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Title: A Tragic Idyl
Author: Bourget, Paul
Language: English
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A TRAGIC IDYL



BY


PAUL BOURGET


AUTHOR OF "OUTRE-MER," ETC.



LONDON

DOWNEY AND CO. LTD.

12, YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN

1896



CONTENTS

CHAPTER
I. Le "Tout Europe"
II. The Cry of a Soul
III. A Scruple
IV. Lovers' Resolutions
V. Afloat
VI. Il Matrimonio Segreto
VII. Olivier du Prat
VIII. Friend and Mistress
IX. Friend and Mistress--_continued_
X. A Vow
XI. Between Two Tragedies
XII. The Dénouement



A TRAGIC IDYL



CHAPTER I


LE "TOUT EUROPE"


That night (toward the end of February, 188--) a vast crowd was
thronging the halls of the Casino at Monte Carlo. It was one of the
momentary occasions, well known to all who have passed the winter season
on the Corniche, when a sudden and prodigious afflux of composite
humanity transfigures that place, ordinarily so vulgar with the brutal
luxury of the people whom it satisfies. The gay madness that breaks out
at Nice during the Carnival attracts to this little point of the Riviera
the moving army of pleasure hunters and adventurers, while the beauty of
the climate allures thousands of invalids and people weary of living,
the victims of disease and of ill fortune; and on certain nights, like
that on which this narrative begins, when the countless representatives
of the various classes, scattered ordinarily along the coast, suddenly
rush together into the gaming-house, their fantastic variety of
character appears in all its startling incongruities, with the aspect of
a cosmopolitan pandemonium, dazzling and sinister, deafening and
tragical, ridiculous and painful, strewn with all the wrecks of luxury
and vice of every country and of every class, the victims of every
misfortune and disaster. In this stifling atmosphere, amid the glitter
of insolent and ignoble wealth, the ancient monarchies were represented
by three princes of the house of Bourbon, and the modern by two
grand-nephews of Bonaparte, all five recognizable by their profiles,
which were reproduced on hundreds of the gold and silver coins rolling
before them on the green tables.

Neither these princes nor their neighbors noticed the presence at one of
the tables of a man who had borne the title of King in one of the states
improvised on the Balkan Peninsula. Men had fought for this man, men had
died for him, but his royal interests seemed now to be restricted to the
pasteboard monarchs on the table of _trente-et-quarante_. And king and
princes, grand-nephews and cousins of emperors, in the promiscuity of
this international resort, elbowed noblemen whose ancestors had served
or betrayed their own; and these lords elbowed the sons of tradesmen,
dressed like them, nourished like them, amused like them; and these
_bourgeois_ brushed against celebrated artists--here the most famous of
our portrait painters, there a well-known singer, there an illustrious
writer--while fashionable women mingled with this crowd in toilets which
rivalled in splendor those of the _demi-monde_. And other men poured in
continually, and other women, and especially others of the _demi-monde_.
Through the door they streamed in endlessly, of all categories, from the
creature with hungry eyes and the face of a criminal, in search of some
fortunate gambler whose substance she might absorb as a spider does that
of a fly, to the insolent and triumphant devourer of fortunes, who
stakes twenty-five louis on every turn of the roulette and wears in her
ears diamonds worth 30,000f. These contrasts formed here and there a
picture even more striking and significant; for example, between two of
these venders of love, their complexion painted with ceruse and with
rouge, their eyes depraved by luxury and greed, a young woman, almost a
child, recently married and passing through Monte Carlo on her wedding
journey, stretched forth her fresh, pretty face with a smile of
innocence and roguish curiosity.

Further on, the amateurs of political philosophy might have seen one of
the great Israelitish bankers of Paris placing his stake beside that of
the bitterest of socialist pamphleteers. Not far from them a young
consumptive, whose white face spotted with purple, hollow cheeks,
burning eyes, and fleshless hands announced the fast approach of death,
was seated beside a "sporting" man, whose ruddy complexion, broad
shoulders, and herculean muscles seemed to promise eighty years of life.
The white glare of the electric globes along the ceiling and the walls,
and the yellow light that radiated from the lamps suspended above the
tables, falling upon the faces of this swarming crowd revealed
differences no less extraordinary of race and origin. Russian faces,
broad and heavy, powerfully, almost savagely Asiatic, were mingled with
Italian physiognomies, of a Latin fineness and of a modelling that
recalled the elegance of ancient portraits. German heads, thick, and, as
it were, rough-hewn, with an expression of mingled cunning and good
nature, alternated with Parisian heads, intelligent and dissipated,
which suggested the boulevard and the _couloirs_ of the _Variétés_.
Red and energetic profiles of Englishmen and Americans sketched their
vigorous outlines, evincing the habit of exercise, long exposure to the
tanning air and also the daily intoxication of alcohol; while exotic
faces, by the animation of their eyes and mouths, by the warm tones of
their complexions, evoked visions of other climes, of far-off countries,
of fortunes made in the antipodes, in those mysterious regions which our
fathers called simply _the isles_. And money, money, endless money
flowed from this crowd on to the green tables, whose number had been
increased since the previous day. Although the hands of the great clock
over the entrance marked a quarter to ten, the visitors became at every
moment more numerous. It was not the sound of conversation that was
audible in these rooms, but the noise of footsteps moving about the
tables, which stood firm amid this surging crowd like flat rocks on the
mounting sea, motionless under the lash of the waves. The noise of
footsteps was accompanied by another no less continuous--the clinking of
gold and silver coins, which one could hear falling, piling, separating,
living, in fact, with the sonorous and rapid life which they have under
the rake of the _croupier_. The rattle of the balls in the roulette
rooms formed a mechanical accompaniment to the formulae, mechanically
repeated, in which the words "_rouge_" and "_noir_," "_pair_" and
"_impair_," "_passe_" and "_manque_" recurred with oracular
impassibility. And, still more monotonous, from the tables of
_trente-et-quarante_ which lacked the rattle of the wheel, other
formulæ arose incessantly--"_Quatre, deux. Rouge gagne et la
couleur--Cinq, neuf. Rouge perd, la couleur gagne--Deux, deux.
Après_--" At the sight of the columns of napoleons and hundred-franc
pieces rising and falling on the ten or twelve tables, the bank-notes of
one hundred, five hundred, and a thousand francs, unfolded and heaped
up; the full dress of the men, the jewels of the women, the evident
prodigality of all these people, one felt the gaming-house vibrating
with a frenzy other than that of loss and gain. One breathed in the
fever of luxury, the excess and abuse of pleasure. On nights like this
gold seems to have no longer any value, so fast is it won and lost on
these tables, so wildly is it spent in the hotels, restaurants, and
villas which crowd around the Casino like the houses of a watering-place
around the spring. The beauty of women is here too tempting and
accessible, pleasure is too abundant, the climate too soft, comfort is
too easy. The paradise of brutal refinement installed here on this
flower-clad rock is hostile to calm enjoyment and to cool reflection.
The giddiness which it imparts to the passing guest has its crisis of
intensity, and this night was one of them. It had something of the
Kermess about it, and of Babylonian furore. Nor did it lack even the
_Mene_, _Tekel_, _Upharsin_ of the Biblical feast, for the despatches
posted on one of the columns in the vestibule recounted the bloody
episode of a strike that had broken out since the previous day in the
mining district of the North. The telegram told of the firing of the
troops, of workmen killed, and of an engineer murdered for revenge. But
who pictured in concrete images the details of this tragic despatch? Who
in this crowd, more and more athirst for pleasure, realized its
revolutionary menace? The gold and silver coins continued to roll, the
bank-notes to unfold and quiver, the _croupiers_ to cry "_Faites vos
jeux_" and "_Rien ne va plus_," the balls to spin around the wheels, the
cards to fall on the green cloth, the rakes to grasp the money of the
poor unfortunates, and each one to follow his mania for gambling or for
luxury, his fancy for snobbery and vanity, or the caprice of his
_ennui_. For how many different fancies this strange palace, with its
doors like those of the Alhambra, served as the theatre. On this night
of feverish excitement it was lending one of its divans to the
preparatives for a most fantastic adventure, the mere announcement of
which recalls the advertisements of the _Opéra Comique_, the music of
our great-grandmothers, and the forgotten name of Cimarosa--a secret
marriage.

The group of three persons who had been compelled to choose a corner of
this mundane caravansary for that romantic conspiracy was composed of a
young man and two women. The young man appeared to be thirty-two years
old. That was also the age of one of the women, who was, as they say in
America, the chaperon of the other, a girl ten years younger. To
complete the paradoxical character of this matrimonial conference in the
long room that separates the roulette halls from those of the
_trente-et-quarante_, it is only necessary to add that the young girl,
an American, was in reality chaperoning the official chaperon, and that
the project of this secret marriage did not concern her in the least.
She was seated at the end of the divan, unmistakably a sentinel, while
her friend and the young man talked together. Her beautiful brown eyes
fearlessly scrutinized the passing crowd with the energy and confidence
natural to a girl of the United States, accustomed from her childhood to
realize her individuality, and who, if she dispenses with certain
conventionalities, at least knows why, and is not ashamed of it. She was
beautiful, with that beauty already so ripe which, accentuated by a
toilet almost too fashionable, gives to so many American women the air
of a creature on exhibition. Her features were delicate, even too small
for the powerful moulding of her face and the strength of her chin. On
her thick, chestnut-colored hair she wore a round hat of black velvet,
with a rim too wide and with plumes too high, which rose in the back
over a _cachepeigne_ of artificial orchids. It was the hat of a young
girl and a hat for the afternoon, but, in its excess, it was quite in
keeping with her dress of glossy cloth and her corsage, or rather
cuirass, trimmed with silver, which the most celebrated couturier in
Paris had designed for her. Thus adorned, and with the superabundance of
jewellery that accompanied this toilet, Miss Florence Marsh--that was
her name--might have passed for anything in the world except what she
really was--the most straightforward and honest of young girls, helping
to prepare for the conjugal happiness of a woman equally honest and
irreproachable. This woman was the Marquise Andryana Bonnacorsi, a
Venetian by birth, belonging to the ancient and illustrious dogal family
of the Navagero. Her dress, though it, too, came from Paris, bore the
marks of that taste for tinsel peculiar to Italian finery, which gives
it that _fufu_ air, to employ an untranslatable term, with which our
provincial _bourgeoisie_ ridicules these unsubstantial ornaments. A
flock of butterflies in black jet rested upon her black satin dress. The
same butterflies appeared on the satin of her small shoes and among the
pink roses of her hat, above her beautiful light hair of that red gold
so dear to the painters of her country. The voluptuous splendor of her
complexion, the nobility of her somewhat heavy features, the precocious
development of her bust accorded well with her origin, and even more the
soft blue of her eyes, in which there floated all the passion and
languor of the lagoons. The light of her blue eyes enveloped the young
man who was now speaking to her, and with whom she was visibly in love,
madly in love. He, in the full maturity of his strength, justified that
adoration more sensual than sentimental. He was a remarkable type of the
manly beauty peculiar to our Provence, which attests that for centuries
it was the land where the Roman race left its deepest imprint. His
short, black hair, over the straight, white forehead; his pointed,
slightly curling beard, the firm line if his nose, and the deep curve of
his brows, gave him a profile like that of a medal, which would have
been severe, if all the energy of a born lover had not burned in his
soft eyes, and all the gayety of the South sparkled in his smile. His
robust and supple physique could be divined even under his coat and
white waistcoat, and these signs of animal health were so evident, his
somewhat excessive gestures seemed to evince such exuberance, such
perfect joy in living, that one failed to notice how impenetrable were
those ardent eyes, how shrewd the smiling mouth, and how all the signs
of cunning calculation were imprinted on that face, so reflective under
its mobility.

