“And shall you wait patiently until your ideal presents himself?”
“On the contrary, I am always looking for him.”
“Did you come to Europe for that purpose?”
“For that and for nothing else.”
“And suppose, should you find your ideal, that he himself raises obstacles?”
“I shall try to smooth them away.”
“Do you believe, then, that the power of money is irresistible?”
“Far from it! A great fortune is only a trust which Providence has placed in our hands, in order that we may repair, in its name, the injustices of fate. But I have another string to my bow.”
“What is it?”
“The force of my will.”
“You have plenty of that! But suppose, by some impossible chance, your ideal resists you even then?”
“Then I know what will remain for me to do.”
“You will resort to the pistol?”
“Not for him, but for myself,” she replied, in a tone so resolute as to exclude any suggestion of bravado.
Zibeline’s horse, which was a rapid trotter, now stopped before the Hotel de Montgeron, arriving just in advance of the Duchess’s carriage, for which the Swiss was watching at the threshold of the open Porte cochere. He drew himself up; the brougham entered the gate at a swift pace, described a circle, and halted under the marquee at the main entrance. The General sprang lightly to the ground.
“I thank you, Mademoiselle,” bowing, hat in hand, to his charming conductor.
“Call me Valentine, please,” she responded, with her usual ease of manner.
“Even in the character of a stage father, that would be rather too familiar,” said the Marquis.
“Not so much so as to call me Zibeline,” said Mademoiselle de Vermont, laughing.
“Ha! ha! You know your sobriquet, then?”
“I have known it a long time! Good-night, General! We shall meet again.”
Then, addressing her footman, she said in English: “Home!”
Like all residences where the owners receive much company, the Hotel de Montgeron had a double porte-cochere. Just as the Swiss opened the outer gate to allow the departure of Mademoiselle de Vermont, the two carriages crossed each other on the threshold. In fact, Henri had had hardly time to cross the courtyard to mount to his own apartments before his brother-in-law and his sister stopped him at the foot of the steps. He rejoined them to say good-night.
“Won’t you come and take a cup of tea with us in the little salon?” they asked.
“Willingly,” was his response. He followed them, and all three seated themselves beside a table which was already laid, and upon which the boiling water sang in the kettle.
“Leave us,” said the Duchess to the butler. “I will serve tea myself. Did Mademoiselle de Vermont bring you home?” she asked, when the servant had retired.