“I have thought of that,” replied the count; “and I believe I have even hit upon an arrangement which”—
But, when he saw his daughter’s watchful eye fixed upon him, he paused, and, pointing towards the door, said to her brutally,—
“You are in the way here!”
Without saying a word, she went out, much less troubled by her father’s fury than by the strange confessions which the countess had made. She only now began to measure the full extent of her step-mother’s hatred, and knew that she was too practical a woman to waste her time by making idle speeches. Therefore, if she had stated that she loved Daniel,—a statement which Henrietta believed to be untrue,—if she had impudently confessed that she coveted her husband’s fortune, she had a purpose in view. What was that purpose? How could any one unearth the truth from among such a mass of falsehood and deception?
At all events, the scene was strange enough to confound any one’s judgment. And when Henrietta, that evening, found an opportunity to tell M. de Brevan what had happened, he trembled in his chair, and was so overwhelmed with surprise, that he forgot his precautions, and exclaimed almost aloud,—
“That is not possible!”
There was no doubt that he, usually so impassive, was terribly excited. In less than five minutes he had changed color more than ten times. You would have thought he was a man who at a single blow sees the edifice of all his hopes crumble to pieces. At last, after a moment’s reflection, he said,—
“Perhaps it would be wise, madam, to leave the house.”
But she replied sadly,—
“What? How can I do that? After so many odious calumnies, my honor and Daniel’s honor oblige me to remain here. He recommends me only to flee at the last extremity, and when there is no other resource left. Now, I ask you, shall I be more unhappy or more seriously threatened to-morrow than I am to-day? Evidently not.”
But, this confidence which Henrietta expressed was only apparent. In her heart she suffered from the most terrible presentiments. A secret voice told her that this scene, no doubt well prepared and carefully brought about, was but another step leading to the final catastrophe.
Days, however, passed by, and nothing unusual happened. It looked as if they had resolved, after that crisis, to give her a short respite, and time to recover.
Even the watch kept upon her movements was not quite as strict as heretofore. The countess kept out of her way. Mrs. Brian had given up the desire to frighten her by her incessant remarks. Her father she saw but rarely; for he was entirely absorbed in the preparations for the Pennsylvania Petroleum Society. Thus, a week later, all seemed to have entirely forgotten the terrible explosion produced by the letter to the Duke of Champdoce.