What hope this answer roused in Louis’s breast!
“Yes,” he eagerly said, “I will go with you; a trip to Brazil would be charming! Let us start at once.”
But the next day Gaston had changed his mind.
He told Louis that he felt almost well, and was determined not to leave France. He proposed going to Paris to consult the best physicians; and then he would see Valentine.
That night he grew worse.
As his illness increased, he became more surprised and troubled at not hearing from Beaucaire.
He wrote again in the most pressing terms, and sent the letter by a courier who was to wait for the answer.
This letter was never received by Lafourcade.
At midnight, Gaston’s sufferings returned with renewed violence, and for the first time Dr. C—— was uneasy.
A fatal termination seemed inevitable. Gaston’s pain left him in a measure, but he was growing weaker every moment. His mind wandered, and his feet were as cold as ice. On the fourteenth day of his illness, after lying in a stupor for several hours, he revived sufficiently to ask for a priest, saying that he would follow the example of his ancestors, and die like a Christian.
The priest left him after half an hour’s interview, and all the workmen were summoned to receive the farewell greeting of their master.
Gaston spoke a few kind words to them all, saying that he had provided for them in his will.
After they had gone, he made Louis promise to carry on the iron-works, embraced him for the last time, and sank back on his pillow in a dying state.
As the bell tolled for noon he quietly breathed his last, murmuring, softly, “In three years, Valentine; wait for me.”
Now Louis was in reality Marquis of Clameran, and besides he was a millionaire.
Two weeks later, having made arrangements with the engineer in charge of the iron-works to attend to everything during his absence, he took his seat in the train for Paris.
He had sent the following significant telegram to Raoul the night previous: “I will see you to-morrow.”
Faithful to the programme laid down by his accomplice, while Louis watched at Oloron, Raoul remained in Paris with the purpose of recovering the confidence and affection of Mme. Fauvel, and of lulling any suspicions which might arise in her breast.
The task was difficult, but not impossible.
Mme. Fauvel had been distressed by Raoul’s wild extravagance, but had never ceased to love him.
Whatever faults he had committed, whatever future follies he might indulge in, he would always remain her best-loved child, her first-born, the living image of her noble, handsome Gaston, the lover of her youth.
She adored her two sons, Lucien and Abel; but she could not overcome an indulgent weakness for the unfortunate child, torn from her arms the day of his birth, abandoned to the mercies of hired strangers, and for twenty years deprived of home influences and a mother’s love.