She looked as if she were utterly despondent, and added, in a tone of concentrated rage,—
“And I, I know my fate.”
Then followed a pause, a terrible pause. They were standing face to face, pale, troubled, trembling with excitement, their teeth firmly set, their eyes eloquent with deep feeling.
Daniel, as he felt the hot breath of this terrible passion, became almost unconscious of the surroundings; his mind was shaken; a mysterious delirium took possession of his senses; the blood rushed to his head; and he felt as if the beating at his temples was ringing in the whole house.
“Yes,” began at last Miss Brandon once more, “my fate is sealed. I must become the Countess of Ville-Handry, or I am lost. And once more, sir, I beseech you induce Miss Henrietta to receive me like an elder sister. Ah! if I were the woman you think I am, what would I care for Miss Henrietta and her enmity? You know very well that the count will go on at any hazard. And yet I beg,—I who am accustomed to command everywhere. What more can I do? Do you want to see me at your feet? Here I am.”
And really, as she said this, she sank down so suddenly, that her knees struck the floor with a noise; and, seizing Daniel’s hands, she pressed them upon her burning brow.
“Great God!” she sighed, “to be rejected, by him!”
Her hair had become partially loosened, and fell in masses on Daniel’s hands. He trembled from head to foot; and, bending over Miss Brandon, he raised her, and held her, half lifeless, while her head rested on his shoulder.
“Miss Sarah,” he said in a hoarse, low voice.
They were so near to each other, that their breaths mingled, and Daniel felt Miss Brandon’s sobs on his heart, burning him like fiery flames. Then, half drunk with excitement, forgetting every thing, he pressed his lips upon the lips of this strange girl.
But she, starting up instantly, drew back, and cried,—
“Daniel! unhappy man!”
Then breaking out in sobs, she stammered,—
“Go! I pray you go! I ask for nothing now. If I must be lost, I must.”
And he replied with terrible vehemence,—
“Your will shall be done, Sarah; I am yours. You may count upon me.”
And he rushed out like a madman, down the staircase, taking three steps at once, and, finding the house-door open, out into the street.
It was a dark, freezing night; the sky was laden with clouds which hung so low, that they nearly touched the roofs of the houses; and a furious wind was shaking the black branches of the trees in the Champs Elysees, passing through the air like a fine dust of snow.
Daniel rushed in feverish haste, like an escaped convict, headlong on, without aim or purpose, solely bent upon escaping. But, when he had gone some distance, the motion, the cold night-air, and the keen wind playing in his hair, restored him to consciousness. Then he became aware that he was still in evening costume, bareheaded, and that he had left his hat and his overcoat in Miss Brandon’s house. Then he remembered that Count Ville-Handry was waiting for him in the great reception-room, together with M. Elgin and Mrs. Brian. What would they say and think? Unhappy man, in what a sad predicament he found himself!