The Idol of Paris
peculiarly her own.
Esperance was kneeling on a chair, leaning upon her arms on the table.
Her blue dress, cut like a blouse, was held in at the waist by a
narrow girdle knotted loosely. Although the child was arguing
vigorously, with intense animation, there was such grace in her
gestures, such charming vibrations in her voice, that it was
impossible to res ent her combative attitude.
”Papa, my dear papa,” she was asserting to Fran¸cois Darbois, ”You are
saying to-day just the opposite of what you were saying the ot her day
to mother at dinner.”
Her father raised his head. Her mother, on the contrary, dropped hers
a little. ”Pray Heaven,” she was saying to herself, ”that Fran¸cois
does not get angry with her!”
The godfather moved his chair forward; Philippe Renaud laughed;
Maurice looked at his cousin with amazement.
”What are you saying?” asked Fran¸cois Darbois.
Esperance gazed at him tenderly. ”You remember my godfather was dining
with us and there had been a lot o f talk; my godfat her was against
allowing any liberty to women, and he maintained that children have no
right to choos e their own careers, but must, without reasoning, give
way to their parents, who alone are to decide their fates.”
Adhemar wis hed to take the ?oor and cleared his throat in
preparation, but Fran¸cois Darbois, evidently a little nonplused,
muttered, ”And then after that–what are you coming to?”
”To what you answered, papa.”
Her father looked at her a little anxiously, but she met his glance
calmly and continued: ”You said to my godfather, ’My dear Meydieux,
you are absolutely mistaken. It is the right and the duty of everyone
to select and to construct his future for himself.’”
Darbois attempt ed to speak....
”You even told mama, who had never known it, that grandfather wanted
to place you in business, and that you rebelled.”
”Ah! rebelled,” murmured Darbois, with a slight shrug.
”Yes, rebelled. And you added, ’My father cut o? my allowance for a
year, but I stuck to it; I tutored poor students who couldn’t get
through their examinations, I lived from hand to mouth, but I did
live, and I was able to continue my studies in philosophy.’”
Uncle Renaud was openly nodding encouragement. Adhemar Meydieux ros e
heavily, and straightening up with a succession of jerky movements,
caught himself squarely on his heels, and then, wit h great conviction,
said: ”See here, child, if I were your father, I should take you by
the ear and put you out of the room.”
Esperance turned purple.
”I repeat, children should obey without question!”
”I hope to prove to my daughter by reasoning that she is probably
wrong,” said M. Darbois very quietly.
”Not at all. You must order, not persuade.”
”Now, M. Meydieux,” exclaimed the young painter, ”it seems to me that
you are going a little too far. Children should respect their parents’
wishes as far as possible; but when it is a question of their own
future, they have a right to present their side of the case. If my
uncle Darbois’s father had had his way, my uncle Darbois would
probably now be a mediocre engineer, instead of the brilliant
philosopher who is admired and recognized by the entire world.”