Charlotte's Inheritance, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Chapter 1

Lenoble of Beaubocage.

In the days when the Bourbon reigned over Gaul, before the “simple, sensuous, passionate” verse of Alfred de Musset had succeeded the débonnaire Muse of Béranger in the affections of young France — in days when the site of the Trocadero was a remote and undiscovered country, and the word “exposition” unknown in the Academic dictionary, and the Gallic Augustus destined to rebuild the city yet an exile — a young law-student boarded, in common with other students, in a big dreary-looking house at the corner of the Rue Grande–Mademoiselle, abutting on the Place Lauzun, and within some ten minutes walk of the Luxembourg. It was a very dingy quarter, though noble gentlemen and lovely ladies had once occupied the great ghastly mansions, and disported themselves in the gruesome gardens. But the young students were in nowise oppressed by the ghastliness of their abode. They sang their Béranger, and they pledged each other in cheap Bordeaux, and clinked their glasses noisily in their boisterous good-fellowship, and ate the messes compounded for them in a darksome cupboard, known as the kitchen, by old Nanon the cook, purblind, stone-deaf, and all but imbecile, and popularly supposed to be the venerable mother of Madame Magnotte. The youngsters grumbled to each other about the messes when they were unusually mysterious; and it must be owned that there were vol-au-vents and fricandeaux consumed in that establishment which were awful and wonderful in their nature; but they ventured on no complaint to the mistress of the mansion. She was a grim and terrible personage. Her terms were low, and she treated her boarders de haute en bas. If they were not content with her viands, they might go and find more agreeable viands elsewhere.

Madame Magnotte was altogether mysterious and inscrutable. Some people said that she was a countess, and that the wealth and lands of her family had been confiscated by the committee of public unsafety in ‘93. Others declared that she had been a popular actress in a small theatre in the days of Napoleon. She was tall and thin — nay, of an exceptional leanness — and her complexion was of a more agreeable yellow than the butter that appeared on her hospitable board; but she had flashing black eyes, and a certain stateliness of gait and grandeur of manner that impressed those young Bohemians, her boarders, with a kind of awe. They talked of her as the “countess,” and by that name she was known to all inmates of the mansion; but in all their dealings with her they treated her with unfailing respect.

One of the quietest among the young men who enjoyed the privileges of Madame Magnotte’s abode was a certain Gustave Lenoble, a law-student, the only son of a very excellent couple who lived on their own estate, near an obscure village in Normandy. The estate was of the smallest; a dilapidated old house, known in the immediate neighbourhood as “the Château,” and very dear to those who resided therein; a garden, in which everything seemed to have run to seed; and about forty acres of the poorest land in Normandy. These possessions constituted the patrimonial estate of Francois Lenoble, propriétaire, of Beaubocage, near Vevinordin, the department of Eure.

The people amongst whom the good man lived his simple life called him M. Lenoble de Beaubocage, but he did not insist upon this distinction; and on sending out his only son to begin the battle of life in the great world of Paris, he recommended the young man to call himself Lenoble, tout court.

The young man had never cherished any other design. He was of all creatures the least presuming or pretentious. The father was Legitimist to the very marrow; the son half Buonapartist, half republican. The father and son had quarrelled about these differences of opinion sometimes in a pleasantly disputatious manner; but no political disagreement could lesser the love between these two. Gustave loved his parents as only a Frenchman can venture to love his father and mother — with a devotion for the gentleman that bordered on enthusiasm, with a fond reverence for the lady that was the very essence of chivalry. There was a sister, who regarded her brother Gustave as the embodiment of all that is perfect in youthful mankind; and there were a couple of old house-servants, a very stupid clumsy lad in the stables, and half a dozen old mongrel dogs, born and bred on the premises, who seemed to share the young lady’s opinions. There was not a little discussion upon the subject of Gustave Lenoble’s future career; and it was not without difficulty that the father could be persuaded to approve the choice of a profession which the young man had made. The seigneur of Beaubocage cherished an exaggerated pride of race little suspected by those who saw his simple life, and were pleased by his kindly unaffected manners. The house of Lenoble, at some remote and almost mythical period of history, had distinguished itself in divers ways; and those bygone grandeurs, vague and shadowy in the minds of all others, seemed very real to Monsieur Lenoble. He assured his son that no Lenoble had ever been a lawyer. They had been always lords of the soil, living on their own lands, which had once stretched wide and far in that Norman province; a fact proved by certain maps in M. Lenoble’s possession, the paper whereof was worn and yellow with age. They had stooped to no profession save that of arms. One seigneur of Beaubocage had fought under Bayard himself; another had fallen at Pavia, on that great day when all was lost hormis l’honneur; another had followed the white plume of the Bernais; another — but was there any need to tell of the glories of that house upon which Gustave was so eager to inflict the disgrace of a learned profession?

