“You don’t believe in dreams, do you mother?” she asked.
Upon this subject, as well as upon many others, Mme. Favoral had no particular opinion.
“Why do you ask the question?” said she.
“Because I have had such a strange one.”
“It seemed to me that suddenly a young man, whom I did not know, stood before me. He would have been most happy, said he to me, to ask my hand, but he dared not, being very poor. And he begged me to wait three years, during which he would make his fortune.”
Mme. Favoral smiled.
“Why it’s quite a romance,” said she.
“But it wasn’t a romance in my dream,” interrupted Mlle. Gilberte. “This young man spoke in a tone of such profound conviction, that it was impossible for me, as it were, to doubt him. I thought to myself that he would be incapable of such an odious villainy as to abuse the confiding credulity of a poor girl.”
“And what did you answer him?”
Moving her seat almost imperceptibly, Mlle. Gilberte could, from the corner of her eye, have a glimpse of M. de Tregars. Evidently he was not missing a single one of the words which she was addressing to her mother. He was whiter than a sheet; and his face betrayed the most intense anxiety.
This gave her the energy to curb the last revolts of her conscience.
“To answer was painful,” she uttered; “and yet I—dared to answer him. I said to him, ’I believe you, and I have faith in you. Loyally and faithfully I shall await your success; but until then we must be strangers to one another. To resort to ruse, deceit, and falsehood would be unworthy of us. You surely would not expose to a suspicion her who is to be your wife.’”
“Very well,” approved Mme. Favoral; “only I did not know you were so romantic.”
She was laughing, the good lady, but not loud enough to prevent Gilberte from hearing M. de Tregars’ answer.
“Count de Villegre,” said he, “my old friend, receive the oath which I take to devote my life to her who has not doubted me. It is to-day the 4th of May, 1870—on the 4th of May, 1873, I shall have succeeded: I feel it, I will it, it must be!”
It was done: Gilberte Favoral had just irrevocably disposed of herself. Prosperous or wretched, her destiny henceforth was linked with another. She had set the wheel in motion; and she could no longer hope to control its direction, any more than the will can pretend to alter the course of the ivory ball upon the surface of the roulette-table. At the outset of this great storm of passion which had suddenly surrounded her, she felt an immense surprise, mingled with unexplained apprehensions and vague terrors.
Around her, apparently, nothing was changed. Father, mother, brother, friends, gravitated mechanically in their accustomed orbits. The same daily facts repeated themselves monotonous and regular as the tick-tack of the clock.