“Do you wish to prevent those who are cleared out from blowing out their brains?” inquired Cayrol. “Compel the pawnbrokers of Monaco to lend a louis on all pistols.”
“Well,” retorted young Monsieur Souverain, “when the louis is lost the players will still be able to hang themselves.”
“Yes,” concluded Marechal, “then at any rate the rope will bring luck to others.”
“Gentlemen, do you know that what you have been relating to us is very doleful?” said Suzanne Herzog. “Suppose, to vary our impressions, you were to ask us to waltz?”
“Yes, on the terrace,” said Le Brede, warmly. “A curtain of orange-trees will protect us from the vulgar gaze.”
“Oh! Mademoiselle, what a dream!” sighed Du Tremblay, approaching Suzanne. “Waltzing with you! By moonlight.”
“Yes, friend Pierrot!” sang Suzanne, bursting into a laugh.
Already the piano, vigorously attacked by Pierre, desirous of making himself useful since he could not be agreeable, was heard in the next room. Serge had slowly approached Jeanne.
“Will you do me the favor of dancing with me?” he asked, softly.
The young woman started; her cheeks became pale, and in a sharp tone she answered:
“Why don’t you ask your wife?”
“You or nobody.”
Jeanne raised her eyes boldly, and looking at him in the face, said, defiantly:
“Well, then, nobody!”
And, rising, she took the arm of Cayrol, who was advancing toward her.
The Prince remained motionless for a moment, following them with his eyes. Then, seeing his wife alone with Madame Desvarennes, he went out on the terrace. Already the couples were dancing on the polished marble. Joyful bursts of laughter rose in the perfumed air that sweet March night. A deep sorrow came over Serge; an intense disgust with all things. The sea sparkled, lit up by the moon. He had a mad longing to seize Jeanne in his arms and carry her far away from the world, across that immense calm space which seemed made expressly to rock sweetly eternal loves.
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER
Micheline intended following her husband, but Madame Desvarennes, without rising, took hold of her hand.
“Stay with me for a little while,” she said, tenderly. “We have scarcely exchanged ten words since my arrival. Come, tell me, are you pleased to see me?”
“How can you ask me that?” answered Micheline, seating herself on the sofa beside her mother.
“I ask you so that you may tell me so,” resumed Madame Desvarennes, softly. “I know what you think, but that is not enough.” She added pleadingly:
“Kiss me, will you?”
Micheline threw her arms round her mother’s neck, saying, “Dear mamma!” which made tears spring to the tortured mother’s eyes. She folded her-daughter in her arms, and clasped her as a miser holds his treasure.