Serge, in taking leave of Madame Desvarennes, said:
“In exchange for all the happiness which you give me, I have only my life to offer; accept it, Madame, it is yours.”
The mistress looked at the Prince deeply; then, in a singular tone, said:
“I accept it; from to-day you belong to me.”
Marechal took Pierre by the arm and led him outside.
“The Prince has just uttered words which remind me of Antonio saying to the Jew in ‘The Merchant of Venice’: ’Thy ducats in exchange for a pound of my flesh.’ Madame Desvarennes loves her daughter with a more formidable love than Shylock had for his gold. The Prince will do well to be exact in his payments of the happiness which he has promised.”
A PLEASANT UNDERSTANDING
The day following this memorable evening, Pierre left for Algeria, notwithstanding the prayers of Madame Desvarennes who wished to keep him near her. He was going to finish his labors. He promised to return in time for the wedding. The mistress, wishing to give him some compensation, offered him the management of the mills at Jouy, saying:
“So that if you are not my son, you will be at least my partner. And if I do not leave you all my money at my death, I can enrich you during my life.”
Pierre would not accept. He would not have it said that in wishing to marry Micheline he had tried to make a speculation. He wished to leave that house where he had hoped to spend his life, empty-handed, so that no one could doubt that it was the woman he loved in Micheline and not the heiress. He had been offered a splendid appointment in Savoy as manager of some mines; he would find there at the same time profit and happiness, because there were interesting scientific studies to be made in order to enable him to carry on the work creditably. He resolved to throw himself heart and soul into the work and seek forgetfulness in study.
In the mansion of the Rue Saint-Dominique the marriage preparations were carried on with great despatch. On the one side the Prince, and on the other Cayrol, were eager for the day: the one because he saw the realization of his ambitious dreams, the other because he loved so madly. Serge, gracious and attentive, allowed himself to be adored by Micheline, who was never weary of listening to and looking at him whom she loved. It was a sort of delirium that had taken possession of the young girl. Madame Desvarennes looked on the metamorphosis in her child with amazement. The old Micheline, naturally indolent and cold, just living with the indolence of an odalisque stretched on silk cushions, had changed into a lively, loving sweetheart, with sparkling eyes and cheerful lips. Like those lowers which the sun causes to bloom and be fragrant, so Micheline under a look from Serge became animated and grown handsomer.