Thus argued the father; but the mother had spent her girlhood amidst the clamour of the Buonapartist campaigns, and the thought of war was very terrible to her. The memory of the retreat from Russia was not yet twenty years old. There were men alive to tell the story, to depict those days and nights of horror, that mighty march of death. It was she and her daughter Cydalise who had helped to persuade Gustave that he was born to distinguish himself in the law. They wanted him to study in Paris — the young man himself had a wild desire to enjoy the delights of that wondrous capital — and to return in a few years to set up for himself as avocat at the town of Vevinord, some half-dozen leagues from the patrimonial estate. He was created to plead for the innocent, to denounce the guilty, to be grand and brave and fiery-hot with enthusiasm in defence of virtuous peasants charged unjustly with the stealing of sheep, or firing of corn-ricks. It never struck these simple souls that he might sometimes be called upon to defend the guilty, or to denounce the innocent.

It was all settled at last. Gustave was to go to Paris, and enter himself as a student of law. There were plenty of boarding-houses in the neighbourhood of the Ecole de Droit where a young man might find a home; and to one of these Gustave was recommended by a friend of his family. It was the Pension Magnotte to which they had sent him, the big dreary house, entre cour et jardin, which had once been so grand and noble. A printer now occupied the lower chambers, and a hand painted on the wall pointed to the Pension Magnotte, au premier. Tirez le cordon, s.v.p.

Gustave was twenty-one years of age when he came to Paris; tall, stalwart, broad of shoulders and deep of chest, with a fair frank face, an auburn moustache, candid, kind blue eyes — a physiognomy rather Saxon than Celtic. He was a man who made friends quickly, and was soon at home among the students, roaring their favourite songs, and dancing their favourite dances at the dancing-places of that day, joining with a pleasant heartiness in all their innocent dissipations. For guilty dissipation the young provincial had no taste. Did he not carry the images of two kind and pure women about with him wherever he went, like two attendant angels ever protecting his steps; and could he leave them sorrowing on thresholds they could not pass? Ah, no! He was loud and boisterous and wild of spirits in those early days, but incapable of meanness or vice.

“It is a brave heart,” Madame Magnotte said of him, “though for the breaking of glasses a scourge —un fléau.”

The ladies of the Pension Magnotte were for the most part of mature age and unattractive appearance — two or three lonely spinsters, eking out their pitiful little incomes as best they might, by the surreptitious sale of delicate embroideries, confectioned in their dismal leisure; and a fat elderly widow, popularly supposed to be enormously rich, but of miserly propensities. “It is the widow of Harpagon himself,” Madame Magnotte told her gossips — an old woman with two furiously ugly daughters, who for the last fifteen years had lived a nomadic life in divers boarding-houses, fondly clinging to the hope that, amongst so many strange bachelors, husbands for these two solitary ones must at last be found.

These, with a pale young lady who gave music lessons in the quarter, were all the feminine inmates of the mansion; and amongst these Gustave Lenoble was chief favourite. His tender courtesy for these lonely women seemed in some manner an evidence of that good old blood whereof the young man’s father boasted. Francis the First, who listened with bent knee and bare head to his mother’s discourse, was not more reverential to that noble Savoyarde than was Gustave to the shabby-genteel maiden ladies of the Pension Magnotte. In truth, this young man had a heart pitiful and tender as the heart of woman. To be unfortunate was to possess a sure claim upon his pity and regard; to be poor and friendless was the best appeal to his kindness. He spent his evenings sometimes in the great dreary desert of a salon, and listened respectfully while Mademoiselle Servin, the young music-teacher, played dismal sonatas of Gluck or Grétry on a cracked old piano that had been one of the earliest made of those instruments, and was now attenuated and feeble as the very ghost of music. He listened to Madame Magnotte’s stories of departed splendour. To him she opened her heart as she never had opened it to those other young men.

