“I do not think so,” she said. “I do not care about being friendly with people whom I dislike, and I am beginning to dislike you very much indeed because you will not go away when I ask you.”
He rose to his feet a little offended.
“Very well,” he said, “I will go and talk to your stepmother, who wants me to play bridge, but very soon I shall come back, and before long I think that I am going to make you like me very much.”
He crossed the room, and Jeanne’s eyes followed his awkward gait with a sudden flash of quiet amusement. She watched him talk to her stepmother, and she saw the Princess’ face darken. As a matter of fact De Brensault felt that he had some just cause for complaint.
“Dear Princess,” he said, “you did not tell me that she was so very farouche, so very shy indeed. I speak to her quite kindly, and she tells me that she does not like me, and that she wished me to go away.”
The Princess looked across the room towards Jeanne, who was calmly reading, and apparently oblivious of everything that was passing.
“My dear Count,” she said, tapping his hand with her fan, “she is very, very serious. She would like to have been a nun, but of course we would not hear of it. I think that she was a little afraid of you. You looked at her very boldly, you know, and she is not used to the glances of men. At her age, perhaps—you understand?”
The Count was not quite sure that he did understand. He had a most unpleasant recollection of the firmness and decision with which Jeanne had announced her views with regard to him, but he looked towards her again and the look was fatal. Jeanne was certainly a most desirable young person, quite apart from her dowry.
“It may be as you say, Princess,” he said. “I must leave her to you for a little time. You must talk to her. She is quite pretty,” he added with an involuntary note of condescension in his tone. “I am very pleased with her. In fact I am quite attracted.”
“You will remember,” the Princess said, dropping her voice a little, “that before anything definite is said, you and I must have a little conversation.”
De Brensault twirled his moustache. He looked up at the Princess as though trying to fathom the meaning of her words.
“Certainly,” he answered slowly. “I have not forgotten what you said. Of course, her dot is very large, is it not?”
“It is very large indeed,” the Princess answered, “and there are a great many young men who would be very grateful to me indeed if I were willing even to listen to them.”
De Brensault nodded.
“Very well,” he said. “We will have that little talk whenever you like.”
The Princess nodded.
“I suppose,” she said, “we must play bridge now. They are waiting for us.”
De Brensault looked behind to where Jeanne was still sitting reading. Her head was resting upon a sofa pillow, deep orange coloured, against which the purity of her complexion, the delicate lines of her eyebrows, the shapeliness of her exquisite mouth, were all more than ever manifest. She read with interest, and without turning her head away from the pages of the book which she held in long, slender fingers. De Brensault sighed as he turned away.