The Guardian Angel
A Chapter from "Zizine"
Paul de Kock
Edward never passed a day without going to Madame Dolbert's;
the good lady received him as a man to whom she hoped one day to
give the name of son, and Stephanie with that sweet smile which
betrayed to all eyes the inmost secret of her heart.
But it was not thus that the lover of Stephanie desired to be
loved. Conducting himself before the world with an extreme
reserve, it was only in private, and in low whispers, and when
removed from the vigilance of her grandmother, that Edward spoke
to the young girl of love; but then his words were burning, and
his eyes had an expression which compelled Stephanie to avert her
own; his caressing hands sought always to approach her -- to touch
the robe, the arm, or the knee of the young girl, who sometimes
found herself suddenly embraced, and pressed warmly to a heart
that was beating rapidly with the most ardent desires.
Stephanie responded with an undisguised affection to the
transports of the man who seemed so happy by her side. But when
Edward, profiting by an unobserved interview, pressed her tenderly
to his arms, she suffered an embarrassment, an agitation, which
resembled alarm; and she disengaged herself from the embrace which
would retain her, with the question -- "But since, my friend, you
love me so fondly, why don't you tell me so before my mother? When
we are in society, you hardly look at me; you seem to fear that
our love should be suspected. Why is this? There is no harm in
our loving -- you have yourself told me so;-- why then should it
be a secret?"
To these questions Edward replied --"I cannot yet avow my
love -- family reasons prevent me; but, my dear Stephanie, they
need not prevent us from indulging our love. The world is a wicked
world, and as it always puts a wrong construction on the conduct
of its members, we need not admit it to the confidence of our
secret sentiments. Believe me, mystery is one of the great charms
of love. Are we not an hundred times better pleased with a good
fortune of which others know nothing? My dear Stephanie, still let
me see you in secret,-- permit me still to have with you those
sweet interviews, in which we can at least exchange the tender
caresses which the world would blame, and which make me so happy."
Stephanie sighed, and whispered: "in secret -- how? I do not
understand." But whenever Delaberge undertook to explain, her
grandmother or Zizine appeared to interrupt the conversation.
A residence of many months with the ladies Dolbert had
already produced a great change in the manners and language of
Zizine. She had always been a delicate little girl, pale and
thoughtful; but she no longer appeared the daughter of a water-
carrier. Apt to learn whatever pleased her benefactors, Zizine had
soon lost all the outward signs of her humble origin; but her
heart still remained the same -- she never forgot Jerome, and when
a month intervened between his visits, the little girl became
uneasy, and would hide herself to weep.
Without understanding the cause, Zizine perceived very
plainly that Stephanie had ceased to be to her what she once was.
Her young protectress still caressed her, but she did not speak to
her so frequently. The little games -- the dolls were entirely
thrown aside. Stephanie was almost always absent and dreaming, and
sometimes did not hear the questions of her little companion, who
often asked her, "What, then, are you thinking about?"
At length, one day, when Stephanie was even more absent than
usual, the little girl burst into tears. This sight roused
Stephanie, who ran to her, caught her in her arms, and asked --
"Why do you weep Zizine? what have they been doing to you?
"They have been doing nothing to me; it is because you no longer
love me." "I don't love you, Zizine! And why do you think so?"
Because I see very well you never speak to me -- you never play
with me -- you are always sad. I see that I weary you -- and I
wish to return to my father, the water-carrier." "What, leave me,
Zizine! oh no, no, I cannot think of it; I love you still --
always love you. But you see that -- when one grows up, one has
many things to think of -- one has ideas which -- in short, I
cannot explain it all to you now, because you are too young -- but
that shall not prevent me from loving you. Pardon me if I am
sometimes sad -- but do not leave me. Oh! never desert me; for at