“So we pass from the execution to suppositions,” said Rodin, still immovable.
“And from suppositions, sir, if you must have it, to certainty,” resumed Adrienne, with dignified firmness; “yes, now I believe that I was for awhile your dupe, and I tell you, without hate, without anger, but with regret—that it is painful to see a man of your sense and intelligence stoop to such machinations, and, after having recourse to so many diabolical manoeuvres, finish at last by being ridiculous; for, believe me, there is nothing more ridiculous for a man like you, than to be vanquished by a young girl, who has no weapon, no defence, no instructor, but her love. In a word, sir, I look upon you from to-day as an implacable and dangerous enemy; for I half perceive your aim, without guessing by what means you will seek to accomplish it, No doubt your future means will be worthy of the past. Well! in spite of all this, I do not fear you. From tomorrow, my family will be informed of everything, and an active, intelligent, resolute union will keep us all upon our guard, for it doubtless concerns this enormous inheritance, of which they wish to deprive us. Now, what connection can there be between the wrongs I reproach you with and the pecuniary end proposed? I do not at all know—but you have told me yourself that our enemies are so dangerously skillful, and their craft so far-reaching, that we must expect all, be prepared for all. I will remember the lesson. I have promised you frankness, sir, and now I suppose you have it.”
“It would be an imprudent frankness if I were your enemy,” said Rodin, still impassible; “but you also promised me some advice, my dear young lady.”
“My advice will be short; do not attempt to continue the struggle, because, you see, there is something stronger than you and yours—it is a woman’s resolve, defending her happiness.”
Adrienne pronounced these last words with so sovereign a confidence; her beautiful countenance shone, as is it were, with such intrepid joy, that Rodin, notwithstanding his phlegmatic audacity, was for a moment frightened. Yet he did not appear in the least disconcerted; and, after a moment’s silence, he resumed, with an air of almost contemptuous compassion: “My dear young lady, we may perhaps never meet again; it is probable. Only remember one thing, which I now repeat to you: I never justify myself. The future will provide for that. Notwithstanding which, my dear young lady, I am your humble servant;” and he made her a low bow.
“Count, I beg to salute you most respectfully,” he added, bowing still more humbly to M. de Montbron; and he went out.
Hardly had Rodin left the room than Adrienne ran to her desk, and writing a few hasty lines, sealed the note, and said to M. de Montbron: “I shall not see the prince before to-morrow—as much from superstition of the heart as because it is necessary for my plans that this interview should be attended with some little solemnity. You shall know all; but I write to him on the instant, for, with an enemy like M. Rodin, one must be prepared for all.”