“Bash!” she said, “that’s enough sentiment for one day; and instead of staying here, boring you to death, I ought to go and dress; for I am going to the opera with my sweet mamma, and afterwards to the ball. You ought to come. I am going to wear a stunning dress. The ball is at Mme. de Bois d’Ardon’s,—one of our friends, a progressive woman. She has a smoking-room for ladies. What do you think of that? Come, will you go? We’ll drink champagne, and we’ll laugh. No? Zut then, and my compliments to your family.”
But, at the moment of leaving the room, her heart failed her.
“This is doubtless the last time I shall ever see you, M. de Tregars,” she said. “Farewell! You know now why I, who have a dowry of a million, I envy Gilberte Favoral. Once more farewell. And, whatever happiness may fall to your lot in life, remember that Cesarine has wished it all to you.”
And she went out at the very moment when the Baroness de Thaller returned.
“Cesarine!” Mme. de Thaller called, in a voice which sounded at once like a prayer and a threat.
“I am going to dress myself, mamma,” she answered.
“So that you can scold me if I am not ready when you want to go? Thank you, no.”
“I command you to come back, Cesarine.”
No answer. She was far already.
Mme. de Thaller closed the door of the little parlor, and returning to take a seat by M. de Tregars,
“What a singular girl!” she said.
Meantime he was watching in the glass what was going on in the other room. The suspicious-looking man was there still, and alone. A servant had brought him pen, ink and paper; and he was writing rapidly.
“How is it that they leave him there alone?” wondered Marius.
And he endeavored to find upon the features of the baroness an answer to the confused presentiments which agitated his brain. But there was no longer any trace of the emotion which she had manifested when taken unawares. Having had time for reflection, she had composed for herself an impenetrable countenance. Somewhat surprised at M. de Tregars’ silence,
“I was saying,” she repeated, “that Cesarine is a strange girl.”
Still absorbed by the scene in the grand parlor,
“Strange, indeed!” he answered.
“And such is,” said the baroness with a sigh, “the result of M. de Thaller’s weakness, and above all of my own.
“We have no child but Cesarine; and it was natural that we should spoil her. Her fancy has been, and is still, our only law. She has never had time to express a wish: she is obeyed before she has spoken.”
She sighed again, and deeper than the first time. “You have just seen,” she went on, “the results of that insane education. And yet it would not do to trust appearances. Cesarine, believe me, is not as extravagant as she seems. She possesses solid qualities,—of those which a man expects of the woman who is to be his wife.”