Was it anxiety caused by the indisposition of his illustrious client? Jenkins appeared nervous, disquieted, walked backward and forward with long strides over the carpet, hunting about right and left, seeking in the air something which he believed to be present, a subtle and intangible something like the trace of a perfume or the invisible track left by a bird in its flight. You heard the crackling of the wood in the fireplace, the rustle of papers hurriedly turned over, the indolent voice of the duke indicating in a sentence, always precise and clear, a reply to a letter of four pages, and the respectful monosyllables of the attache—“Yes, M. le Ministre,” “No, M. le Ministre”; then the scraping of a rebellious and heavy pen. Out of doors the swallows were twittering merrily over the water, the sound of a clarinet was wafted from somewhere near the bridges.
“It is impossible,” suddenly said the Minister of State, rising. “Take that away, Lartigues; you must return to-morrow. I cannot write. I am too cold. See, doctor; feel my hands—one would think that they had just come out of a pail of iced water. For the last two days my whole body has been the same. Isn’t it too absurd, in this weather!”
“I am not surprised,” muttered the Irishman, in a sullen, curt tone, rarely heard from that honeyed personage.
The door had closed upon the young attache, bearing off his papers with majestic dignity, but very happy, I imagine, to feel himself free and to be able to stroll for an hour or two, before returning to the Ministry, in the Tuileries gardens, full of spring frocks and pretty girls sitting near the still empty chairs round the band, under the chestnut-trees in flower, through which from root to summit there ran the great thrill of the month when nests are built. The attache was certainly not frozen.
Jenkins, silently, examined his patient, sounded him, and tapped his chest; then, in the same rough tone which might be explained by his anxious devotion, the annoyance of the doctor who sees his orders transgressed:
“Ah, now, my dear duke, what sort of life have you been living lately?”