‘It is from my father,’ said she.
‘But why should he harm me?’
‘That is for your sagacity to discover.’
‘But I assure you, mademoiselle, that in this matter you misjudge him,’ said I. ‘As it happens, he interfered to save my life last night.’
‘To save your life! From whom?’
‘From two conspirators whose plans I had chanced to discover.’
‘Conspirators!’ She looked at me in surprise.
‘They would have killed me if he had not intervened.’
’It is not his interest that you should be harmed yet awhile. He had reasons for wishing you to come to Castle Grosbois. But I have been very frank with you, and I wish you to be equally so with me. Does it happen—does it happen that during your youth in England you have ever—you have ever had an affair of the heart?’
Everything which this cousin of mine said appeared to me to be stranger than the last, and this question, coming at the end of so serious a conversation, was the strangest of all. But frankness begets frankness, and I did not hesitate.
’I have left the very best and truest girl in the world behind me in England,’ said I. ’Eugenie is her name, Eugenie de Choiseul, the niece of the old Duke.’
My reply seemed to give my cousin great satisfaction. Her large dark eyes shone with pleasure.
‘You are very attached?’ she asked.
‘I shall never be happy until I see her.’
‘And you would not give her up?’
‘Not for the Castle of Grosbois?’
‘Not even for that.’
My cousin held out her hand to me with a charmingly frank impulsiveness.
‘You will forgive me for my rudeness,’ said she. ’I see that we are to be allies and not enemies.’
And our hands were still clasped when her father re-entered the room.
I could see in my uncle’s grim face as he looked at us the keenest satisfaction contending with surprise at this sign of our sudden reconciliation. All trace of his recent anger seemed to have left him as he addressed his daughter, but in spite of his altered tone I noticed that her eyes looked defiance and distrust.
‘I have some papers of importance to look over,’ said he. ’For an hour or so I shall be engaged. I can guess that Louis would like to see the old place once again, and I am sure that he could not have a better guide than you, Sibylle, if you will take him over it.’