“Nine months of the year in Paris,” he said to himself, sadly; “and Rose is to pass her married life at Lyons. Oh, if I could clear my heart of its dread on her account—if I could free my mind of its forebodings for her future—how gladly I would answer this letter by accepting the trust it offers me!”
He paused for a few minutes, and reflected. The thoughts that were in him marked their ominous course in the growing paleness of his cheek, in the dimness that stole over his eyes. “If this cleaving distrust from which I cannot free myself should be in very truth the mute prophecy of evil to come—to come, I know not when—if it be so (which God forbid!), how soon she may want a friend, a protector near at hand, a ready refuge in the time of her trouble! Where shall she then find protection or refuge? With that passionate woman? With her husband’s kindred and friends?”
He shuddered as the thought crossed his mind, and opening a blank sheet of paper, dipped his pen in the ink. “Be all to her, Louis, that I have been,” he murmured to himself, repeating his mother’s last words, and beginning the letter while he uttered them. It was soon completed. It expressed in the most respectful terms his gratitude for the offer made to him, and his inability to accept it, in consequence of domestic circumstances which it was needless to explain. The letter was directed, sealed; it only remained for him to place it in the post-bag, lying near at hand. At this last decisive act he hesitated. He had told Lomaque, and he had firmly believed himself, that he had conquered all ambitions for his sister’s sake. He knew now, for the first time, that he had only lulled them to rest—he knew that the letter from Paris had aroused them. His answer was written, his hand was on the post-bag, and at that moment the whole struggle had to be risked over again—risked when he was most unfit for it! He was not a man under any ordinary circumstances to procrastinate, but he procrastinated now.
“Night brings counsel; I will wait till to-morrow,” he said to himself, and put the letter of refusal in his pocket, and hastily quitted the laboratory.
Inexorably the important morrow came: irretrievably, for good or for evil, the momentous marriage-vow was pronounced. Charles Danville and Rose Trudaine were now man and wife. The prophecy of the magnificent sunset overnight had not proved false. It was a cloudless day on the marriage morning. The nuptial ceremonies had proceeded smoothly throughout, and had even satisfied Madame Danville. She returned with the wedding-party to Trudaine’s house, all smiles and serenity. To the bride she was graciousness itself. “Good girl,” said the old lady, following Rose into a corner, and patting her approvingly on the cheek with her fan; “good girl, you have looked well this morning—you have done credit to my son’s taste. Indeed, you have pleased me, child! Now go upstairs, and get on your traveling-dress, and count on my maternal affection as long as you make Charles happy.”