Count Abel had not forgotten that he was the bearer of a commission from Mlle Moriaz. A few days after his arrival, he decided to go to Maisons, but to take the longest route there; he wanted to see Cormeilles in passing, and a certain villa in which he was particularly interested. He went in the Argenteuil cars, got out at Sannois, climbed that pretty hill that commands the loveliest of views, and stopped at the inn of Trouillet mills in order to breakfast there. The morning was charming—it was in the middle of August—and the approach of autumn was already felt, which enhances the beauty of all things. The sky was flecked with small gray clouds; a light, silvery mist hung on the brow of the hills; in two places the Seine appeared glittering in the sunshine. Abel breakfasted in the open air; while eating he gazed on the sky and on the great garden-plain extending at his feet, covered with vegetables, grape-vines, and asparagus, interspersed with fruit-trees. The wooded hills bordering it formed an admirable frame. In his present mood Count Larinski was charmed with the landscape, which was at once grand and smiling. Then he questioned himself as to how much a bed of asparagus would yield at the gates of Paris, and, having finished his calculation, he surveyed with the eye of a poet the heather and broom that surrounded him. He decided that the Sannois Hill is more beautiful than Koseg; and indeed it is not necessary to be in love with Mlle. Moriaz to hold that opinion.
After having had a good breakfast, he again set out, following the crest of the hill and going through the woods. As he approached Cormeilles, he saw in the distance, beyond a grove of oaks, the white walls of a pretty villa. His heart beat faster, and by a sort of divination he said within himself, “That must be it.” He inquired; he had made no mistake. Five minutes later he stood before a railing, through which he saw a green lawn. At the entrance of the porter’s lodge a woman sat knitting.
“Can you tell me where M. Moriaz lives?” asked Count Larinski.
“Here, monsieur,” she replied; “but M. Moriaz is absent; he will not return for a month. If you come from a distance, monsieur,” she added, graciously, “perhaps you would like to rest awhile on the terrace. The view is beautiful.”