She hoped, and, as time went on, she felt sure, that she would never see Monsieur D’Arblet again. New hopes and new excitements occupied her thoughts. The man to whom in her youth she had given her heart once more came across her life; she was thrown very much into his society; she learnt to love him more devotedly than ever, and when at last she had succeeded in establishing the sort of engagement which existed between them, she had assured him, and also assured herself, that no other man had ever, for one instant, filled her fancy. That stormy chapter of her married life was forgotten; she resolutely wiped it out of her memory, as if it had never existed.
And now, after all this time—it was five years ago—she had met him again—this Frenchman, who had once compromised her name, and who now had possession of her letters.
There was a cruel irony of fate in the fact that she should be destined to meet him again at Lady Kynaston’s, the very house of all others where she would least have wished to see him.
There was, however, had she thought of it, nothing at all extraordinary in her having done so. No house in all London society was so open to foreigners as Walpole Lodge, and Monsieur Le Vicomte D’Arblet was no unknown upstart; he bore a good old name; he was clever, had taken an active part in diplomatic life, and was a very well-known individual in Parisian society. He had been brought to Lady Kynaston’s by a member of the French Embassy, who was a frequenter of her soirees.
Neither, however, was meeting with Mrs. Romer entirely accidental on Monsieur D’Arblet’s part. He had never forgotten the pretty Englishwoman who had so foolishly and recklessly placed herself in his power.
It is true he had lost sight of her, and other intrigues and other pursuits had filled his leisure hours; but when he came to England he had thought of her again, and had made a few careless inquiries after her. It was not difficult to identify her; the Mrs. Romer who was now a widow, who lived with her rich grandfather, who was very old, who would probably soon die and leave her all his wealth, was evidently the same Mrs. Romer whom he had known. The friend who gave him the information spoke of her as lovely and spirituelle, and as a woman who would be worth marrying some day. “She is often at Lady Kynaston’s receptions,” he had added.
“Mon cher, take me to your Lady Kynaston’s soirees,” had been Lucien D’Arblet’s lazy rejoinder as they finished their evening smoke together. “I would like to meet my friend, la belle veuve, again, and I will see if she has forgotten me.”
Bitter, very bitter, were Mrs. Romer’s remorseful meditations that night when she reached her grandfather’s house at Prince’s Gate. Every detail of her acquaintance with Lucien D’Arblet came back to her with a horrible and painful distinctness. Over and over again she cursed her own folly, and bewailed the hardness of the fate which placed her once more in the hands of this man.