Two kinds of men thus excel in utilizing their defects to the profit of
their interest--the German, who shelters his diplomacy behind his
apparent dulness, and the Provençal, who conceals his beneath his
instinctive petulance, and who appears, as he really is on the surface,
an enthusiast, while he is executing some plan as solidly and coldly
realistic as though he were a Scotchman of the Border. Who would have
guessed that on this lounge of the Casino, while he talked so gayly with
his habitual abandon, the Viscount de Corancez--he belonged to a family
near Tarascon, of the least authentic title to nobility--was just
bringing to a successful conclusion the most audacious, the most
improbable, and the most carefully studied of intrigues? But who in all
the world suspected the real character of this "careless Marius," as he
was called by his father, the old vine-grower of Tarascon, whom his
compatriots had seen die in despair at the eternal debts of his son?
Certainly not these men of Tarascon and the Rhone valley, who had seen
the beautiful vines, so well cared for and regenerated by the father,
disappear, vineyard by vineyard, to satisfy the follies of the heir at
Paris. Nor was his real character known to the companions of his folly,
the Casal, the Vardes, the Machault, all be noted men of pleasure of the
time, who had clearly recognized the sensuality and vanity of the
Southerner, but not his cunning, and who had classed him once ad for all
among the provincials destined to disappear after shining like a meteor
in the firmament of Paris. No one had perceived in this joyous
companion, this gourmand ready for every pleasure, for a supper, for
cards, for a love-affair, the practical philosopher who should when the
hour arrived nimbly change his weapon. And the hour had struck several
months ago; of the 600,000f. left him by his father scarcely 40,000
remained, and this winter the supple Southerner had begun to execute the
programme of is thirty-second year--a successful marriage. The
originality of this project lay in the peculiar conditions he affixed to
it. In the first place, he had perceived that, even if enriched by the
most fortunate marriage, his situation at Paris would never be what he
wished. His defeat at an aristocratic club, to which he had attempted to
gain admittance, trusting of certain influence imprudently offered and
accepted, had shown him the difference between mere comradeship and a
solid standing in society. Two or three visits to Nice had revealed the
cosmopolitan world to him, and, with his superior cleverness, he had
divined its resources. He had resolved to marry some stranger who had a
good standing in the society of Europe. He dreamed of passing the winter
on the coast, the summer in the Alps, the hunting season in Scotland,
the autumn on his wife's estate, and a few festive weeks in Paris in the
spring. This plan of existence presupposed that his wife should not be a
mere young girl. Corancez wished her to be a widow, older than himself
if need be, and yet still beautiful in her autumn. As he based his hopes
of success mainly upon his youthful and handsome appearance, it was
desirable that the matrimonial labors should not be too severe. An
Italian Marquise, belonging by birth to the highest Venetian
aristocracy, the widow of a nobleman, left with an income of 200,000f.,
irreproachable in character, and devotedly religious, which would save
her from any love-affairs unsanctioned by marriage, and nevertheless led
by the influence of her Anglomaniac brother into cosmopolitan life, was
the ideal of all his hopes, embodied as though by enchantment. But all
the apples of Hesperides have their dragon, and the mythical monster was
in this case represented by the brother, the Count Alvise Navagero, a
doubtful personage under his snobbish exterior, who well understood how
to keep for his own use the millions of his deceased brother-in-law,
Francesco Bonnacorsi. How had the Provençal trickery eluded the
Venetian watchfulness? Even to this day, when those events are things of
the past, the five o'clock _habitués_ of the yacht club at Cannes
confess themselves unable to explain it, such astuteness had the
ingenious Corancez employed in preparing the mine without arousing a
suspicion of his subterranean labor. And four short months had sufficed.
Through an inner conflict of emotions and of scruples, of timidity and
passion, the Marquise Andryana had been brought to accept the idea of a
secret marriage, finding no other way to satisfy the ardor with which
she now burned, the exigencies of her religion, and her fear of her
brother, which grew with her love for Corancez. She trembled now at the
thought of it, although she knew this redoubtable guardian to be engaged
in risking at a near table the thousand-franc notes she had given to be
rid of him. Alvise was staking his money with the thoughtfulness and
care of an old gambler who had already been once ruined by cards,
unaware that within a few yards of him another game that concerned him
was being played, and a fortune was at stake which he, like a perfect
parasite, considered as his own. It was not simply at stake, it was
lost; for the romantic plan invented by Corancez to fasten an
inseparable bond between the Marquise and himself was about to be
consummated; the two lovers had just settled upon the place and time and
details.

"And now," concluded Marius, "_rien ne va plus_, as they say in
roulette. We have only to wait patiently for two weeks.--I believe we
have not forgotten anything."

"But I am so afraid of some mischance," said the Marquise Andryana,
softly shaking her blond head, the black butterflies trembling on her
hat. "If Marsh changes the date of his yachting party?"

"You will telegraph me," said Corancez, "and I will meet you at Genoa
another day.--Anyhow, Marsh will not change the date. It was the
Baroness Ely who chose the 14th, and the wife of an archduke, though
morganatic, is not to be disappointed, even were Marsh such a democrat
as the western ranchman, who said once, with a strong handshake to an
Infanta of Spain, 'Very glad to meet you, Infanta.' It was Marsh himself
who told me this, and you remember his disgust, don't you, Miss
Florence?"

"My uncle is as punctual in his pleasures as in his business," replied
the American girl; "and since the Baroness Ely is in the party--"

"But if Alvise changes his mind and sails with us?" said the Venetian.

"Ah, Marquise, Marquise," Corancez cried, "what dismal forebodings. You
forget that the Count Alvise is invited to the _Dalilah_, the yacht of
Lord Herbert Bohun, to meet H.K.H. _Alberto Edoardo_, Prince of Wales,
and Navagero miss that appointment? Never."

In light mockery at his future brother-in-law's Anglomania, he imitated
the British accent which the Count affected, with a mimicry so gay that
the Marquise could not help exclaiming:--

"_Che carino!_"

And with her fan she stroked the hand of her _fiancé_. Notwithstanding
his pleasantry at the expense of the domestic tyrant, at which the
Marquise was ready to smile, much as she trembled in his presence,
Corancez seemed to think the conversation dangerous, for he attempted to
bring it to an end:--

"I do not wish my happiness to cost you a moment of worry, and it will
not. I can predict hour by hour everything that will take place on the
14th, and you will see if your friend is not a prophet. You know what a
lucky line I have here," he added, showing the palm of his hand, "and
you know what I have read in your own pretty hand."

It was one of his tricks, and at the same time one of his own
superstitions, to play the rôle of a parlor wizard and chiromancer, and
he continued with that tone of certitude that imparts firmness to the
irresolute:--

"You will have a magnificent passage to Genoa. You will find me you know
where with Dom Fortunato Lagumina, for the old _abbé_ is eager to act
as chaplain in this _matrimonio segreto_. You will return to Cannes
without any one in the world suspecting that _Mme. la Marquise
Bonnacorsi_ has become _Mme. la Vicomtesse de Corancez_, excepting the
Vicomte, who will find some way of making our little _combinazione_
acceptable to the good Alvise. Until then you will write to me at Genoa,
_poste restante_, and I to you, in care of our dear Miss Florence."

"Whose name is also Miss Prudence," said the young girl, "and she thinks
you are talking too long for conspirators. Beware of pickpockets," she
added in English.

This was the signal agreed upon to warn them of the approach of some
acquaintance.

"Bah, that pickpocket is not dangerous," said Corancez, following the
direction of Miss Marsh's fan, and recognizing the person who had
attracted her attention. "It is Pierre Hautefeuille, my old friend. He
doesn't even notice us. Marquise, do you wish to see a lover desperate
at not finding his loved one? And to think that I should be like him,"
he added, in a lower tone, "if you were not here to intoxicate me with
your beauty." Then, raising his voice, "Watch him sit down on that
lounge in the corner, unconscious of the three pairs of eyes that are
observing him. A ruined gambler might blow out his brains beside him and
he would not turn his head. He would not even hear."

