The Baroness felt bitter in her heart at the sight of it. Even whilst she was able to disapprove of what was really objectionable in this affection, she could not bear to see what was sweet and beautiful in it thrown away on such a poor paltry girl.
When they had collected again at the supper-table, an entirely different temper was spread over the party. The Count, who had in the meantime written his letter and dispatched a messenger with it, occupied himself with the Captain, whom he had been drawing out more and more—spending the whole evening at his side, talking of serious matters. The Baroness, who sat on the Count’s right, found but small amusement in this; nor did Edward find any more. The latter, first because he was thirsty, and then because he was excited, did not spare the wine, and attached himself entirely to Ottilie, whom he had made sit by him. On the other side, next to the Captain, sat Charlotte; for her it was hard, it was almost impossible, to conceal the emotion under which she was suffering.
The Baroness had sufficient time to make her observations at leisure. She perceived Charlotte’s uneasiness, and occupied as she was with Edward’s passion for Ottilie, she easily satisfied herself that her abstraction and distress were owing to her husband’s behavior; and she set herself to consider in what way she could best compass her ends.
Supper was over, and the party remained divided. The Count, whose object was to probe the Captain to the bottom, had to try many turns before he could arrive at what he wished with so quiet, so little vain, but so exceedingly laconic a person. They walked up and down together on one side of the saloon, while Edward, excited with wine and hope, was laughing with Ottilie at a window, and Charlotte and the Baroness were walking backward and forward, without speaking, on the other side. Their being so silent, and their standing about in this uneasy, listless way, had its effect at last in breaking up the rest of the party. The ladies withdrew to their rooms, the gentlemen to the other wing of the castle; and so this day appeared to be concluded.
Edward went with the Count to his room. They continued talking, and he was easily prevailed upon to stay a little time longer there. The Count lost himself in old times, spoke eagerly of Charlotte’s beauty, which, as a critic, he dwelt upon with much warmth.
“A pretty foot is a great gift of nature,” he said. “It is a grace which never perishes. I observed it today, as she was walking. I should almost have liked even to kiss her shoe, and repeat that somewhat barbarous but significant practice of the Sarmatians, who know no better way of showing reverence for any one they love or respect, than by using his shoe to drink his health out of.”
The point of the foot did not remain the only subject of praise between two old acquaintances; they went from the person back upon old stories and adventures, and came on the hindrances which at that time people had thrown in the way of the lovers’ meetings—what trouble they had taken, what arts they had been obliged to devise, only to be able to tell each other that they loved.