“Well, Henrietta?” he asked.
“My decision remains unchanged, father.”
The count was probably prepared for this answer; for he succeeded in controlling his fury.
“Once more, Henrietta,” he said, “consider! Do not decide rashly, relying simply upon odious slanders.”
He drew from his pocket a photograph, looked at it lovingly, and, handing it to his daughter, he added,—
“Here is Miss Brandon’s portrait. Look at it, and see if she to whom God has given such a charming face, such sublime eyes, can have a bad heart.”
For more than a minute Henrietta examined the likeness; and then, returning it to her father, she said coldly,—
“This woman is beautiful beyond all conception. Now I can explain to myself that new society of which you are going to be director-general.”
Count Ville-Handry turned pale under this “juncture,” and cried in a terrible voice,—
“Unhappy child! Unhappy child! You dare insult an angel?”
Maddened with rage, he had lifted up his hand, and was about to strike his daughter, when Daniel seized his wrist in his iron grasp, and threateningly, as if he himself was about to strike, he said,—
“Ah, sir, have a care! have a care!”
The count cast upon him a look of concentrated hatred; but, regaining his self-control, he freed himself, and, pointing at the door, he said slowly,—
“M. Champcey, I order you to leave this house instantly; and I forbid your ever coming back to it again. My servants will be informed, that, if any one of them ever allows you to cross the threshold of this house, he will be instantly dismissed. Go, sir!”
Twenty-four hours after Daniel had thus left Count Ville-Handry’s palace, pale and staggering, he had not yet entirely recovered from this last blow. He had made a mortal enemy of the man whom it was his greatest interest to manage; and this man, who of his own accord would have parted with him only regretfully, had now turned him disgracefully out of his house.
He could hardly account to himself for the way in which this had come about. Nay, more; retracing step by step, his conduct during the last few days, it appeared to him pitiful, absurd. And then all that had happened seemed to have turned against him.
He accused Fate, that blind goddess, who is always blamed by those who have not the courage to blame themselves. He was in this state of mind when there came to him, to his great surprise, a letter from Henrietta. Thus it was she who anticipated him, and who, sure that he would be desperate, had the feminine delicacy to write to him almost cheerfully.
“Immediately after your departure, my dear Daniel, father ordered me up stairs, and decided that I should stay there till I should become more reasonable. I know I shall stay here a long time.”