The young man had at this moment an air of absorption so profound, so
complete, that he justified the laughing raillery of Corancez. If the
plot of a secret marriage, mapped out in these surroundings and amid
this crowd, appear strangely paradoxical, the reveries of this man whom
Corancez had called his "old friend"--they had been at school together
in Paris for two years--were still stranger and more paradoxical. The
contrast was too strong between the crowd swarming around Pierre
Hautefeuille and the hypnotism that appeared to be upon him. Evidently
the two thousand people scattered through these rooms ceased to exist
for him as soon as he had discovered the absence of a certain person.
And who could this be if not a woman? The disappointed lover had fallen,
rather than seated himself, upon the lounge in front of Corancez and his
fellow-conspirators. With his elbow on the arm of the divan, he pressed
his hand over his forehead, disconsolately. His slender fingers, pushing
back his hair, disclosed the noble outline of his brow, revealed his
profile, the slightly arched nose, the severe lips, whose proud
expression would have been almost fierce were it not for the tender
softness of his eyes. This look of strangely intense meditation in a
face so exhausted and pale, with its small, dark mustache, gave him a
resemblance to the classic portrait of Louis XIII. in his youth. His
narrow shoulders, his slightly angular limbs, the evident delicacy of
his whole body indicated one of those fragile organizations whose force
lies wholly in the nerves, a physique with no vital power of resistance,
ravaged eternally by emotions, down to the obscure and quivering centre
of consciousness, and as easily exhausted by sentiment as muscular
natures are by action and sensation. Although Pierre Hautefeuille was,
in his dress and manner, indistinguishable from Corancez and the
countless men of pleasure in the rooms, yet either his physiognomy was
very deceptive or he did not belong to the same race morally as these
cavaliers of the white waistcoat and the varnished pumps, who encircled
the ladies dressed like _demi-mondaines_, and the _demi-mondaines_
dressed like ladies, or crowded around the tables, amid the throng of
gentlemen and swindlers. The melancholy in the curve of his lips and in
his tired eyelids revealed a sadness, not momentary, but habitual, an
abiding gloom, and if it were true that he had come to this place in
search of a woman whom he loved, this sadness was too naturally
explained. He must suffer from the life that this woman was
leading, from her surroundings, her pleasures, her habits, her
inconsistencies--suffer even to the extent of illness, and, perhaps,
without knowing why, for he had not the eyes that judge of one they
love. In any case, if he was, as Corancez said, a lover, he was
certainly not a successful one. His face showed neither the pride nor
the bitterness of a man to whom the loved woman has given herself, and
who believes in her or suspects her. Even the simplicity with which he
indulged his reveries in the midst of this crowd and on the lounge of a
gaming-house was enough to prove a youthfulness of heart and imagination
rare at his age. Corancez's companions were struck at the same time with
this naïve contrast, and each made to herself a little exclamation in
her native tongue:--

"_Com'è simpatico_," murmured the Italian.

"_Oh, you dear boy_," said Miss Florence.

"And with whom is he in love?" they asked together.

"I could give you a hundred to guess," said Corancez, "but you could
not. Never mind. It is not a secret that was confided to me; I
discovered it myself, so I am not bound to keep it. Well, the
_sympathetic_, dear boy has chosen to fall in love with our friend
Madame de Carlsberg, the Baroness Ely, herself. She has been here for
six days with Madame Brion, and this poor boy has not been able to
remain away from her. He wished to see her without her knowing. He must
have been wandering around the Villa Brion, waiting for her to come out.
See the dust on his shoes and trousers. Then, having doubtless heard
that the Baroness spends her evenings here, he has come to watch her. He
has not found her in this crowd. That is how we love," he added, with a
look at the Marquise, "when we do love."

"And the Baroness?"

"You wish to know whether or not the Baroness loves him? Luckily you and
Miss Florence believe in hands, for it is only through my talent for
fortunetelling that I can answer you. You are interested? Well," he
continued, with his peculiar air of seriousness and mystification, "she
has in her hand a red heart-line, which indicates a violent passion, and
there is a mark that places this passion near her thirtieth year, which
is just her present age. By the way, did I never tell you that she has
also on the Mount of Jupiter, there, a perfect star--one of whose rays
forms a cross of union?"

"And that means?" inquired the American girl, with the interest that the
people of the most materialistic country have for all questions of a
supernatural order, for everything that pertains to what they call
"spiritualism."

"Marriage with a prince," replied the Southerner.

There was a minute of silence, during which Corancez continued to watch
Pierre Hautefeuille with great attention. Suddenly his eyes sparkled
with an idea that had just occurred to him:--

"Marquise. The witness we need for the ceremony at Genoa. Why not have
him? I think he would bring us good luck."

"That is so," said Madame Bonnacorsi; "it is delightful to meet with a
face like that at certain moments of one's life. But would it be wise?"

"If I propose him to you," Corancez replied, "you may be sure that I
answer for his discretion. We have known each other since our boyhood,
Hautefeuille and I; he is solid gold. And how much safer than a hired
witness, who could at any time betray us."

"Will he accept?"

"I shall know to-morrow before leaving Cannes, if you have no objection
to my choosing him. Only," the young man added, "in that case it might
be better to have him on the yacht."

"I'll attend to that," said Miss Marsh. "But how and when introduce him
to my uncle?"

"This evening," Corancez replied, "while we are all in the train for
Cannes. I will secure our lover at once, and not leave him till we are
in the train--especially," he added, rising, "as we have been talking
here too long, and though the walls have no ears, they have eyes. My
dear," he murmured, passionately pressing the little hand of Madame
Bonnacorsi, who also had risen, "I shall not talk with you again before
the great day; give me a word to carry with me and live with until
then."

"God guard you, _anima mia_," she answered, in her grave voice,
revealing all the passion that this skilful personage had inspired in
her.

"It is written here," he said gayly, opening his hand, "and here," he
added, placing his hand upon his heart.

Then, turning to the young girl:--

"Miss Flossie, when you need some one to go through fire for you, a
word, and he will be ready _right away_."

While Miss Marsh laughed at this joke upon one of the little idioms of
the Yankee language, the Marquise followed him with the look of a
passionate woman whose heart goes out to every motion of the man she
loves. The Provençal moved toward his old friend with such grace and
suppleness of carriage that the American girl could not refrain from
remarking it. The young girls of that energetic race, so fond of
exercise and so accustomed to the easy familiarities of the tennis
court, are frankly and innocently sensible to the physical beauty of
men.

"How handsome he is, your Corancez," she exclaimed to the Marquise. "To
me he is the Frenchman, the type that I used to picture to myself in
Marionville when I read the novels of Dumas. How happy you will be with
him."

"So happy," the Italian murmured, but added, with a melancholy
foreboding, "yet God will not permit it."

"God permits everything that one wishes, if one wishes it hard enough,
and it is just," Miss Florence interrupted.

"No. I have had to tell Alvise too many lies. I shall be punished."

"If you feel that way," said the American, "why don't you tell your
brother? Do you wish me to do it? Five minutes of conversation, and you
will not have a single lie on your conscience. You have the right to
marry. The money is yours. What do you fear?"

"You don't know Alvise," she said, and her face had a look of actual
terror. "What if he should provoke him to a duel and kill him? No; let
us do as we have planned, and may the Madonna protect us."

She closed her eyes a moment, sighing. Florence Marsh watched her with
amazement. The independent Anglo-Saxon could never understand the
hypnotic terror that Navagero threw over his sister. The thoughts of the
Marquise had wandered back to Cannes. She saw the little chapel of Notre
Dame des Pins, where every day for months a mass had been said in order
to find pardon for her falsehoods, and she saw the altar where she and
Corancez had knelt and made a vow that they would go together to Loretto
as soon as their marriage was announced. The Provençal believed in the
Madonna, just as he believed in the lines of the hand, with that
demi-scepticism and demi-faith possible only to those southern natures,
so childish and so cunning, so complex with their instinctive
simplicity, so sincere in their boastfulness, and forever superstitious
in even their coldest calculations. He saw in the scruples of Madame
Bonnacorsi the surest guarantee of his success; for, once in love, a
woman of such religious ardor and such passionate intensity would end
necessarily in marriage. And, besides, the tapers burning in the little
church at Cannes assured him in regard to the brother, whose suspicions
he had evaded, but whom he knew to be capable of anything in order not
to lose the fortune of his sister. So, unlike Miss Marsh, he was not
astonished at the fears of his _fiancée_. But what could the fury of
Alvise avail against a union consummated in due form before a genuine
priest, lacking only the civil consecration, which mattered nothing to
the pious Marquise? However, faithful to the old adage that two
precautions are better than one, Corancez, in view of the eventual
explanation, was not displeased at the prospect of having at his wedding
a man of his own set. Why had he not thought before of his old friend of
Louis-le-Grand, whom he had found again at Cannes, just as candid and
simple-hearted as in the days when they sat side by side on the benches
of the school? Corancez had recognized the candor and simplicity of his
old acquaintance at the first touch of his hand. He had recognized them
also in the innocent impulsiveness with which Hautefeuille had become
enamoured of the Baroness Ely de Carlsberg. He had revealed this passion
to his two interlocutors; but he had not told them that he believed
Madame de Carlsberg to be as much in love with the young man as he was
with her. However, he might justly have boasted of his perspicacity. It
had been keen in this case, as in so many others. But, perspicacious as
he was, the Southerner did not realize that in making use of his
discovery he was about to turn the _opéra bouffe_ of his marriage with
Madame Bonnacorsi into a dramatic episode. In speaking to himself of his
famous line of luck, he always said, "Only gay things come to me." It
seems, in fact, that there are two distinct types of men, and their
eternal coexistence proves the legitimacy of the two standpoints taken
since the world began by the painters of human nature--comedy and
tragedy. Every man partakes of one or the other, and rare is the destiny
in which both are mingled. For a whole group of persons--of whom
Corancez was one--the most romantic affairs end in a vaudeville; while
for the other class, to which, alas, Pierre Hautefeuille belonged, the
simplest adventures result in tragedy. If the first love sincerely,
never does the loved woman do them wrong. A smile is always ready to
mingle with their tears. The others are given to poignant emotions, to
cruel complications; all their idyls are tragic idyls. And truly, to see
these two young men side by side, as Corancez laid his hand on
Hautefeuille's shoulder, to arouse him from his reverie, these two
eternal types--the hero of comedy and the hero of tragedy--appeared in
all their contrast--the one robust and laughing, with bright eyes and
sensual lips, sure of himself, and throwing around him, as it were, an
atmosphere of good humor; the other frail and delicate, his eyes heavy
with thought, ready to suffer at the least contact with life, scarcely
able to conceal a quiver of irritation at the sudden interrupting of his
dreams.

