"And why will you say that, Camilla?"
Camilla looked up with a cunning smile.
"Why?" she repeated, "ah! you think I do not know why I must always remain a child? It is because you wish to remain a young woman-- therefore you declare to all the world that I am but twelve years old! But no one believes you, mamma, not one believes you. The world laughs at you, but you do not see it--you think you are younger when you call me a child. I say to you I will not endure it! I will be a lady--I will adorn myself and go into society. I will not remain in the school-room with a governess while you are sparkling in the saloon and enchanting your followers by your beauty. I will also have my worshippers, who pay court to me; I will write and receive love-letters as other maidens do; I will carry on my own little love-affairs as all other girls do; as you did, from the time you were twelve years old, and still do!"
"Silence, Camilla! or I will make you feel that you are still a child!" cried Louise, raising her arm threateningly and approaching the divan.
"Would you strike me, mother?" said she, with trembling lips. "I counsel you not to do it. Raise your hand once more against me, but think of the consequences. I will run away! I will fly to my poor, dear father, whom you, unhappy one, have made a drunkard! I will remain with him--he loves me tenderly. If I were with him, he would no longer drink."
"Oh, my God, my God!" cried Louise, with tears gushing from her eyes; "it is he who has planted this hate in her heart--he has been the cause of all my wretchedness! She loves her father who has done nothing for her, and she hates her mother who has shown her nothing but love." With a loud cry of agony, she clasped her hands over her face and wept bitterly.
Camilla drew close to her, grasped her hands and pulled them forcibly from her face, then looked in her eyes passionately and scornfully. Camilla was indeed no longer a child. She stood erect, pale, and fiercely excited, opposite to her mother. Understanding and intellect flashed from her dark eyes. There were lines around her mouth which betrayed a passion and a power with which childhood has nothing to do.
"You say you have shown me nothing but love," said Camilla, in a cold and cutting tone. "Mother, what love have you shown me? You made my father wretched, and my childish years were spent under the curse of a most unhappy marriage. I have seen my father weep while you were laughing merrily--I have seen him drunk and lying like a beast at my feet, while you were in our gay saloon receiving and entertaining guests with cool unconcern. You say you have shown me nothing but love. You never loved me, mother, never! Had you loved me, you would have taken pity with my future--you would not have given me a step-father while I had a poor, dear father, who had nothing in the wide world but me, me alone! You think perhaps, mother, that I am not unhappy; while I am giddy and play foolish pranks, you believe me to be happy and contented. Ah, mother, I have an inward horror and prophetic fear of the future which never leaves me; it seems to me that evil spirits surround me--as if they enchanted me with strange, alluring songs. I know they will work my destruction, but I cannot withstand them--I must listen, I must succumb to them. I would gladly be different--be better. I desire to be a virtuous and modest girl, but alas, alas, I cannot escape from this magic circle to which my mother has condemned me! I have lived too fast, experienced too much--I am no longer a child--I am an experienced woman. The world and the things of the world call me with a thousand alluring voices, and I shall be lost as my mother was lost! I am her most unhappy daughter, and her blood is in my heart!" Almost insensible, crushed by excitement and passion, Camilla sank to the earth.