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Baron Trigault's Vengeance

Chapter 15
Agitated and excited though he was, M. Wilkie had not once ceased to think of
M. de Coralth and the Marquis de Valorsay. What would they do in such a
position, and how should he act to conform himself to the probable example of
these models of deportment? Manifestly he ought to assume that stolid and
insolent air of boredom which is considered a sure indication of birth and
breeding. Convinced of this, and seized with a laudable desire to emulate such
distinguished examples, he had perched himself upon a trunk, where he still sat
with his legs crossed. He now pretended to suppress a yawn, as he growled,
"What! some more long phrases-- and another melodramatic display?"
Absorbed in the memories she had invoked, Madame d'Argeles paid no heed to
Wilkie's impertinence. "Yes, I must talk with you," she said, "and more for your
sake than for my own. I must tell you who I am, and through what strange
vicissitudes I have passed. You know what family I belong to. I will tell you,
however--for you may be ignorant of the fact--that our house is the equal of any
in France in lineage, splendor of alliance, and fortune. When I was a child, my
parents lived at the Hotel de Chalusse, in the Faubourg Saint Germain, a perfect
palace, surrounded by one of those immense gardens, which are no longer seen
in Paris--a real park, shaded with century-old trees. Certainly everything that
money could procure, or vanity desire, was within my reach; and yet my youth
was wretchedly unhappy. I scarcely knew my father, who was devoured by
ambition, and had thrown himself body and soul into the vortex of politics. Either
my mother did not love me, or thought it beneath her dignity to make any display
of sensibility; but at all events her reserve had raised a wall of ice between
herself and me. As for my brother he was too much engrossed in pleasure to
think of a mere child. So I lived quite alone, too proud to accept the love and
friendship of my inferiors--abandoned to the dangerous inspirations of solitude,
and with no other consolation than my books--books which had been chosen for
me by my mother's confessor, and which were calculated to fill my imagination
with visionary and romantic fancies. The only conversation I heard dealt with the
means of leaving all the family fortune to my brother, so that he might uphold the
splendor of the name, and with the necessity of marrying me to some
superannuated nobleman who would take me without a dowry, or of compelling
me to enter one of those aristocratic convents, which are the refuge, and often
the prison, of poor girls of noble birth.
"I do not pretend to justify my fault, I am only explaining it. I thought myself the
most unfortunate being in the world--and such I really was, since I honestly
believed it--when I happened to meet Arthur Gordon, your father. I saw him for
the first time at a fete given at the house of the Comte de Commarin. How he, a
mere adventurer, had succeeded in forcing his way into the most exclusive
society in the world, is a point which I have never been able to explain. But, alas!
it is only too true that when our glances met for the first time, my heart was
stirred to its inmost depths; I felt that it was no longer mine--that I was no longer