Jeanne touched his face slightly with her white hand.
“Come! Don’t leave me in a temper! You won’t miss me much, you will sleep all the way. Good-by!”
Cayrol kissed her; in a choking voice, he said:
And he left her.
Jeanne’s face brightened, as she stood listening for a moment and heard the carriage which contained her husband rolling away. Uttering a sigh of relief, she murmured:
Jeanne had just taken off her ball-dress to put on a dressing-gown of Oriental cloth richly embroidered with silk flowers. Leaning her elbows on the mantelpiece, and breathing heavily, she was waiting. Her maid came in, bringing a second lamp. The additional light displayed the rich warm hangings of ruby plush embroidered in dull gold. The bed seemed one mass of lace.
“Has everybody gone?” asked Jeanne, pretending to yawn.
“Messieurs Le Brede and Du Tremblay, the last guests, are just putting on their overcoats,” answered the maid. “But Monsieur Pierre Delarue has come back, and is asking whether Madame will speak with him for a moment.”
“Monsieur Delarue?” repeated Jeanne, with astonishment.
“He says he has something important to say to Madame.”
“Where is he?” asked Jeanne.
“There, in the gallery. The lights were being put out in the drawing-room.”
“Well, show him in.”
The maid went out. Jeanne, much puzzled, asked herself, what could have brought Pierre back? It must certainly be something very important. She had always felt somewhat awed in Pierre’s presence. At that moment the idea of being face to face with the young man was most distressing to her.
A curtain was lifted and Pierre appeared. He remained silent and confused at the entrance of the room, his courage had deserted him.
“Well,” said Jeanne, with assumed stiffness, “whatever is the matter, my friend?”
“The matter is, my dear Jeanne,” began Pierre, “that—”
But the explanation did not seem so very easy to give, for he stopped and could not go on.
“That?” repeated Madame Cayrol.
“I beg your pardon,” resumed Pierre. “I am greatly embarrassed. In coming here I obeyed a sudden impulse. I did not think of the manner in which I should tell you what I have to say, and I see that I shall have to run a great risk of offending you.”
Jeanne assumed a haughty air.
“Well, but, my dear friend, if what you have to say is so difficult, don’t say it.”
“Impossible!” retorted Pierre. “My silence would cause irreparable mischief. In mercy, Jeanne, make my task easier! Meet me half way! You have projects for to-night which are known. Danger threatens you. Take care!”
Jeanne shuddered. But controlling herself, she answered, laughing nervously: