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“Ah! Mathilde,” said the Countess with a sigh, “ but how know I that even Camille would care for me were 1 Adele of yonder cottage, and not Adele of yonder chateau?”
“Now, to my fancy,” replied her companion, “that doubt may be easily solved: the suitors who merely desired your possessions, have, most of them, been wearied out by your caprices ;-Camille, who loves you for yourself, yet retains his patience— but come, enough of this sitting still, this sighing, and this scolding; let us stroll towards the beech wood, and speak of something more agreeable to the brightness of the day.”
The youthful dames left the bank whereon they were seated, and strolled carelessly in the proposed direction, but the brightness of the day softened into tender gloom by the delicate and polished green of the beechen canopy, and the sweet notes of that bird which may be said to converse in song, – that poet among birds, the nightingale, failed to chase the gloom from one brow, and the weight from one heart. The dialogue gradually dropped into silence, and Adele sauntered on, seldom looking off the ground, and fast losing her thoughts in reverie. Suddenly Mathilde stopped, and exclaimed with evident embarrassment, “Indeed - indeed, Adele, I did not contrive this rencontre.”
“What do you mean by this rencontre?”
“Look there—yonder -- close by the old beech that has a mound of turf beneath it.”
· Adele looked in the direction pointed out, and feltnay, there is no telling what she felt, to observe the identical Camille de Valori in the act of advancing towards her, and too near to be abruptly turned away from, without more ill-breeding than beseemed a lady of condition. The Countess stood still -- the young man continued to approach: his appearance was unimpeachable, though his address was marked by less self-possession than beseemed an accomplished cavalier—but this, to a person acquainted with the cause, would scarcely have detracted from his merit. When within a few paces of the wandering dames, he removed his cap, and made a reverence so low, that the jewel in front brushed the hare-bells on the turf. Mathilde stepped forward, and extending her hand with frank and graceful courtesy, gave the stranger a blithe welcome to the land and home of his fathers.
“ And I, too,” said the Countess, much embarrassed, and consequently assuming much dignity; “I, too, rejoice that France no longer needs your absence abroad.”
Camille again bent his head, and a cadence of melancholy was in his voice, as he replied, “ My presence, madam, is, I fear, likely to be little valued at home.”
The Countess rejoined somewhat touching the welfare and happiness of his vassals; and Mathilde, in despair at so inauspicious an opening, proposed to return to their former retreat, having suddenly discovered that the neighbourhood of the fountain was cooler. During their stroll thither, the embargo being removed from her conversational powers, she took upon herself, and so dexterously managed, the whole duty of finding subject-matter, that her companions gradually became more at ease in each other's society, although neither knew precisely how it occurred. Once more the ladies resumed their flowery seat; but Camille, before yielding to his natural impulse to seat himself also, said, whilst looking towards his advocate for encouragement, “ But how know I that my sin of trespass, although committed in ignorance, is forgiven ? I am still here an unbidden guest.”
“ Ask no questions,” replied Mathilde gaily; " but sit down and render your company desirable, bidden or otherwise.”
Adele did not gainsay the permission ;-Camille threw himself on the grass, and Mathilde snatching up her old friend the guitar, bade him accompany her in a celebrated Troubadour song. He obeyed in a sprightly manner; but it was a strain that spake of Italy, its sunny skies and splendid cities, its pleasures and its arts; and a shade came over the polished brow of the young Countess. “That strain is wanting,” she observed, on its conclusion ; “ it makes no mention of Italy's darkeyed damas ; of the syrens who, I have heard, can obliterate from the mind of lovers, all memory of those less fair or wily of their native land.”
Camille felt the hidden thrust; and his manly countenance betokened sorrow, wounded affection, and sense
of wrong. “I might have known," said he, “ that my rude minstrelsy would displease the ears that have revelled in Provençal melodies. I have no other strain worthy of my auditors; but I know a tale, and that, craving your fair warrant, I will narrate, and then depart.”
The personages addressed bowed acquiescence, and Camille began his narrative, with an air and tone of earnest simplicity, not unalloyed by sadness.
“ Henri de Montolieu was my friend from earliest boyhood. We were trained in the courtesies of chivalry under the same noble knight, and together received the golden spurs after our first battle. I say not Henri was faultless,--too much, I ween, of this world's soiling influence clung to his heart, and too often were his words and bearing marked by pride and passion. · But in all things that became a knight, de Montolieu was knightly. As to his birth, it was noble; and if many of his compeers possessed statelier chateaux and wider domains, not one enjoyed them with a blither heart. I admit, that at the tilt-yard and the revel, Henri was often outshone in the splendour of his armour, and the fashion of his plume, but I never heard that his lance struck below the breast, or that his deeds ever woke a blush on the cheek of his ladye love. Small encouragement, I trow, did she bestow on him; and if after lonely years of fruitless service he still loved her, I charge it wholly to the stubbornness of his nature. But why speak I thus
harshly of one, for whom even I myself would gladly peril life and limb ?”
Camille paused ; but the quick-witted Mathilde, who perceived the drift of the fablieau, made him a sign of encouragement to proceed.
“I will not describe the Lady Julienne,” resumed Camille; “she was the crown imperial among womensomewhat stately and reserved, turning away from the vulgar admiration of the curious, deemed therefore by the multitude proud and capricious, because they knew not the treasures enshrined within her bosom! Even Henri knew not their extent,--that, however, which he did know, awoke in him a passion, which from beardless youth to matured manhood, never passed away.” : “Never!” murmured the Countess, scarcely conscious that she spoke.
“No, never !” replied Camille, with deep emotion, “never for one moment. I have myself been with Henri wherever war or the festivals of peace have called our knighthood, during the last ten years :- I have rode with him in merry England, been his camp-fellow in sunny Spain; I have watched with him on the rampart, knelt with him on the eve of battle ; beheld him crowned in the tourney and stretched on the couch of sickness ;but wherever he was, the remembrance of Julienne was paramount to all other thoughts. The hope that she would one day requite his love, was to his existence what the rain is to the parched earth, no, Adele, he never changed.”