“Has he left the letter?”
“Yes, sir; and it was taken upstairs directly.”
“Very well. Leave us!” The nurse went out.
If it had been possible for Mdlle. de Cardoville to harbor any suspicion of the sincerity of Rodin’s devotion, it must have given way before this reasoning, unfortunately so simple and undeniable. How could she suppose the faintest complicity between the Abbe d’Aigrigny and his secretary, when it was the latter who completely unveiled the machinations of his master, and exposed them to the tribunals? when in this, Rodin went even further than Mdlle. de Cardoville would herself have gone? Of what secret design could she suspect the Jesuit? At worst, of a desire to earn by his services the profitable patronage of the young lady.
And then, had he not just now protested against this supposition, by declaring his devotion, not to Mdlle. de Cardoville—not to the fair, rich, noble lady—but to the high-souled and generous girl? Finally, as Rodin had said himself, could any but a miserable wretch fail to be interested in Adrienne’s fate? A strange mixture of curiosity, surprise, and interest, was joined with Mdlle. de Cardoville’s feelings of gratitude towards Rodin. Yet, as she recognized the superior mind under that humble exterior, she was suddenly struck with a grave suspicion. “Sir,” said she to Rodin, “I always confess to the persons I esteem the doubts they may have inspired, so that they may justify themselves, and excuse me, if I am wrong.”
Rodin looked at Mdlle. de Cardoville with surprise, as if mentally calculating the suspicions than she might entertain, and replied, after a moment’s silence: “You are perhaps thinking of my journey to Cardoville, of my base proposals to your good and worthy bailiff? Oh! if you—”
“No, no, sir,” said Adrienne, interrupting him; “you made that confession spontaneously, and I quite understand, that, blinded with regard to M. d’Aigrigny, you passively executed instructions repugnant to your delicacy. But how comes it, that, with your incontestable merits, you have so long; occupied so mean a position in his service?”
“It is true,” said Rodin, with a smile; “that must impress you unfavorably, my dear young lady; for a man of any capacity, who remains long in an inferior condition, has evidently some radical vice, some bad or base passion—”
“It is generally true, sir.”
“And personally true—with regard to myself.”
“What, sir! do you make this avowal?”
“Alas! I confess that I have a bad passion, to which, for forty years, I have sacrificed all chances of attaining to a better position.”
“And this passion, sir?”