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32. The First Letter
Where, it becomes time to inquire, was Paulina Mary? How fared my intercourse with the
sumptuous Hôtel Crécy? That intercourse had, for an interval, been suspended by
absence; M. and Miss de Bassompierre had been travelling, dividing some weeks
between the provinces and capital of France. Chance apprised me of their return very
shortly after it took place.
I was walking one mild afternoon on a quiet boulevard, wandering slowly on, enjoying
the benign April sun, and some thoughts not unpleasing, when I saw before me a group of
riders, stopping as if they had just encountered, and exchanging greetings in the midst of
the broad, smooth, linden-bordered path; on one side a middle-aged gentleman and young
lady, on the other -- a young and handsome man. Very graceful was the lady's mien,
choice her appointments, delicate and stately her whole aspect. Still, as I looked, I felt
they were known to me, and, drawing a little nearer, I fully recognised them all: the
Count Home de Bassompierre, his daughter, and Dr. Graham Bretton.
How animated was Graham's face! How true, how warm, yet how retiring the joy it
expressed! This was the state of things, this the combination of circumstances, at once to
attract and enchain, to subdue and excite Dr. John. The pearl he admired was in itself of
great price and truest purity, but he was not the man who, in appreciating the gem, could
forget its setting. Had he seen Paulina with the same youth, beauty, and grace, but on
foot, alone, unguarded, and in simple attire, a dependent worker, a demi-grisette, he
would have thought her a pretty little creature, and would have loved with his eye her
movements and her mien, but it required other than this to conquer him as he was now
vanquished, to bring him safe under dominion as now, without loss, and even with gain to
his manly honour -- one saw that he was reduced; there was about Dr. John all the man of
the world; to satisfy himself did not suffice; society must approve -- the world must
admire what he did; or he counted his measures false and futile. In his victrix he required
all that was here visible -- the imprint of high cultivation, the consecration of a careful
and authoritative protection, the adjuncts that Fashion decrees, Wealth purchases, and
Taste adjusts; for these conditions his spirit stipulated ere it surrendered: they were here
to the utmost fulfilled; and now, proud, impassioned, yet fearing, he did homage to
Paulina as his sovereign. As for her, the smile of feeling, rather than of conscious power,
slept soft in her eyes.
They parted. He passed me at speed, hardly feeling the earth he skimmed, and seeing
nothing on either hand. He looked very handsome; mettle and purpose were roused in
'Papa, there is Lucy!' cried a musical, friendly voice, 'Lucy, dear Lucy -- do come here!'
I hastened to her. She threw back her veil, and stooped from her saddle to kiss me.