Those who might be attracted by her personal charms hold themselves aloof on account of her intellectual capacities, as they would have to sit in silence before her."
"Are the young Genevans so ignorant, then?"
"As a rule they are. Some of them have received excellent educations, but in a general way they are full of prejudice. Nobody wishes to be considered a fool or a blockhead, but clever women are not appreciated; and if a girl is witty or well educated she endeavors to hide her lights, at least if she desires to be married."
"Ah! now I see why you did not open your lips during our discussion."
"No, I know I have nothing to hide. This was not the motive which made me keep silence, but the pleasure of listening. I admired my cousin, who was not afraid to display her learning on a subject which any other girl would have affected to know nothing about."
"Yes, affected, though she might very probably know as much as her grandmother."
"That's a matter of morals, or rather of prejudices."
"Your reasoning is admirable, and I am already longing for the party you so cleverly suggested:"
"You will have the pleasure of being with my cousin."
"I do her justice. Hedvig is certainly a very interesting and agreeable girl, but believe me it is your presence that will constitute my chief enjoyment."
"And how if I do not believe you?"
"You would wrong me and give me pain, for I love you dearly."
"In spite of that you have deceived me. I am sure that you have given marks of your affection to those three young ladies. For my part I pity them."
"Because neither of them can flatter herself that you love her, and her alone."
"And do you think that your delicacy of feeling makes you happier than they are?"
"Yes, I think so though of course, I have no experience in the matter. Tell me truly, do you think I am right?"
"Yes, I do."
"I am delighted to hear it; but you must confess that to associate me with them in your attentions would not be giving me the greatest possible proof of your love."
"Yes, I do confess it, and I beg your pardon. But tell me how I should set to work to ask the pastor to dinner."
"There will be no difficulty. Just call on him and ask him to come, and if you wish me to be of the party beg him to ask my mother and myself."
"Why your mother?"
"Because he has been in love with her these twenty years, and loves her still."
"And where shall I give this dinner?"
"Is not M. Tronchin your banker?"
"He has a nice pleasure house on the lake; ask him to lend it you for the day; he will be delighted to do so. But don't tell the syndic or his three friends anything about it; they can hear of it afterwards."
"But do you think your learned cousin will be glad to be in my company?"
"More than glad, you may be sure."
"Very good, everything will be arranged by tomorrow. The day after, you will be returning to Geneva, and the party will take place two or three days later."
The syndic came back in due course, and we had a very pleasant evening. After supper the ladies went to bed as before, and I went with the eldest girl while the syndic visited the two younger ones. I knew that it would be of no use to try to do anything with Helen, so I contented myself with a few kisses, after which I wished them good night and passed on to the next room. I found them in a deep sleep, and the syndic seemed visibly bored. He did not look more cheerful when I told him that I had had no success with Helen.
"I see," said he, "that I shall waste my time with the little fool. I think I shall give her up."
"I think that's the best thing you could do," I replied, "for a man who languishes after a woman who is either devoid of feeling or full of caprice, makes himself her dupe. Bliss should be neither too easy nor too hard to be won."
The next day we returned to Geneva, and M. Tronchin seemed delighted to oblige me. The pastor accepted my invitation, and said I was sure to be charmed with Helen's mother.