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PREPARATIONS were made for a few day's absence from the city, and the same day the whole family went into the country. There they were entirely alone. Henri did not once visit Paris, and an indifferent person who had seen him, would at once have believed, that his whole heart was devoted to the gentle girl who now seemed only to live in him. His attentions to her were of the tenderest character, and he appeared occupied only with the thoughts of that future which they were both hand-in-hand approaching. But alas, in all this appearance of devotion, there was only a fixed and determined will to fulfil a holy duty.
The ten days glided rapidly away, and the 25th of November at last appeared bright and beautiful as a spring-day. The Chevalier Joyfully welcomed it as the final-point of all his anxieties, and the commencement of a happiness which an insane passion could no longer destroy. Every thing which he had so much feared seemed now nearly vanished. With a happy heart he embraced Gabrielle, when she came on the morning of the eventful day and knelt by his bed-side to receive his blessing.
The breakfast-hour brought all into the dressing-room of the Marchioness, save Henri, who, from respect to that agitation and embarrassment which a bride always manifests, éven to the last moment, in the presence of her betrothed, remained in his own room. The Marchioness was cheerful and affectionate, occupying herself the whole morning with Gabrielle's toilet, walking up and down the room, smiling at the Chevalier, and seeming as if living over her youthful days again.
The marriage ceremony was to be performed at the mayoralty at six o'clock in the evening, the nuptial benediction to be afterwards pronounced in the church at Meudon." It was understood that none but the family were to be present, it being the wish of Gabrielle to avoid all unnecessary display. The Chevalier sought Henri in his own room; he arose to meet him, and the struggle which was waging in his bosom, as he endeavored to nerve himself for his great sacrifice, was clearly visible. The Chevalier felt well that some burden weighed upon his heart which even to him, his best friend, his second father, he was unwilling to reveal.-What step should he take? In two hours he would be united with Gabrielle, and it was therefore better that the name so dangerous to his peace should not be spoken, and that this pain should find no echo.
Henri arranged his toilet, and soon followed the Chevalier to the library. Never had the young man looked so beautiful. His black garments, his pale and spiritual countenance, touched with a pensive sadness, might well have created a doubt whether he were prepared for a bridal or a burial. He approached a book case and took out a book, but immediately throwing it from him, turned to the hearth and sat down. He endeavored to smile cheerfully, but his hands trembled, and his mind was completely distraire. The Chevalier looked at the book; it was a "Journey to Spain," which had been presented to the Marchioness by Madame de las Vermejas.
Towards six o'clock, when both entered the hall, Henri appeared cold and collected: he approached Gabrielle, who had given her arm to her aunt, and kissed her hand. Gabrielle was dressed in white satin, and wore a wreath of orange-flowers and a bridal veil. Modest and graceful, she stood like a good angel, at whose sight every sinful thought, every foolish passion was silenced. Henri felt this influence, his brow grew serene, and at that moment he perhaps forgot the Spaniard.
The hall was brilliantly illuminated—the numerous lights seemingly a hundred times reflected by the high and splendid mirrors, and the walls were festooned by garlands of natural flowers. The little party seemed lost in the glittering and spacious drawing-room, and the Chevalier proposed that they should go into the smaller saloon.
“No, no!" answered the Marchioness with a triumphant glance, " for we shall have visitors. Did you think I would marry my niece in a sitting room?"
Scarcely had she spoken these words when the folding doors flew open, a circle of relatives and acquaintances entered, and, among them, Madame de las Vermejas.
“This is a surprise which I have prepared for you!" said the Marchioness, turning to Gabrielle, while the latter, blushing and smiling, stood receiving the good-wishes of the new comers.
Madame de las Vermejas quietly took her place by the side of the bride. She was dressed entirely in white, wore a wreath of white flowers twined in her raven hair, and a stranger would have found it difficult to decide whether she or Gabrielle were the bride. Henri had covered his face with his pocket-handkerchief, leaving no part of it exposed save the pale brow, whose whiteness rivalled that of the snowy cambric.
