The Marquise d'Aiglemont, for instance, had grown rather deaf, but she could never induce Moina to raise her voice for her. Once, with the naivete of suffering, she had begged Moina to repeat some remark which she had failed to catch, and Moina obeyed, but with so bad a grace, the Mme. d'Aiglemont had never permitted herself to make her modest request again. Ever since that day when Moina was talking or retailing a piece of news, her mother was careful to come near to listen; but this infirmity of deafness appeared to put the Countess out of patience, and she would grumble thoughtlessly about it. This instance is one from among very many that must have gone to the mother's heart; and yet nearly all of them might have escaped a close observer, they consisted in faint shades of manner invisible to any but a woman's eyes. Take another example. Mme. d'Aiglemont happened to say one day that the Princesse de Cadignan had called upon her. "Did she come to see /you/!" Moina exclaimed. That was all, but the Countess' voice and manner expressed surprise and well-bred contempt in semitones. Any heart, still young and sensitive, might well have applauded the philanthropy of savage tribes who kill off their old people when they grow too feeble to cling to a strongly shaken bough. Mme. d'Aiglemont rose smiling, and went away to weep alone.
Well-bred people, and women especially, only betray their feelings by imperceptible touches; but those who can look back over their own experience on such bruises as this mother's heart received, know also how the heart-strings vibrate to these light touches. Overcome by her memories, Mme. d'Aiglemont recollected one of those microscopically small things, so stinging and so painful was it that never till this moment had she felt all the heartless contempt that lurked beneath smiles.
At the sound of shutters thrown back at her daughter's windows, she dried her tears, and hastened up the pathway by the railings. As she went, it struck her that the gardener had been unusually careful to rake the sand along the walk which had been neglected for some little time. As she stood under her daughter's windows, the shutters were hastily closed.
The Marquise went on into the house.
"Mme. la Comtesse is in the little drawing-room," said the maid, when the Marquise asked whether Mme. de Saint-Hereen had finished dressing.
Mme. d'Aiglemont hurried to the little drawing-room; her heart was too full, her brain too busy to notice matters so slight; but there on the sofa sat the Countess in her loose morning-gown, her hair in disorder under the cap tossed carelessly on he head, her feet thrust into slippers. The key of her bedroom hung at her girdle. Her face, aglow with color, bore traces of almost stormy thought.
"What makes people come in!" she cried, crossly. "Oh! it is you, mother," she interrupted herself, with a preoccupied look.
"Yes, child; it is your mother----"
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