“It is true you are not yet strong enough,” said the imperturbable Laurence, quickly, and with a perfect imitation of naturalness. “But soon you must make a little promenade.” She stared at her ring. “After all, it is more proper,” she observed judicially. “With a wedding-ring one is less likely to be annoyed. What is curious is that the idea never before came to me. Yet ...”
“You like jewellery?” said Sophia.
“If I like jewellery!” with a gesture of the hands.
“Will you pass me that bracelet?”
Laurence obeyed, and Sophia clasped it round the girl’s wrist.
“Keep it,” Sophia said.
“For me?” Laurence exclaimed, ravished. “It is too much.”
“It is not enough,” said Sophia. “And when you look at it, you must remember how kind you were to me, and how grateful I am.”
“How nicely you say that!” Laurence said ecstatically.
And Sophia felt that she had indeed said it rather nicely. This giving of the bracelet, souvenir of one of the few capricious follies that Gerald had committed for her and not for himself, pleased Sophia very much.
“I am afraid your nursing of me forced you to neglect Monsieur Cerf,” she added.
“Yes, a little!” said Laurence, impartially, with a small pout of haughtiness. “It is true that he used to complain. But I soon put him straight. What an idea! He knows there are things upon which I do not joke. It is not he who will quarrel a second time! Believe me!”
Laurence’s absolute conviction of her power was what impressed Sophia. To Sophia she seemed to be a vulgar little piece of goods, with dubious charm and a glance that was far too brazen. Her movements were vulgar. And Sophia wondered how she had established her empire and upon what it rested.
“I shall not show this to Aimee,” whispered Laurence, indicating the bracelet.
“As you wish,” said Sophia.
“By the way, have I told you that war is declared?” Laurence casually remarked.
“No,” said Sophia. “What war?”
“The scene with Aimee made me forget it ... With Germany. The city is quite excited. An immense crowd in front of the new Opera. They say we shall be at Berlin in a month—or at most two months.”
“Oh!” Sophia muttered. “Why is there a war?”
“Ah! It is I who asked that. Nobody knows. It is those Prussians.”
“Don’t you think we ought to begin again with the disinfecting?” Sophia asked anxiously. “I must speak to Madame Foucault.”
Laurence told her not to worry, and went off to show the bracelet to Madame Foucault. She had privately decided that this was a pleasure which, after all, she could not deny herself.