“But I should be considered a coward, Monsieur!”
“Probably. Will you swear?”
Maurice hesitated, but an imploring look from Marie-Anne decided him.
“I swear!” he said, gravely.
“As far as Chanlouineau is concerned, it would be better not to let him know of our agreement—but I will take care of this matter.”
M. Lacheneur paused and reflected for a moment, as if striving to discover if he had forgotten anything.
“Nothing remains, Maurice,” he resumed, “but to give you a last and very important piece of advice. Do you know my son?”
“Certainly; we were formerly the best of comrades during our vacations.”
“Very well. When you know my secret—for I shall confide it to you without reserve—beware of Jean.”
“Beware of Jean. I repeat it.”
And he blushed deeply, as he added:
“Ah! it is a painful avowal for a father; but I have no confidence in my own son. He knows no more in regard to my plans than I told him on the day of his arrival. I deceive him, because I fear he might betray us. Perhaps it would be wise to send him away; but in that case, what would people say? Most assuredly they would say that I was very avaricious of my own blood, while I was very ready to risk the lives of others. Still I may be mistaken; I may misjudge him.”
He sighed, and added:
So it was really Maurice d’Escorval whom the Marquis de Sairmeuse had seen leaving Lacheneur’s house.
Martial was not certain of it, but the very possibility made his heart swell with anger.
“What part am I playing here, then?” he exclaimed, indignantly.
He had been so completely blinded by passion that he would not have been likely to discover the real condition of affairs even if no pains had been taken to deceive him.
Lacheneur’s formal courtesy and politeness he regarded as sincere. He believed in the studied respect shown him by Jean; and the almost servile obsequiousness of Chanlouineau did not surprise him in the least.
And since Marie-Anne welcomed him politely, he concluded that his suit was progressing favorably.
Having himself forgotten, he supposed that everyone else had ceased to remember.
Moreover, he was of the opinion that he had acted with great generosity, and that he was entitled to the deep gratitude of the Lacheneur family; for M. Lacheneur had received the legacy bequeathed him by Mlle. Armande, and an indemnity, besides all the furniture he had chosen to take from the chateau, a total of at least sixty thousand francs.
“He must be hard to please, if he is not satisfied!” growled the duke, enraged at such prodigality, though it did not cost him a penny.
Martial had supposed himself the only visitor at the cottage on the Reche; and when he discovered that such was not the case, he became furious.