“And how do I deserve such marks of confidence?” asked Mother Bunch, more and more surprised.
“You deserve it by the delicacy of your heart, by the steadiness of your character,” answered Adrienne, with some hesitation; “then—you are a woman—and I am certain you will understand what I suffer, and pity me.”
“Pity you, lady?” said the other, whose astonishment continued to increase. “You, a great lady, and so much envied—I, so humble and despised, pity you?”
“Tell me, my poor friend,” resumed Adrienne, after some moments of silence, “are not the worst griefs those which we dare not avow to any one, for fear of raillery and contempt? How can we venture to ask interest or pity, for sufferings that we hardly dare avow to ourselves, because they make us blush?”
The sewing-girl could hardly believe what she heard. Had her benefactress felt, like her, the effects of an unfortunate passion, she could not have held any other language. But the sempstress could not admit such a supposition; so, attributing to some other cause the sorrows of Adrienne, she answered mournfully, whilst she thought of her own fatal love for Agricola, “Oh! yes, lady. A secret grief, of which we are ashamed, must be frightful—very frightful!”
“But then what happiness to meet, not only a heart noble enough to inspire complete confidence, but one which has itself been tried by a thousand sorrows, and is capable of affording you pity, support and counsel!—Tell me, my dear child,” added Mdlle. de Cardoville, as she looked attentively at Mother Bunch, “if you were weighed down by one of those sorrows, at which one blushes, would you not be happy, very happy, to find a kindred soul, to whom you might entrust your griefs, and half relieve them by entire and merited confidence?”
For the first time in her life, Mother Bunch regarded Mdlle. de Cardoville with a feeling of suspicion and sadness.
The last words of the young lady seemed to her full of meaning “Doubtless, she knows my secret,” said Mother Bunch to herself; “doubtless, my journal has fallen into her hands.—She knows my love for Agricola, or at least suspects it. What she has been saying to me is intended to provoke my confidence, and to assure herself if she has been rightly informed.”
These thoughts excited in the workgirl’s mind no bitter or ungrateful feeling towards her benefactress; but the heart of the unfortunate girl was so delicately susceptible on the subject of her fatal passion, that, in spite of her deep and tender affection for Mdlle. de Cardoville, she suffered cruelly at the thought of Adrienne’s being mistress of her secret.
The fancy, at first so painful, that Mdlle. de Cardoville was informed of her love for Agricola was soon exchanged in the hunchbacks heart, thanks to the generous instincts of that rare and excellent creature, for a touching regret, which showed all her attachment and veneration for Adrienne.