“They mock themselves of everything — even the religion!” she exclaimed, with horror. “They are Diderots and Holbachs in the bud, less the talent. But you do not come of that gutter in which they were born. You are of the old blood of France, M. Lenoble, and I can trust myself to you as I cannot to them. I, who speak to you — I, too, come of a good old race, and there is sympathy between we others.”

And then, after babbling to him of her lost station, the lady would entertain him with some dainty little supper with which she was wont to indulge herself and her lady boarders, when the students — who were treated something after the manner of school-boys — were out of doors.

For four years the law-student had enjoyed his Parisian life — not altogether idle, but not altogether industrious — amusing himself a great deal, and learning very little; moderate in his expenditure, when compared with his fellow-students, but no small drain upon the funds of the little family at home. In sooth, this good old Norman family had in a pecuniary sense sunk very low. There was real poverty in the tumble-down house at Beaubocage, though it was poverty that wore a cheerful face, and took things pleasantly. A very humble English farmer would have despised the income which supported M. Lenoble’s household; and it was only the economy and skill of the matron and her daughter which sustained the dignity of the small establishment.

There was one great hope cherished alike by the proud simple-minded old father, the fond mother, the devoted sister, and that was the hope in the grand things to be done, in the dim future, by Gustave, the son, the heir, the pole-star of the household.

Out of poverty, out of obscurity, into the broad light of honour and riches, was the house of Lenoble to be lifted by this young law-student. On the broad shoulders of this modern Atlas the Lenoble world was to be sustained. To him they looked, of him they thought, in the long dreary winter evenings during which the mother nodded over her knitting, the father slept in his capacious easy-chair, the sister toiled at her needle-work by her little table of palissandre.

He had paid them more than one visit during his two years of study, bringing with him life and light and gladness, as it seemed to the two women who adored him; and now, in the winter of 1828, they expected another visit. He was to be with them on the first day of the new year. He was to stay with them till his Mother’s fete — the 17th of January.

The father looked to this special visit with an unusual anxiety. The mother too was more than ever anxious. The sister, if she who loved her brother with a somewhat morbid intensity could be more anxious than usual, was more so now. A dreadful plot, a dire conspiracy, of which Gustave was to be the subject and victim, had been concocted beneath that innocent-seeming roof. Father, mother, and sister, seated round the family hearth, fatal as some domestic Parcae, had hatched their horrid scheme, while the helpless lad amused himself yonder in the great city, happily unconscious of the web that was being woven to enmesh him.

The cord which monsieur unwound, the mesh which madame held, the needle which dexterous mademoiselle wielded, were employed in the fabrication of a matrimonial net. These unsophisticated conspirators were bent upon bringing about the marriage of their victim, a marriage which should at once elevate and enrich the Lenobles of Beaubocage, in the person of Gustave.

Francois Lenoble’s best friend and nearest neighbour was a certain Baron Frehlter, of Germanic origin, but for some generations past naturalised to the Gallic soil. The Baron was proprietor of an estate which could show ten acres for one of the lands of Beaubocage. The Baron boasted a family tree which derived its root from a ramification of the Hohenzollern pedigree; but, less proud and more prudent than the Lenobles, the Frehlters had not scorned to intermingle their Prussian blue blood with less pure streams of commercial France. The épicier element had prevailed in the fair brides of the house of Frehlter for the last three or four generations, and the house of Frehlter had considerably enriched itself by this sacrifice of its family pride.

The present Baron had married a lady ten years his senior, the widow of a Rouen merchant, alike wealthy and pious, but famous rather for these attributes than for any personal charm. One only child, a girl, had blessed this union. She was now a young person of something under twenty years of age, newly emerged from her convent, and pining for some share in the gaieties and delights of a worldly paradise, which had already been open to many of her schoolfellows.

Mademoiselle Frehlter’s companions had, for the most part, left school to be married. She had heard of the corbeille, the wedding dress, the wedding festivities, and occasionally a word or two about that secondary consideration the bridegroom. The young lady was therefore somewhat inclined to take it ill of her father that he had not secured for her the éclat of an early marriage. Her departure from the convent of the Sacré Coeur, at Vevinord, was flat and tame to an extreme degree. The future lay before her, a dreary desert of home life, to be spent with a father who gorged himself daily at a greasy and savoury banquet, and who slept away the greater part of his existence; and with a mother who divided her affections between a disagreeable poodle and a still more disagreeable priest — a priest who took upon himself to lecture the demoiselle Frehlter on the smallest provocation.

