considers mere vulgar folly. Didn’t I tell you he was，
Meanwhile all were paying court to her and none were accepted. It had, indeed, been given out that she was engaged to M. de la Marche, but no one understood any better than myself the indefinite postponement of the marriage. People came to the conclusion that she was seeking a pretext to get rid of him, and they could find no ground for her repugnance except by supposing that she had conceived a great passion for myself. My strange history had caused some stir; the women examined me with curiosity; the men seemed interested in me and showed me a sort of respect which I affected to despise, but to which, however, I was far from insensible. And, since nothing finds credence in the world until it is embellished with some fiction, people strangely exaggerated my wit, my capabilities and my learning; but, as soon as they had seen M. de la Marche and myself in Edmee's company, all their inferences were annihilated by the composure and ease of our manners. To both of us Edmee was the same in public as in private; M. de la Marche, a soulless puppet, was perfectly drilled in conventional manners; and myself, a prey to divers passions, but inscrutable by reason of my pride and also, I must confess, of my pretensions to the sublimity of the /American manner/. I should tell you that I had been fortunate enough to be introduced to Franklin as a sincere devotee of liberty. Sir Arthur Lee had honoured me with a certain kindness and some excellent advice; consequently my head was somewhat turned, even as the heads of those whom I railed at so bitterly were turned, and to such an extent that this little vainglory brought sorely needed relief to my agonies of mind. Perhaps you will shrug your shoulders when I own that I took the greatest pleasure in the world in leaving my hair unpowdered, in wearing big shoes, and appearing everywhere in a dark- coloured coat, of aggressively simple cut and stiffly neat--in a word, in aping, as far as was then permissible without being mistaken for a regular plebeian, the dress and ways of the Bonhomme Richard! I was nineteen, and I was living in an age when every one affected a part-- that is my only excuse.
I might plead also that my too indulgent and too simple tutor openly approved of my conduct; that my Uncle Hubert, though he occasionally laughed at me, let me do as I wished, and that Edmee said absolutely nothing about this ridiculous affectation, and appeared never to notice it.
Meanwhile spring had returned; we were going back to the country; the salons were being gradually deserted. For myself, I was still in the same state of uncertainty. I noticed one day that M. de la Marche seemed anxious to find an opportunity of speaking to Edmee in private. At first I found pleasure in making him suffer, and did not stir from my chair. However, I thought I detected on Edmee's brow that slight frown which I knew so well, and after a silent dialogue with myself I went out of the room, resolving to observe the results of this /tete- a-tete/, and to learn my fate, whatever it might be.
At the end of an hour I returned to the drawing-room. My uncle was there; M. de la Marche was staying to dinner; Edmee seemed meditative but not melancholy; the abbe's eyes were putting questions to her which she did not understand, or did not wish to understand.
M. de la Marche accompanied my uncle to the Comedie Francaise. Edmee said that she had some letters to write and requested permission to remain at home. I followed the count and the chevalier, but after the first act I made my escape and returned to the house. Edmee had given orders that she was not to be disturbed; but I did not consider that this applied to myself; the servants thought it quite natural that I should behave as the son of the house. I entered the drawing-room, fearful lest Edmee should have retired to her bed-room; for there I could not have followed her. She was sitting near the fire and amusing herself by pulling out the petals of the blue and white asters which I had gathered during a walk to the tomb of Jean Jacques Rousseau. These flowers brought back to me a night of ecstasy, under the clear moonlight, the only hours of happiness, perhaps, that I could mention in all my life.
"Back already?" she said, without any change of attitude.
"Already is an unkind word," I replied. "Would you like me to retire to my room, Edmee?"
"By no means; you are not disturbing me at all; but you would have derived more profit from seeing /Merope/ than from listening to my conversation this evening; for I warn you that I feel a complete idiot."
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