“No, no, my dear-listen! The only one in fault was I, who allowed myself, through false pride, to be persuaded that I should not seem to fear him.”
“Fear him—a professional gambler, who lives one knows not how! Nonsense! It is as if one should fight a duel with a fencing-master.”
“What do you wish, my dear? The evil is done—and it is so great—”
“That you have not the means to pay the sum? Oh, but wait a moment.”
And taking up a casket containing a superb collar of pearls, she said:
“This is worth fourteen thousand francs. You may well take them from me, since it was you that gave them to me.”
No doubt, she had read De Musset, and this action was perhaps a refection of that of Marion, but the movement was sincere. Something of the stern pride of this other Rolla was stirred; a sob swelled his bosom, and two tears—those tears that rise to a soldier’s eyes in the presence of nobility and goodness—fell from his eyes upon the hair of the poor girl.
“I have not come to that yet,” he said, after a short silence. “But we must part—”
“You are about to marry?” she cried.
“Ah, so much the better!”
In a few words he told her of his approaching departure, and said that he must devote all his remaining time to the details of the mobilization of troops.
“So—it is all over!” said Fanny, sadly. “But fear nothing! I have courage, and even if I have the evil eye at play, I know of something that brings success in war. Will you accept a little fetich from me?”
“Yes, but you persist in trying to give me something,” he said, placing on a table the sealed envelope he had brought.
“How good you are!” she murmured. “Now promise me one thing: let us dine together once more. Not at the Provencaux, however. Oh, heavens! no! At the Cafe Anglais—where we dined before the play the first time we—”
The entrance of Heloise cut short the allusion to a memory of autumn.
“Ah, it is you,” said Fanny nervously. “You come apropos.”
“Is there a row in the family?” inquired Heloise.
“As if there could be!”
“What is it, then?”
“You see Henri, do you not?”
“Well, yes, I do, certainly. What then?”
“Then look at him long and well, for you will not see him again in many a day. He is going to Mexico!”
“To exploit a mine?”
“Yes, Heloise,” the officer replied, “a mine that will make the walls of Puebla totter.”
“In that case, good luck, my General!” said the duenna, presenting arms with her umbrella.
Fanny could not repress a smile in spite of her tears. Her lover seized this moment to withdraw from her arms and reach the stairs.
“And now, Marquis de Prerolles, go forth to battle!” cried the old actress to him over the banisters, with the air of an artist who knows her proper cue.