“Florine deceived me shamefully; she was sold to my enemies, and acted as a spy on my actions.”
“She!—Good Heavens!” cried Mother Bunch. “Is it possible?”
“She herself,” answered Adrienne, bitterly; “but, after all, we must pity as well as blame her. She was forced to obey by a terrible necessity, and her confession and repentance secured my pardon before her death.”
“Then she is dead—so young! so fair!”
“In spite of her faults, I was greatly moved by her end. She confessed what she had done, with such heart-rending regrets. Amongst her avowals, she told me she had intercepted a letter, in which you asked for an interview that might save your sister’s life.”
“It is true, lady; such were the terms of my letter. What interest had they to keep it from you?”
“They feared to see you return to me, my good guardian angel. You loved me so tenderly, and my enemies dreaded your faithful affection, so wonderfully aided by the admirable instinct of your heart. Ah! I shall never forget how well-deserved was the horror with which you were inspired by a wretch whom I defended against your suspicions.”
“M. Rodin?” said Mother Bunch, with a shudder.
“Yes,” replied Adrienne; “but we will not talk of these people now. Their odious remembrance would spoil the joy I feel in seeing you restored to life—for your voice is less feeble, your cheeks are beginning to regain a little color. Thank God! I am so happy to have found you once more;—if you knew all that I hope, all that I expect from our reunion—for we will not part again—promise me that, in the name of our friendship.”
“I—your friend!” said Mother Bunch, timidly casting down her eyes.
“A few days before your departure from my house, did I not call you my friend, my sister? What is there changed? Nothing, nothing,” added Mdlle. de Cardoville, with deep emotion. “One might say, on the contrary, that a fatal resemblance in our positions renders your friendship even dearer to me. And I shall have it, shall I not. Oh, do not refuse it me—I am so much in want of a friend!”
“You, lady? you in want of the friendship of a poor creature like me?”
“Yes,” answered Adrienne, as she gazed on the other with an expression of intense grief; “nay, more, you are perhaps the only person, to whom I could venture to confide my bitter sorrows.” So saying, Mdlle. de Cardoville colored deeply.
“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?”