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.
THE LADY BOUNTIFUL
Valentine de Vermont was not yet twenty-two years old.
Her birth had cost the life of her mother, and, brought up by an active and enterprising man, her education had been directed by plain common-sense, rather masculine, perhaps, but without injury to her personal attractions, nor to those of her delicate and lofty spirit.
Her father, who was endowed with a veritable genius for commercial action, had monopolized more than the fur-trade of Alaska and of Hudson’s Bay. From year to year he had extended the field of his operations: in Central America, dealing in grains and salt meats; in Europe in wines and brandy; commodities always bought at the right time, in enormous quantities, and, without pausing in transshipment from one country to another, carried in vessels belonging to him and sailing under the English flag.
Without giving her any unnecessary instruction as to the management of his affairs, he wished his daughter to possess sufficient knowledge of them to handle herself the wealth that she would receive as a dowry and at his death; and he decided that she should not contract a marriage except under the law of the separation of goods, according to the custom generally adopted in the United States.
An attack of paralysis having condemned him to his armchair, he consecrated the remainder of his days to settling all his enterprises, and when he died, about two years before the arrival of Valentine in Paris, that young lady found herself in the possession of more than one hundred and twenty million francs, nearly all invested in English, American, and French State bonds.
At the expiration of her period of mourning, the wealthy heiress could then live in London, New York, or Paris, at her pleasure; but the French blood that ran in her veins prevented her from hesitating a moment, and she chose the last named of the three cities for her abode.