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The Idol of Paris


Gentle little Madame Darbois sat up proudly, and Esperance looked at
her father wit h a world of tenderness in her eyes.
”But, my lad,” pursued Adhemar, swelling with conviction, ”your uncle
might well have made a fort une at machinery, while, as it is, he has
just managed to exist.”
”We are very happy”–Madame Darbois slipped in her word.
Esperance had bounded out of her chair, and from behind her father
encircled his head with her arms. ”Oh! yes, very happy,” she murmured
in a low voice, ”and you would not, darling papa, spoil the harmony of
our life together?”
”Remember, my dear little Esperance, what I said to your mother
concerned only men–now we are considering the future of a young girl,
and that is a graver matter!”
”Why?”
”Because men are better armed against the struggle, and life is, alas,
one eternal combat.”
”The armour of the intellect is the same for a young girl as for a
young man.”
Adhemar shook his shoulders impatiently. Seeing that he was getting
angry and was like to explode, Esperance cried out, ”Wait, godfather,
you must let me try to convince my parents. Suppose, father, that I
had chos en the same career as Maurice. What di?erent armour should I
need?”
Fran¸cois listened to his daughter a?ectionat ely, drawing her closer
to him. ”Understand me, my dearie. I am not denying your wish as a
proof of my parental authority. No, remember this is the second time
that you have expressed your will in the matter of the choice of your
career. The ?rst time I asked you to consider it for six months: The
six months having passed, you now place me under the obligation of–”
”Oh! papa, what a horrid word!”
”But that is it,” he went on, playing with her pretty hair, ”you have
put me under the obligation of answering you de?nitely; and I have
called this family council because I have not the courage, nor,
perhaps, the right, to stand in your way–the way you wish to go.”
Adhemar made a violent e?ort to leap to his feet, declaiming in his
heavy voice, ”Yes, Fran¸cois, you must try and prevent her from going
5
this way, the most evil, the most perilous above all, for a woman.”
Esperance began to tremble, but she stood resolutely away from her
father, holding herself rigid with her arms hanging straight at her
sides. The rose tint of her cheeks had disappeared and her blue eyes
were dimmed with shadows.
Maurice hastily made a number of sketches of her; never before had he
found his cousin so interesting.
Adhemar continued, ”Pray allow me to proceed with what I have to say,
my dear child. I have come from the country for this purpose, in
answer to your father’s summons. I wish to o?er my experience for
your protection. Your parents know not hing of life. Fran¸cois breathes
the ether of a world peopled only by philosophers–whether dead or
living, it makes little di?erence; your mot her lives only for you
two. I expressed at once my horror at the career that you have chosen,
I expatiat ed upon all the dangers! You seem to have understood
nothing, and your father, thanks to his philosophy, that least
trustwort hy of guides, continues futilely reasoning, for ever
reasoning!”
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