Once she even shocked the crowd of her worshippers by suddenly leaving her place in order to ask him why he held himself so aloof, and whether he felt indisposed. Then, seeing that he was a perfect stranger here, she was good enough to point out to him some of the most remarkable men in the crowd. In doing this, she was so anxious to make him aware of her distinguished friends, that Daniel began to think she must have divined his intentions, and thus indirectly defied him, as if she had said in so many words,—
“You see what friends I have, and how they would defend me if you should dare to attack me.”
Nevertheless, he was not discouraged, being fully aware of all the difficulties of his undertaking, and having long since counted up all the obstacles in his way. While the conversation was going on around him, he arranged in his head a plan, which, he hoped, would enable him to find out the antecedents of this dangerous adventuress.
These thoughts preoccupied him to such a degree, that he did not become aware how the rooms became gradually empty. It was so, nevertheless; and there were finally only a few intimate friends left, and four players at a card-table.
Then Miss Brandon arose, and, coming up to Daniel, said to him,—
“Will you grant me ten minutes’ conversation, sir?”
He prepared to follow her, when Mrs. Brian interposed, saying a few words in a tone of reproach to her niece. Daniel knew enough English to understand that she said,—
“What you are doing is highly improper, Sarah.”
“Shocking!” added M. Thomas Elgin.
But she shrugged her shoulders slightly, and replied in English,—
“My dear count alone would have a right to judge my conduct; and he has authorized me to do what I am doing.”
Then turning to Daniel, she said to him in French,—
“Come with me, sir.”
Miss Sarah led Daniel to a small boudoir adjoining her own room. Nothing could be fresher and more coquettish than this little room, which looked almost like a greenhouse, so completely was it filled with rare and fragrant flowers, while the door and window-frames were overgrown with luxuriant creepers. In the windows stood large vases filled with flowers; and the light bamboo chairs were covered with the same bright silk with which the walls were hung. If the great reception-room reflected the character of Mrs. Brian, this charming boudoir represented Miss Brandon’s own exquisite taste.
She sat down on a small sofa and began, after a short pause,—
“My aunt was right; it would have been more proper for me to convey to you through M. Elgin what I want to say. But I have the independence of all the girls of my country; and, when my interests are at stake, I trust no one but myself.”
She was bewitching in her ingenuousness as she uttered these words with the air of a little child who looks cunning, and determined to undertake something that appears quite formidable.