He was terrible, this old man, and notwithstanding the paint on his face, I felt a certain respect for him. While he was speaking, we could hear the music upstairs, and the horses of the municipal guards shaking their curb-chains in the square. From without, our festivities must have seemed very brilliant, all lighted up by their thousands of candles, and with the great portico illuminated. And when one reflected that ruin perhaps lay beneath it all! We sat there in the vestibule like rats that hold counsel with each other at the bottom of a ship’s hold, when the vessel is beginning to leak and before the crew has found it out, and I saw clearly that all the lackeys and chambermaids would not be long in decamping at the first note of alarm. Could such a catastrophe indeed be possible? And in that case what would become of me, and the Territorial, and the money I had advanced, and the arrears due to me?
That Francis has left me with a cold shudder down my back.
The bright warmth of a clear May afternoon heated the lofty casement windows of the Mora mansion to the temperature of a greenhouse. The blue silk curtains were visible from outside through the branches of the trees, and the wide terraces, where exotic flowers were planted out of doors for the first time of the season, ran in borders along the whole length of the quay. The raking of the garden paths traced the light footprints of summer in the sand, while the soft fall of the water from the hoses on the lawns was its refreshing song.
All the luxury of the princely residence lay sunning itself in the soft warmth of the temperature, borrowing a beauty from the silence, the repose of this noontide hour, the only hour when the roll of carriages was not to be heard under the arches, nor the banging of the great doors of the antechamber, and that perpetual vibration which the ringing of bells upon arrivals or departures sent coursing through the very ivy on the walls; the feverish pulse of the life of a fashionable house. It was well known that up to three o’clock the duke held his reception at the Ministry, and that the duchess, a Swede still benumbed by the snows of Stockholm, had hardly issued from her drowsy curtains; consequently nobody came to call, neither visitors or petitioners, and only the footmen, perched like flamingoes on the deserted flight of steps in front of the house, gave the place a touch of animation with the slim shadows of their long legs and their yawning weariness of idlers.
As an exception, however, that day Jenkins’s brougham was standing waiting in a corner of the court-yard. The duke, unwell since the previous evening, had felt worse after leaving the breakfast-table, and in all haste had sent for the man of the pearls in order to question him on his singular condition. Pain nowhere, sleep and appetite as usual; only an inconceivable lassitude, and a sense of terrible chill which nothing