For some time M. de Brevan continued silent; then he said in a very sad voice,—
“My experience, madam, supplies me with but one advice,—be patient; say little; do as little as possible; and endeavor to appear insensible to their insults. I would say to you, if you will excuse the triviality of the comparison, imitate those feeble insects who simulate death when they are touched. They are defenceless; and that is their only chance of escape.”
He had risen; and, while bowing deeply before Henrietta, he added,—
“I must also warn you, madam, not to be surprised if you see me doing every thing in my power for the purpose of winning the good-will of your step-mother. Believe me, if I tell you that such duplicity is very distasteful to my character. But I have no other way to obtain the privilege of coming here frequently, of seeing you, and of being useful to you, as I have promised your friend Daniel.”
During the last visits which Daniel had paid to Henrietta, he had not concealed from her the fact that Maxime de Brevan had formerly been quite intimate with Sarah Brandon and her friends. But still, in explaining his reasons for trying to renew these relations, M. de Brevan had acted with his usual diplomacy.
But for this, she might have conceived some vague suspicions when she saw him, soon after he had left her, enter into a long conversation with the countess, then speak with Sir Thorn, and finally chat most confidentially with austere Mrs. Brian. But now, if she noticed it all, she was not surprised. Her mind was, in fact, thousands of miles away. She thought only of that letter which she had in her pocket, and which was burning her fingers, so to say. She could think of nothing else.
What would she not have given for the right to run away and read it at once? But adversity was teaching her gradually circumspection; and she felt it would be unwise to leave the room before the last guests had departed. Thus it was past two o’clock in the morning before she could open the precious letter, after having dismissed her faithful Clarissa.
Alas! she did not find what she had hoped for,—advice, or, better than that, directions how she should conduct herself. The fact is, that in his terrible distress, Daniel no longer was sufficiently master of himself to look calmly at the future, and to weigh the probabilities. In his despair he had filled three pages with assurances of his love, with promises that his last thoughts would be for her, and with prayers that she would not forget him. There were hardly twenty lines left for recommendations, which ought to have contained the most precise and minute details.
All his suggestions, moreover, amounted to this,—arm yourself with patience and resignation till my return. Do not leave your father’s house unless in the last extremity, in case of pressing danger, and under no circumstances without first consulting Maxime.