“To you, Marie-Anne, I swear that I will avenge you!”
For a few seconds he stood motionless, then suddenly he stopped, pressed a kiss upon the dead girl’s brow, and left the room.
“And you think that man can be guilty!” exclaimed the abbe. “You see, Jean, that you are mad!”
“And this last insult to my dead sister is an honor, I suppose,” said Jean, with a furious gesture.
“And the wretch binds my hands by saving my father!” exclaimed Maurice.
From his place by the window, the abbe saw Martial remount his horse.
But the marquis did not take the road to Montaignac. It was toward the Chateau de Courtornieu that he hastened.
The reason of Mme. Blanche had sustained a frightful shock, when Chupin was obliged to lift her and carry her from Marie-Anne’s chamber.
But she lost consciousness entirely when she saw the old poacher stricken down by her side.
On and after that night Aunt Medea took her revenge for all the slights she had received.
Scarcely tolerated until then at Courtornieu, she henceforth made herself respected, and even feared.
She, who usually swooned if a kitten hurt itself, did not utter a cry. Her extreme fear gave her the courage that not unfrequently animates cowards when they are in some dire extremity.
She seized the arm of her bewildered niece, and, by dint of dragging and pushing, had her back at the chateau in much less time than it had taken them to go to the Borderie.
It was half-past one o’clock when they reached the little garden-gate, by which they had left the grounds.
No one in the chateau was aware of their long absence.
This was due to several different circumstances. First, to the precautions taken by Blanche, who had given orders, before going out, that no one should come to her room, on any pretext whatever, unless she rang.
It also chanced to be the birthday of the marquis’s valet de chambre. The servants had dined more sumptuously than usual. They had toasts and songs over their dessert; and at the conclusion of the repast, they amused themselves by an extempore ball.
They were still dancing at half-past one; all the doors were open, and the two ladies succeeded in gaining the chamber of Blanche without being observed.
When the doors of the apartment had been securely closed, and when there was no longer any fear of listeners, Aunt Medea attacked her niece.
“Now will you explain what happened at the Borderie; and what you were doing there?” she inquired.
“Why do you wish to know?” she asked.
“Because I suffered agony during the three hours that I spent in waiting for you. What was the meaning of those despairing cries that I heard? Why did you call for aid? I heard a death-rattle that made my hair stand on end with terror. Why was it necessary for Chupin to bring you out in his arms?”