“Would that I could; but I can discern no means—”
Even in that moment her listener smiled involuntarily at the curt, imperious tones, decisive as Napoleon’s “Partons!” before the Passage of the Alps.
“Be certain, if I can, I will. Meantime, there is one pressing danger of which you must be my medium to warn him. He and my brother must not meet. Tell him that the latter, knowing him only as Louis Victor, and interested in the incidents of his military career, will seek him out early to-morrow morning before we quit the camp. I must leave it to him to avoid the meeting as best he may be able.”
Cigarette smiled grimly.
“You do not know much of the camp. Victor is only a bas-officier; if his officers call him up, he must come, or be thrashed like a slave for contumacy. He has no will of his own.”
Venetia gave an irrepressible gesture of pain.
“True; I forgot. Well, go and send him to me. My brother must be taken into his confidence, whatever that confidence reveals. I will tell him so. Go and send him to me; it is the last chance.”
Cigarette gave no movement of assent; all the jealous rage in her flared up afresh to stifle the noble and unselfish instincts under which she had been led during the later moments. A coarse and impudent scoff rose to her tongue, but it remained unuttered; she could not speak it under that glance, which held the evil in her in subjection, and compelled her reluctant reverence against her will.
“Tell him to come here to me,” repeated Venetia, with the calm decision of one to whom any possibility of false interpretation of her motives never occurred, and who was habituated to the free action that accompanied an unassailable rank. “My brother must know what I know. I shall be alone, and he can make his way hither, without doubt, unobserved. Go and say this to him. You are his loyal little friend and comrade.”
“If I be, I do not see why I am to turn your lackey, Madame,” said Cigarette bitterly. “If you want him, you can send for him by other messengers!”
Venetia Corona looked at her steadfastly, with a certain contempt in the look.
“Then your pleading for him was all insincere? Let the matter drop, and be good enough to leave my presence, which, you will remember, you entered unsummoned and undesired.”
The undeviating gentleness of the tone made the rebuke cut deeper, as her first rebuke had cut, than any sterner censure or more peremptory dismissal could have done. Cigarette stood irresolute, ashamed, filled with rage, torn by contrition, impatient, wounded, swayed by jealous rage and by the purer impulses she strove to stifle.
The Cross she had tossed down caught her sight as it glittered on the carpet strewn over the hard earth; she stooped and raised it; the action sufficed to turn the tide with her impressionable, ardent, capricious nature; she would not disgrace that.