“I am going to ask you once again to think of what I have said. It is not to your love, but to your reason, that I now appeal.”
“Well, Henri, we will leave love aside, and both of us appeal to reason. Here she sits, always calm, passionless, and wise,” and Marie put her hand upon Agatha’s arm. “We will appeal to Reason personified, and if Reason says that, were she situated as I am, she would do as you now wish me to do, I will be guided by Reason, and comply.” Henri now turned round to his sister, but Marie stopped him from speaking, and continued: “I have pledged myself, and do you do likewise. If Reason gives her judgment against you, you will yield without a word.”
“Well, I will do so,” said Henri. “I’m sure, however, she will not; Agatha must see the importance of our being joined as closely together as is possible.”
“You are attempting to influence Dame Reason, but it will be useless. And now, Reason, you are to remember, as of course you do, for Reason forgets nothing, that you are to think neither of brothers or of sisters. You are entirely to drop your feelings as Agatha, and to be pure Reason undefiled by mortal taint. You are to say, whether, were you, Reason, placed as I am now, you would marry this unreasonable young man as soon as he gets to Chatillon, which means tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that at the very latest. Now, Reason, speak, and speak wisely.”
“You have given me a thankless task between you. I cannot decide without giving pain to one of you.”
“Reason always has a thankless task,” said Marie. “Reason is her own reward—and a very unpleasant reward she usually has.”
“Do you think,” said Henri, “it will give so much pain to Marie to be told that she is to marry the man whom she owns she loves?”
“Ah, Henri,” said Agatha, “you are prejudiced. I do not mean as to Marie’s love, but as to my award. I might, perhaps, not pain her so much by advising her to marry you at once, as I fear I shall pain you by telling her, that in her place, I should not do so.”
They both sat in breathless silence to hear their fate from Agatha’s lips. Though Marie had appealed to her with a degree of playfulness, which gave to her an air of indifference on the subject, she was anything but indifferent; and yet it would have been difficult to analyse her wishes; she was quite decided that it was becoming in her to refuse Henri’s prayer, nay, that it would be selfish in her to grant it; and yet, though she appealed to Reason so confidently to confirm her refusal, there was a wish, almost a hope, near her heart, that Agatha might take her brother’s part. They were, neither of them, perhaps, gratified by the decision.
“Reason has said it,” said Marie, after a short pause, “and Reason shall be rewarded with a kiss;” and she put her arms round her cousin’s neck and kissed her.
“But why, Agatha, tell me why?” said Henri. He, at any rate, was not ashamed to show that he was disappointed.