His irritation quickly vanished; when he had risen and Corancez had
taken him familiarly by the arm, the thought occurred to him that
perhaps he might hear from his old friend some news of the Baroness Ely
de Carlsberg, whom in fact he had been vainly seeking at Monte Carlo.
And the cunning Southerner began:--

"How sly of you to come here without letting me know. And how foolish.
You might have dined comfortably with me. I had this evening the
prettiest table in Monte Carlo: Madame de Carlsberg, Madame de Chésy,
Miss Marsh, Madame Bonnacorsi. You know all four of them, I believe. You
would not have been bored."

"I didn't know until five o'clock that I should take the train at six,"
said Hautefeuille.

"I understand," said Corancez; "you are sitting comfortably in your room
at Cannes. You hear voices, like Jeanne d'Arc, only not quite the same;
'_Rien ne va plus_. _Messieurs, faites vos jeux_;' and the bank-notes
begin to pant in your purse, the napoleons to dance in your pocket, and
before you know it you find yourself in front of the green cloth. Have
you won?"

"I never play," Pierre answered.

"You will before long. But, tell me, do you often come here?"

"This is the first time."

"And you have been all winter at Cannes. I can still hear Du Prat
calling you Mademoiselle Pierrette. You are too good and too young. Look
out for the reaction. And, speaking of Du Prat, have you heard from
him?"

"He is still on the Nile with his wife," Hautefeuille replied, "and he
insists upon my joining them."

"And you wouldn't go and finish the wedding journey with them. That was
even wiser than refusing to play. That is the result of not spending
one's honeymoon here on the coast, like everybody else. They get bored
with each other even before the housewarming."

"But I assure you that Olivier is very happy," Hautefeuille said, with
an emphasis that showed his affection for the man of whom Corancez had
spoken so lightly; then, to avoid any further comments upon his absent
friend: "But, frankly, do you find this society so amusing?" And he
motioned toward the crowd of players around the tables who were growing
more and more excited. "It is the paradise of the _rastaquouères_."

"That's the prejudice of the Parisian," said the Provençal, who still
felt bitter against the great city on account of his defeat at the most
desirable of clubs. He continued to vent his bitterness;
"_Rastaquouères_. When you have uttered that anathema, you think that
you have settled the question; and by dint of repeating it, you blind
yourself to the fact that you Parisians are becoming the provincials of
Europe. Yes, you no longer produce the really great aristocrats; they
are now the English, the Russians, the Americans, the Italians, who have
as much elegance and wit as you Parisians, but with real temperament
beneath their elegance which you have never had, and with the gayety
which you have no more. And the women of these foreign lands. Contrast
them with that heartless, senseless doll, that vanity in _papier
mâché_, the Parisian woman."

"In the first place, I am not at all a Parisian," interrupted Pierre
Hautefeuille; "I am rather a provincial of provincials. And then, I
grant the second part of your paradox; some of these women are
remarkable in their fineness and culture, in their brightness and charm.
And yet is their charm ever equal, not to that of the Parisienne, I
agree, but to that of the real Frenchwoman, with her good sense and her
grace, her tact, her intelligence--the poetry of perfect measure and
taste?"

He had been thinking aloud, unconscious of the slight smile that passed,
almost invisibly, over the ironical lips of his interlocutor. The "Sire"
de Corancez was not the man to engage himself in a discussion for which
he cared no more than he did for the Pharaohs whose tombs served as the
background of their friend's honeymoon. Knowing Hautefeuille's
attachment to this man, he had brought up his name in order to give to
their conversation an accent of ease and confidence. Hautefeuille's
remarks about foreign women, confirming the diagnosis of his love for
Madame de Carlsberg, recalled Corancez to the real purpose of this
interview. He and his companion were at this moment near the table of
_trente-et-quarante_, at which was seated one of the persons most
involved in the execution of his project, the uncle of Miss Marsh, one
of the most celebrated of American railroad magnates, Richard Carlyle
Marsh, familiarly known as Dickie Marsh, he who was destined, on a fixed
day, to lend his yacht unwittingly to the wedding voyage of Madame
Bonnacorsi. It was in his company that Corancez was to return with his
friend to Cannes, and he wished to interest Hautefeuille in the Yankee
potentate in order to facilitate his introduction.

"No," he continued, "I assure you that this foreign colony contains men
who are as interesting as their wives. We are apt to overlook this fact,
because they are not so pretty to look at.--I see one at this table whom
I shall introduce. We met his niece the other day at the Baroness's. He
is Marsh, the American. I wish you to see him playing-- Good, some one
is rising. Don't lose me, we may profit by this and get to the front of
the crowd."

And the adroit Southerner managed to push himself and Hautefeuille
through the sudden opening of the spectators so that in a moment they
were stationed right behind the chair of the croupier, who was in the
act of turning the cards. They could command the whole table and every
movement of the players.

"Now, look," Corancez whispered. "There is Marsh."

"That little gray-faced man with the pile of bank-notes in front of him?"

"That's the man. He is not fifty years old, and he is worth ten million
dollars. At eighteen he was a conductor of a tramway at Cleveland, Ohio.
Such as you see him now, he has founded a city of fifty thousand
inhabitants, named after his wife, Marionville, and he has made his
fortune literally with his own hands, since they say that he himself,
with a few workmen, built on the prairie the first miles of his
company's railroad, which is now more than two thousand miles long.
Observe those hands of his. You can see them so well against the green
cloth; they are strong and not common. You see the knotty knuckles,
which means reflection, judgment, calculation. The ends of the fingers
are a little too spatulated; that means an excessive activity, the need
of continual movement and a tendency toward mournful thoughts. I will
tell you some day about the death of his daughter. You see the thumb;
the two joints are large and of equal length; that means will and logic
combined. It curves backward; that is prodigality. Marsh has given a
hundred thousand dollars to the University of Marionville. And notice
his movements, what decision, what calm, what freedom from nervousness.
Isn't that a man?"

"He is certainly a man with an abundance of money," said Hautefeuille,
amused by his friend's enthusiasm, "and a man who is not afraid of
losing it."

"And that other, two places from Marsh, has he no money, then? That
personage with a rosette and a red, sinister face. It is Brion, the
financier, the director of the Banque Générale. Have you not met him
at the house of Madame de Carlsberg? His wife is the intimate friend of
Baroness Ely. Millionaire that he is, look at his hands, how nervous and
greedy. You observe that his thumb is ball-shaped; that is the mark of
crime. If that rascal is not a robber! And his manner of clutching the
bank-notes, doesn't it show his brutality? And beside him you may see
the play of a fool, Chésy, with his smooth and pointed fingers, the two
middle ones of equal length, that of Saturn and that of the Sun. That is
the infallible sign of a player who will ruin himself, especially if he
is no more logical than this one. And he thinks himself shrewd! He
enters into business relations with Brion, who pays court to Madame de
Chésy. You may see the inevitable end."

"The pretty Madame de Chésy?" exclaimed Hautefeuille, "and that
abominable Brion? Impossible."

"I do not say that it has happened; I say that, given this imbecile of a
husband, with his taste for gambling here and at the Bourse, there is a
great danger that it will happen some day. You see," he added, "that
this place is not so commonplace when you open your eyes; and you will
acknowledge that of the two Parisians and the _rastaquouère_ whom we
have seen, the interesting man is the _rastaquouère_."

While Corancez was speaking, the two young men had left their post of
observation. He now led his companion toward the roulette rooms, adding
these words, which made Hautefeuille quiver from head to foot:--

"If you have no objection we might look for Madame de Carlsberg, whom I
left at one of these tables, and of whom I wish to take my leave. Fancy,
she hates to have her friends near her while she is playing. But she
must have lost all her money by this time."

"Does she play very much?" asked Hautefeuille, who now had no more
desire to leave his friend than at first he had to follow him.

"As she does everything," Corancez answered, "capriciously and to
beguile her _ennui_. And her marriage justifies her only too well. You
know the prince? No? But you know his habits. Is it worth while to
belong to the house of Hapsburg-Lorraine, to be called the Archduke
Henry Francis, and to have a wife like that, if one is to profess the
opinions of an anarchist, and spend sixteen hours out of the twenty-four
in a laboratory, burning one's hands and beard and eyes over furnaces,
and receive the friends of the Baroness in the way he does?"

"Then," said Hantefeuille, his arm trembling a little, as he asked his
naïve question, "you think she is not happy?"

"You have only to look at her," replied Corancez, who, rising on his
toes, had just recognized Madame de Carlsberg.

It was the one table that Pierre had not approached, on account of the
crowd, which had been thicker around it than elsewhere. He signed to his
companion that he was not tall enough to see over the mass of shoulders
and heads; and Corancez, preceding his timid friend, began again to
glide through the living wall of spectators, whose curiosity was
evidently excited to the highest degree. The young men understood why,
when, after several minutes of breathless struggling, they succeeded in
gaining once more the place behind the croupier which they had had at
the table of _trente-et-quarante_. There was taking place, in fact, one
of those extraordinary events which become a legend on the coast and
spread their fame through Europe and the two Americas; and Hautefeuille
was shocked to discover that the heroine of this occasion was none else
than the Baroness Ely, whose adorable name echoed in his heart with the
sweetness of music. Yes, it was indeed Madame de Carlsberg who was the
focus of all the eyes in this _blasé_ multitude, and she employed in
the caprices of her extravagant play the same gentle yet imposing grace
that had inspired the young man with his passionate idolatry. Ah, she
was so proud even at this moment, and so beautiful. Her delicate bust,
the only part of her body he could see, was draped in a corsage of
violet silk, covered with a black plaited _mousseline de soie_, with
sleeves of the same stuff which seemed to tremble at every movement. A
set of Danube pearls, enormous and set with brilliants, formed a clasp
for this corsage, over which fell a thin watch-chain of gold studded
with various stones. She wore a diminutive hat, composed of two similar
wings, spangled with silver and with violet sequins. This stylish
trinket, resting on her black hair, divided simply into two heavy folds,
contrasted, like her dress and like her present occupation, with the
character of her physiognomy. Her face was one of those, so rare in our
aging civilization, imprinted with _la grande beauté_, the beauty that
is unaffected by age, for it lies in the essential lines of the
features, the shape of the head, the form of the brow, the curve of the
chin, the droop of the eyelids. To those who knew of the Greek blood in
her veins, the classic nobility of her face explained itself. Her
father, General de Sallach, when aide-de-camp of the Commander-in-Chief
at Zara, had married for love a Montenegrin girl at Bocca da Cattaro,
who was the daughter of a woman of Salonica. This blood alone could have
moulded a face at the same time so magnificent and so delicate, whose
warm pallor added to its vague suggestion of the Orient. But her eyes
lacked the happy and passionate lustre of the East. They were of an
indefinable color, brown verging upon yellow, with something dim about
them, as though perpetually obscured by an inner distress. One read in
them an _ennui_ so profound, a lassitude so incurable, that after
perceiving this expression one began in spite of one's self to pity this
woman apparently so fortunate, and to feel an impulse to obey her
slightest whim if so her admirable face might lose that look, if but for
a second. Yet doubtless it was one of those effects of the physiognomy
which signify nothing of the soul, for her eyes retained the same
singular expression at this moment while she abandoned herself to the
wild fancies of the play. She must have gained an enormous sum since
Corancez had left her, for a pile of thousand-franc notes--fifty
perhaps--lay before her, and many columns of twenty-franc and
hundred-franc pieces. Her gloved hands, armed with a little rake,
manipulated this mass of money with dexterous grace. The cause of the
feverish curiosity around her was that she risked at every turn the
maximum stake: nine napoleons on a single number, that of her age,
thirty-one, an equal number of napoleons on the squares, and six
thousand francs on the black. The alternations of loss and gain were so
great, and she met them with such evident impassibility, that she
naturally had become the centre of interest. Oblivious to the comments
that were whispered around her, she seemed scarcely to interest herself
even in the ball that bounded over the numbered compartments.

