“You shall know. Proceed.”
“I will, in the presence of these gentlemen, also declare, in a very plain and precise manner, the determination that I have come to. As it required some time to prepare for its execution, I have not spoken of it sooner, for you know I am not in the habit of saying, ’I will do so and so!’ but I do it.”
“Certainly; and it is just this habit of culpable independence of which you must break yourself.”
“Well, I had intended only to inform you of my determination at a later period; but I cannot resist the pleasure of doing so to-day, you seem so well disposed to hear and receive it. Still, I would beg of you to speak first: it may just so happen, that our views are precisely the same.”
“I like better to see you thus,” said the princess. “I acknowledge at least the courage of your pride, and your defiance of all authority. You speak of audacity—yours is indeed great.”
“I am at least decided to do that which others in their weakness dare not—but which I dare. This, I hope, is clear and precise.”
“Very clear, very precise,” said the princess, exchanging a glance of satisfaction with the other actors in this scene. “The positions being thus established, matters will be much simplified. I have only to give you notice, in your own interest, that this is a very serious affair—much more so than you imagine—and that the only way to dispose me to indulgence, is to substitute, for the habitual arrogance and irony of your language, the modesty and respect becoming a young lady.”
Adrienne smiled, but made no reply. Some moments of silence, and some rapid glances exchanged between the princess and her three friends, showed that these encounters, more or less brilliant in themselves, were to be followed by a serious combat.
Mdlle. de Cardoville had too much penetration and sagacity, not to remark, that the Princess de Saint-Dizier attached the greatest importance to this decisive interview. But she could not understand how her aunt could hope to impose her absolute will upon her: the threat of coercive measures appearing with reason a mere ridiculous menace. Yet, knowing the vindictive character of her aunt, the secret power at her disposal, and the terrible vengeance she had sometimes exacted —reflecting, moreover, that men in the position of the marquis and the doctor would not have come to attend this interview without some weighty motive—the young lady paused for a moment before she plunged into the strife.
But soon, the very presentiment of some vague danger, far from weakening her, gave her new courage to brave the worst, to exaggerate, if that were possible, the independence of her ideas, and uphold, come what might, the determination that she was about to signify to the Princess de Saint Dizier.