He pointed out the difficulty of keeping an act of this importance secret. Then he shut himself up in a malignant silence, full of cold anger and violent determinations. The death of the duke, the fall of an absurd vanity, had struck a final blow at the household; for disaster, which often brings hearts ready to understand one another nearer, finishes and completes disunions. And it was indeed a disaster. The popularity of the Jenkins pearls suddenly stopped, the situation of the foreign doctor and charlatan, ably defined by Bouchereau in the Journal of the Academy, and people of fashion looked at each other in fright, paler from terror than from the arsenic they had imbibed. Already the Irishman had felt the effect of those counter blasts which make Parisian infatuations so dangerous.
It was for that reason, no doubt, that Jenkins had judged it wise to disappear for some time, leaving madame to continue to frequent the houses still open to them, to gauge and hold public opinion in respect. It was a hard task for the poor woman, who found everywhere the cool and distant welcome which she had received at the Hemerlingues. But she did not complain; thus earning her marriage, she was putting between them as a last resource the sad tie of pity and common trials. And as she knew that she was welcomed in the world on account of her talent, of the artistic distraction she lent to their private parties, she was always ready to lay on the piano her fan and long gloves, to play some fragment of her vast repertory. She worked constantly, passing her afternoons in turning over new music, choosing by preference sad and complicated harmonies, the modern music which no longer contents itself with being an art, but becomes a science, and answers better to our nerves, to our restlessness, than to sentiment.
Daylight flooded the room as a maid brought a card to her mistress; “Heurteux, business agent.”
The gentleman was there, he insisted on seeing madame.
“You have told him the doctor is travelling?”
He had been told, but it was to madame he wished to speak.
Disturbed, she examined this rough, crumpled card, this unknown name: “Heurteux.” What could it be?
“Well, show him in.”
Heurteux, business agent, coming from broad daylight into the semi-obscurity of the room, was blinking with an uncertain air, trying to see. She, on the other hand, saw very distinctly a stiff figure, with iron-gray whiskers and protruding jaw, one of those hangers-on of the law whom one meets round the law courts, born fifty years old, with a bitter mouth, an envious air, and a morocco portfolio under the arm. He sat down on the edge of the chair which she pointed out to him, turned his head to make sure that the servant had gone out, then opened his portfolio methodically to search for a paper. Seeing that he did not speak, she began in a tone of impatience: