“Here,” she said, “is the package you deposited with me.”
“No,” he answered, repelling her gently, “keep that letter: it must never be opened now, except by the Marquise de Tregars.”
And raising her hand to his lips, and in a deeply agitated voice,
“Farewell!” he murmured. “Have courage, and have hope.”
Mlle. Gilberte was soon far away; and Marius de Tregars remained motionless at the corner of the street, following her with his eyes through the darkness.
She was walking fast, staggering over the rough pavement. Leaving Marius, she fell back upon the earth from the height of her dreams. The deceiving illusion had vanished, and, returned to the world of sad reality, she was seized with anxiety.
How long had she been out? She knew not, and found it impossible to reckon. But it was evidently getting late; for some of the shops were already closing.
Meantime, she had reached the house. Stepping back, and looking up, she saw that there was light in the parlor.
“Mother has returned,” she thought, trembling with apprehension.
She hurried up, nevertheless; and, just as she reached the landing, Mme. Favoral opened the door, preparing to go down.
“At last you are restored to me!” exclaimed the poor mother, whose sinister apprehensions were revealed by that single exclamation. “I was going out to look for you at random,—in the streets, anywhere.”
And, drawing her daughter within the parlor, she clasped her in her arms with convulsive tenderness, exclaiming,
“Where were you? Where do you come from? Do you know that it is after nine o’clock?”
Such had been Mlle. Gilberte’s state of mind during the whole of that evening, that she had not even thought of finding a pretext to justify her absence. Now it was too late. Besides, what explanation would have been plausible? Instead, therefore, of answering,
“Why, dear mother,” she said with a forced smile, “has it not happened to me twenty times to go out in the neighborhood?”
But Mme. Favoral’s confiding credulity existed no longer.
“I have been blind, Gilberte,” she interrupted; “but this time my eyes must open to evidence. There is in your life a mystery, something extraordinary, which I dare not try to guess.”
Mlle. Gilberte drew herself up, and, looking her mother straight in the eyes, with her beautiful, clear glance,
“Would you suspect me of something wrong, then?” she exclaimed.
Mme. Favoral stopped her with a gesture.
“A young girl who conceals something from her mother always does wrong,” she uttered. “It is a long while since I have had for the first time the presentiment that you were hiding something from me. But, when I questioned you, you succeeded in quieting my suspicions. You have abused my confidence and my weakness.”