My governess gave me no answer, and on my pressing her to give me her opinion, she replied that she thought her best course would be to keep silence on such a delicate question. This was as much as to tell me that she thought I was right; at least I persuaded myself that it was so.
"The next day I went to the convent, and told the story to my aunt, the abbess, who listened to me kindly and said it was to be hoped that I should fall in love with him and he with me, but that even if it were otherwise she was of opinion that the marriage would take place, as she had reasons for believing that the scheme came from the Princess of Brazil, who favoured Count Fl----.
"Though this information grieved me, I was still glad to hear it, and my resolution never to marry save for love was all the more strongly confirmed.
"In the course of a fortnight the count arrived, and my grandfather presented him to me, several ladies being in the company. Nothing was said about marrying, but there was a deal of talk about the strange lands and peoples the new arrival had seen. I listened with the greatest attention, not opening my mouth the whole time. I had very little knowledge of the world, so I could not make any comparisons between my suitor and other men, but my conclusion was that he could never hope to please any woman, and that he would certainly never be mine. He had an unpleasant sneering manner, joked in bad taste, was stupid, and a devotee, or rather a fanatic. Furthermore he was ugly and ill-shapen, and so great a fop that he was not ashamed to relate the story of his conquests in France and Italy.
"I went home hoping with all my heart that he had taken a dislike to me, and a week which passed away without my hearing anything on the subject confirmed me in this belief, but I was doomed to be disappointed. My great-aunt asked me to dinner, and when I went I found the foolish young man and his father present, together with my grandfather, who formally introduced him to me as my future husband, and begged me to fix the wedding day. I made up my mind that I would rather die than marry him, and answered politely but coldly that I would name the day when I had decided on marrying, but I should require time to think it over. The dinner went off silently, and I only opened my mouth to utter monosyllables in reply to questions which I could not avoid. After the coffee had been served I left the house, taking no notice of anyone besides my aunt and my grandfather.
"Some time elapsed; and I again began to hope that I had effectually disgusted my suitor, but one morning my governess told me that Father Freire was waiting to speak to me in the ante-chamber. I ordered him to be sent in. He was the confessor of the Princess of Brazil, and after some desultory conversation he said the princess had sent him to congratulate me on my approaching marriage with Count Fl----.
"I did not evince any surprise, merely replying that I was sensible of her highness's kindness, but that nothing had been decided so far, as I was not thinking of getting married.
"The priest, who was a perfect courtier, smiled in a manner, half kindly, half sardonic, and said that I was at that happy age when I had no need to think of anything, as my kind friends and relations did all my thinking for me.
"I only answered by an incredulous smile, which, for all his monastic subtlety, struck him as the expression of a young girl's coyness.
"Foreseeing the persecution to which I should be subjected, I went the next day to my aunt the abbess, who could not refuse me her advice. I began by stating my firm resolve to die rather than wed a being I detested.
"The worthy nun replied that the count had been introduced to her, and that to tell the truth she thought him insufferable; all the same, she said she was afraid I should be made to marry him.
"These words were such a shock to me that I turned the conversation, and spoke of other subjects for the remainder of my visit. But when I got back to my house I pursued an extraordinary course.