“To the Hotel de Montgeron,” said Zibeline to her footman.
“I never shall forget your sister’s kindness to me,” she continued, as the carriage rolled away. “She fulfils my idea of the great lady better than any other woman I have seen.”
“You may be proud of her friendship,” said Henri. “When once she likes a person, it is forever. I am like her in that respect. Only I am rather slow in forming friendships.”
“And so am I.”
“That is obvious, else you would have been married ere this.”
“No doubt—to some one like young Desvanneaux, perhaps. You are very flattering! If you think that I would sacrifice my independence for a man like that—”
“But surely you do not intend to remain unmarried.”
“Perhaps I shall—if I do not meet my ideal.”
“All women say that, but they usually change their minds in the end.”
“Mine is one and indivisible. If I do not give all I give nothing.”
“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!”