It was the Vicomte d’Halluys; and when, shortly after this soliloquy, Montaigne came in, he saw that the vicomte was smiling and stabbing with the tip of his finger some black ash which sifted about on the table.
A DEATH WARRANT OR A MARRIAGE CONTRACT
“Well, Gabrielle,” said Anne, curiously, “what do you propose to do?”
Madame went to the window; madame stared far below the balcony at the broad river which lay smooth and white in the morning sunshine; madame drummed on the window-casing.
“It is a mare’s nest,” she replied, finally.
“First of all, there is D’Herouville. True, he is in the hospital,” observed Anne, “but he will shortly become an element.”
“There’s the vicomte, for another.”
Madame spread the most charming pair of hands.
“And the poet,” Anne continued.
Madame tucked away a rebel curl above her ear.
“And last, but not least, there’s the Chevalier du Cevennes. The governor was very kind to permit you to remain incognito.”
Madame’s face became animated. “What an embarrassing thing it is to be so plentifully and frequently loved!”
“If only you loved some one of these noble gentlemen!”
“D’Herouville, a swashbuckler; D’Halluys, a gamester; Du Cevennes, a fop. Truly, you can not wish me so unfortunate as that?”
“Besides, Monsieur du Cevennes does not know nor love you.”
“I suppose not. How droll it would be if I should set about making him fall in love with me!—to bring him to my feet and tell him who I am—and laugh!”
“I should advise you not to try it, Gabrielle. He might become formidable. Are you not mischief endowed with a woman’s form?”
“A mare’s nest it is, truly; but since I have entered it willingly . . .”
“I shall not return to France on the Henri IV,” determinedly.
“But Du Cevennes and the others?”
“I shall avoid Monsieur du Cevennes; I shall laugh in D’Herouville’s face; the vicomte will find me as cold and repelling as that iceberg which we passed near Acadia.”
“And Monsieur de Saumaise?” Anne persisted.
“Well, if he wishes it, he may play Strephon to my Phyllis, only the idyl must go no further than verses. No, Anne; his is a brave, good heart, and I shall not play with it. I am too honest.”
“Well, at any rate, you will not become dull while I am on probation. And you will also become affiliated with the Ursulines?”
Madame smiled with gentle irony. “Oh, yes, indeed! And I shall teach Indian children to speak French as elegantly as Brantome wrote it, and knit nurses’ caps for the good squaws. . . . Faith, Anne, dear, if I did not love you, the Henri IV could not carry me back to France quick enough.” Madame leaned from the window and sniffed the forest perfumes.