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“ Bah!” answered Alice;

think I'm blind? Do you think I don't see that he wants to marry you himself?”

“Noel Devergy want to marry me!” exclaimed Estelle, absolutely laughing through her tears at so ridiculous an assertion. scarcely ever speaks to me. All his attention is paid to you.”

“Because he knows you would not think him good enough for you. But I'm not ambitious; and I'll never marry if it's not for love." “ There I think you're right.”

Yes, if I can contrive to love somebody that is well off, and that everybody else approves! But I mean to marry to please myself; and I had rather live in a cottage with love than in a palace without."

“ So would I,” answered Estelle; “but the love must be for a good man. Love in a cottage, with extravagance and vice for your companions, would not be very pleasant.”

But Alice was persuaded that, had Victor loved her instead of Estelle, as she had flattered herself, she should have been perfectly happy in spite of those faults, which appeared to her only spots in the sun; and certainly she was not the only damsel in the village that entertained the same opinion, for Victor Rivel possessed many fascinations which it was not easy for inexperienced hearts to resist. He was cousin to these two young girls, who were the daughters of a sort of gentleman farmer, called Alain Souvestre; a man who, having good blood in his veins, would have ranked with the gentry had he not been poor. But he had begun the world poor, and poor he had continued, partly from ill luck, and partly from untitness for his calling ; so that the small profits of his farm were barely sufficient to maintain and educate his two motherless daughters with that degree of respectability their pretensions to gentryhood demanded. Except their straitened means, however, the family had few cares, for Alain was a tender father: and, till love stept in to disturb their harmony, a perfect affection had subsisted betwixt the sisters.

Souvestre bad a sister named Rivel who had been early left a widow, with a beautiful boy, whom she had doted on and ruined by injudicious indulgence. When he had finished his education at Paris, she wished him to study the law under a notary at Rouen called Devergy, but he had acquired habits of dissipation and extravagance in the metropolis that unfitted him for the dull life of a provincial town, and he would rery, soon have abandoned Monsieur Devergy's office, had not the charins of his cousin, Estelle, reconciled him to the change. His passion did not make him industrious or virtuous, though for a time it kept him from the extremes of vice; and, as he possessed many charms of person and manners, he might have won Estelle's heart, had she not been early warned of his real character by M. Devergy's son, who was thoroughly acquainted with it. But Alice fell into the snare that Estelle escaped, and the admonitions that had availed with the elder sister were per: fectly inefficient with the younger.

It was in vain that Estelle told her all she had heard and believed; Alice believed only what she liked, and would listen only to the dictates of her own will. However, when Victor found he had no chance of success, his visits became very rare, and Estelle trusted that Alice's pride would work her cure, the more especially as many painful rumours reached them regarding his way of


life, insomuch that Souvestre at length forbade him his house; a proceeding which caused much ill blood betwixt him and his sister, Madame Rivel.

However, after some interval, news came that the young man had finally abandoned the notary's office, which, indeed, he had rarely attended; and, after extracting from his mother all the money she had, was gone to Paris; a step which nobody lamented but herself and Alice, with whom a considerable intimacy had arisen; for, although this dissolute son was draining her purse and making the misery of her life, the mother could not bear to hear him blamed, nor could she pardon Estelle and her father for what she considered their harsh treatment of him. The next intelligence they had of him was, that, his money being all gone, he had enlisted into the army, a situation for which he was pronounced better fitted than any other. “He will be forced to behave well there," said Souvestre; “and if he's shot, it will be the best thing that can happen both for himself and his friends."

After the departure of Victor, a renewal of intercourse took place betwixt Madame Rivel and Souvestre, and the brother and sister maintained more friendly relations than they had done for some time previously, the conditions of the pacification being tacitly understood; namely, that whilst the mother abstained from praising or apologising for her son, the uncle should abstain from reviling him. Of Alice's attachment to her cousin, Souvestre had no suspicion, Estelle feeling that to tell him of it would be only occasioning useless pain, since not only did Victor not respond to her passion, but he was moreover gone from the neighbourhood with no prospect of returning for several years.

