“I have resolved,” said Zibeline, “to transform into an asylum, following a certain plan, the model farm belonging to the estate that I have recently purchased through you. If I required carte blanche in choosing the site, it was because I desire that Monsieur Desvanneaux shall have nothing to do with the matter until the day when I shall put the committee in possession of the building and its premises, which I have engaged to furnish, free of all expense to the Society. I shall employ my own architect to execute the work, and I shall ask you to indemnify, for me, the architect who has drawn up this first plan, which will remain as the minimum expense incurred on my part. But I wish to be the only person to superintend the arrangements, and to be free to introduce, without control, such improvements as I may judge suitable. Should the committee demand a guaranty, I have on deposit with Monsieur de Samoreau a million francs which I intend to use in carrying out these operations. Half of that sum may be consigned to the hands of some one they may wish to choose; the other half will serve to pay the laborers in proportion to their work. In order to insure even greater regularity, have the kindness to draw up, to cover the interval that will elapse before I make my final definite donation, a provisionary document, setting forth the engagement that I have undertaken to carry out.”
“Here it is,” said the notary; “I have already prepared it.”
Having examined the document carefully, to assure herself that all statements contained therein were according to her intentions, Zibeline took her pen and wrote at the foot of the page: “Read and approved,” and signed the paper.
“Mademoiselle appears to be well accustomed to business habits,” observed M. Durand, with a smile.
“That is because I have been trained to them since childhood,” she replied. “My plan is to place this document myself in the hands of Madame la Duchesse de Montgeron.”
“You can do so this very afternoon, if you wish. Thursday is her reception day,” said the notary, rising with a bow, preparatory to taking his leave.
“I shall take good care not to fail to call,” earnestly replied the fair Lady Bountiful.
She telephoned immediately to her head-groom, ordering ham to bring around her brougham at three o’clock.
A MODERN TARTUFE
At the same hour that the elegant carriage of Zibeline was conducting her to the Hotel de Montgeron, M. Desvanneaux descended from a modest fiacre at the gate of the hotel occupied by Eugenie Gontier.
The first impulse of the actress—who was engaged in studying a new role in her library—was not to receive her importunate visitor; but a sudden idea changed her determination, and she gave the order to admit him.
“This is the first time that I have had the high favor of being admitted to this sanctuary,” said the churchwarden, kissing with ardor the hand that the actress extended to him.