“We have already conversed longer than we ought to have done in prudence. I shall not speak to you again to-night. Till Thursday.”
And with sinking voice, she said,—
By this one word Henrietta sealed her destiny; and she knew it. She was fully aware of the terrible rashness of her plan. A voice had called to her, from her innermost heart, that her honor, her life, and all her earthly hopes, had thus been staked upon one card. She foresaw clearly what the world would say the day after her flight. She would be lost, and could hope for rehabilitation only when Daniel returned.
If she could only have been as sure of the heart of her chosen one as she had formerly been! But the cunning innuendoes of the countess, and the impudent asseverations of Sir Thorn, had done their work, and shaken her faith. Daniel had been absent for nearly a year now, and during all that time she had written to him every month; but she had received from him only two letters through M. de Brevan,—and what letters! Very polite, very cold, and almost without a word of hope.
If Daniel upon his return should abandon her!
And still, the more she reflected with all that lucidity with which the approach of a great crisis inspired her, the more she became impressed with the absolute necessity of flight. Yes, she must face unknown dangers, but only in order to escape from dangers which she knew but too well. She was relying upon a man who was almost a stranger to her; but was not this the only way to escape from the insults of a wretch who had become the boon companion, the friend, and the counsellor of her father? Finally, she sacrificed her reputation, that is, the appearance of honor; but she saved the reality, honor itself.
Ah, it was hard! As long as the day lasted on Wednesday, she was wandering about, pale as a ghost, all over the vast palace. She bade farewell to this beloved house, full of souvenirs of eighteen years in which she had played as a child, where Daniel’s voice had caused her heart to beat loud and fast, and where her sainted mother had died. And in the evening, at table, big tears were rolling down her cheeks as she watched the stupidly-triumphant serenity of her father.
The next day, however, Thursday, Henrietta complained, as was agreed upon, of a violent headache; and the doctor was sent for. He found her in a violent fever, and ordered her to keep her bed. He little knew that he was thus restoring the poor girl to liberty. As soon as he had left, she rose; and, like a dying person who makes all her last dispositions, she hastened to put every thing in order in her drawers, putting together what she meant to keep, and burning what she wished to keep from the curiosity of the countess and her accomplices.