Poor king! He should have had entire France to divide like a cake between these cormorants, whose voracious appetites it was impossible to satisfy.
That evening, after a grand banquet at the Chateau de Courtornieu, the duke slept in the Chateau de Sairmeuse, in the room which had been occupied by Lacheneur, “like Louis XVIII.,” he laughingly said, “in the chamber of Bonaparte.”
He was gay, chatty, and full of confidence in the future.
“Ah! it is good to be in one’s own house!” he remarked to his son again and again.
But Martial responded only mechanically. His mind was occupied with thoughts of two women who had made a profound impression upon his by no means susceptible heart that day. He was thinking of those two young girls, so utterly unlike. Blanche de Courtornieu—Marie-Anne Lacheneur.
Only those who, in the bright springtime of life, have loved, have been loved in return, and have suddenly seen an impassable gulf open between them and happiness, can realize Maurice d’Escorval’s disappointment.
All the dreams of his life, all his future plans, were based upon his love for Marie-Anne.
If this love failed him, the enchanted castle which hope had erected would crumble and fall, burying him in the ruins.
Without Marie-Anne he saw neither aim nor motive in his existence. Still he did not suffer himself to be deluded by false hopes. Although at first, his appointed meeting with Marie-Anne on the following day seemed salvation itself, on reflection he was forced to admit that this interview would change nothing, since everything depended upon the will of another party—the will of M. Lacheneur.
The remainder of the day he passed in mournful silence. The dinner-hour came; he took his seat at the table, but it was impossible for him to swallow a morsel, and he soon requested his parents’ permission to withdraw.
M. d’Escorval and the baroness exchanged a sorrowful glance, but did not allow themselves to offer any comment.
They respected his grief. They knew that his was one of those sorrows which are only aggravated by any attempt at consolation.
“Poor Maurice!” murmured Mme. d’Escorval, as soon as her son had left the room. And, as her husband made no reply: “Perhaps,” she added, hesitatingly, “perhaps it will not be prudent for us to leave him too entirely to the dictates of his despair.”
The baron shuddered. He divined only too well the terrible apprehensions of his wife.
“We have nothing to fear,” he replied, quickly; “I heard Marie-Anne promise to meet Maurice to-morrow in the grove on the Reche.”
The anxious mother breathed more freely. Her blood had frozen with horror at the thought that her son might, perhaps, be contemplating suicide; but she was a mother, and her husband’s assurances did not satisfy her.