“I must leave you now!” exclaimed Clemence, “I must. My dear love, let me go now; say good-by to me.”
She leaned toward him and presented her forehead to receive this adieu. It was her lips which met Octave’s, but this kiss was rapid and fleeting as a flash of light. Withdrawing from the arms which would yet retain her, she darted out of the grotto, and in a moment had disappeared in one of the shady paths.
For some time, plunged in deep reflection, Gerfaut stood on the same spot; but at last arousing himself from this dreamy languor, he climbed the rock so as to reach the top of the cliff. After taking a few steps he stopped with a frightened look, as if he had espied some venomous reptile in his path. He could see, through the bushes which bordered the crest of the plateau at the top of the ladder cut in the rock, Bergenheim, motionless, and in the attitude of a man who is trying to conceal himself in order that he may watch somebody. The Baron’s eyes not being turned in Gerfaut’s direction, he could not tell whether he was the object of this espionage, or whether the lay of the land allowed him to see Madame de Bergenheim, who must be under the sycamores by this time. Uncertain as to what he should do, he remained motionless, half crouched down upon the rock, behind the ledge of which, thanks to his position, he could hide from the Baron.
A few moments before the castle clock struck four, a man leaped across the ditch which served as enclosure to the park. Lambernier, for it was he who showed himself so prompt at keeping his promise, directed his steps through the thickets toward the corner of the Corne woods which he had designated to Marillac; but, after walking for some time, he was forced to slacken his steps. The hunting-party were coming in his direction, and Lambernier knew that to continue in the path he had first chosen would take him directly among the hunters; and, in spite of his insolence, he feared the Baron too much to wish to expose himself to the danger of another chastisement. He therefore retraced his steps and took a roundabout way through the thickets, whose paths were all familiar to him; he descended to the banks of the river ready to ascend to the place appointed for the rendezvous as soon as the hunting party had passed.
He had hardly reached the plateau covered with trees, which extended above the rocks, when, as he entered a clearing which had been recently made, he saw two men coming toward him who were walking very fast, and whom to meet in this place caused him a very disagreeable sensation. The first man was Mademoiselle de Corandeuil’s coachman, as large a fellow as ever crushed the seats of landau or brougham with his rotundity. He was advancing with hands in the pockets of his green jacket and his broad shoulders thrown back, as if he had taken it upon himself to replace Atlas. His cap, placed in military fashion upon his head, his scowling brows, and his bombastic air, announced that he was upon the point of accomplishing some important deed which greatly interested him. Leonard Rousselet, walking by his side, moved his spider legs with equal activity, carefully holding up the skirts of his long coat as if they were petticoats.