“You have done your duty,” she replied; “it is those who have not done it, who are to be pitied!”
She had no opportunity to say more. Martial came running after them, anxious for another chance of seeing this young girl whose beauty had made such an impression upon him.
“I hastened after you,” he said, addressing Marie-Anne, rather than M. Lacheneur, “to reassure you. All this will be arranged, Mademoiselle. Eyes so beautiful as yours should never know tears. I will be your advocate with my father—”
“Mademoiselle Lacheneur has no need of an advocate!” a harsh voice interrupted.
Martial turned, and saw the young man, who, that morning, went to warn M. Lacheneur of the duke’s arrival.
“I am the Marquis de Sairmeuse,” he said, insolently.
“And I,” said the other, quietly, “am Maurice d’Escorval.”
They surveyed each other for a moment; each expecting, perhaps, an insult from the other. Instinctively, they felt that they were to be enemies; and the bitterest animosity spoke in the glances they exchanged. Perhaps they felt a presentiment that they were to be champions of two different principles, as well as rivals.
Martial, remembering his father, yielded.
“We shall meet again, Monsieur d’Escorval,” he said, as he retired. At this threat, Maurice shrugged his shoulders, and said:
“You had better not desire it.”
The abode of the Baron d’Escorval, that brick structure with stone trimmings which was visible from the superb avenue leading to Sairmeuse, was small and unpretentious.
Its chief attraction was a pretty lawn that extended to the banks of the Oiselle, and a small but beautifully shaded park.
It was known as the Chateau d’Escorval, but that appellation was gross flattery. Any petty manufacturer who had amassed a small fortune would have desired a larger, handsomer, and more imposing establishment.
M. d’Escorval—and it will be an eternal honor to him in history—was not rich.
Although he had been intrusted with several of those missions from which generals and diplomats often return laden with millions, M. d’Escorval’s worldly possessions consisted only of the little patrimony bequeathed him by his father: a property which yielded an income of from twenty to twenty-five thousand francs a year.
This modest dwelling, situated about a mile from Sairmeuse, represented the savings of ten years.
He had built it in 1806, from a plan drawn by his own hand; and it was the dearest spot on earth to him.
He always hastened to this retreat when his work allowed him a few days of rest.
But this time he had not come to Escorval of his own free will.
He had been compelled to leave Paris by the proscribed list of the 24th of July—that fatal list which summoned the enthusiastic Labedoyere and the honest and virtuous Drouot before a court-martial.