"I thank you," she said, gayly, "that you have freed me from a lover whom, as the wife of Major du Trouffle, I should have been compelled to banish from my house. Now I dare give a pleasant, kindly welcome, to Count Ranuzi, and be ready at all times to serve him gladly."
Ranuzi looked steadily at her. "Will you truly do this?" said he, sighing--"will you interest yourself for a poor prisoner, who has no one to hear and sympathize in his sorrows?"
Louise gave him her hand. "Confide in me, sir count," said she, with an impulse of her better nature; "make known your sorrows, and be assured that I will take an interest in them. You are so prudent and reasonable as not to be my lover, and I will be your friend. Here is my hand--I offer you my friendship; will you accept, it?"
"Will I accept it?" said he, rapturously; "you offer me life, and ask if I will accept it!"
Louise smiled softly. She found that Ranuzi declared his friendship in almost as glowing terms as he had confessed his love. "So then," said she, "you have sorrows that you dare not name?"
"Yes, but they are not my own individual griefs I suffer, but it is for another."
"That sounds mysterious. For whom do you suffer?"
"For a poor prisoner, who, far from the world, far from the haunts of men, languishes in wretchedness and chains--whom not only men but God has forgotten, for He will not even send His minister Death to release him. I cannot, I dare not say more--it is not my secret, and I have sworn to disclose it to but one person."