Jacqueline listened, stupefied, to this unexpected outburst, so unlike her cousin’s usual language; but the charm was broken by its ending with the tremendously long name of Enguerrand, which always made her laugh, it was in such perfect harmony with the feudal pretensions of the Monredons and the Talbruns.
“How solemn and eloquent and obscure you are, my dear,” she answered. “You speak like a sibyl. But one thing I see, and that is that you are not so perfectly happy as you would have us believe, seeing that you feel the need of consolations. Then, why do you wish me to follow your example?”
“Fred is not Monsieur de Talbrun,” said the young wife, for the moment forgetting herself.
“Do you mean to say—”
“I meant nothing, except that if you married Fred you would have had the advantage of first knowing him.”
“Ah! that’s your fixed idea. But I am getting to know Monsieur de Cymier pretty well.”
“You have betrayed yourself,” cried Giselle, with indignation. “Monsieur de Cymier!”
“Monsieur de Cymier is coming to our house on Saturday evening, and I must get up a Spanish song that Madame Strahlberg has taught me, to charm his ears and those of other people. Oh! I can do it very well. Won’t you come and hear me play the castanets, if Monsieur Enguerrand can spare you? There is a young Polish pianist who is to play our accompaniment. Ah, there is nothing like a Polish pianist to play Chopin! He is charming, poor young man! an exile, and in poverty; but he is cared for by those ladies, who take him everywhere. That is the sort of life I should like—the life of Madame Strahlberg—to be a young widow, free to do what I pleased.”
“She may be a widow—but some say she is divorced.”
“Oh! is it you who repeat such naughty scandals, Giselle? Where shall charity take refuge in this world if not in your heart? I am going—your seriousness may be catching. Kiss me before I go.”
“No,” said Madame de Talbrun, turning her head away.
After this she asked herself whether she ought not to discourage Fred. She could not resolve on doing so, yet she could not tell him what was false; but by eluding the truth with that ability which kind-hearted women can always show when they try to avoid inflicting pain, she succeeded in leaving the young man hope enough to stimulate his ambition.
FRED ASKS A QUESTION
Time, whatever may be said of it by the calendars, is not to be measured by days, weeks, and months in all cases; expectation, hope, happiness and grief have very different ways of counting hours, and we know from our own experience that some are as short as a minute, and others as long as a century. The love or the suffering of those who can tell just how long they have suffered, or just how long they have been in love, is only moderate and reasonable.