Shortly after these events, Estelle left her home to reside with the Countess de Fayolle in the capacity of companion and nurse, her father's indifferent circumstances inducing him unwillingly to consent to the separation, Monsieur de Fayolle being his landlord, and he (Souvestre) not a little in arrears with regard to the payment of his rent. Estelle disliked the change, too, very much in prospect; but more than one circumstance tended gradually to reconcile her to what she had considered a state of dependence. In the first place, the Countess treated her with the greatest kindness, and became by degrees so much attached to her, that she scarcely liked her own daughter better; and, in the second, the young Viscount, Armand de Fayolle fell desperately in love with her. As Estelle was not without very good sense, this latter circumstance, however flattering, caused her, in the beginning, more alarm than satisfaction, and she avoided the young man's advances by every means in her power; but the excellence of Armand's character, and the evident sincerity of his love, on the one hand, and the unexpected countenance given to the attachment by Madame de Fayolle on the other, in process of time dissipated these apprehensions, and induced her to open her heart to feelings and hopes she would otherwise lave never dared to indulge.

Still there was little prospect that this affection, now in its infancy, was destined to enjoy an exemption from the fate that usually attends “ love shot from its sphere." If the Countess's tacit encouragement sustained their hopes, the knowledge of the inexorable opposition that awaited the lovers on the part of the Count, whenever be discovered



their secret, was enough to overwhelm them with despair. An implacable aristocrat himself, he had been forced by the extravagance of his predecessor, who had transmitted to him an almost revenueless title, to make a mésalliance. He had married the heiress of a financier, and for two-and-twenty years he had been making her dearly expiate the honour of bearing his name. Naturally of a delicate constitution, his savage violence had completed the ruin of her health, and she had for several years been wholly confined to her chamber, and often to her bed. But most provokingly she would not die; and, indeed, since Estelle came to live with her, she appeared to have made some progress towards a recovery that had been pronounced at least improbable. Deserted by her husband, her daughter at school in Paris, and her son necessarily much from home, her loneliness had augmented her disease, but in Estelle she found a companion and a friend to cheer her solitude and chase sad memories from her pillow; and, moved by affection and a just appreciation of the young girl's character, she ardently wished to see her the wife of Armand. She had been forced to marry the Count for his title, and he her for her money; she had seen and felt what a marriage of interest was, and she longed to secure a union of affection for the son she adored.

Such had been the position of affairs for a considerable period, when one morning at an early hour Souvestre presented himself at the Château de Fayolle requesting to see his daughter. The purport of his visit was to make inquiries about Alice. “ Was she with her sister? had Estelle seen her?” when Estelle answered, “ No; why do you ask?” the father sank into a chair, and, placing his hands before his face, burst into tears.

“I see it all,” he said; "she's away with that scoundrel, Victor Rivel.” At first Estelle could not believe it; Victor, who bad declared himself irrevocably attached to herself! Besides, he was hundreds of miles off with his regiment; but when Souvestre had told his story, she saw too much reason to believe his apprehensions well founded.

“ For the last three weeks,” said he, “ I have had a vague suspicion that she was concealing something from me, and she has often staid out a much longer time than I could account for, without being able to explain what she had been about when I questioned her. Still, as I never saw her with any of the young men of the neighbourhood, I believed most of her time was spent with her aunt Rivel, of whom she seemed lately to have become very fond. It was not till two days ago a rumour reached me that Victor was hidden in his mother's house, and was supposed to have deserted. Upon hearing this I forbade Alice to go near my sister's till that fellow was gone. She shed a great many tears, and said it was very hard she might not assist her own relations when they were in trouble; whereupon I told her that if I had any reason to suspect she did not obey me, I would deliver Victor into the hands of the Provost- Marshal as a deserter. I was in hopes this had frightened her, for she said no more on the subject: but last evening she was not in the house when I came in to supper, nor has she been home all night.”

Estelle hoped she would be discovered concealed at Madame Rivel's; but Souvestre, who had already been there, had found the house shut up and apparently nobody in it.

This was a great blow to both father and daughter; nor were they much more reconciled to the matter when, at the expiration of a week, Madame Rivel reappeared with the certificate of a marriage betwixt Victor Rivel and Alice Souvestre, the ceremony having been performed by her late husband's brother, who was in orders. She excused herself for the part she had taken in the transaction, by declaring that she had only done it to prevent worse mischief, since Alice was determined not to abandon Victor, and would rather have gone with him unmarried than not at all.

