“My dear M. de Montbron, you have so much penetration, that you may be allowed to fall for once, as now. I am not sad, I have nothing on my mind, and—I am about to utter a very silly piece of impertinence—I have never thought myself so pretty.”
“On the contrary, nothing could be more modest than such an assertion. Who told you that falsehood? a woman?”
“No; it was my heart, and it spoke the truth,” answered Adrienne, with a slight degree of emotion. “Understand it, if you can,” she added.
“Do you mean that you are proud of the alteration in your features, because you are proud of the sufferings of your heart?” said M. de Montbron, looking at Adrienne with attention. “Be it so; I am then right. You have some sorrow. I persist in it,” added the count, speaking with a tone of real feeling, “because it is painful to me.”
“Be satisfied; I am as happy as possible—for every instant I take delight in repeating, how, at my age, I am free—absolutely free!”
“Yes; free to torment yourself, free to be miserable.”
“Come, come, my dear count!” said Adrienne, “you are recommencing our old quarrel. I still find in you the ally of my aunt and the Abbe d’Aigrigny.”
“Yes; as the republicans are the allies of the legitimists—to destroy each other in their turn. Talking of your abominable aunt, they say that she holds a sort of council at her house these last few days, a regular mitred conspiracy. She is certainly in a good way.”
“Why not? Formerly, she would have wished to be Goddess of Reason, now, we shall perhaps see her canonized. She has already performed the first part of the life of Mary Magdalen.”
“You can never speak worse of her than she deserves, my dear child. Still, though for quite opposite reasons, I agreed with her on the subject of your wish to reside alone.”
“I know it.”
“Yes; and because I wished to see you a thousand times freer than you really are, I advised you—”
“No doubt; you would have had your dear liberty, with its consequences, only, instead of Mdlle. de Cardoville, we should have called you Madame Somebody, having found an excellent husband to be responsible for your independence.”
“And who would have been responsible for this ridiculous husband? And who would bear a mocked and degraded name? I, perhaps?” said Adrienne, with animation. “No, no, my dear count, good or ill, I will answer for my own actions; to my name shall attach the reputation, which I alone have formed. I am as incapable of basely dishonoring a name which is not mine, as of continually bearing it myself, if it were not held in, esteem. And, as one can only answer for one’s own actions, I prefer to keep my name.”
“You are the only person in the world that has such ideas.”
“Why?” said Adrienne, laughing. “Because it appears to me horrible, to see a poor girl lost and buried in some ugly and selfish man, and become, as they say seriously, the better half of the monster—yes! a fresh and blooming rose to become part of a frightful thistle!—Come, my dear count; confess there is something odious in this conjugal metempsychosis,” added Adrienne, with a burst of laughter.