At this instant the folding-doors were thrown open, and the valet announced: “The Baron Tripeaud!”
Dr. Baleinier put his pamphlet into his pocket, made the most cordial bow to the financier, and even rose to give him his hand. The baron entered the room, overwhelming every one with salutations. “I have the honor to attend the orders of your highness the princess. She knows that she may always count upon me.”
“I do indeed rely upon you, M. Tripeaud, and particularly under present circumstances.”
“If the intentions of your highness the princess are still the same with regard to Mdlle. de Cardoville—”
“They are still the same, M. Tripeaud, and we meet to-day on that subject.”
“Your highness may be assured of my concurrence, as, indeed, I have already promised. I think that the greatest severity must at length be employed, and that even if it were necessary.”
“That is also our opinion,” said the marquis, hastily making a sign to the princess, and glancing at the place where the man in spectacles was hidden; “we are all perfectly in harmony. Still, we must not leave any point doubtful, for the sake of the young lady herself, whose interests alone guides us in this affair. We must draw out her sincerity by every possible means.”
“Mademoiselle has just arrived from the summer-house and wishes to see your highness,” said the valet, again entering, after having knocked at the door.
“Say that I wait for her,” answered the princess; “and now I am at home to no one—without exception. You understand me; absolutely to no one.”
Thereupon, approaching the curtain behind which the man was concealed, Mme. de Saint-Dizier gave him the cue—after which she returned to her seat.
It is singular, but during the short space which preceded Adrienne’s arrival, the different actors in this scene appeared uneasy and embarrassed, as if they had a vague fear of her coming. In about a minute, Mdlle. de Cardoville entered the presence of her aunt.
On entering, Mdlle. de Cardoville threw down upon a chair the gray beaver hat she had worn to cross the garden, and displayed her fine golden hair, falling on either side of her face in long, light ringlets, and twisted in a broad knot behind her head. She presented herself without boldness, but with perfect ease: her countenance was gay and smiling; her large black eyes appeared even more brilliant than usual. When she perceived Abbe d’Aigrigny, she started in surprise, and her rosy lips were just touched with a mocking smile.
After nodding graciously to the doctor, she passed Baron Tripeaud by without looking at him, and saluted the princess with stately obeisance, in the most fashionable style.