The man passed his hand over his brow, which was covered with a cold sweat; then dispelling, by an effort of will, the cloud that veiled his eyes, he, in turn, leaned towards the princess, and with quivering lip and evil, sardonic glance, said to her, in a low voice:
“Princess, I have a slight acquaintance with this Samuel Brohl of whom you speak. He is not a man who will allow himself to be strangled without a great deal of outcry. You are not much in the habit of writing, nevertheless he received from you two letters, which he copied, placing the originals in safety. If ever he sees the necessity of appearing in a court of justice, these two letters can be made to create quite a sensation, and unquestionably they will be the delight of all the petty journals of Paris.”
Thereupon he made a profound bow, respectfully took leave of Mme. de Lorcy, and retired, followed by Abbe Miollens, who inflicted a real torture by insisting on accompanying him to the station.
No longer restrained by Mme. de Lorcy’s presence, the abbe spoke freely of the happy event in which he prided himself to have been a co-operator; he overwhelmed him with congratulation, and all the good wishes he could possibly think of for his happiness. During a quarter of an hour he lavished on him his myrrh and honey. Samuel would gladly have wrung his neck. He could not breathe until the abbe had freed him from his obtrusive society.
A storm muttered in the almost cloudless sky. It was a dry storm; the rain fell elsewhere. The incessant lightning, accompanied by distant thunder, gleamed from all quarters of the horizon, and darted its luminous flashes over the whole extent of the plain. At intervals the hills seemed to be on fire. Several times Samuel, who stood with his nose against the glass of the car-door, thought that he saw in the direction of Cormeilles the flaring light of a conflagration, in which were blazing his dream and two millions, to say nothing of his great expectations.
He bitterly reproached himself for his folly of the previous day. “If I had passed yesterday evening with her,” he thought, “surely she would have spoken of the Princess Gulof. I would have taken measures accordingly, and nothing would have happened.” It was all M. Langis’s fault; it was to him that he imputed the disaster, and he hated him all the more.
However, as he approached Paris, he felt his courage returning.
“Those two letters frightened the old fairy,” he thought. “She will think twice before she declares war with me. No, she will not dare.” He added: “And if she dared, Antoinette loves me so much that I can make her believe what I please.”
And he prepared in his mind what he should say, in case the event occurred.
At that very moment Mme. de Lorcy, who was alone with Princess Gulof, was saying: “Well, my dear, you have talked with my man. What do you think of him?”