Mlle. Cesarine made a superb gesture.

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Why, that's the very reason why a man may marry her!" she exclaimed,and, holding out her hand to M. de Traggers,What you do here is well," she added, "very well."There was a wild look in the eyes of the baroness.

"Mad, unhappy child!" she exclaimed. "If your father should hear!"And who, then, would report our conversation to him? M. de Traggers?

He would not do such a thing. You? You dare not."Drawing herself up to her fullest height, her breast swelling withanger, her head thrown back, her eyes flashing,Cesarine," ordered Mme. de Thaller, her arm extended towards thedoor - "Cesarine, leave the room; I command you."But motionless in her place the girl cast upon her mother a lookof defiance.

"Come, calm yourself," she said in a tone of crushing irony, "oryou'll spoil your complexion for the rest of the evening. Do Icomplain? do I get excited? And yet whose fault is it, if honormakes it a duty for me to cry 'Beware!' to an honest man who wishesto marry me? That Gilberte should get married : that she shouldbe very happy, have many children, darn her husband's stockings,and skim her Pot-au-fue, - that is her part in life. Ours, dearmother, - that which you have taught me - is to laugh and have fun,all the time, night and day, till death."A footman who came in interrupted her. Handing a card to Mme. deThaller,"The gentleman who gave it to me," he said, "is in the large parlor."The baroness had become very pale.

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"Oh!" she said turning the card between her fingers, - "oh!"Then suddenly she ran out exclaiming,"I'll be back directly."An embarrassing, painful silence followed, as it was inevitable thatit would, the Baroness de Thaller's precipitate departure.

Mlle. Cesarine had approached the mantel-piece. She was leaningher elbow upon it, her forehead on her hand, all palpitating andexcited. Intimidated for, perhaps, the first time in her life,she turned away her great blue eyes, as if afraid that they shouldbetray a reflex of her thoughts.

As to M. de Tregars, he remained at his place, not having one whittoo much of that power of self-control, which is acquired by a longexperience of the world, to conceal his impressions. If he had afault, it was certainly not self-conceit; but Mlle. de Thaller hadbeen too explicit and too clear to leave him a doubt. All shebad said could be comprised in one sentence,"My parents were in hopes that I would become your wife: I hadjudged you well enough to understand their error. Precise becauseI love you I acknowledge myself unworthy of you and I wish you toknow that if you had asked my hand, - the hand of a girl who hasa dowry of a million - I would have ceased to esteem you.

That such a feeling should have budded and blossomed in Mlle.

Cesarine's soul, withered as it was by vanity, and blunted bypleasure was almost a miracle. It was, at any rate, an astonishingproof of love which she gave; and Marius de Tregars would not havebeen a man, if he had not been deeply moved by it. Suddenly,"What a miserable wretch I am!" she uttered.

"You mean unhappy," said M. de Tr6gars gently.

"What can you think of my sincerity? You must, doubtless, find itstrange, impudent, grotesque."He lifted his hand in protest; for she gave him no time to put ina word.

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And yet," she went on, this is not the first time that I am assailedby sinister ideas, and that I feel ashamed of myself. I wasconvinced once that this mad existence of mine is the only enviableone, the only one that can give happiness. And now I discover thatit is not the right path which I have taken, or, rather, whichI have been made to take. And there is no possibility of retracingmy steps."She turned pale, and, in an accent of gloomy despair,Every thing fails me," she said. "It seems as though I were rollinginto a bottomless abyss, without a branch or a tuft of grass tocling to. Around me, emptiness, night, chaos. I am not yet twentyand it seems to me that I have lived thousands of years, andexhausted every sensation. I have seen every thing, learned everything, experienced every thing; and I am tired of every thing, andsatiated and nauseated. You see me looking like a brainless hoyden,I sing, I jest, I talk slang. My gayety surprises everybody. Inreality, I am literally tired to death. What I feel I could notexpress there are no words to render absolute disgust. Sometimes Isay to myself, 'It is stupid to be so sad. What do you need? Areyou not young, handsome, rich? But I must need something, or elseI would not be thus agitated, nervous, anxious, unable to stay inone place, tormented by confused aspirations, and by desires whichI cannot formulate. What can I do? Seek oblivion in pleasure anddissipation? I try, and I succeed for an hour or so; but thereaction comes, and the effect vanishes, like froth from champagne.

The lassitude returns; and, whilst outwardly I continue to laugh,I shed within tears of blood which scald my heart. What is tobecome of me, without a memory in the past, or a hope in the future,upon which to rest my thought?"And bursting into tears,"Oh, I am wretchedly unhappy!" she exclaimed; "and I wish I wasdead."M. de Tregars rose, feeling more deeply moved than he would, perhaps,have liked to acknowledge.

"I was laughing at you only a moment since," he said in his graveand vibrating voice, Pardon me, mademoiselle, It is with the utmostsincerity, and from the innermost depths of my soul, that I pityyou."She was looking at him with an air of timid doubt, big tearstrembling between her long eyelashes.

"Honest?" she asked.

"Upon my honor.""And you will not go with too poor an opinion of me?""I shall retain the firm belief that when you were yet but a child,you were spoiled by insane theories."Gently and sadly she was passing her hand over her forehead.