Cayrol was confused; he twisted his bristly beard with his fingers.
“Faith, I do not say that your scruples are not right; but, between ourselves, every step that is taken against the Prince will count for naught. He will marry Mademoiselle Desvarennes.”
“It is possible. In that case, I shall be here to console Pierre and sympathize with him.”
“And in the mean time you are going to do all you can in his favor?”
“I have already had the honor of telling you that I cannot do anything.”
“Well, well. One knows what talking means, and you will not change my idea of your importance. You take the weaker side then; that’s superb!”
“It is but strictly honest,” said Marechal. “It is true that that quality has become very rare!”
Cayrol wheeled round on his heels. He took a few steps toward the door, then, returning to Marechal, held out his hand:
“Without a grudge, eh?”
The secretary allowed his hand to be shaken without answering, and the banker went out, saying to himself:
“He is without a sou and has prejudices! There’s a lad without a future.”
On reaching Paris, Pierre Delarue experienced a strange feeling. In his feverish haste he longed for the swiftness of electricity to bring him near Micheline. As soon as he arrived in Paris, he regretted having travelled so fast. He longed to meet his betrothed, yet feared to know his fate.
He had a sort of presentiment that his reception would destroy his hopes. And the more he tried to banish these thoughts, the more forcibly they returned. The thought that Micheline had forgotten her promise made the blood rush to his face.
Madame Desvarennes’s short letter suggested it. That his betrothed was lost to him he understood, but he would not admit it. How was it possible that Micheline should forget him? All his childhood passed before his mind. He remembered the sweet and artless evidences of affection which the young girl had given him. And yet she no longer loved him! It was her own mother who said so. After that could he still hope?
A prey to this deep trouble, Pierre entered Paris. On finding himself face to face with Cayrol, the young man’s first idea was, as Cayrol had guessed, to cry out, “What’s going on? Is all lost to me?” A sort of anxious modesty kept back the words on his lips. He would not admit that he doubted. And, then, Cayrol would only have needed to answer that all was over, and that he could put on mourning for his love. He turned around, and went out.
The tumult of Paris surprised and stunned him. After spending a year in the peaceful solitudes of Africa, to find himself amid the cries of street-sellers, the rolling of carriages, and the incessant movement of the great city, was too great a contrast to him. Pierre was overcome by languor; his head seemed too heavy for his body to carry; he mechanically entered a cab which conveyed him to the Hotel du Louvre. Through the window, against the glass of which he tried to cool his heated forehead, he saw pass in procession before his eyes, the Column of July, the church of St. Paul, the Hotel de Ville in ruins, and the colonnade of the Louvre.