Countess Themire deliberated a few moments; then she asked:
“May I not kiss my daughter farewell?”
“Leave your kiss with me, and I will deliver it faithfully!” smilingly responded the marquis.
“How can you jest at such a moment? Suppose my absence lasts a long time?”
“That is very probable.”
“Am I not even to hear from my child—not even to let her know that I am living?”
“Certainly, countess; you may communicate with her through me. Moreover, it rests with yourself how soon you will return. Until that time it shall be my pleasure to take care of Amelie; you may rest in peace as to that!”
“Yes; she could not be in worse hands than in those of her mother!” bitterly rejoined the countess. “The first letter, then, must be one of farewell.”
She rose, went into her boudoir, and wrote on a sheet of paper:
“MY DEAR CHILD: I am compelled to take a journey. I shall write to you when I am ready to return. Until then, I leave you to perform the duties of hostess, and intrust my money-chest to your care. I embrace you a thousand times.
“Your old friend and little mama,
She folded and sealed the letter, and handed it to De Fervlans.
“I shall be sure to deliver it,” he said. “And now, send Jocrisse for a fiacre; you must not use your own carriage for this. You can leave the palace unperceived by the garden gate. Speak German wherever you go, and remember that you do not understand a word of French. I think you would better begin your search in Switzerland. And now, adieu, madame, until we meet again—”
“If only I might take one last look at my little daughter!” pleadingly interrupted the countess.
“Themire! You are actually beginning to grow sentimental. That does not become a soldier!”
“Had I suspected this,” returned Themire, “I would not have given Amelie’s portrait to M. Cambray in that ridiculous farce. I wonder if I might not get it from him?”
“No; he will not part with it; he says he is going to keep it as a talisman. Only M. Sanson has the privilege of relieving prisoners of their trinkets, and Cambray is still far enough from Sanson’s reach! I shall have another portrait painted of Amelie, and send it to you.”
“But this picture was painted while yet she was an innocent child.”
“Upon my word, madame, you are as sentimental as a professor’s daughter! I begin to fear you will not accomplish your mission—that you will end by falling in love with the man you are to capture for us, and betray us to him.”
Themire did not say another word, but hurried into her dressing-room.
De Fervlans wrote an order for one hundred and fifty thousand francs for the Countess Themire Dealba for the first six months, added his wishes for a pleasant and successful journey, then returned to the salon, where he gave the missive which had been intrusted to his care to Jocrisse.