“Perhaps,” said Mother Bunch to herself, “conquered by the influence of the adorable kindness of my protectress, I might have made to her a confession which I could make to none other, and revealed a secret which I thought to carry with me to my grave. It would, at least, have been a mark of gratitude to Mdlle. de Cardoville; but, unfortunately, I am now deprived of the sad comfort of confiding my only secret to my benefactress. And then—however generous may be her pity for me, however intelligent her affection, she cannot—she, that is so fair and so much admired—she cannot understand how frightful is the position of a creature like myself, hiding in the depth of a wounded heart, a love at once hopeless and ridiculous. No, no—in spite of the delicacy of her attachment, my benefactress must unconsciously hurt my feelings, even whilst she pities me—for only sympathetic sorrows can console each other. Alas! why did she not leave me to die?”
These reflections presented themselves to the thinker’s mind as rapidly as thought could travel. Adrienne observed her attentively; she remarked that the sewing-girl’s countenance, which had lately brightened up, was again clouded, and expressed a feeling of painful humiliation. Terrified at this relapse into gloomy dejection, the consequences of which might be serious, for Mother Bunch was still very weak, and, as it were, hovering on the brink of the grave, Mdlle. de Cardoville resumed hastily: “My friend, do not you think with me, that the most cruel and humiliating grief admits of consolation, when it can be entrusted to a faithful and devoted heart?”
“Yes, lady,” said the young sempstress, bitterly; “but the heart which suffers in silence, should be the only judge of the moment for making so painful a confession. Until then, it would perhaps be more humane to respect its fatal secret, even if one had by chance discovered it.”
“You are right, my child,” said Adrienne, sorrowfully, “if I choose this solemn moment to entrust you with a very painful secret, it is that, when you have heard me, I am sure you will set more value on your life, as knowing how much I need your tenderness, consolation, and pity.”
At these words, the other half raised herself on the mattress, and looked at Mdlle. de Cardoville in amazement. She could scarcely believe what she heard; far from designing to intrude upon her confidence, it was her protectress who was to make the painful confession, and who came to implore pity and consolation from her!
“What!” stammered she; “you, lady!”
“I come to tell you that I suffer, and am ashamed of my sufferings. Yes,” added the young lady, with a touching expression, “yes—of all confessions, I am about to make the most painful—I love—and I blush for my love.”
“Like myself!” cried Mother Bunch, involuntarily, clasping her hands together.
“I love,” resumed Adrienne, with a long-pent-up grief; “I love, and am not beloved—and my love is miserable, is impossible—it consumes me—it kills me—and I dare not confide to any one the fatal secret!”