A quarter of an hour was occupied by the company in the expression of their good wishes, when it was announced that the carriages were at the door. All immediately arose, and at this moment Madame de las Vermejas approached Henri. He appeared as if striving for the mastery over the deep and painful agitation which shook his breast. His eyes were fixed, his knees trembled, and he was obliged to support himself against the door. The Chevalier was just offering him his assistance when Madame de las Vermejas laid her hand on the arm of the unhappy youth, and whispering in his ear, “Courage!” said she, with a compassionate smile, “Courage, courage, Henri!”
"Ah, wretched madman that I am!” he answered, in a suppressed voice, “ I love thee, heavenly woman, thee!"
At this moment was the coquetry of this woman satisfied, the triumph of her vanity complete. A haughty smile curled her beautiful lips, and she drew back from Henri with an expression of surprise and pity which would have done honor to the greatest actress.
Gabrielle at this instant stepped from the chamber of her great-aunt, she had been to receive her blessing. The Chevalier led Henri to the Marchioness, to whom he gave his arm, and followed like a machine. The Chevalier took the hand of Gabrielle, and started to see that she was pale and motionless, as if near fainting. All left the house and ascended the carriages. Gabrielle shrunk silently back into the farthest corner of the carriage, and those who were with her respected her silence too much to intrude upon it at such a moment. They alighted at the mayoralty and the poor girl trembled visibly, and staggered as she ascended the steps. They entered the saloon and she suffered herself to be passively led to the side of Henri, and stood with him motionless before the mayor, who immediately commenced the ceremony in the legal form—"You present yourselves to be united in the name of the laws?”
The glittering circle of friends surrounded the youthful pair, and a perfect stillness prevailed. The Marchioness wept and pressed the hand of the Chevalier, while the Spanish lady fixed her eyes intently on Henri.
The mayor went on: “ Henri de Montmaur," said he, “is it your will to take Mademouselle Gabrielle de Pous to wife?"
“ Yes!" answered Henri, with a firm voice. “And you, Mademouaelle Gabrielle de Pous, do you receive Monsieur Henri de Montmaur as
"No!" answered she, with a smothered voice, and sunk fainting to the floor.
A general shriek of terror arose. The Marchioness threw herself upon Gabrielle, "She is insane!" she cried, wringing her hands in dismay.-"Oh God, have pity on her!”
Henri looked fixedly before him and his features became distorted.Grasping the hand of his bride and pressing it in his own, “ Calm yoursell," said he to the agitated Marchioness, “it is but a consequence of too violent emotion, and will, I trust in God, soon pass away.”
They held hartshorn to the nostrils of Gabrielle; they sprinkled cold water in her face, and at length she opened her eyes. Her eyes involuntarily sought the face of Henri, who bowing his head pressed a kiss upon her hand. She strove to speak but voice was denied her, and she fell back again, seized with the most frightful convulsions.
All the witnesses of this unexpected scene, were struck with the greatest consternation. Madame de las Vermejas kept herself in the distance.
They placed Gabrielle in the carriage, the Marchioness seated herself by her side, while the Chevalier led away Henri, whose spirit seemed completely broken.
Henri,” said he, tears which he could not repress gushing from his eyes, “Henri, I beseech you, by all that is holy, tell me what you have said to that poor child?”
"Nothing!" answered he, weeping, "I swear it to you upon my honor!"
“Then,” cried the Chevalier, “it was the Spaniard."
“No," answered Henri, “any other than myself might look upon what has happened as an insult, but I regard it as a misfortune, and feel myself as much bound as ever.”
When they reached home they found Gabrielle in bed. Some friends yet sat in the saloon, anxiously waiting for some favorable word from the invalid. Madame de las Vermejas had returned to Paris with the promise of immediately sending a physician.
The convulsions were indeed vanished, but the poor girl lay perfectly silent, weak and almost motionless. The Marchioness caused her own bed to be brought and placed by the side of Gabrielle's, and with the Chevalier watched the whole night. Henri came from hour to hour to inquire whether there were no change.
The next morning all were somewhat calmer. Gabrielle still slept: her face was deadly pale, but she was without any
visible signs of pain,
and they watched for her waking with the deepest anxiety.
