“Yes, she must be a well-bred woman. It looks to me as if there were no mistakes in spelling here.”
The count gathered up the letters hastily and gave them to his wife, who took them to a table as if to see that they were all there.
“Now,” said Vandenesse to Florine, “will you let me have those letters for these?” showing her five bank-bills of ten thousand francs each. “They’ll replace the sums you have paid for him.”
“Ah!” cried Florine, “didn’t I kill myself body and soul in the provinces to get him money,—I, who’d have cut my hand off to serve him? But that’s men! damn your soul for them and they’ll march over you rough-shod! He shall pay me for this!”
Madame de Vandenesse was disappearing with the letters.
“Hi! stop, stop, my fine mask!” cried Florine; “leave me one to confound him with.”
“Not possible,” said Vandenesse.
“That mask is your ex-rival; but you needn’t fear her now.”
“Well, she might have had the grace to say thank you,” cried Florine.
“But you have the fifty thousand francs instead,” said Vandenesse, bowing to her.
It is extremely rare for young men, when driven to suicide, to attempt it a second time if the first fails. When it doesn’t cure life, it cures all desire for voluntary death. Raoul felt no disposition to try it again when he found himself in a more painful position than that from which he had just been rescued. He tried to see the countess and explain to her the nature of his love, which now shone more vividly in his soul than ever. But the first time they met in society, Madame de Vandenesse gave him that fixed and contemptuous look which at once and forever puts an impassable gulf between a man and a woman. In spite of his natural assurance, Nathan never dared, during the rest of the winter, either to speak to the countess or even approach her.
But he opened his heart to Blondet; to him he talked of his Laura and his Beatrice, apropos of Madame de Vandenesse. He even made a paraphrase of the following beautiful passage from the pen of Theophile Gautier, one of the most remarkable poets of our day:—
“’Ideala, flower of heaven’s own blue, with heart of gold, whose fibrous roots, softer, a thousandfold, than fairy tresses, strike to our souls and drink their purest essence; flower most sweet and bitter! thou canst not be torn away without the heart’s blood flowing, without thy bruised stems sweating with scarlet tears. Ah! cursed flower, why didst thou grow within my soul?’”
“My dear fellow,” said Blondet, “you are raving. I’ll grant it was a pretty flower, but it wasn’t a bit ideal, and instead of singing like a blind man before an empty niche, you had much better wash your hands and make submission to the powers. You are too much of an artist ever to be a good politician; you have been fooled by men of not one-half your value. Think about being fooled again—but elsewhere.”