“You were the very person to reconcile them again, inasmuch as you gave Maxime an opportunity of rendering Sarah Brandon a great service.
“He did not then anticipate that she would ever fall in love with you, and that she, in her turn, would have to succumb to one of those desperate passions which she had so often kindled in others, and used for her own advantage. This discovery made him furious; and Sarah’s love, and Maxime’s rage, will explain to you the double plot by which you were victimized. Sarah, who loved you, wanted to get rid of Henrietta, who was your betrothed: Maxime, stung by jealousy, wanted you to die.”
Visibly overcome by fatigue, Papa Ravinet fell back in his chair, and remained silent for more than five minutes. Then he seemed to make one more effort, and went on,—
“Now, let us sum up the whole. I know how Sarah, Sir Thorn, and Mrs. Brian have gone to work to rob Count Ville-Handry, and to ruin him. I know what they have done with the millions which they report were lost in speculations; and I have the evidence in my hand. Therefore, I can ruin them, without reference to their other crimes. Crochard’s affidavit alone suffices to ruin M. de Brevan. The two Chevassats, husband and wife, have caught themselves by keeping the four thousand francs you sent to Miss Henrietta. We have them safe, the wretches! The hour of vengeance has come at last.”
Henrietta did not let him conclude: she interrupted him, saying,—
“And my father, sir, my father?”
“M. Champcey will save him, madam.”
Daniel had risen, deeply moved, and now asked,—
“What am I to do?”
“You must call on the Countess Sarah, and look as if you had forgotten all that has happened,—as far as she is concerned, Miss Henrietta.”
The young officer blushed all over, and stammered painfully,—
“Ah, I cannot play that part! I would not be able.”
But Henrietta stopped him. Laying her hand on his shoulder, and looking deep into the eyes of her betrothed, as if to search the very depths of his conscience, she said,—
“Have you reasons for hesitating?”
He hung his head, and said,—
“I shall go.”
It struck two when Daniel jumped out of a carriage before No. 79 in Peletier Street, where the offices of the Pennsylvania Petroleum Company were now, and where Count Ville-Handry lived at present.
Never in his life had he felt so embarrassed, or so dissatisfied with himself. In vain had Papa Ravinet and Mrs. Bertolle brought up all possible arguments to convince him, that, with a woman like Sarah Brandon, all reprisals were fair; he would not be convinced.
Unfortunately, he could not refuse to go without risking the peace of his Henrietta, her confidence, and her whole happiness; so he went as bravely as he could.