“If Miss de Cardoville present herself,” said the princess to Mrs. Grivois, “you will request her to wait an instant.”
“Yes, madame,” said the duenna, going out with the servant.
Madame de Saint-Dizier and D’Aigrigny remained alone.
The Abbe-Marquis d’Aigrigny, as the reader has easily divined, was the person already seen in the Rue du Milieu-des-Ursins; whence he had departed from Rome, in which city he had remained about three months. The marquis was dressed in deep mourning, but with his usual elegance. His was not a priestly robe; his black coat, and his waistcoat, tightly gathered in at the waist, set off to great advantage the elegance of his figure: his black cassimere pantaloons disguised his feet, exactly fitted with lace boots, brilliantly polished. And all traces of his tonsure disappeared in the midst of the slight baldness which whitened slightly the back part of his head. There was nothing in his entire costume, or aspect, that revealed the priest, except, perhaps, the entire absence of beard, the more remarkable upon so manly a countenance. His chin, newly shaved, rested on a large and elevated black cravat, tied with a military ostentation which reminded the beholder, that this abbe-marquis this celebrated preacher—now one of the most active and influential chiefs of his order, had commanded a regiment of hussars upon the Restoration, and had fought in aid of the Russians against France.
Returned to Paris only this morning, the marquis had not seen the princess since his mother, the Dowager Marchioness d’Aigrigny, had died near Dunkirk, upon an estate belonging to Madame de Saint-Dizier, while vainly calling for her son to alleviate her last moments; but the order to which M. d’Aigrigny had thought fit to sacrifice the most sacred feeling and duties of nature, having been suddenly transmitted to him from Rome, he had immediately set out for that city; though not without hesitation, which was remarked and denounced by Rodin; for the love of M. d’Aigrigny for his mother had been the only pure feeling that had invariably distinguished his life.
When the servant had discreetly withdrawn with Mrs. Grivois, the marquis quickly approached the princess, held out his hand to her, and said with a voice of emotion:
“Herminia, have you not concealed something in your letters. In her last moments did not my mother curse me?”
“No, no, Frederick, compose yourself. She had anxiously desired your presence. Her ideas soon became confused. But in her delirium it was still for you that she called.”
“Yes,” said the marquis, bitterly; “her maternal instinct doubtless assured her that my presence could have saved her life.”
“I entreat you to banish these sad recollections,” said the princess, “this misfortune is irreparable.”