Madame de la Tour was not sorry to find an opportunity of separating Paul and Virginia for a short time, and provide by this means, for their mutual felicity at a future period. She took her daughter aside, and said to her,--"My dear child, our servants are now old. Paul is still very young, Margaret is advanced in years, and I am already infirm. If I should die what would become of you, without fortune, in the midst of these deserts? You would then be left alone, without any person who could afford you much assistance, and would be obliged to labour without ceasing, as a hired servant, in order to support your wretched existence. This idea overcomes me with sorrow." Virginia answered,--"God has appointed us to labour, and to bless him every day. Up to this time he has never forsaken us, and he never will forsake us in time to come. His providence watches most especially over the unfortunate. You have told me this very often, my dear mother! I cannot resolve to leave you." Madame de la Tour replied, with much emotion,--"I have no other aim than to render you happy, and to marry you one day to Paul, who is not really your brother. Remember then that his fortune depends upon you."
A young girl who is in love believes that every one else is ignorant of her passion; she throws over her eyes the veil with which she covers the feelings of her heart; but when it is once lifted by a friendly hand, the hidden sorrows of her attachment escape as through a newly-opened barrier, and the sweet outpourings of unrestrained confidence succeed to her former mystery and reserve. Virginia, deeply affected by this new proof of her mother's tenderness, related to her the cruel struggles she had undergone, of which heaven alone had been witness; she saw, she said, the hand of Providence in the assistance of an affectionate mother, who approved of her attachment; and would guide her by her counsels; and as she was now strengthened by such support, every consideration led her to remain with her mother, without anxiety for the present, and without apprehension for the future.
Madame de la Tour, perceiving that this confidential conversation had produced an effect altogether different from that which she expected, said,--"My dear child, I do not wish to constrain you; think over it at leisure, but conceal your affection from Paul. It is better not to let a man know that the heart of his mistress is gained."
Virginia and her mother were sitting together by themselves the same evening, when a tall man, dressed in a blue cassock, entered their cottage. He was a missionary priest and the confessor of Madame de la Tour and her daughter, who had now been sent to them by the governor. "My children," he exclaimed as he entered, "God be praised! you are now rich. You can now attend to the kind suggestions of your benevolent hearts, and do good to the poor. I know what Monsieur de la Bourdonnais has said to you, and what you have said in reply. Your health, dear madam, obliges you to remain here; but you, young lady, are without excuse. We must obey our aged relations, even when they are unjust. A sacrifice is required of you; but it is the will of God. Our Lord devoted himself for you; and you in imitation of his example, must give up something for the welfare of your family. Your voyage to France will end happily. You will surely consent to go, my dear young lady."
Virginia, with downcast eyes, answered, trembling, "If it is the command of God, I will not presume to oppose it. Let the will of God be done!" As she uttered these words, she wept.
The priest went away, in order to inform the governor of the success of his mission. In the meantime Madame de la Tour sent Domingo to request me to come to her, that she might consult me respecting Virginia's departure. I was not at all of opinion that she ought to go. I consider it as a fixed principle of happiness, that we ought to prefer the advantages of nature to those of fortune, and never go in search of that at a distance, which we may find at home,--in our own bosoms. But what could be expected from my advice, in opposition to the illusions of a splendid fortune?--or from my simple reasoning, when in competition with the prejudices of the world, and an authority held sacred by Madame de la Tour? This lady indeed only consulted me out of politeness; she had ceased to deliberate since she had heard the decision of her confessor. Margaret herself, who, notwithstanding the advantages she expected for her son from the possession of Virginia's fortune, had hitherto opposed her departure, made no further objections. As for Paul, in ignorance of what had been determined, but alarmed at the secret conversations which Virginia had been holding with her mother, he abandoned himself to melancholy. "They are plotting something against me," cried he, "for they conceal every thing from me."
A report having in the meantime been spread in the island that fortune had visited these rocks, merchants of every description were seen climbing their steep ascent. Now, for the first time, were seen displayed in these humble huts the richest stuffs of India; the fine dimity of Gondelore; the handkerchiefs of Pellicate and Masulipatan; the plain, striped, and embroidered muslins of Dacca, so beautifully transparent: the delicately white cottons of Surat, and linens of all colours. They also brought with them the gorgeous silks of China, satin damasks, some white, and others grass-green and bright red; pink taffetas, with the profusion of satins and gauze of Tonquin, both plain and decorated with flowers; soft pekins, downy as cloth; and white and yellow nankeens, and the calicoes of Madagascar.
Madame de la Tour wished her daughter to purchase whatever she liked; she only examined the goods, and inquired the price, to take care that the dealers did not cheat her. Virginia made choice of everything she thought would be useful or agreeable to her mother, or to Margaret and her son. "This," said she, "will be wanted for furnishing the cottage, and that will be very useful to Mary and Domingo." In short, the bag of piastres was almost emptied before she even began to consider her own wants; and she was obliged to receive back for her own use a share of the presents which she had distributed among the family circle.