The First Letter

Where, it becomes time to inquire, was Paulina Mary? How fared my intercourse with the sumptuous Hôtel Crécy? That intercourse had, for an interval, been suspended by absence. M. and Miss de Bassompierre had been travelling, dividing some weeks between the provinces and capital of France. Chance apprised me of their return very shortly after it took place.

I was walking one mild afternoon on a quiet boulevard, wandering slowly on, enjoying the benign April sun, and some thoughts not unpleasing, when I saw before me a group of riders, stopping as if they had just encountered, and exchanging greetings in the midst of the broad, smooth, linden-bordered path—on one side a middle-aged gentleman and young lady; on the other, a young and handsome man. Very graceful was the lady’s mien, choice her appointments, delicate and stately her whole aspect. Still, as I looked, I felt they were known to me; and drawing a little nearer, I fully recognized them all—the Count Home de Bassompierre, his daughter, and Dr. Graham Bretton.

How animated was Graham’s face! How true, how warm, yet how retiring the joy it expressed! This was the state of things, this the combination of circumstances, at once to attract and enchain, to subdue and excite Dr. John. The pearl he admired was in itself of great price and truest purity, but he was not the man who, in appreciating the gem, could forget its setting. Had he seen Paulina with the same youth, beauty, and grace, but on foot, alone, unguarded, and in simple attire, a dependent worker, a demi- grisette, he would have thought her a pretty little creature, and would have loved with his eye her movements and her mien, but it required other than this to conquer him as he was now vanquished, to bring him safe under dominion as now, without loss, and even with gain to his manly honour, one saw that he was reduced. There was about Dr. John all the man of the world. To satisfy himself did not suffice; society must approve; the world must admire what he did, or he counted his measures false and futile. In his victrix he required all that was here visible—the imprint of high cultivation, the consecration of a careful and authoritative protection, the adjuncts that fashion decrees, wealth purchases, and taste adjusts. For these conditions his spirit stipulated ere it surrendered. They were here to the utmost fulfilled. And now, proud, impassioned, yet fearing, he did homage to Paulina as his sovereign. As for her, the smile of feeling rather than of conscious power slept soft in her eyes.

They parted. He passed me at speed, hardly feeling the earth he skimmed, and seeing nothing on either hand. He looked very handsome; mettle and purpose were roused in him fully.

“Papa, there is Lucy!” cried a musical, friendly voice.—“Lucy, dear Lucy, do come here!”

I hastened to her. She threw back her veil, and stooped from her saddle to kiss me.

“I was coming to see you to-morrow,” said she; “but now to-morrow you will come and see me.”

She named the hour, and I promised compliance.

The morrow’s evening found me with her—she and I shut into her own room. I had not seen her since that occasion when her claims were brought into comparison with those of Ginevra Fanshawe, and had so signally prevailed. She had much to tell me of her travels in the interval. A most animated, rapid speaker was she in such a tête-à-tête, a most lively describer; yet with her artless diction and clear, soft voice she never seemed to speak too fast or to say too much. My own attention, I think, would not soon have flagged, but by-and-by she herself seemed to need some change of subject; she hastened to wind up her narrative briefly. Yet why she terminated with so concise an abridgment did not immediately appear. Silence followed—a restless silence, not without symptoms of abstraction. Then, turning to me, in a diffident, half-appealing voice,—


“Well, I am at your side.”

“Is my cousin Ginevra still at Madame Beck’s?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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