"I assure you that she is an archduchess," said one.

"She is a Russian princess," declared another; "there is no one but a
Russian for that game there."

"Let her win but three or four times and the bank is broken."

"She can't win, it is only the color that saves her."

"I believe in her luck. I will play her number."

"I'll play against her. Her luck is turning."

"Her hands," Corancez whispered to Hautefeuille. "Look at her hands;
even under her gloves, the hands of the genuine aristocrat. See the
others beside her, the motion of those greedy and nervous paws. All
those fingers are plebeian after you have seen hers. But I am afraid we
have brought her bad luck. Red and 7: she has lost--Oh, lost again. That
means twenty-five thousand francs. If the word were not too vulgar to
apply to such a pretty woman, I would say, 'What stomach!' She is going
on."

The young woman continued to distribute her gold and bank-notes upon the
same number, the same squares, and upon the black, and it seemed as
though neither the numbers, nor the squares, nor the black would ever
appear again. A few more turns, and the columns of twenty-franc and
hundred-franc pieces had disappeared as into a crucible, and, six by
six, the bank-notes had gone under the rake to join the pile heaped up
before the croupier. A quarter of an hour had scarcely elapsed since the
arrival of Corancez and Hautefeuille, and the Baroness Ely had nothing
before her but a little empty purse and a Russian cigarette case of gold
inlaid with niello and with sapphires, rubies, and diamonds. The young
woman weighed the case in her hand, while another turn of the wheel
brought up the red again.

It was the eleventh time that this color had won. Suddenly, with the
same air of indifference, she turned to her neighbor, a large man of
about fifty years, with a square head and wearing spectacles, who had
abandoned his book of calculations to play simply against her. He had
before him now a mass of gold and bank-notes.

"Monsieur," she said, handing him the case, "will you give me a thousand
francs for this box?"

She spoke loud enough for Corancez and Hautefeuille, who had approached,
to hear this strange and unexpected question.

"But we should be the ones to lend her the money," said Pierre.

"I should not advise you to offer it," the other replied. "She is very
much of an archduchess when she chooses, and I fancy she would not
receive us well. However, there will be plenty of usurers to buy the
case at that price, if the man in the spectacles does not accept.--He is
speaking German. He doesn't understand.--Well, what did I tell you?"

As though to support Corancez's pretensions to prophecy, just as Madame
de Carlsberg was replying to her neighbor in German, the hook-nose of a
jewel merchant penetrated the crowd, a hand held out the thousand-franc
note, and the gold case disappeared. The Baroness did not deign even to
glance at this personage, who was one of the innumerable moneylenders
that practise a vagrant usury around the tables. She took the bank-note,
and twisted it a moment without unfolding it. She waited until the red
had appeared twice more; seemed to hesitate; then, with the end of her
rake, pushed the note toward the _croupier_, saying:--

"On the red."

The ball spun round again, and this time it was the black. Baroness Ely
picked up her fan and her empty purse, and rose. In the movement of the
crowd, while he was endeavoring to extricate himself in order to reach
her, Corancez suddenly noticed that he had lost Hautefeuille.

"The awkwardness of that innocent boy," he murmured, while waiting for
Madame de Carlsberg.

If the vanity of speaking to the wife--even morganatic--of an archduke
of Austria had not absorbed him at this moment, he might have observed
his companion making his way to the purchaser of the jewel so
fantastically sold. And perhaps he would have found the bargain very
clever which was made with this innocent boy, had he seen him take from
his pocket-book two bank-notes and receive from the usurer the case
which had a few moments ago sparkled on the table before the Baroness.
The usurer had sold the jewel to the lover for twice the sum that he had
paid. Such is the beginning of great business houses.



CHAPTER II


THE CRY OF A SOUL


If Pierre Hautefeuille's action had escaped the malicious eyes of
Corancez, it had not, however, passed unperceived. Another person had
seen the Baroness Ely sell the gold box, and the young man buy it; and
this person was one whom the unfortunate lover should have most feared.
For to be seen by her was to be seen by Madame de Carlsberg herself, as
the witness of the two successive sales was no other than Madame Brion,
the confidante of Baroness Ely, residing at the same villa, and sure to
report what she had seen. But to explain the singular interest with
which Madame Brion had observed these two scenes, and the attitude with
which she was about to speak of it to her friend, it is necessary to
relate the circumstances that had caused so close an intimacy between
the wife of a Parisian financier of such low birth as Horace Brion, and
a noble lady of the European Olympus, who figured in the Almanach de
Gotha among the Imperial family of Austria. The peculiarity of the
cosmopolitan world, the trait that gives it its psychological
picturesqueness, in spite of the banal character inevitable to a society
composed of the rich and the idle, is the constant surprises of
connections like this. This society serves as the point of intersection
for destinies that have started from the widest extremities of the
social world. One may see there the interplay of natures so dissimilar,
often so hostile, that their simplest emotions have a savor of
strangeness, the poetry of unfamiliar things. Just as the love of Pierre
Hautefeuille, this Frenchman so profoundly, so completely French, for a
foreigner so charming as the Baroness Ely, with a charm so novel, so
difficult for the young man to analyze, was destined to occupy a place
of such importance in his sentimental life, so the friendship between
the Baroness Ely and Louise Brion could not fail to be a thing of
special and peculiar value in their lives, although its material
circumstances were, like everything in the cosmopolitan world, as
natural in their details as they were strange in their results.

This friendship, like most lasting affections, began early, when the two
women were but sixteen. They had ended their girlhood together in the
intimacy of a convent, which is usually terminated at the entrance into
society. But when these attachments endure, when they survive through
absence, unaffected by difference of surroundings, or by new
engagements, they become as instinctive and indestructible as family
ties. When the two friends first met, the name of one was Ely de
Sallach, the other, Louise Rodier of the old family of Catholic bankers,
now extinct, the Rodier-Vimal. Certainly from their birthplaces, one the
Château de Sallach in the heart of the Styrian Alps, the other the
Hôtel Rodier in the Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré, it would seem that
their paths of life must forever separate. A similar misfortune brought
them together. They lost their mothers at the same time, and almost at
once their fathers both married again. Each of the young girls, during
the months that followed these second marriages, had had trouble with
her step-mother; and each had finally been exiled to the Convent du
Sacré-Cœur at Paris. The banker had chosen this establishment because
he managed the funds and knew the superioress. General Sallach had been
urged to this choice by his wife, who thus got rid of her step-daughter
and gained a pretext for coming often to Paris. Entering the same day
the old convent in the Rue de Varenne, the two orphans felt an
attraction toward each other which their mutual confidences soon
deepened into passionate friendship; and this friendship had lasted
because it was based upon the profoundest depths of their characters and
was strengthened by time.

The classic tragedy was not so far from nature as hostile critics
pretend, when it placed beside its protagonists those personages whose
single duty was to receive their confidences. There are in the reality
of daily life souls that seem to be but echoes, ever ready to listen to
the sighs and moans of others--soul-mirrors whose entire life is in the
reflection they receive, whose personality is but the image projected
upon them. On her entrance into the convent Louise Brion had become one
of this race, whose adorable modesty Shakespeare has embodied in
Horatio, the heroic and loyal second in Hamlet's duel with the assassin
of his father. At sixteen as at thirty, it was only necessary to look at
her to divine the instinctive self-effacement of a timidly sensitive
character, incapable of asserting itself, or of living its own life. Her
face was a delicate one, but its fineness passed unnoticed, so great was
the reserve in her modest features, in her eyes of ashen gray, the
simple folds of her brown hair. She spoke but little, and in a voice
without accent; she had the genius for simplicity in dress, the style of
dress that in the _argot_ of women has the pretty epithet
"_tranquille_." Whether man or woman, these beings, so weak and
delicate, with their fine shades of sentiment, unfitted for active life,
their desires instinctively attenuated, usually attach themselves, in a
seeming contradiction which is at bottom logical, to some ardent and
impetuous character, whose audacity fascinates them. They feel an
irresistible desire to participate, through sympathy and imagination, in
the joy and pain which they have not the force to encounter in their own
experience. That was the secret of the relations between Madame Brion
and the Baroness de Carlsberg. From the first week of their girlish
intimacy, the passionate and fantastic Ely had bewitched the reasonable
and quiet Louise, and this witchery had continued through the years,
gaining from the fact that after their departure from the convent the
two friends had once more experienced an analogous misfortune. They had
both been in their marriage victims of paternal ambition. Louise Rodier
had become Madame Brion, because old Rodier, having fallen into secret
difficulties, thought that he could save himself by accepting Horace
Brion as a son-in-law and partner. The latter, after his father had been
ruined in the Bourse, had, in fifteen energetic years, not only made a
fortune, but won a kind of financial fame by re-establishing affairs
supposed to be hopeless, such as the Austro-Dalmatian Railway, so
feloniously launched and abandoned by the notorious Justus Hafner (vide
"Cosmopolis"). To efface the memory of his father Brion needed to ally
himself with one of those families of finance whose professional honor
is an equivalent of a noble title. The chief of the house of
Rodier-Vimal needed an aide-de-camp of distinguished superiority in the
secret crisis of his affairs. Louise, knowing the necessity of this
union, had accepted it, and had been horribly unhappy.

