“I suppose they have shut you out, and you want a night’s lodging with me,” said Wilhelm; “very well, I won’t refuse you my hospitality—come in.”
He opened the door and let the dog pass in before him, then followed, pushed the bolt, and put the candlestick down on the table. Suddenly two cool, bare arms were laid about his neck, and his startled cry was smothered by the pressure of two burning lips upon his own.
IN THE HORSELBERG
The good landlady of the Hotel de France was not a little surprised next morning when Wilhelm came down to the kitchen and informed her that he must leave that forenoon. And when very soon afterward Anne appeared, and announced in her stiffest, most impenetrable manner that Madame la Comtesse desired two places, for herself and her maid, in the hotel omnibus which went to the station at Eu, the landlady remarked, “Indeed!” and there was a liberal interchange of meaning glances in the kitchen.
At no price would Wilhelm remain at Ault. The countess, who liked the place well enough, begged, entreated, and pouted in vain. He was not to be persuaded. He protested that he knew himself too well to think that he would be capable of keeping up the appearance of reserve toward her which decency demanded. And he need not, she declared; she considered herself free to do as she pleased, and. so was he; their love did not interfere with their duty toward anybody, and so it was immaterial if people found it out and talked about it.
Her utter disregard for the trammels of convention, her cool contempt for the opinion of others, filled him with horror.
“No, no, I could not look one of them in the face again.”
“But do you suppose that these people are any better? You surely don’t imagine that the man with the calves and his ravening wolf are married?”
“How can you say such things!”
“Why, you big baby, one can see that at a glance. He is far too nice to her for her to be his legitime.”
“That may be. At all events he has had so much consideration for outward appearance as to pass the person off as his wife. But we made our acquaintance here, under their very eye.”
“Wilhelm!”—from her lips the name sounded more like Gwillem—“I should not know you for the same person. Why, where is your boasted philosophy and stoicism to which you were going to convert me? Is that your indifference to the world and its hypocritical ways, its prejudices and its sneers?”
She was quite right. He was untrue to his principles, but he could not do otherwise. He had had the courage to decline the duel with Herr von Pechlar, but he had not the boldness to let the foolish gossips of the table d’hote be witnesses of his new love-making. Why? For the very simple reason that, in his heart of hearts, he disapproved of his liaison with Pilar.