Page:Villette.djvu/157

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150
VILLETTE.

"She is so young, so thoroughly artless", said he.

"To me she is an enigma", I responded.

"Is she?" he asked—much interested. "How?"

"It would be difficult to say how—difficult, at least, to tell you how".

"And why me?"

"I wonder she is not better pleased that you are so much her friend."

"But she has not the slightest idea how much I am her friend. That is precisely the point I cannot teach her. May I inquire did she ever speak of me to you?"

"Under the name of 'Isidore' she has talked about you often; but I must add that it is only within the last ten minutes I have discovered that you and 'Isidore' are identical. It is only, Dr. John, within that brief space of time I have learned that Ginevra Fanshawe is the person, under this roof, in whom you have long been interested—that she is the magnet which attracts you to the Rue Fossette, that for her sake you venture into this garden, and seek out caskets dropped by rivals".

"You know all?"

"I know so much".

"For more than a year I have been accustomed to meet her in society. Mrs. Cholmondeley, her friend, is an acquaintance of mine; thus I see her every Sunday. But you observed that under the name of 'Isidore' she often spoke of me: may I—without inviting you to a breach of confidence—inquire what was the tone, what the feeling of her remarks? I feel somewhat anxious to know, being a little tormented with uncertainty as to how I stand with her".

"Oh, she varies: she shifts and changes like the wind".

"Still, you can gather some general idea—?"

"I can", thought I, "but it would not do to communicate that general idea to you. Besides, if I said she did not love you, I know you would not believe me".

"You are silent," he pursued. "I suppose you have no good news to impart. No matter. If she feels for me positive coldness and aversion, it is a sign I do not deserve her".

"Do you doubt yourself? Do you consider yourself the inferior of Colonel de Hamal?"

"I love Miss Fanshawe far more than de Hamal loves any