It was the same year that Ely de Sallach, constrained by her father,
married the Archduke Henry Francis, who had fallen in love with her at
Carlsbad, with one of those furious passions that may overtake a
_blasé_ prince of forty-five, for whom the experience of feeling is so
violent and unexpected that he clings to it with all the fever of youth
momentarily recaptured. The Emperor, though very hostile on principle to
morganatic marriages, had consented to this one in the hope that the
most revolutionary and disquieting of his cousins would quiet down and
begin a new life. General Sallach had looked to the elevation of his
daughter for a field-marshalship. He and his wife had so persuaded the
girl, that she, tempted herself by a vanity too natural at her age, had
yielded.

Twelve years had passed since then, and the two old friends of
Sacré-Cœur were still just as orphaned and as solitary and unhappy,
one in the glittering rôle of a demi-princess, the other, queen of the
great bank, as on the day when they first met under the trees of the
garden by the Boulevard des Invalides. They had never ceased to write to
each other; and each having seen the image of her own sorrow in the
destiny of the other, their affection had been deepened by their mutual
misery, by all their confidences, and by their silence, too.

The hardness of the financier, his ferocious egoism, disguised beneath
the studied manners of a sham man of the world, his brutal sensuality,
had made it possible for Louise to understand the miseries of poor Ely,
abandoned to the jealous despotism of a cruel and capricious master, in
whom the intellectual nihilism of an anarchist was associated with the
imperious pride of a tyrant; while the Baroness was able to sympathize,
through the depth of her own misery, with the wounds that bled in the
tender heart of her friend. But she, daughter of a soldier, the
descendant of those heroes of Tchernagora, who had never surrendered,
was not submissive, like the heiress of the good Rodier and Vimal
families. She had immediately opposed her own pride and will to those of
her husband. The atrocious scenes she had passed through without
quailing would have ended in open rupture if the young woman had not
thought of appealing to a very high authority. A sovereign influence
commanded a compromise, thanks to which the Baroness recovered her
independence without divorce or legal separation, with what rage on the
part of her husband may be imagined.

In fact, in four years this was the first winter she had spent with the
Archduke, who, being ill, had retired to his villa at Cannes--a strange
place, truly, made in the image of its strange master; half of the house
was a palace, and half a laboratory.

Madame Brion had witnessed from afar this conjugal drama, whose example
she had not followed. The gentle creature, without a word, had let
herself be wounded and broken by the hard fist of the brute whose name
she bore. This contrast itself had made her friend dearer to her. Ely de
Carlsberg had served her as her own rebellion, her own independence, her
own romance--a romance in which she was ignorant of many chapters. For
the confidences of two friends who see each other only at long intervals
are always somewhat uncandid. Instinctively a woman who confesses to a
friend guards against troubling the image which the friend forms of her;
and that image gradually acquires a more striking resemblance to her
past than to her present.

So the Baroness had concealed from her confidante all of one side of her
life. Beautiful as she was, rich, free, audacious, and unburdened with
principles, she had sought vengeance and oblivion of her domestic
miseries where all women who have her temperament and her lack of
religious faith seek a like oblivion and a like vengeance. She had had
adventures--many adventures--Madame Brion had no suspicion of them. She
loved the life in Ely, not realizing that this movement, this vitality,
this energy, could not exist in a creature of her race and her freedom
without leading to culpable experiences. But is it not the first
quality, even the very definition, of friendship, this inconsistent
favoritism which causes us to forget with certain persons the well-known
law of the simultaneous development of merits and faults, and the
necessary bond that connects these contrary manifestations of the same
individuality?

Yet, however blinded by friendship a woman may be, and however honest
and uninitiated in the gallant intrigues that go on around her, she is
none the less a woman, and as such apparently possesses a special
instinct for sexual matters, which enables her to feel how her
confidential friend conducts herself toward men. Louise could not have
formulated the change in Ely, and yet for years, at every interview, she
had perceived the change. Was it a greater freedom in manner and dress,
a shade of boldness in her glance, a readiness to put an evil
interpretation on every intimacy she noticed, an habitual
disenchantment, almost a cynicism, in her conversation?

The signs that reveal the woman who has dared to overstep conventional
prejudices, as well as moral principles, Madame Brion could not help
remarking in Madame de Carlsberg; but she did not permit herself to
analyze them, or even think about them. Delicate souls, who are created
for love, feel a self-reproach, almost a remorse, at the discovery of a
fault in one they love. They blame themselves and their impressions,
rather than judge the person from whom the impressions were received. An
uneasiness remains, however, which the first precise fact renders
insupportable.

To Louise Brion this little fact had appeared in the recent attitude of
her friend toward Pierre Hautefeuille. She chanced to be at Cannes when
the young man was presented to the Baroness at the Chésy residence. On
that evening she had been surprised at Ely, who had had a long talk with
the young stranger _en tête-à-tête_ in a corner of the drawing-room.
Having left at once for Monte Carlo, she doubtless would not have
thought of it again, if, on another visit to Cannes, she had not found
the young man on a footing of very sudden intimacy at the Villa
Carlsberg. Staying herself a few days at the villa, she was forced to
recognize that her friend was either a great coquette or was very
imprudent with Hautefeuille. She had chosen the hypothesis of
imprudence. She told herself that this boy was falling wildly in love
with Ely, and she was capable, out of mere carelessness or _ennui_, of
accepting a diversion of that kind. Louise resolved to warn her, but did
not dare, overcome by that inner paralysis which the strong produce in
the weak by the simple magnetism of their presence.

The little scene which she had observed this evening in the Casino had
given her the courage to speak. The action of Pierre Hautefeuille, his
haste to procure the jewel sold by Madame de Carlsberg, had singularly
moved this faithful friend. She had suddenly perceived the analogy
between her own feelings and those of the lover.

Having herself mingled with the crowd of spectators to follow the play
of her friend, whose nervousness had all day disquieted her, she had
seen her sell the gold case. This Bohemian act had pained her cruelly,
and still more the thought that this jewel which Ely used continually
would be bought in a second-hand shop of Monte Carlo and given by some
lucky gambler to some _demi-mondaine_. She had immediately started
toward the usurer, with the same purpose as Pierre Hautefeuille; and to
discover that he had been moved by the same idea touched a deep chord of
sympathy in her. She had been moved in her affection for Madame de
Carlsberg, and in a secret spot of her gentle and romantic nature, so
little used to find in men an echo of her own delicacy.

"Unfortunate man," she murmured. "What I feared has come. He loves her.
Is there still time to warn Ely, and keep her from having on her
conscience the unhappiness of this boy?"

It was this thought that determined the innocent, good creature to speak
to her friend as soon as she had an opportunity; and the opportunity
presented itself at this moment.

They had come out of the Casino at about eleven o'clock, escorted by
Brion, who had left them at the villa, and, when they were alone, the
Baroness had asked her friend to walk a while in the garden to enjoy the
night, which was really divine. Enveloped in their furs, they began to
pace the terrace and the silent alleys, captivated by the contrast
between the feverish atmosphere in which they had spent the evening and
the peaceful immensity of the scene that now surrounded them. And the
contrast was no less surprising between the Baroness Ely at roulette and
the Baroness Ely walking at this hour.

The moon, shining full in the vast sky, seemed to envelop her with
light, to cast upon her a charm of languorous exaltation. Her lips were
half open, as though drinking in the purity of the cold, beautiful
night, and the pale rays seemed to reach her heart through her eyes, so
intently did she gaze at the silver disk which illumined the whole
horizon with almost the intensity of noon. The sea above all was
luminous, a sea of velvet blue, over which a white fire, quivering and
dying, traced its miraculous way. The atmosphere was so pure that in the
bright bay one could distinguish the rigging of two yachts, motionless,
at anchor by the Cape, upon whose heights stood the crenellated walls of
the old Grimaldi palace. The huge, dark mass of Cape Martin stretched
out on the other side; and everywhere was the contrast of transparent
brilliancy and sharp, black forms, stamped on the dream-like sky. The
long branches of the palms, the curved poignards of the aloes, the thick
foliage of the orange trees hung in deep shadow over the grass where the
fairy moonlight played in all its splendor.

One by one the lights went out in the houses, and from the terrace the
two women could see them, white amid the dark olives sleeping in the
universal sleep that had fallen everywhere. The quiet of the hour was so
perfect that no sound could be heard but the crackling of the gravel
under their small shoes, and the rustle of their dresses. Madame de
Carlsberg was the first to break the silence, yielding to the pleasure
of thinking aloud, so delicious at such a time and with such a friend.
She had paused a moment to gaze more intently at the sky:--

"How pure the night is, and how soft. When I was a child at Sallach, I
had a German governess who knew the names of all the stars. She taught
me to recognize them. I can find them still: there is the Pole Star and
Cassiopeia and the Great Bear and Arcturus and Vega. They are always in
the same place. They were there before we were born, and will be after
we are dead. Do you ever think of it--that the night looked just the
same to Marie Antoinette, Mary Stuart, Cleopatra, all the women who,
across the years and the centuries, represent immense disasters, tragic
sorrows, and splendid fame? Do you ever think that they have watched
this same moon and these stars in the same part of the heavens, and with
the same eyes as ours, with the same delight and sadness; and that they
have passed away as we shall beneath these motionless stars, eternally
indifferent to our joy and misery? When these thoughts come to me, when
I think of what poor creatures we are, with all our agonies that cannot
move an atom of this immensity, I ask myself what matter our laws, our
customs, our prejudices, our vanity in supposing that we are of any
importance in this magnificent eternal and impassive universe. I say to
myself that there is but one thing of value here below: to satisfy the
heart, to feel, to drain every emotion to the bottom, to go to the end
of all our desires, in short, to live one's own life, one's real life,
free of all lies and conventions, before we sink into the inevitable
annihilation."

