Madame du Tillet returned home comforted. Felix de Vandenesse drew forty thousand francs from the Bank of France, and went direct to Madame de Nucingen He found her at home, thanked her for the confidence she had placed in his wife, and returned the money, explaining that the countess had obtained this mysterious loan for her charities, which were so profuse that he was trying to put a limit to them.
“Give me no explanations, monsieur, since Madame de Vandenesse has told you all,” said the Baronne de Nucingen.
“She knows the truth,” thought Vandenesse.
Madame de Nucingen returned to him Marie’s letter of guarantee, and sent to the bank for the four notes. Vandenesse, during the short time that these arrangements kept him waiting, watched the baroness with the eye of a statesman, and he thought the moment propitious for further negotiation.
“We live in an age, madame, when nothing is sure,” he said. “Even thrones rise and fall in France with fearful rapidity. Fifteen years have wreaked their will on a great empire, a monarchy, and a revolution. No one can now dare to count upon the future. You know my attachment to the cause of legitimacy. Suppose some catastrophe; would you not be glad to have a friend in the conquering party?”
“Undoubtedly,” she said, smiling.
“Very good; then, will you have in me, secretly, an obliged friend who could be of use to Monsieur de Nucingen in such a case, by supporting his claim to the peerage he is seeking?”
“What do you want of me?” she asked.
“Very little,” he replied. “All that you know about Nathan’s affairs.”
The baroness repeated to him her conversation with Rastignac, and said, as she gave him the four notes, which the cashier had meantime brought to her:
“Don’t forget your promise.”
So little did Vandenesse forget this illusive promise that he used it again on Baron Eugene de Rastignac to obtain from him certain other information. Leaving Rastignac’s apartments, he dictated to a street amanuensis the following note to Florine.
“If Mademoiselle Florine wishes
to know of a part she may play she
is requested to come to the masked opera at the Opera next Sunday
night, accompanied by Monsieur Nathan.”
To this ball he determined to take his wife and let her own eyes enlighten her as to the relations between Nathan and Florine. He knew the jealous pride of the countess; he wanted to make her renounce her love of her own will, without causing her to blush before him, and then to return to her her own letters, sold by Florine, from whom he expected to be able to buy them. This judicious plan, rapidly conceived and partly executed, might fail through some trick of chance which meddles with all things here below.
After dinner that evening, Felix brought the conversation round to the masked balls of the Opera, remarking that Marie had never been to one, and proposing that she should accompany him the following evening.