The château of the Frehlters was a very grand abode as compared to the tumble-down house of Beaubocage; but it was cold and stony to a depressing degree, and the furniture must have been shabby in the days of the Fronde. Faithful old servants kept the mansion in a state of spotless purity, and ruled the Baron and his wife with a rod of iron. Mademoiselle execrated these devoted retainers, and would have welcomed the sauciest of modern domestics who would have released her from the bondage of these servants of the old school.

Mademoiselle had been at home a year — a year of discontent and ill-humour. She had quarrelled with her father, because he would not take her to Paris; with her mother, because she would not give her more new gowns and bonnets and feathers and fur-belows; with the priest, the poodle, with the autocracy below-stairs, with everybody and everything. So at last the Baron decided that mademoiselle should marry, whereby he might be rid of her, and of her complaints, vagaries, ill-tempers, and general dissatisfaction.

Having once made up his mind as to the wisdom of a matrimonial arrangement, Baron Frehlter was not slow to fix upon a bridegroom. He was a very rich man, and Madelon was his only child, and he was furthermore a very lazy man; so, instead of looking far afield for a wealthy or distinguished suitor for his daughter, he was inclined to take the first that came to hand. It is possible that the Baron, who was of a somewhat cynical turn of mind, may have cherished no very exalted idea of his daughter’s attractions, either personal or mental. However this might be, it is certain that when the demoiselle had ill-treated the poodle, and insulted the priest, and quarrelled with the cook — that high-priestess of the kitchen who alone, in all Normandy, could concoct those messes which the Baron loved — the master of Côtenoir decided on marrying his heiress out of hand.

He communicated this design to his old crony, François Lenoble, one day when the Beaubocage family dined at Château Côtenoir.

“I think of marrying my daughter,” he said to his friend, when the ladies were safely out of hearing at the other end of the long dreary saloon. “Now thy son Gustave is a fine fellow — brave, handsome, and of a good race. It is true he is not as rich as Madelon will be by-and-by; but I am no huckster, to sell my daughter to the best bidder” (“and I doubt if there would be many bidders for her, if I were so inclined,” thought the Baron, in parenthesis); “and if thy son should take a fancy to her, and she to him, it would please me well enough, friend François.”

Friend François pricked up his ears, and in his old eyes flickered a feeble light. Côtenoir and Beaubocage united in the person of his son Gustave! Lenoble of Beaubocage and Côtenoir — Lenoble of Côtenoir and Beaubocage! So splendid a vision had never shone before his eyes in all the dreams that he had dreamed about the only son of whom he was so proud. He could not have shaped to himself so bold a project as the union of those two estates. And here was the Baron offering it to him, with his snuff-box, en passant.

“It would be a great marriage,” he said, “a very great marriage. For Gustave I can answer without hesitation. He could not but be charmed by such a union — so amiable a bride would enchant him.”

He looked down the room to the spot where Madelon and Cydalise were standing, side by side, admiring Madame Frehlter’s poodle. Madelon could afford to be civil to the poodle before company. The contrast between the two girls was sufficiently striking. Cydalise was fair and bright-looking — Mademoiselle Frehlter was square and ungainly of figure, swarthy of complexion, dark of brow.

“He could not but be charmed,” repeated the old man, with feeble gallantry.

He was thinking of the joining together of Beaubocage and Côtenoir; and it seemed a very small thing to him that such a union of estates would involve the joining of a man and woman, who were to hold to each other and love each other until death should part them.

“It shall be no marriage of convenience,” said the Baron, in a generous spirit; “my daughter is somewhat ill-tem — that is to say, my daughter finds her life somewhat dull with her old father and mother, and I think she might be happier in the society of a husband. I like your son; and my wife, too, likes him better than any other young man of our acquaintance. Madelon has seen a good deal of him when she has been home from the convent in her holidays, and I have reason to think she does not dislike him. If he likes her and she likes him, and the idea is pleasing to you and madame, we will make a match of it. If not, let it pass; we will say no more.”

Again the seigneur of Beaubocage assured his friend that Gustave would be enchanted with the proposal; and again it was of Côtenoir that he thought, and not of the heart or the inclinations of his son.

This conversation took place late in autumn, and at the new year Gustave was to come. Nothing was to be said to him about his intended wife until he arrived; that was a point upon which the Baron insisted.

“The young man may have fallen in love with some fine young person in Paris,” he said; “and in that case we will say nothing to him of Madelon. But if we find him with the heart free, and inclined to take to my daughter, we may give him encouragement.”