There was something frightful in hearing these nihilistic words on the
lips of this beautiful young woman, and on such a night, in such a
scene. To the tender and religious Madame Brion these words were all the
more painful since they were spoken with the same voice that had
directed the croupier where to place the final stake. She greatly
admired Ely for that high intelligence which enabled her to read all
books, to write in four or five languages, to converse with the most
distinguished men and on every subject.

Trained until her seventeenth year in the solid German manner, the
Baroness Ely had found, at first in the society of the Archduke, then in
her life in Italy, an opportunity for an exceptional culture from which
her supple mind of a demi-Slave had profited.

Alas! of what use was that learning, that facile comprehension, that
power of expression, since she had not learned to govern her
caprices--as could be seen in the attitude at the roulette table--nor to
govern her thoughts--which was too well shown by the sombre creed that
she had just confessed? That inner want, among so many gifts and
accomplishments, once more oppressed the faithful friend, who had never
brought herself to admit the existence of certain ideas in her companion
of Sacré-Cœur. And she said:--

"You speak again as though you did not believe in another life. Is it
possible that you are sincere?"

"No, I do not believe in it," the Baroness replied, with a shake of her
pretty head, a breath of air lifting the long, silky fur of her sable
cape. "That was the one good influence my husband had over me; but he
had that. He cured me of that feeble-heartedness that dares not look the
truth in the face. The truth is that man has never discovered a trace of
a Providence, of a pity or justice from on high, the sign of anything
above us but blind and implacable force. There is no God. There is
nothing but this world. That is what I know now, and I am glad to know
it. I like to oppress myself with the thought of the ferocity and
stupidity of the universe. I find in it a sort of savage pleasure, an
inner strength."

"Do not talk like that," interrupted Madame Brion, clasping her arms
around her friend as though she were a suffering sister or a child. "You
make me feel too sad. But," she continued, pressing the hand of the
Baroness while they resumed their walk, "I know you have a weight on
your heart of which you do not tell me. You have never been happy. You
are less so than ever to-day, and you blame God for your hard fate. You
relieve yourself in blasphemy as you did to-night in play, wildly,
desperately, as they say some men drink; don't deny it. I was there all
the evening, hidden in the crowd, while you were playing. Pardon me. You
had been so nervous all day. You had worried me. And I did not want to
leave you five minutes alone. And, my Ely, I saw you sitting among those
women and those men, playing so unreasonably in the sight of all that
crowd whispering your name. I saw you sell the case you used so much.
Ah, my Ely, my Ely!"

A heavy sigh accompanied this loved name, repeated with passionate
tenderness. That innocent affection which suffered from the faults of
its idol without daring to formulate a reproach, touched the Baroness,
and made her a little ashamed. She disguised her feelings in a laugh,
which she attempted to make gay, in order to quiet her friend's emotion.

"How fortunate that I didn't see you! I should have borrowed money from
you and lost it. But do not worry; it will not happen again. I had heard
so often of the gambling fever that I wished just once, not to trifle as
I usually do, but really play. It is even more annoying than it was
stupid. I regret nothing but the cigarette case." She hesitated a
moment. "It was the souvenir of a person who is no longer in this world.
But I shall find the merchant to-morrow."

"That is useless," said Madame Brion, quickly. "He no longer has it."

"You have already bought it? How I recognize my dear friend in that!"

"I thought of doing it," Louise answered in a low voice, "but some one
else was before me."

"Some one else?" said Madame de Carlsberg, with a sudden look of
haughtiness. "Whom you saw and whom I know?" she asked.

"Whom I saw and whom you know," answered Madame Brion. "But I dare not
tell the name, now that I see how you take it.--And yet, it is not one
whom you have the right to blame, for if he has fallen in love with you,
it is indeed your fault. You have been so imprudent with him--let me say
it, so coquettish!"

Then, after a silence: "It was young Pierre Hautefeuille."

The excellent woman felt her heart beat as she pronounced these last
words. She was anxious to prevent Madame de Carlsberg from continuing a
flirtation which she thought dangerous and culpable; but the anger which
she had seen come into her friend's face made her fear that she had gone
too far, and would draw down upon the head of the imprudent lover one of
Ely's fits of rage, and she reproached herself as for an indelicacy,
almost a treachery toward the poor boy whose tender secret she had
surprised.

But it was not anger that, at the mention of this name, had changed the
expression of Madame de Carlsberg and flushed her cheeks with a sudden
red. Her friend, who knew her so well, could see that she was overcome
with emotion, but very different from her injured pride of a moment
before. She was so astonished that she stopped speaking. The Baroness
made no answer, and the two women walked on in silence. They had entered
an alley of palm trees, flecked with moonlight, but still obscure. And
as Madame Brion could no longer see the face of her friend, her own
emotions became so strong that she hazarded, tremblingly:--

"Why do you not answer me? Is it because you think I should have
prevented the young man from doing what he did? But for your sake I
pretended not to have seen it. Are you wounded at my speaking of your
coquetry? You know I would not have spoken in that way, if I did not so
esteem your heart."

"You wound me?" said the Baroness. "You? You know that is
impossible. No, I am not wounded. I am touched. I did not know he was
there," she added in a lower tone, "that he saw me at that table, acting
as I did. You think that I have flirted with him? Wait, look."

And as they had reached the end of the alley, she turned. Tears were
slowly running down her cheeks. Through her eyes, from whence these
tears had fallen, Louise could read to the bottom of her soul, and the
evidence which before she had not dared to believe now forced itself
upon her.

"Oh! you are weeping." And, as though overcome by the moral tragedy
which she now perceived, "You love him!" she cried, "you love him!"

"What use to hide it now?" Ely answered. "Yes, I love him! When you told
me what he did this evening, which proves, as I know, that he loves me,
too, it touched me in a painful spot. That is all. I should be happy,
should I not? And you see I am all upset. If you but knew the
circumstances in which this sentiment overtook me, my poor friend, you
would indeed pity your Ely. Ah!" she repeated, "pity her, pity her!"

And, resting her head on her friend's shoulder, she began to weep, to
weep like a child, while the other, bewildered at this sudden and
unexpected outburst, replied--revealing even in her pity the naïveté
of an honest woman, incapable of suspicion:--

"I beg you calm yourself. It is true it is a terrible misfortune for a
woman to love when she has no right to satisfy it. But, do not feel
remorseful, and, above all, do not think I blame you. When I spoke as I
did it was to put you on your guard against a wrong that you might do.
Ah! I see too well that you have not been a coquette. I know you have
not allowed the young man to divine your feelings, and I know, too, that
he will never divine them, and that you will be always my blameless Ely.
Calm yourself, smile for me. Is it not good to have a friend, a real
friend, who can understand you?"

"Understand me? Poor Louise! You love me, yes, you love me well. But you
do not know me."

Then, in a kind of transport, she took her friend's arm, and, looking
her in the face, "Listen!" she said, "you believe me still to be, as I
was once, your blameless Ely. Well, it is not true. I have had a lover.
Hush, do not answer. It must be said. It is said. And that lover is the
most intimate friend of Pierre Hautefeuille, a friend to him as you are
to me, a brother in friendship as you are my sister. That is the weight
that you have divined here," and she laid her hand upon her breast. "It
is horrible to bear."

Certain confessions are so irremediable that their frankness gives to
those who voluntarily make them something of grandeur and nobility even
in their fall; and when the confession is made by some one whom we love,
as Louise loved Ely, it fills us with a delirium of tenderness for the
being who proves her nobility by her confession while the misery of her
shame rends her heart. If a few hours before, in some house at Monte
Carlo, the slightest word had been said against the honor of Madame de
Carlsberg, what indignation would Madame Brion have not felt, and what
pain! Pain she indeed had, agonizing pain, as Ely pronounced these
unforgetable words; but of indignation there was not a trace in the
heart which replied with these words, whose very reproach was a proof of
tenderness, blind and indulgent to complicity:--

"Just God! How you must have suffered! But why did you not tell me
before? Why did you not confide in me? Did you think that I would love
you less? See, I have the courage to hear all."

And she added, in that thirst for the whole truth which we have for the
faults of those who are dear to us, as though we looked to find a
pardonable excuse in the cruel details:--

"I beg you, tell me all, all. And first, this man? Do I know him?"

"No," replied Madame de Carlsberg, "his name is Olivier du Prat. I met
him at Rome two years ago when I was spending the winter there. That was
the period of my life when I saw you least, and wrote to you least
frequently. It was also the time when I was the most wicked, owing to
solitude, inaction, unhappiness, and my disgust with everything,
especially with myself. This man was the secretary of one of the two
French embassies. He was much lionized because of the passion, he had
inspired in two Roman ladies, who almost openly disputed his favors. It
is very ignoble, what I am going to tell you, but such was the truth. It
amused me to win him from them both. In that kind of an adventure, just
as in play, one expects to find the emotions that others have found in
it, and then the result is the same as in roulette. One is bored with
it, and one throws one's self into the game from wilfulness and vanity,
in the excitement of an absurd struggle. I know now," and her voice
became graver, "that I never loved Olivier, but that I so persisted in
this liaison that he would have the right to say that I wished him to
love me, that I wished to be his mistress, and that I did all I could to
retain him. He was a singular character, very different from those
professional lovers, who are for the most part frightfully vulgar. He
was so changeable, so protean, so full of contrasts, so intangible, that
to this day I cannot tell whether he loved me or not. You hear me in a
dream, and I am speaking as in a dream. I feel that there was something
inexplicable in our relations, something unintelligible to a third
person. I have never met a being so disconcerting, so irritating, from
the endless uncertainty he kept you in, no matter what you did. One day
he would be emotional, tremulous, passionate even to frenzy, and on the
morrow, sometimes the same day, he would recoil within himself from
confidence to suspicion, from tenderness to persiflage, from abandonment
to irony, from love to cruelty, without it being possible either to
doubt his sincerity or to discover the cause of this incredible
alteration. He had these humors not only in his emotions, but even in
his ideas. I have seen him moved to tears by a visit to the Catacombs,
and on returning as outrageously atheistical as the Archduke. In society
I have seen him hold twenty people enraptured by the charm of his
brilliant fancy, and then pass weeks without speaking two words. In
short, he was from head to foot a living enigma, which I penetrate
better at a distance. He had been early left an orphan. His childhood
had been unhappy, and his youth precociously disenchanted. He had been
wounded and corrupted too soon. Thence came that insatiability of soul,
that elusiveness of character which appeared as soon as I became
interested in him in a kind of spasmodic force. When I was young at
Sallach I loved to mount difficult horses and try to master them. I
cannot better describe my relations with Olivier than by comparing them
to a duel between a rider and his horse, when each tries to get the
better of the other. I repeat it, I am sure I did not love him. I am not
certain that I did not hate him."

