“I am at your orders, madame,” answered the doctor, as he rose to follow Adrienne to the recess.
M. Tripeaud, who, no longer sustained by the abbe’s presence, dreaded the young lady as he did fire, was not sorry for this diversion. To keep up appearances, he stationed himself before one of the sacred pictures, and began again to contemplate it, as if there were no bounds to his admiration.
When Mdlle. de Cardoville was far enough from the baron, not to be overheard by him, she said to the physician, who, all smiles and benevolence, waited for her to explain: “My good doctor, you are my friend, as you were my father’s. Just now, notwithstanding the difficulty of your position, you had the courage to show yourself my only partisan.”
“Not at all, madame; do not go and say such things!” cried the doctor, affecting a pleasant kind of anger. “Plague on’t! you would get me into a pretty scrape; so pray be silent on that subject. Vade retro Satanas!—which means: Get thee behind me, charming little demon that you are!”
“Do not be afraid,” answered Adrienne, with a smile; “I will not compromise you. Only allow me to remind you, that you have often made me offers of service, and spoken to me of your devotion.”
“Put me to the test—and you will see if I do not keep my promises.”
“Well, then! give me a proof on the instant,” said Adrienne, quickly.
“Capital! this is how I like to be taken at my word. What can I do for you?”
“Are you still very intimate with your friend the minister?”
“Yes; I am just treating him for a loss of voice, which he always has, the day they put questions to him in the house. He likes it better.”
“I want you to obtain from him something very important for me.”
“For you? pray, what is it?”
At this instant, the valet entered the room, delivered a letter to M. Baleinier, and said to him: “A footman has just brought this letter for you, sir; it is very pressing.”
The physician took the letter, and the servant went out.
“This is one of the inconveniences of merit,” said Adrienne, smiling; “they do not leave you a moment’s rest, my poor doctor.”
“Do not speak of it, madame,” said the physician, who could not conceal a start of amazement, as he recognized the writing of D’Aigrigny; “these patients think we are made of iron, and have monopolized the health which they so much need. They have really no mercy. With your permission, madame,” added M. Baleinier, looking at Adrienne before he unsealed the letter.
Mdlle. de Cardoville answered by a graceful nod. Marquis d’Aigrigny’s letter was not long; the doctor read it at a single glance, and, notwithstanding his habitual prudence, he shrugged his shoulders, and said hastily: “Today! why, it’s impossible. He is mad.”
“You speak no doubt of some poor patient, who has placed all his hopes in you—who waits and calls for you at this moment. Come, my dear M. Baleinier, do not reject his prayer. It is so sweet to justify the confidence we inspire.”