“Well, have you thought it over?”
She looked at him till he felt compelled to turn his head away; and then she replied in a tone of resignation,—
“Father, you are master here. I should not tell you the truth, if I said I was not going to suffer cruelly at the idea of a stranger coming here to—But I shall receive her with all due respect.”
Ah! The count was not prepared for such a speedy consent.
“Do not speak of respect,” he said. “Tell me that you will be tender, affectionate, and kind. Ah, if you knew her, Henrietta! She is an angel.”
“What is her age?”
The count read in his daughter’s face that she thought his new wife much too young for him; and therefore he added, quickly,—
“Your mother was two years younger when I married her.”
That was so; but he forgot that that was twenty years ago.
“However,” he added, “you will see her; I shall ask her to let me present you to her. She is a foreigner, of excellent family, very rich, marvellously clever and beautiful; and her name is Sarah Brandon.”
That evening, when Henrietta told Daniel the name of her future mother-in-law, he started with an air of utter despair, and said,—
“Great God! If Maxime de Brevan is not mistaken, that is worse than any thing we could possibly anticipate.”
When Henrietta saw how the young officer was overcome by the mere mention of that name, Sarah Brandon, she felt the blood turn to ice in her veins. She knew perfectly well that a man like Daniel was not likely to be so utterly overwhelmed unless there was something fearful, unheard of, in the matter.
“Do you know the woman, Daniel?”
But he, regretting his want of self-possession, was already thinking how he could make amends for his imprudence.
“I swear to you,” he began.
“Oh, don’t swear! I see you know who she is.”
“I know nothing about her.”
“It is true I have heard people talk of her once, a long time ago.”
“One of my friends, Maxime de Brevan, a fine, noble fellow.”
“What sort of a woman is she?”
“Ah, me! that I cannot tell you. Maxime happened to mention her just in passing; and I never thought that one of these days I should—If I seemed to be so very much surprised just now, it was because I remembered, all of a sudden, a very ugly story in which Maxime said she had been involved, and then”—
He was ridiculous in his inability to tell a fib; so, when he found that he was talking nonsense, he turned his head away to avoid Henrietta’s eyes. She interrupted him, and said reproachfully,—
“Do you really think I am not strong enough to hear the truth?”
At first he did not reply. Overcome by the strange position in which he found himself, he looked for a way to escape, and found none. At last he said,—