“I trust, sir,” said he with the most servile courtesy, “that you will excuse the liberty I take, but I am so utterly crippled with rheumatism that I can hardly walk, Marquis.”
Daumon had read somewhere that the eldest son of a Duke was entitled to be styled Marquis, and it was the first time that Norbert had been thus addressed. Before this he would have laughed at the appellation, but now his wounded vanity, and his exasperation at the unhappy condition in which he found himself, tempted him to accept the title without remonstrance.
“All right, I can give you a lift,” said he, and the Counsellor clambered into the cart.
All the time that he was showering thanks upon Norbert for his courtesy he was watching the young man’s face carefully.
“Evidently,” thought the Counsellor to himself, “something unusual has taken place at the Chateau de Champdoce. Was not the opportunity for revenge here?”
Long since he had decided that through the son he could strike the father. But he must be cautious.
“You must have been up very early, Marquis,” said he.
The young man made no reply.
“The Duke,” resumed Daumon, “is most fortunate in having such a son as you. I know more than one father who says to his children, ’See what an excellent example the young Marquis de Champdoce sets to you all. He is not afraid of hard work, though he is noble by birth, and should not soil his hands by labor.’”
A sudden lurch brought the Counsellor’s eloquence to a sudden close, but he speedily resumed again.
“I was watching you as you hefted the sacks. Heavens! what muscles! what a pair of shoulders!”
At any other moment Norbert would have gloried in such laudation, but now he felt displeased and annoyed, and vented his anger by a sharp cut at his team.
“When people say that you are as innocent as a girl,” continued Daumon, “I always say that you are a sensible young fellow after all, and that if you choose to lead a regular life, it is far better than wasting your future fortune in wine, billiards, cards, or women.”