Madame de Fleury, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 14.

“The character is lost!

Her head adorn’d with lappets, pinn’d aloft,

And ribands streaming gay, superbly raised,

Indebted to some smart wig-weaver’s hand

For more than half the tresses it sustains.”

COWPER.

Upon her return to Paris, Victoire felt melancholy; but she exerted herself as much as possible in her usual occupation; finding that employment and the consciousness of doing her duty were the best remedies for sorrow.

One day, as she was busy settling Mad. Feuillot’s accounts, a servant came into the shop, and inquired for Mademoiselle Victoire: he presented her a note, which she found rather difficult to decipher. It was signed by her cousin Manon, who desired to see Victoire at her hotel. “Her hotel!” repeated Victoire with astonishment. The servant assured her that one of the finest hotels in Paris belonged to his lady, and that he was commissioned to show her the way to it. Victoire found her cousin in a magnificent house, which had formerly belonged to the Prince de Salms. Manon, dressed in the disgusting, indecent extreme of the mode, was seated under a richly-fringed canopy. She burst into a loud laugh as Victoire entered.

“You look just as much astonished as I expected,” cried she. “Great changes have happened since I saw you last — I always told you, Victoire, I knew the world better than you did. What has come of all your schooling, and your mighty goodness, and your gratitude truly? — Your patroness is banished and a beggar, and you a drudge in the shop of a brodeuse, who makes you work your fingers to the bone, no doubt. — Now you shall see the difference. Let me show you my house; you know it was formerly the hotel of the Prince de Salms, he that was guillotined the other day; but you know nothing, for you have been out of Paris this month, I understand. Then I must tell you, that my friend Villeneuf has acquired an immense fortune! by assignats, made in the course of a fortnight — I say an immense fortune! and has bought this fine house — Now do you begin to understand?”

“I do not clearly know whom you mean by your friend Villeneuf,” said Victoire.

“The hairdresser, who lived in our street,” said Manon; “he became a great patriot, you know, and orator; and, what with his eloquence and his luck in dealing in assignats, he has made his fortune and mine.”

“And yours! then he is your husband!”

“That does not follow — that is not necessary — but do not look so shocked — every body goes on the same way now; besides, I had no other resource — I must have starved — I could not earn my bread as you do. Besides, I was too delicate for hard work of any sort — and besides — but come, let me show you my house — you have no idea how fine it is.”

With anxious ostentation, Manon displayed all her riches, to excite Victoire’s envy.

“Confess, Victoire,” said she at last, “that you think me the happiest person you have ever known. — You do not answer; whom did you ever know that was happier?”

“Sister Frances, who died last week, appeared to be much happier,” said Victoire.

“The poor nun!” said Manon, disdainfully. “Well, and whom do you think the next happiest?”

“Madame de Fleury.”

“An exile and a beggar! — Oh, you are jesting now, Victoire — or — envious. With that sanctified face, citoyenne — perhaps I should say Mademoiselle Victoire, you would be delighted to change places with me this instant. Come, you shall stay with me a week, to try how you like it.”

“Excuse me,” said Victoire, firmly; “I cannot stay with you, Manon — you have chosen one way of life, and I another — quite another. I do not repent my choice — may you never repent yours! — Farewell!”

“Bless me! what airs! and with what dignity she looks! Repent of my choice! — a likely thing, truly. Am not I at the top of the wheel?”

“And may not the wheel turn?” said Victoire.

“Perhaps it may,” said Manon; “but till it does I will enjoy myself. Since you are of a different humour, return to Mad. Feuillot, and figure upon cambric and muslin, and make out bills, and nurse old nuns, all the days of your life. You will never persuade me, however, that you would not change places with me if you could. Stay till you are tried, Mademoiselle Victoire. Who was ever in love with you, or your virtues? — Stay till you are tried.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/e/edgeworth/maria/madame-de-fleury/chapter14.html

Last updated Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 13:58