“These five weeks passed like a dream; and yet I must confess, the parting was not as painful as might have been supposed. Not that the bright prism was broken; but I always felt humiliated by the necessity of being concealed. I began to be tired of these incessant precautions; and I was quite ready to give up being Sir Francis Burnett, and to resume my identity.
“We had, besides, promised each other never to remain a month without seeing each other, at least for a few hours; and she had invented a number of expedients by which we could meet without danger.
“A family misfortune came just then to our assistance. My father’s eldest brother, that kind uncle who had furnished me the means to purchase my house in Passy, died, and left me his entire fortune. As owner of Boiscoran, I could, henceforth, live as much as I chose in the province; and at all events come there whenever I liked, without anybody’s inquiring for my reasons.”
Jacques de Boiscoran was evidently anxious to have done with his recital, to come to that night of the fire at Valpinson, and to learn at last from the eminent advocate of Sauveterre what he had to fear or to hope. After a moment’s silence, for his breath was giving out, and after a few steps across his cell, he went on in a bitter tone of voice,—
“But why trouble you with all these details, Magloire? Would you believe me any more than you do now, if I were to enumerate to you all my meetings with the Countess Claudieuse, or if I were to repeat all her most trifling words?
“We had gradually learnt to calculate all our movements, and made our preparations so accurately, that we met constantly, and feared no danger. We said to each other at parting, or she wrote to me, ’On such a day, at such an hour, at such a place;’ and however distant the day, or the hour, or the place, we were sure to meet. I had soon learned to know the country as well as the cleverest of poachers; and nothing was so useful to us as this familiarity with all the unknown hiding-places. The countess, on her side, never let three months pass by without discovering some urgent motive which carried her to Rochelle, to Angouleme, or to Paris; and I was there to meet her. Nothing kept her from these excursions; even when indisposed, she braved the fatigues of the journey. It is true, my life was well-nigh spent in travelling; and at any moment, when least expected, I disappeared for whole weeks. This will explain to you that restlessness at which my father sneered, and for which you, yourself, Magloire, used to blame me.”
“That is true,” replied the latter. “I remember.”
Jacques de Boiscoran did not seem to notice the encouragement.