The Indian hung his head, and was silent. Profiting by his hesitation, Rodin continued: “I might say to you that I know your enemies, but that in the dread of seeing you commit some terrible imprudence, I would conceal their names from you forever. But no! I swear to you, that if the respectable person, who loves you as her son, should find it either right or useful that I should tell you their names, I will do so—until she has pronounced, I must be silent.”
Djalma looked at Rodin with a dark and wrathful air. At this moment, Faringhea entered, and said to Rodin: “A man with a letter, not finding you at home, has been sent on here. Am I to receive it? He says it comes from the Abbe d’Aigrigny.
“Certainly,” answered Rodin. “That is,” he added, “with the prince’s permission.”
Djalma nodded in reply; Faringhea went out.
“You will excuse what I have done, dear prince. I expected this morning a very important letter. As it was late in coming to hand, I ordered it to be sent on.”
A few minutes after, Faringhea returned with the letter, which he delivered to Rodin—and the half-caste again withdrew.
Adrienne and Djalma.
When Faringhea had quitted the room, Rodin took the letter from Abbe d’Aigrigny with one hand, and with the other appeared to be looking for something, first in the side pocket of his great-coat, then in the pocket behind, then in that of his trousers; and, not finding what he sought, he laid the letter on his knee, and felt himself all over with both hands, with an air of regret and uneasiness. The divers movements of this pantomime, performed in the most natural manner, were crowned by the exclamations.
“Oh! dear me! how vexatious!”
“What is the matter?” asked Djalma, starting from the gloomy silence in which he had been plunged for some minutes.
“Alas! my dear prince!” replied Rodin, “the most vulgar and puerile accident may sometimes cause the greatest inconvenience. I have forgotten or lost my spectacles. Now, in this twilight, with the very poor eyesight that years of labor have left me, it will be absolutely impossible for me to read this most important letter—and an immediate answer is expected—most simple and categorical—a yes or a no. Times presses; it is really most annoying. If,” added Rodin, laying great stress on his words, without looking at Djalma, but so as the prince might remark it; “if only some one would render me the service to read it for me; but there is no one—no—one!”
“Father,” said Djalma, obligingly, “shall I read it for you. When I have finished it, I shall forget what I have read.”
“You?” cried Rodin, as if the proposition of the Indian had appeared to him extravagant and dangerous; “it is impossible, prince, for you to read this letter.”
“Then excuse my having offered,” said Djalma mildly.