“Can you swear to me,” said Marie, “that you belong and will never belong to any other woman?”
“There is neither time in my life nor place in my heart for any other woman,” replied Raoul, not thinking that he told a lie, so little did he value Florine.
“I believe you,” she said.
When they reached the alley where their carriages were waiting, Marie dropped Raoul’s arm, and the young man assumed a respectful and distant attitude as if he had just met her; he accompanied her, with his hat off, to her carriage, then he followed her by the Avenue Charles X., breathing in, with satisfaction, the very dust her caleche raised.
In spite of Marie’s high renunciations, Raoul continued to follow her everywhere; he adored the air of mingled pleasure and displeasure with which she scolded him for wasting his precious time. She took direction of his labors, she gave him formal orders on the employment of his time; she stayed at home to deprive him of every pretext for dissipation. Every morning she read his paper, and became the herald of his staff of editors, of Etienne Lousteau the feuilletonist, whom she thought delightful, of Felicien Vernou, of Claude Vignon,—in short, of the whole staff. She advised Raoul to do justice to de Marsay when he died, and she read with deep emotion the noble eulogy which Raoul published upon the dead minister while blaming his Machiavelianism and his hatred for the masses. She was present, of course, at the Gymnase on the occasion of the first representation of the play upon the proceeds of which Nathan relied to support his enterprise, and was completely duped by the purchased applause.
“You did not bid farewell to the Italian opera,” said Lady Dudley, to whose house she went after the performance.
“No, I went to the Gymnase. They gave a first representation.”
“I can’t endure vaudevilles. I am like Louis XIV. about Teniers,” said Lady Dudley.
“For my part,” said Madame d’Espard, “I think actors have greatly improved. Vaudevilles in the present day are really charming comedies, full of wit, requiring great talent; they amuse me very much.”
“The actors are excellent, too,” said Marie. “Those at the Gymnase played very well to-night; the piece pleased them; the dialogue was witty and keen.”
“Like those of Beaumarchais,” said Lady Dudley.
“Monsieur Nathan is not Moliere as yet, but—” said Madame d’Espard, looking at the countess.
“He makes vaudevilles,” said Madame Charles de Vandenesse.
“And unmakes ministries,” added Madame de Manerville.
The countess was silent; she wanted to answer with a sharp repartee; her heart was bounding with anger, but she could find nothing better to say than,—
“He will make them, perhaps.”
All the women looked at each other with mysterious significance. When Marie de Vandenesse departed Moina de Saint-Heren exclaimed:—