“It is not a reproach, dear,” continued the young wife, sweetly. “You have your engagements. There are necessities to which one must submit; you do what you think is expected of you, and it must be right. Only grant me a favor.”
“A favor? To you?” replied Serge, troubled at the unexpected turn the interview was taking. “Speak, dear one; are you not at liberty to do as you like?”
“Well,” said Micheline, with a faint smile, “as you are so kindly disposed, promise that we shall leave for Paris this week. The season is far advancing. All your friends will have returned. It will not be such a great sacrifice which I ask from you.”
“Willingly,” said Serge, surprised at Micheline’s sudden resolution. “But, admit,” added he, gravely, “that your mother has worried you a little on the subject.”
“My mother knows nothing of my project,” returned the Princess, coldly. “I did not care to say anything about it to her until I had your consent. A refusal on your part would have seemed too cruel. Already, you are not the best of friends, and it is one of my regrets. You must be good to my mother, Serge; she is getting old, and we owe her much gratitude and love.”
Panine remained silent. Could such a sudden change have come over Micheline in one day? She who lately sacrificed her mother for her husband now came and pleaded in favor of Madame Desvarennes. What had happened?
He promptly decided on his course of action.
“All that you ask me shall be religiously fulfilled. No concession will be too difficult for me to make if it please you. You wish to return to Paris, we will go as soon as our arrangements have been made. Tell Madame Desvarennes, then, and let her see in our going a proof that I wish to live on good terms with her.”
Micheline simply said: “Thank you.” And Serge having gallantly kissed her hand, she regained the terrace.
Left alone, Serge asked himself the meaning of the transformation in his wife. For the first time she had shown signs of taking the initiative. Had the question of money been raised by Madame Desvarennes, and was Micheline taking him back to Paris in the hope of inducing a change in his habits? They would see. The idea that Micheline had seen him with Jeanne never occurred to him. He did not think his wife capable of so much self-control. Loving as she was, she could not have controlled her feelings, and would have made a disturbance. Therefore he had no suspicions.
As to their leaving for Paris he was delighted at the idea. Jeanne and Cayrol were leaving Nice at the end of the week. Lost in the vastness of the capital, the lovers would be more secure. They could see each other at leisure. Serge would hire a small house in the neighborhood of the Bois de Boulogne, and there they could enjoy each other’s society without observation.