The echo of the slamming door had scarce died away when Victor, raging and potent to do the vicomte harm, flung out after him. With his sword drawn he looked savagely up and down the street, but the vicomte was nowhere in sight. The cold air, however, was grateful to the poet’s feverish cheeks and aching eyes; so he strode on absently, with no destination in mind. It was only when the Hotel de Perigny loomed before him, with its bleak walls and sinister cheval-de-frise, that his sense of locality revived. He raised a hand which cast a silent malediction on this evil house and its master, swung about and hurried back to the tavern, recollecting that Gabrielle and Paul were together.
“And all those dreams of her, they vanish like the hours. That hope, that joyous hope, of calling her mine shall buoy me up no more. She does not love me! God save me from another such unhappy night. We have all been stricken with madness.” He struck at the snow-drifts with his sword. The snow, dry and dusty, flew up into his face.
Meanwhile, when madame entered the private assembly-room her eyes, blurred with tears, saw only the half dead fire. With her hand she groped along the mantel, and finding a candle, lit it. She did not care where she was, so long as she was alone; alone with her unhappy thoughts. She sat with her back toward the Chevalier, who had fallen into a slight doze. Presently the silence was destroyed by a hiccoughing sob. She had forced the end of her kerchief against her lips to stifle the sound, but ineffectually.
The Chevalier raised his head. . . . A woman? Or was his brain mocking him? And masked? How came she here? He was confused, and his sense of emergency lay fallow. He knew not what to do. One thing was certain; he must make known his presence, for he was positive that she was unaware of it. He rose, and the noise of his chair sliding back brought from her an affrighted cry. She turned. The light of the candle played upon his face.
“Madame, pardon me, but I have been asleep. I did not hear you enter. It was very careless of them to show you in here.”
She rose without speaking and walked toward the door, with no uncertain step, with a dignity not lacking in majesty.
“She sees I have been drinking,” he thought. “Pray, Madame, do not leave. Rather let me do that.”
She made a gesture, hurried but final, and left him.
“It seems to me,” mused the Chevalier, resuming his seat, “that I have lost gallantry to-night, among other considerable things. I might have opened the door for her. I wonder why she did not speak?”
MONSIEUR LE COMTE D’HEROUVILLE TAKES THE JOURNEY TO QUEBEC