Estelle feared this might be true; but whether it was or not, the misfortune was irremediable now, and all they had to do was to bear it as well as they could; but the blow fell heavy on Souvestre, who doated on Alice because she resembled her mother, and he never held up his head again as he had done before. On Estelle, too, this step of Alice's was a severe affliction. Her sister's alliance with a man of blasted reputation reflected disgrace upon herself, and removed her still further from Armand de Fayolle. She blushed when she thought of entering so noble a family with such an ignominious connection attached to her; and although neither the Countess nor her son knew what had occurred, it was never absent from her own mind. The continual brooding over this idea depressed her spirits, rendering her thoughtful and reserved, insomuch that it became visible to everybody that there was something wrong with her. To add to this, Estelle had, by and by, another source of anxiety. Her father's melancholy seemed to be taking a fast hold of his mind, causing him to neglect his business, besides injuring his health. His circumstances, which were not prosperous before, were fast deteriorating; and Estelle began to wonder where the money was to come from for the next rent-day. It is true, she knew that she had only to mention their embarrassments to the Countess or to Armand, and they would he relieved from them; but her delicacy and pride shrank from a degradation the memory of which would cloud the sunshine of future and better days.

This depression and uneasiness was not unobserved by Madame de Fayolle, who at length obtained a partial confession of the cause, one day when Estelle, who imagined her to be asleep, had seated herself in the adjoining dressing-closet to peruse a letter she had just received from her father. A large mirror that hung opposite the Countess' bed reflected the figure of the young girl, who she saw was in tears.

“What is the matter, Estelle?" she said. “Why are you weeping?” “ It is nothing, Madame," answered Estelle. “Only a note from my

. father.”

The Countess inquired what there was in it to distress her; and, after some questioning, succeeded in extracting an avowal that her father had fallen into a state of despondency that caused him to neglect his affairs, which were rapidly falling into confusion.

" And the rent-day's at hand, I suppose; is not that it, Estelle? And the Count is not an indulgent landlord. Dry your tears, child, and bid your father banish the subject from his mind. I'll provide for the emergency. Give me a pen and ink, and I'll write to Chardon to bring me the money."

One of the disadvantages of Estelle's situation was, that it was one of almost constant confinement, the Countess (with the not unusual selfishness of an invalid) scarcely ever allowing her out of her sight. But on this occasion, being seized with a fit of remorse on that head, she bade her carry herself the cheering intelligence to Souvestre.

“ Tell him to keep his mind at ease in regard to his rent, and that you will henceforth pay it.” Estelle knelt down by her bedside, and kissed the wan, thin hand that lay on the coverlet.

“How good you are to me!” she sobbed.

“You know, Estelle, I look upon you as my daughter,” said Madame de Fayolle, significantly leaning forward and kissing her forehead.

Estelle blushed to the eyes, and made haste to hide her conscious face; for, although she had observed with surprise that the Countess took no alarm at Armand's evident admiration of her, but rather encouraged it than otherwise, this was the first time that she had verbally intimated her approbation of the connection.

When Estelle reached the farm, she found her father very much ex: cited by a rumour that had reached him, to the effect that Alice had been seen in the neighbourhood apparently in great distress. “I wish I knew where she was,” he said, “ for I daresay that scoundrel has deserted her, and she's ashamed to come home.”

It appeared, on inquiry, that the rumour originated with a little girl, who said that, being sent one morning very early to fetch water for the kettle, because her mother was ill, she had seen Alice Souvestre at the door of Madame Rivel's house, which was situated at the outskirts of the village. She saw her lift the latch and knock with her fist, and then go round to the kitchen-window and knock there; whereupon she, the little girl, had called out to her that Madame Rivel was gone away, and there was nobody there. The child added that Alice started when she heard her voice, and seemed annoyed at being observed. " She looked very pale and thin," said she, “and her clothes were very shabby; and when I told her Madame Rivel was gone, she clasped her hands and said, Oh mon Dieu!

Victor's mother had left the place in consequence of her brother's resentment, and the ill odour into which she had fallen with the little public of the neighbourhood, on account of the part she had taken in the marriage of her son and Alice; but it was highly probable that the young people knew nothing of this removal; and the conclusion Souvestre and his daughter came to was, either that Victor had deserted his young wife, or that he was somewhere in hiding, and had sent her to procure assistance from his mother. However this might be, their inquiries elicited no further information; but this vision of one so dearly loved and mourned—the pale face and wasted figure, the clasped hands, and the ejaculation betokening so much anguish-struck cold upon the hearts of her father and sister. By night and by day, sleeping and waking, she was before them; and a sad foreboding haunted their minds that this rumour was but the foreshadowing of some evil tidings about Alice.

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