“Hold hard, Van Klopen, hold hard! the joy has been too much for her, and I will lay you ten to one that she is going into hysterics.”
Mascarin saw that Paul’s temper might blaze forth at any moment, and so hastened to put an end to a scene which was as absurd as it was dangerous.
“Well, Van Klopen, I will say farewell,” said he. “Good morning, madame; good morning, sir;” and taking Paul by the arm, he led him away by a private exit which did not necessitate their passing through the great reception-room.
It was time for him to do so, and not until they were in the street did the wily Mascarin breathe freely.
“Well, what do you say, now?” asked he.
Paul’s vanity had been so deeply wounded, and the effort that he had made to restrain himself so powerful, that he could only reply by a gasp.
“He felt it more than I thought he would,” said Mascarin to himself. “The fresh air will revive him.”
Paul’s legs bent under him, and he staggered so that Mascarin led him into a little cafe hard by, and ordered a glass of cognac, and in a short time Paul was himself once again.
“You are better now,” observed Mascarin; and then, believing it would be best to finish his work, he added, “A quarter of an hour ago I promised that I would ask you to settle what our intentions were to be regarding M. de Gandelu.”
“That is enough,” broke in Paul, violently.
Mascarin put on his most benevolent smile.
“You see,” remarked he, “how circumstances change ideas. Now you are getting quite reasonable.”
“Yes, I am reasonable enough now; that is, that I mean to be wealthy. You have no need to urge me on any more. I am willing to do whatever you desire, for I will never again endure degradation like that I have gone through to-day.”
“You have let temper get the better of you,” returned Mascarin, with a shrug of his shoulders.
“My anger may pass over, but my determination will remain as strong as ever.”
“Do not decide without thinking the matter well over,” answered the agent. “To-day you are your own master; but if you give yourself up to me, you must resign your dearly loved liberty.”
“I am prepared for all.”
Victory had inclined to the side of Mascarin, and he was proportionally jubilant.
“Good,” said he. “Then Dr. Hortebise shall introduce you to Martin Rigal, the father of Mademoiselle Flavia, and one week after your marriage I will give you a duke’s coronet to put on the panels of your carriage.”
A STARTLING REVELATION.