“Miss Henrietta, you must give me time before I tell you any more. I know nothing positive; and I dare say I am unnecessarily alarmed. I will tell you all as soon as I am better informed.”
“When will that be?”
“To-night, if I can find Maxime de Brevan at home, as I hope I shall do; if I miss him, you must wait till to-morrow.”
“And if your suspicions turn out to be well founded; if what you fear, and hide from me now, is really so,—what must I do then?”
Without a moment’s hesitation, he rose and said in a solemn voice,—
“I am not going to tell you again how I love you, Henrietta; I am not going to tell you that to lose you would be death to me, and that in our family we do not value life very highly; you know that, don’t you? But, in spite of all that, if my fears should be well founded, as I apprehend they are, I should not hesitate to say to you, whatever might be the consequences, Henrietta, and even if we should have to part forever, we must try our utmost, we must employ all possible means in our power, to prevent a marriage between Count Ville-Handry and Sarah Brandon.”
In spite of all her sufferings, Henrietta felt her heart bounding with unspeakable happiness and joy. Ah! he deserved to be loved,—this man whom her heart had freely chosen among them all,—this man who gave her such an overwhelming proof of his love. She offered him her hand; and, with her eyes beaming with enthusiasm and tenderness, she said,—
“And I, I swear by the sacred memory of my mother, that whatever may happen, and whatever force they may choose to employ, I shall never belong to any one but to you.”
Daniel had seized her hand, and held it for some time pressed to his lips. At last, when his rapture gave way to calmer thoughts, he said,—
“I must leave you at once, Henrietta, if I want to catch Maxime.”
As he left, his head was in a whirl, his thoughts in a maze. His life and his happiness were at stake; and a single word would decide his fate in spite of all he could do.
A cab was passing; he hailed it, jumped in, and cried to the driver,—
“Go quick, I say! You shall have five francs! No. 61 Rue Laffitte!”
That was the house where Maxime de Brevan lived.
He was a man of thirty or thirty-five years, remarkably well made, light-haired, wearing a full beard, with a bright eye, and pleasing face. Mixing on intimate terms with the men who make up what is called high life, and with whom pleasure is the only occupation, he was very popular with them all. They said he was a man that could always be relied upon, at all times ready to render you a service when it was in his power, a pleasant companion, and an excellent second whenever a friend had to fight a duel.
In fine, neither slander nor calumny had ever attacked his reputation. And yet, far from following the advice of the philosopher, who tells us to keep our life from the eye of the public, Maxime de Brevan seemed to take pains to let everybody into his secrets. He was so anxious to tell everybody where he had been, and what he had been doing, that you might have imagined he was always preparing to prove an alibi.