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Chapter I.12
Gilberte Favoral had just completed her eighteenth year. Rather tall, slender, her
every motion betrayed the admirable proportions of her figure, and had that
grace which results from the harmonious blending of litheness and strength. She
did not strike at first sight; but soon a penetrating and indefinable charm arose
from her whole person; and one knew not which to admire most,--the exquisite
perfections of her figure, the divine roundness of her neck, her aerial carriage, or
the placid ingenuousness of her attitudes. She could not be called beautiful,
inasmuch as her features lacked regularity; but the extreme mobility of her
countenance, upon which could be read all the emotions of her soul, had an
irresistible seduction. Her large eyes, of velvety blue, had untold depths and an
incredible intensity of expression; the imperceptible quiver of her rosy nostrils
revealed an untamable pride; and the smile that played upon her lips told her
immense contempt for every thing mean and small. But her real beauty was her
hair,--of a blonde so luminous that it seemed powdered with diamond-dust; so
thick and so long, that to be able to twist and confine it, she had to cut off heavy
locks of it to the very root.
Alone, in the house, she did not tremble at her father's voice. The studied
despotism which had subdued Mme. Favoral had revolted her, and her energy
had become tempered under the same system of oppression which had
unnerved Maxence.
Whilst her mother and her brother lied with that quiet impudence of the slave,
whose sole weapon is duplicity, Gilberte preserved a sullen silence. And if
complicity was imposed upon her by circumstances, if she had to maintain a
falsehood, each word cost her such a painful effort, that her features became
visibly altered.