“Come and talk to the Princess,” he said. “She has something to say to you.”
De Brensault rose somewhat heavily to his feet.
“And I,” he said, “I, too, have something to say to her. We will take a glass of champagne together, my friend Forrest, and then we will seek the Princess.”
“By all means,” he said. “To tell you the truth I need it.”
De Brensault looked at him curiously.
“You are very pale, my friend,” he said. “You look as though things were not going too well with you.”
“I have been annoyed,” Forrest answered. “There is a man here whom I dislike, and it made me angry to see him with Miss Jeanne. I think myself that the time has come when something definite must be done as regards that child. She is too young to be allowed to run loose like this, and a great deal too inexperienced.”
“I agree with you,” De Brensault said solemnly. “We will drink that glass of wine together, and we will go and talk to the Princess.”
They found the Princess where Forrest had left her. She motioned to De Brensault to sit by her side, and Forrest left them.
“My dear Count,” the Princess said, “to-night has proved to me that it is quite time Jeanne had some one to look after her. Let me ask you. Are you perfectly serious in your suit?”
“Absolutely!” De Brensault answered eagerly. “I myself would like the matter settled. I propose to you for her hand.”
The Princess bowed her head thoughtfully.
“Now, my dear Count,” she said, “I am going to talk to you as a woman of the world. You know that my husband, in leaving his fortune entirely to Jeanne, treated me very badly. You may know this, or you may not know it, but the fact remains that I am a very poor woman.”
De Brensault nodded sympathetically. He guessed pretty well what was coming.
“If I,” the Princess continued, “assist you to gain my stepdaughter Jeanne for your wife, and the control of all her fortune, it is only fair,” she continued, “that I should be recompensed in some way for the allowance which I have been receiving as her guardian, and which will then come to an end. I do not ask for anything impossible or unreasonable. I want you to give me twenty thousand pounds the day that you marry Jeanne. It is about one year’s income for her rentes, a mere trifle to you, of course.”
“Twenty thousand pounds,” De Brensault repeated reflectively.
The Princess nodded. She was sorry that she had not asked thirty thousand.
“I am not a mercenary woman,” she said. “If I were not almost a pauper I would accept nothing. As it is, I think you will call my proposal a very fair one.”
“The exact amount of Mademoiselle Jeanne’s dot,” he remarked, “has never been discussed between us.”
“The figures are altogether beyond me,” the Princess said. “To tell you the truth I have never had the heart to go into them. I have always thought it terribly unfair that my husband should have left me nothing but an annuity, and this great fortune to the child. However, as you are both rich, it seems to me that settlements will not be necessary. On your honeymoon you can go and see her trustees in Paris, and you yourself will, of course, then take over the management of her fortune.”