“I—I” he stammered, pressing convulsively the hands of his brother-in-law. “Shall I let you pay the ransom for my madness and folly? Shall I a second time despoil my sister, already robbed by me of one half her rightful share? I should die of shame! Or, rather—wait a moment! Let us reverse our situations for an instant, and if you will swear to me that, were you in my place, you would accept—Ah, you see! You hesitate as much now as you hesitated little a moment ago in your simple and cordial burst of generosity: Consequently, I refuse!”
“What do you mean to do, then?”
“To sell Prerolles immediately-to-day, if possible. This determination troubles you because of the grief it will cause Jeanne. It will grieve me, too. And the courage to tell this to her is the only effort to which my strength is unequal. Only you can tell it in such a way as to soften the blow—”
“I will try to do it,” said the Duke.
“I thank you! As to the personal belongings and the family portraits, their place is at Montgeron, is it not?”
“That is understood. Now, one word more, Henri.”
“Have you not another embarrassment to settle?”
“I have indeed, and the sooner the better. Unhappily—”
“You have not enough money,” finished the Duke. “I have received this morning twenty-five thousand francs’ rent from my farms. Will you allow me to lend them to you?”
“To be repaid from the price of the sale? Very willingly, this time.”
And he placed in an envelope the notes handed him by his brother-in-law.
“This is the last will and testament of love,” said the Marquis, as he departed, to give the necessary instructions to his notary.
His debts were easily reckoned. He owed eight hundred thousand francs to the Credit Foncier; four hundred thousand to Paul Landry; more than one hundred thousand to various jewellers and shopkeepers; twenty-five thousand to the Duc de Montgeron. It was necessary to sell the chateau and the property at one million four hundred thousand francs, and the posters advertising the sale must be displayed without delay.
Then he must say farewell to Fanny Dorville. Nothing should disturb a sensible mind; the man who, with so much resolution, deprives himself of his patrimonial estates should not meet less bravely the separation imposed by necessity.
As soon as Henri appeared in Fanny’s boudoir, she divined that her presentiments of the previous night had not deceived her.
“You have lost heavily?” she asked.
“Very heavily,” he replied, kissing her brow.
“And it was my fault!” she cried. “I brought you bad luck, and that wretch of a Landry knew well what he was about when he made me cut the cards that brought you misfortune!”