Henri was obliged by some urgent businoss connected with his inheritance, to return to Paris. He went very unwillingly, but the Chevalier promised to write him twice every day.
Towards mid-day the physician of the Marchioness arrived from Paris. He examined the patient attentively, and for nearly two hours remained by the bedside watching her death-like sleep, but it still continued unbroken. The physician looked grave, and leading the Chevalier into another chamber, "You must convey the Marchioness," said he, as soon as possible to Paris. She must not remain here any longer.”
“How?" exclaimed the Chevalier, bursting into tears, "our poor Ga- . brielle"
“Is very ill. I think it an inflammation of the brain. I shall do every thing that is possible to save her, but, I confess to you, I have little hope, I will remain here, but the Marchioness must go; she would not survive this blow.”
The physician returned to Gabrielle; the Marshioness herself had just fallen into a fainting fit, and was obliged to be carried to her couch. The Chevalier's man now announced that a servant of Madame de las Verinejas was come to inquire after the health of Gabrielle.
Four anxious days went by. Gabrielle returned not to her senses, nor awoke from that fearful slumber which already more resembled death than sleep. Her fast shut eyes had no tears, and her body was motionless and insensible. The Chevalier, absenting himself from her couch scarcely for a single moment, watched with unabated solicitude for some word or motion. Many times it seemed to him as if her lips moved, and as if she
sought to stammer forth some word, when he would bend over, call her by her name, but receive no answer.
On the fifth night, "Doctor," said the Chevalier to the physician,"can you not, then, save this beloved young life?”
“No," answered the physician, “it is, alas, already departing!"
“I know she does not answer us,” added the Chevalier, “but perhaps she hears us.”
“Possibly!" whispered the physician. The Chevalier took a light and approached the bed of the invalid. She lay there perfectly immoveable, her white hands crossed upon her breast, her head pressed into the pillow on which her long fair tresses lay carelessly clustered, her eyes
half open, and her cheeks and lips of an ashy paleness. “Gabrielle !” cried the Chevalier, “Henri is here, and wishes to see you!"
At this name she did not indeed open her eyes, and it could not be said that she moved, but a faint blush overspread her cheeks.
“Gabrielle, my dear child!" cried the Chevalier, “ do you hear me?"
Gabrielle suddenly arose from her pillow, laid both hands upon her brow, and with a heart-rending cry, she stammered out the words: "I am a madman! I love thee, heavenly woman! thee!"
Then for the first time the Chevalier remembered that the unfortunate girl had stood in the door of the room when Henri had uttered these words to the Spanish lady. He began to tremble. With a fainter, weaker cry Gabrielle again repeated the words, while her hands unconsciously worked amid her hair, then sinking back, her eyes closed, and she was no more.
The Marchioness survived her beloved niece only ten days, when she also departed, and the aged Chevalier remained alone behind. He locked the last words of Gabrielle fast in his own breast, and never by the least hint imparted them to Henri, for he felt for him all a father's tenderness, and wished to spare him the stings of conscience as far as lay in his power.
He soon left the place where he was tortured with so many painful recollections, and went to Italy. Henri often wrote him, and in almost every letter he spoke of a journey he was intending to take.
When the Chevalier returned again to Paris, he for the first time heard the name of Madame de las Vermejas again, and was told that she had married the Count Anatole de St. Servier. The next morning he visited Henri, and scarcely recognized him so much was he altered. Each spoke openly to the other of the past as well as the present.
“I am a weak and miserable being," said Henri, "for I love this woman still!"
“Is it possible!” exclaimed the Chevalier, "after all the misery she has occasioned us?"
Tears came into Henri's eyes. “She has a heart of ice !" said he.“Oh, if you knew all, my more than father! She gave me reason to hope every thing; I worshipped her, I was her slave, when one day she coldly announced to me her engagement with Anatole. Then it was that my conduct was the most unworthy. I wept at her feet, I implored her for her love, which was my life, my all, and for her hand which should be given only with her love. I reminded her of an observation I once heard from her lips, that a marriage of reason was a hateful folly, and that one