This was solemnly agreed between the two fathers. Nor was Mademoiselle Frehlter to be told of the matrimonial scheme until it ripened. But after this dinner at Côtenoir the household at Beaubocage talked of little else than of the union of the two families. What grandeur, what wealth, what happiness! Gustave the lord of Côtenoir! Poor Cydalise had never seen a finer mansion than the old château, with its sugar-loaf towers and stone terraces, and winding stairs, and tiny inconvenient turret chambers, and long dreary salon and salle-à-manger. She could picture to herself nothing more splendid. For Gustave to be offered the future possession of Côtenoir was as if he were suddenly to be offered the succession to a kingdom. She could not bring herself to consider that Madelon was neither agreeable nor attractive, and that, after all, the wife must count for something in every marriage contract. She could see nothing, she could think of nothing, but Côtenoir. The glory and grandeur of that estate absorbed every other consideration.

No one of those three conspirators feared any opposition on the part of their victim. It was just possible that Gustave might have fallen in love with some Parisian damsel, though his letters gave no hint of any such calamity. But if such a misfortune had happened, he would, of course, fall out of love again, return the damsel her troth and obtain the return of his own, and straightway offer the second-hand commodity to Mademoiselle Frehlter.

The object of all these cares and hopes and dreams arrived at last, full of life and spirits, with plenty to tell about Paris in general, and very little to tell about himself in particular. The women questioned him unmercifully. They insisted on a graphic description of every female inmate of the boarding-house, and would scarcely believe that all except the little music-mistress were elderly and unattractive. Of the music-mistress herself they were inclined to be very suspicious, and were not altogether reassured by Gustave’s assertion that she was neither pretty nor fascinating.

“She is a dear, good, industrious little thing,” he said, “and works harder than I do. But she is no miracle of beauty; and her life is so dreary that I often wonder she does not go into a convent. It would be gayer and pleasanter for her than to live with those old women at the Pension Magnotte.”

“I suppose there are many beautiful women in Paris?” said Cydalise, bent upon knowing the worst.

“Well, I dare say there are,” Gustave answered frankly; “but we students don’t see much of them in our quarter. One sees a pretty little milliner’s girl now and then, or a washerwoman. In short, there are a good many grisettes in our part of the world,” added the young man, blushing, but for no sin of his own. “We get a glimpse of a handsome woman sometimes, rattling past in her carriage; but in Paris handsome women do not go on foot. I have seen prettier girls at Vevinord than in Paris.”

Cydalise was enchanted with this confession.

“Yes,” she exclaimed, “our Normandy is the place for pretty girls. Madelon Frehlter. for example, is not she a very — amiable girl?”

“I dare say she’s amiable enough,” answered Gustave; “but if there were no prettier girls than Mademoiselle Frehlter in this part of the world, we should have no cause to boast. But there are prettier girls, Cydalise, and thou art thyself one of them.”

After this speech the young man bestowed upon his sister a resounding kiss. Yes; it was clear that he was heart-whole. These noisy, boisterous good spirits were not characteristic of a lover. Even innocent Cydalise knew that to be in love was to be miserable.

From this time mother and sister tormented their victim with the merits and charms of his predestined bride. Madelon on the piano was miraculous; Madelon’s little songs were enchanting; Madelon’s worsted-work was a thing to worship; Madelon’s devotion to her mother and her mother’s poodle was unequalled; Madelon’s respectful bearing to the good Abbé St. Velours — her mother’s director — was positively beyond all praise. It was virtue seraphic, supernal. Such a girl was too good for earth — too good for anything except Gustave.

The young man heard and wondered.

“How you rave about Madelon Frehlter!” he exclaimed. “She seems to me the most commonplace young person I ever encountered. She has nothing to say for herself; she never appears to know where to put her elbows. I never saw such elbows; they are everywhere at once. And her shoulders! — O heaven, then, her shoulders! — it ought to be forbidden to wear low dresses when one has such shoulders.”

This was discouraging, but the schemers bore up even against this. The mother dwelt on the intellectual virtues of Madelon; and what were shoulders compared to mind, piety, amiability — all the Christian graces? Cydalise owned that dear Madelon was somewhat gauche; Gustave called her bête. The father remonstrated with his son. Was it not frightful to use a word of the barracks in connection with this charming young lady?

