“I am sorry now,” said she, “that I did not send for a black hat; my hair is so light that gray makes me look ugly. Do you not think so? Why do you not reply, Clemence? One can not get a word out of you to-day; is it because you have your neuralgia?”
“I have a trifle of it,” said Madame de Bergenheim, in order to give some pretext for her preoccupation.
“Now, then, you ought to come with us for a ride; the fresh air will do you good. Look how fine the weather is now; we will have a good gallop. Will you? I will help you put on your habit, and in five minutes you will be ready. Listen, I hear them in the yard now. I am going to tell Christian to have your horse saddled; come.”
Aline took her sister-in-law by the hand, led her into the next room and opened the window to see what was going on outside, where the cracking of whips and several voices were to be heard. A servant was walking up and down the yard leading a large horse which he had just brought from the stable; the Baron was holding a smaller one, which bore a lady’s saddle, while he carefully examined all the buckles. As he heard the window open above his head, he turned and bowed to Clemence with much chivalrous gallantry.
“You still refuse to go with us?” he asked.
“Is Aline going to ride Titania,” replied Madame de Bergenheim, making an effort to speak; “I am sure the mare will end by playing her some trick.”
The young girl, who had a fancy for Titania because the skittish creature had the attraction of forbidden fruit, nudged her sister with her elbow, and made a little grimace.
“Aline is afraid of nothing,” said the Baron; “we will enlist her with the hussars as soon as she leaves the ‘Sacred Heart.’ Come, Aline.”
The young girl kissed the Baroness, gathered up her skirt, and in a few moments was in the yard patting the neck of her dear brown mare.
“Up with you!” said Christian, taking his sister’s foot in one hand while he raised her with the other, placing her in the saddle as easily as he would a six-year-old child. Then he mounted his large horse, saluted his wife, and the couple, starting at a trot, soon disappeared down the avenue, which began at the gate of the courtyard.
As soon as they were out of sight, Clemence went to her room, took a shawl from her bed, and went rapidly down a secret stairway which led into the gardens.
THE GALLANT IN THE GARDEN
Madame de Bergenheim’s apartments occupied the first floor of the wing on the left side of the house. On the ground floor were the library, a bathroom, and several guest-chambers. The large windows had a modern look, but they were made to harmonize with the rest of the house by means of grayish paint. At the foot of this facade was a lawn surrounded by a wall and orange-trees planted in tubs, forming a sort of English garden, a sanctuary reserved for the mistress of the castle, and which brought her, as a morning tribute, the perfume of its flowers and the coolness of its shade.