Without advancing to meet her aunt, Adrienne rose politely from the sofa on which she was seated, made a half-curtsey, full of grace and dignity, and immediately resumed her former posture. Then, pointing to an arm chair near the fireplace, at one corner of which sat Mother Bunch, and she herself at the other, she said: “Pray sit down, your highness.” The princess turned very red, remained standing, and cast a disdainful glance of insolent surprise at the sempstress, who, in compliance with Adrienne’s wish, only bowed slightly at the entrance of the Princess de Saint-Dizier, without offering to give up her place. In acting thus, the young sempstress followed the dictates of her conscience, which told her that the real superiority did not belong to this base, hypocritical, and wicked princess, but rather to such a person as herself, the admirable and devoted friend.
“Let me beg your highness to sit down,” resumed Adrienne, in a mild tone, as she pointed to the vacant chair.
“The interview I have demanded, niece,” said the princess “must be a private one.”
“I have no secrets, madame, from my best friend; you may speak in the presence of this young lady.”
“I have long known,” replied Madame de Saint-Dizier, with bitter irony, “that in all things you care little for secrecy, and that you are easy in the choice of what you call your friends. But you will permit me to act differently from you. If you have no secrets, madame, I have—and I do not choose to confide them to the first comer.”
So saying, the pious lady glanced contemptuously at the sempstress. The latter, hurt at the insolent tone of the princess, answered mildly and simply:
“I do not see what can be the great difference between the first and the last comer to Mdlle. de Cardoville’s.”
“What! can it speak!” cried the princess, insolently.
“It can at least answer, madame,” replied Mother Bunch, in her calm voice.
“I wish to see you alone, niece—is that clear?” said the princess, impatiently, to her niece.
“I beg your pardon, but I do not quite understand your highness,” said Adrienne, with an air of surprise. “This young lady, who honors me with her friendship, is willing to be present at this interview, which you have asked for—I say she has consented to be present, for it needs, I confess, the kindest condescension in her to resign herself, from affection for me, to hear all the graceful, obliging, and charming things which you have no doubt come hither to communicate.”
“Madame—” began the princess, angrily.
“Permit me to interrupt your highness,” returned Adrienne, in a tone of perfect amenity, as if she were addressing the most flattering compliments to her visitor. “To put you quite at your ease with the lady here, I will begin by informing you that she is quite aware of all the holy perfidies, pious wrongs, and devout infamies, of which you nearly made me the victim. She knows that you are a mother of the Church, such as one sees but few of in these days. May I hope, therefore, that your highness will dispense with this delicate and interesting reserve?”