The uneasiness thus temporarily repressed slipped into the final disguise of hoping he should not again meet Madame de Treymes; and in this wish he was seconded by the decision, in which Madame de Malrive concurred, that it would be well for him to leave Paris while the preliminary negotiations were going on. He committed her interests to the best professional care, and his mother, resigning her dream of the lakes, remained to fortify Madame de Malrive by her mild unimaginative view of the transaction, as an uncomfortable but commonplace necessity, like house-cleaning or dentistry. Mrs. Durham would doubtless have preferred that her only son, even with his hair turning gray, should have chosen a Fanny Frisbee rather than a Fanny de Malrive; but it was a part of her acceptance of life on a general basis of innocence and kindliness, that she entered generously into his dream of rescue and renewal, and devoted herself without after-thought to keeping up Fanny’s courage with so little to spare for herself.
The process, the lawyers declared, would not be a long one, since Monsieur de Malrive’s acquiescence reduced it to a formality; and when, at the end of June, Durham returned from Italy with Katy and Nannie, there seemed no reason why he should not stop in Paris long enough to learn what progress had been made.
But before he could learn this he was to hear, on entering Madame de Malrive’s presence, news more immediate if less personal. He found her, in spite of her gladness in his return, so evidently preoccupied and distressed that his first thought was one of fear for their own future. But she read and dispelled this by saying, before he could put his question: “Poor Christiane is here. She is very unhappy. You have seen in the papers—?”
“I have seen no papers since we left Turin. What has happened?”
“The Prince d’Armillac has come to grief. There has been some terrible scandal about money and he has been obliged to leave France to escape arrest.”
“And Madame de Treymes has left her husband?”
“Ah, no, poor creature: they don’t leave their husbands—they can’t. But de Treymes has gone down to their place in Brittany, and as my mother-in-law is with another daughter in Auvergne, Christiane came here for a few days. With me, you see, she need not pretend—she can cry her eyes out.”
“And that is what she is doing?”
It was so unlike his conception of the way in which, under the most adverse circumstances, Madame de Treymes would be likely to occupy her time, that Durham was conscious of a note of scepticism in his query.
“Poor thing—if you saw her you would feel nothing but pity. She is suffering so horribly that I reproach myself for being happy under the same roof.”
Durham met this with a tender pressure of her hand; then he said, after a pause of reflection: “I should like to see her.”