This demand, which was utterly unexpected, so astonished the Count that he could only exclaim, “Why, this is absolute madness!”
“No; it is plain, good sense, and a bona fide offer.”
An idea suddenly flashed across the Count’s mind. “Is it your intention,” asked he, “to furnish me with a son-in-law too?”
“I am sure, my lord,” answered Mascarin, looking the picture of disinterested honesty, “that, even to save yourself, you would never sacrifice your daughter.”
“You are entirely mistaken; it is M. de Breulh-Faverlay whom my clients wish to strike at, for they have taken an oath that he shall never wed a lady with a million for her dowry.”
So surprised was the Count, that the whole aspect of the interview seemed to have changed, and he now combated his own objections instead of those of his unwelcome visitor. “M. de Breulh-Faverlay has my promise,” remarked he; “but of course it is easy to find a pretext. The Countess, however, is in favor of the match, and the chief opposition to any change will come from her.”
Mascarin did not think it wise to make any reply, and the Count continued, “My daughter also may not view this rupture with satisfaction.”
Thanks to the information he had received from Florestan, Mascarin knew how much importance to attach to this. “Mademoiselle, at her age and with her tastes, is not likely to have her heart seriously engaged.” For fully a quarter of an hour the Count still hesitated. He knew that he was entirely at the mercy of those miscreants, and his pride revolted at the idea of submission; but at length he yielded.
“I agree,” said he. “My daughter shall not marry M. de Breulh-Faverlay.”
Even in his hour of triumph, Mascarin’s face did not change. He bowed profoundly, and left the room; but as he descended the stairs, he rubbed his hands, exclaiming, “If the doctor has made as good a job of it as I have, success is certain.”
A MEDICAL ADVISER.
Doctor Hortebise did not find it necessary to resort to any of those expedients which Mascarin had found it advisable to use in order to reach Madame de Mussidan. As soon as he presented himself—that is, after a brief interval of five minutes—he was introduced into the presence of the Countess. He rather wondered at this, for Madame de Mussidan was one of those restless spirits that are seldom found at home, but are to be met with at exhibitions, on race-courses, at the salons, restaurants, shops, or theatres; or at the studio of some famous artist; or at the rooms of some musical professor who had discovered a new tenor; anywhere and everywhere, in fact, except at home. Hers was one of those restless natures constantly craving for excitement; and husband, home, and child were mere secondary objects in her eyes. She had many avocations; she was a patroness