“I think so.”
“In all cases wait—attendez—surtout—point trop de hate!”
Versailles for me is always full of charms. There is a dignity about it which reminds me of grandmamma. I love to walk in the galleries and look at the portraits of the great ladies of the past. The gay insouciance of their expressions, the daintiness of their poses, the beautiful and suitable color of everything give me a sense of satisfaction and repose.
I had been there for some little while, spending days of peace and reflection, when, nearly eight months after the death of Augustus, I received two letters.
It was a most curious coincidence that neither of my correspondents had written to me before, even letters of condolence, and that they should select the same date now.
The letters were from Antony and the Duke. They were both characteristic.
“Comtesse,” Antony wrote, “you know I am thinking of you always. When may I come and see you, and where?”
The Duke’s was longer. It began conventionally, and went on in delicate language to tell me that time was passing, and surely soon I must be thinking of seeing my friends again, and he was entirely at my disposition when I should return to England.
This amused me. Antony’s caused me a wave of joy. Oh! should I be able to take the Marquis’s advice and wait for several years? I feared not.
Of course, I should not think of marrying Antony yet. It would be absolutely indecent haste. Certainly not for eighteen months or two years, anyway. But there could be no harm in my seeing him soon.
Excitement tingled to my very finger-tips at the thought. I did not answer either letter for nearly a week. I walked about the gardens at Versailles and luxuriously enjoyed my musings.
I was, as it were, a cat playing with a mouse, only I was both cat and mouse.
One day I would picture our meeting—Antony’s and mine. The next I would push him away from my thoughts, and decide that I would not even let him come to me until the year was up. Then, again, when it grew evening, and the darkness gradually crept up, there came a scent in the air which affected me so that I longed to see him at once—to see him—to let him kiss me. Oh, to myself I hardly dared to think of this!
The kisses of Augustus were, as yet, the only ones I knew.
At last I wrote my answers.
To the Duke I said my plans were uncertain. I did not know when I should return to England; probably not at all until next year, as I thought of going to Egypt for the winter. I finished with some pleasant platitudes.
Antony’s answer took longer to write, and was only a few words when finished.
“I am staying at Versailles,” I wrote. “If you like to come and see me casually—to talk about the ancestors—you may; but not for a week.”