“Oh! Countess Strahlberg! People have heard about her doings until they are tired of them,” said Giselle, with that air of knowing everything assumed by a young wife whose husband has told her all the current scandals, as a sort of initiation.
“And her sister seems likely to be as bad as herself before long.”
“Poor Colette! She has been so badly brought up. It is not her fault.”
“But there’s Jacqueline,” cried Fred, in a sudden outburst, and already feeling better because he could mention her name.
“Allons, donc! You don’t mean to say anything against Jacqueline?” cried Giselle, clasping her hands with an air of astonishment. “What can she have done to scandalize you—poor little dear?”
Fred paused for half a minute, then he drew the stool in the form of an X, on which he was sitting, a little nearer to Giselle’s sofa, and, lowering his voice, told her how Jacqueline had acted under his very eyes. As he went on, watching as he spoke the effect his words produced upon Giselle, who listened as if slightly amused by his indignation, the case seemed not nearly so bad as he had supposed, and a delicious sense of relief crept over him when she to whom he told his wrongs after hearing him quietly to the end, said, smiling:
“And what then? There is no great harm in all that. Would you have had her refuse to go with the gentleman Madame de Villegry had sent to fetch her? And why, may I ask, should she not have done her best to help by pouring out champagne? An air put on to please is indispensable to a woman, if she wishes to sell anything. Good Heavens! I don’t approve any more than you do of all these worldly forms of charity, but this kind of thing is considered right; it has come into fashion. Jacqueline had the permission of her parents, and I really can’t see any good reason why you should complain of her. Unless—why not tell me the whole truth, Fred? I know it—don’t we always know what concerns the people that we care for? And I might possibly some day be of use to you. Say! don’t you think you are—a little bit jealous?”
Less encouragement than this would have sufficed to make him open his heart to Giselle. He was delighted that some woman was willing he should confide in her. And what was more, he was glad to have it proved that he had been all wrong. A quarter of an hour later Giselle had comforted him, happy herself that it had been in her power to undertake a task of consolation, a work in which, with sweet humility, she felt herself at ease. On the great stage of life she knew now she should never play any important part, any that would bring her greatly into view. But she felt that she was made to be a confidant, one of those perfect confidants who never attempt to interfere rashly with the course of events, but who wait upon the ways of Providence, removing stones, and briers and thorns, and making everything turn out for the best in the end. Jacqueline, she said, was so