?”
“The picture of my past is not much flattered,” said Adrienne; smiling, “but it is not altogether unlike.”
“So you admit, madame,” said Abbe d’Aigrigny, laying stress on his words, “that all the facts stated by your aunt are scrupulously true?”
Every eye was turned towards Adrienne, as if her answer would be of extreme importance.
“Yes, M. l’Abbe,” said she; “I live openly enough to render this question superfluous.”
“These facts are therefore admitted,” said Abbe d’Aigrigny, turning towards the doctor and the baron.
“These facts are completely established,” said M. Tripeaud, in a pompous voice.
“Will you tell me, aunt,” asked Adrienne, “what is the good of this long preamble?”
“This long preamble, madame,” resumed the princess with dignity, “exposes the past in order to justify the future.”
“Really, aunt, such mysterious proceedings are a little in the style of the answers of the Cumaean Sybil. They must be intended to cover something formidable.”