At last the plot revealed itself. After a dinner at Côtenoir and a dinner at Beaubocage, on both which occasions Gustave had made himself very agreeable to the ladies of the Baron’s household — since, indeed, it was not in his nature to be otherwise than kind and courteous to the weaker sex — the mother told her son of the splendid destiny that had been shaped for him. It was a matter of surprise and grief to her to find that the revelation gave Gustave no pleasure.

“Marriage was the last thing in my thoughts, dear mother,” he said, gravely; “and Madelon Frehlter is the very last woman I should think of for a wife. Nevertheless, I am gratified by the honour Monsieur le Baron has done me. That goes without saying.”

“But the two estates! — together they would make you a great proprietor. You would not surely refuse such fortune?”

Cydalise gave a little scream of horror.

“Côtenoir! to refuse Côtenoir! Ah, surely that would be impossible! But figure to yourself, then, Gustave —”

“Nay, Cydalise, you forget the young lady goes with the château; a fixture that we cannot dispense with.”

“But she, so amiable, so pious —”

“So plain, so stupid —”

“So modest, so charitable —”

“In short, so admirably adapted for a Sister of Charity,” replied Gustave. “But no, dear Cydalise. Côtenoir is a grand old place; but I would as soon spend my life at Toulon, dragging a cannon-ball at my heels, as in that dreary salon where Madame Frehlter nurses her maladies and her poodle, and where the good-humoured, easy-going old Baron snores away existence. ’Tis very well for those elderly folks, you see, my sister, and for Madelon — for hers is an elderly mind in a youthful body; but for a young man full of hope and gaiety and activity — bah! It would be of all living deaths the worst. From the galleys there is always the hope of escaping — an underground passage, burrowed out with one’s finger-nails in the dead of the night — a work lasting twenty years or so, but with a feeble star of hope always glimmering at the end of the passage. But from the salon, and mamma, and the poodle, and the good, unctuous, lazy old director, and papa’s apoplectic snoring, and the plaintive little songs and monotonous embroideries of one’s wife, there would be no escape. Ah, bah!”

Gustave shuddered, and the two women shuddered as they heard him. The prospect was by no means promising; but Madame Lenoble and her daughter did not utterly despair. Gustave’s heart was disengaged. That was a great point; and for the rest, surely persuasion might do much.

Then came that phenomenon seen very often in this life — a generous-minded, right-thinking young man talked into a position which of all others is averse from his own inclinations. The mother persuaded, the sister pleaded, the father dwelt dismally upon the poverty of Beaubocage, the wealth of Côtenoir. It was the story of auld Robin Gray reversed. Gustave perceived that his refusal to avail himself of this splendid destiny would be a bitter and lasting grief to these people who loved him so fondly — whom he loved as fondly in return. Must he not be a churl to disappoint hopes so unselfish, to balk an ambition so innocent? And only because Madelon was not the most attractive or the prettiest of women!

The young man stood firm against all their arguments, he was unmoved by all their pleading. It was only when his anxious kindred had given up the battle for lost that Gustave wavered. Their mute despair moved him more than the most persuasive eloquence; and the end was submission. He left Beaubocage the plighted lover of that woman who, of all others, he would have been the last to choose for his wife. It had all been settled very pleasantly — the dowry, the union of the two estates, the two names. For six months Gustave was to enjoy his freedom to finish his studies; and then he was to return to Normandy for his marriage.

“I have heard very good accounts of you from Paris,” said the Baron. “You are not like some young men, wild, mad-brained. One can confide in your honour, your steadiness.”

The good folks of Beaubocage were in ecstacies. They congratulated Gustave — they congratulated each other. A match so brilliant would be the redemption of the family. The young man at last began to fancy himself the favoured of the gods. What if Madelon seemed a little dull — a little wanting in that vivacity which is so pleasing to frivolous minds? she was doubtless so much the more profound, so much the more virtuous. If she was not bright and varied and beautiful as some limpid fountain dancing in summer sunlight, she was perhaps changeless and steady as a rock; and who would not rather have the security of a rock than the summer-day beauty of a fountain?

Before Gustave departed from his paternal home he had persuaded himself that he was a very lucky fellow; and he had paid Mademoiselle Frehlter some pretty little stereotyped compliments, and had listened with sublime patience to her pretty little stereotyped songs. He left the young lady profoundly impressed by his merits; he left his own household supremely happy; and he carried away with him a heart in which Madelon Frehlter’s image had no place.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/braddon/mary_elizabeth/charlotte_s_inheritance/book1.1.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31