The salon, hung with draperies to simulate a tent, had no other decoration than some trophies of Arabian arms, souvenirs of raids upon rebellious tribes.
More primitive still was the bedroom, furnished with a simple canteen bed, as if it were put up in a temporary camp, soon to be abandoned.
The only room which suggested nothing of the anchorite was the dressing-room, furnished with all the comforts and conveniences necessary to an elegant and fastidious man of the world.
But his real luxury, which, by habit and by reason of his rank, the General had always maintained, was found among his horses, as he devoted to them all the available funds that could be spared from his salary. Hence the four box-stalls placed at his disposal in the stables of his brother-in-law were occupied by four animals of remarkably pure blood, whose pedigrees were inscribed in the French stud-book. Neither years, nor the hard service which their master had seen, had deteriorated any of his ability as a dashing horseman. His sober and active life having even enabled him to preserve a comparatively slender figure, he would have joined victoriously in the races, except that his height made his weight too heavy for that amusement.
Entering his own domain, still overwhelmed, with the shock of the revelations and the gossip of which he never had dreamed, he felt himself wounded to the quick in all those sentiments upon which his ’amour propre’ had been most sensitive.
The more he pondered proudly over his pecuniary misfortunes, the more grave the situation appeared to him, and the more imperious the necessity of a rupture.
When it had been a question of dismissing Fanny Dorville, an actress of humble standing, his parting gift, a diamond worth twenty-five thousand francs, had seemed to him a sufficient indemnity to cancel all accounts.
But now, in the presence of an artiste of merit, who had given herself without calculation and who loved him for himself alone, how, without wounding her heart and her dignity, could he break violently a chain so light yesterday, so heavy to-day?
To indulge in tergiversation, to invent some subterfuge to cover his retreat—he did not feel himself capable of such a course; moreover, his manoeuvre would be quickly suspected by a clever woman whom nothing escaped.
To ask to be sent back to Africa, just at the time when his intelligent and practical instruction in the latest grand manoeuvres had drawn all eyes upon him, would compromise, by an untimely retirement, the advantages of this new office, the object of his ambition.
For the first time this nobleman, always prompt and radical in his decisions, found himself hesitating; and, such is the power of human egotism even in generous natures, he felt almost incensed against Eugenie, the involuntary cause of his hesitation.
After weighing everything carefully in his mind, he finally said to himself that an open confession, sincere and unrestricted, would be the best solution of the difficulty; and just as the first light of day came to dissipate the shadow that overcast his mind, when his orderly entered to open the blinds in his chamber, he formed a fixed resolution as to his course.