She spoke with a dryness that showed how deeply these memories were
implanted. She paused a moment, and, plucking a rose from a bush near
her, she began to bite the petals nervously, while Madame Brion
sighed:--

"Need I pity you for that also,--for having sought happiness out of
marriage, and for having met this man, this hard and capricious monster
of egoism?"

"I do not judge of him," Madame de Carlsberg answered. "If I had been
different myself, I should doubtless have changed him. But he had
touched me in an irritable spot; I wished to control him, to master him,
and I used a terrible weapon. I made him jealous. All that is a bitter
story, and I spare you the details. It would be painful to recall it,
and it does not matter. You will know enough when I say that after a day
of intimacy, when he had been more tender than ever before, Olivier left
Rome suddenly, without an explanation, without a word of adieu, without
even writing a letter. I have never seen him again. I have never heard
of him, except in a chance conversation this winter, when I learned that
he was married. Now you will understand the strange emotions I felt when
two months ago Chésy asked permission to present a son of a friend of
his mother, who had come to Cannes to recover from a bad cold, a young
man, rather solitary and very charming; his name was Pierre
Hautefeuille. In the countless conversations that Olivier and I had
together in the intervals of our quarrelling, this name had often been
spoken. Here again I must explain to you a very peculiar thing,--the
nature of this man's conversation and the extraordinary attraction it
had for me. This self-absorbed and enigmatic being had sudden hours of
absolute expansion which I have seen in no one else. It was as though he
relived his life aloud for me, and I listened with an unparalleled
curiosity. He used at these times a kind of implacable lucidity which
almost made you cry out, like a surgical operation, and which at the
same time hypnotized you with a potent fascination. It was a brutal yet
delicate disrobing of his childhood and his youth, with
characterizations of such vividness that certain individuals were
presented to me as distinctly as though I had really met them. And he
himself? Ah, what a strange soul, incomplete and yet superior, so noble
and so degraded, so sensitive and so arid, in whom there seemed to be
nothing but lassitude, failure, stain, and disillusionment--excepting
one sentiment. This man who despised his family, who never spoke of his
country without bitterness, who attributed the worst motive to every
action, even his own, who denied the existence of God, of virtue, of
love, this moral nihilist, in short, in so many ways like the Archduke,
had one faith, one cult, one religion. He believed in friendship, that
of man for man, denying that one woman could be the friend of another.
He did not know you, dear friend. He pretended--I recall his very
words--that between two men who had proved each other, who had lived,
and thought, and suffered together, and who esteemed each other while
loving each other, there arises a kind of affection so high, so
profound, and so strong that nothing can be compared with it. He said
that this sentiment was the only one he respected, the only one that
time and change could not prevail against. He acknowledged that this
friendship was rare; yet he declared that he had met with it several
times, and that he himself had experienced one in his life. It was then
that he evoked the image of Pierre Hautefeuille. His accent, his look,
his whole expression changed while he lingered over the memory of his
absent friend. He, the man of all the ironies, recounted with tenderness
and respect the naïve details of their first meeting at school, their
growing attachment, their boyish vacations. He related with enthusiasm
their enlisting together in 1870, and the war, their adventures, their
captivity in Germany. He was never tired of praising his friend's purity
of soul, his delicacy, his nobility. I have already said that this man
was an enigma to me. Such he was above all in his retrospective
confidences, to which I listened with astonishment, almost stupor, to
behold this anomaly in a heart so lamentably withered, in a land so
sterile this flower of delicate sentiment, so young and rare that it
made me think--and in spite of Olivier's paradox, it is the highest
praise I could give--of our own friendship."

"Thanks," said Madame Brion, "you make me happy. As I listened to you a
moment ago I seemed to hear another person speaking whom I did not
recognize. But now I have found you again, so loving, gentle, and good."

"No, not good," Madame de Carlsberg replied. "The proof is that no
sooner had Chésy pronounced the name of Pierre Hautefeuille than I was
possessed by an idea which you will think abominable. I shall pay for
it, perhaps, dearly enough. Olivier's departure and then his marriage
had stirred in me that hate of which I spoke. I could not hear to think
that this man had left me as he did, and was now happy, contented,
indifferent--that he had regained his serenity without my being
revenged. One acquires these base passions by living as I have so long,
unhappy and desperate, surrounded by pleasure and luxury. Too much moral
distress is depraving. When I knew that I was to meet the intimate
friend of Olivier, a possible vengeance offered itself to me, a refined,
atrocious, and certain vengeance. My life was forever separated from
that of Du Prat. He had probably forgotten me. I was sure that if I won
the affections of his friend, and he knew of it, it would strike the
deepest and most sensitive place in his heart; and that is why I
permitted Chésy to present Hautefeuille, and why I indulged in those
coquetries for which you blamed me. For it is true that I began thus.
_Dieu_! how recent it was, and how long ago it seems!"

"But," interrupted Madame Brion, "does Pierre Hautefeuille know of your
relations with Olivier?"

"Ah! you touch me in the sorest spot. He is ignorant of them, as he is
of all the base realities of life. It is by his innocence, his
simplicity of heart, of which his friend so often spoke--his youth, in
short--that this boy, against whom I began so cruel a plot, has won me
completely. Never has a doubt or a suspicion entered that heart, so
young and so innocent of evil, for which evil does not even exist. I had
not spoken with him three times before I understood all that Olivier had
said in our conversations at Rome, which left me incredulous and
irritated. That respect, that veneration almost, which he professed for
this candor and goodness, I felt also in my turn. All the expressions he
had used in speaking of his friend came back to me, and at every new
encounter I perceived how just they were, how fine, and how true. In my
surprise I relinquished my plan of vengeance at the contact of this
nature so young and delicate, whose perfume I inhaled as I do that of
this flower."

And she lifted to her face the rose with its half-nibbled petals.

"If you only knew how the life I lead wearies and oppresses me! How
tired I am of hearing about nothing but the breakfasts that Dickie Marsh
gives on his yacht to the grand dukes, of Navagero's bezique with the
Prince of Wales, of Chésy's speculations at the Bourse, and the
half-dozen titled fools that follow his advice! If you only knew how
even the best of this artificial society tires me! What does it matter
to me whether Andryana Bonnacorsi decides to marry the Sire de Corancez,
or any of the countless subjects of gossip at the five o'clock teas in
Cannes? And I need not speak of the inferno my house has become since my
husband suspects me of favoring the marriage of Flossie Marsh with his
assistant. To meet in this artificial atmosphere, made up of _ennui_ and
vanity, folly and stupidity, a being who is at the same time profound
and simple, genuine and romantic, in fact archaic, as I like to call
him, was a delight. And then the moment came when I realized that I
loved this young man and that he loved me. I learned it through no
incident, no scene, no word--just by a look from him which I
accidentally caught. That is why I have taken refuge here for the last
eight days, I was afraid. I am still afraid--afraid for myself a little.
I know myself too well, and I know that once started on that road of
passion I would go to the end, I would stake my whole life upon it, and
if I lost, if--"

She did not finish, but her friend understood her terrible forebodings
as she continued: "And I am afraid for him, too, ah, much afraid! He is
so young, so inexperienced! He believes so implicitly in me. I cannot
better show you how I have changed than by saying this: six weeks ago,
when Hautefeuille was presented to me, I had but one desire,--that
Olivier should learn of my acquaintance with his friend. To-day, if I
could prevent these two men from ever meeting, or from ever speaking of
me to each other, I would give ten years of my life. Now do you
understand why the tears came to my eyes when you told me what he did
this evening, and how, without speaking to me, he had seen the way I
spend my time away from him? I am ashamed, terribly ashamed. Think what
it would be if he knew the rest!"

"And what are you going to do?" Madame Brion mournfully exclaimed.
"These men will meet again. They will talk about you. And if Olivier
loves his friend as you say he does, he will tell him all. Listen," she
continued, clasping her hands, "listen to what the tenderest and most
devoted affection advises you to do. I do not speak of your duty, of the
opinion of the world, or the vengeance of your husband. I know you would
brave all that, as you did before, to win your happiness. But you will
not win it. You could not be happy in this love with that secret on your
heart. You will be tortured by it, and if you speak--I know you, you
must have thought of it--if you speak--"

"If I told him, I would never see him again," said Madame de Carlsberg.
"Ah! without that certitude--"

"Well! Have the courage to do it," interrupted the other. "You had the
strength to leave Cannes for a week. You should have enough to leave for
good. You will not be alone. I will go with you. You will suffer. But
what is that, when you think of what otherwise would happen,--that you
would be everything to this young man, and he everything to you, and he
would know that you had been the mistress of his friend!"

"Yes, I have thought of all that," replied the Baroness, "and then I
remember I might have had six months, a year, and perhaps more. And that
is to have lived, to have been in this hard world for a year one's self,
one's true self, the being that one is in one's innermost and deepest
reality."

And as she spoke she gazed at the sky with the same look that she had
had at the beginning of the walk. She seemed once more to bathe her face
in the moonlight, and to absorb the impassive serenity of the mountains
and the stars, as though to gather force to go to the end of her desire.
And as they resumed again in silence their promenade among the obscure
palms, by the fragrant rose-beds, and beneath the sombre shadow of the
orange trees, the faithful friend murmured:--

"I will save her in spite of herself."



CHAPTER III


A SCRUPLE


The "Sire" de Corancez--as Madame de Carlsberg disdainfully called the
Southerner--was not a man to neglect the slightest detail that he
thought advantageous to a well-studied plan. His father, the
vine-grower, used to say to him, "Marius? Don't worry about Marius. He's
a shrewd bird." And, in truth, at the very moment when the Baroness Ely
was beginning her melancholy confidences in the deserted garden alleys
of the Villa Brion, this adroit person discovered Hautefeuille at the
station, installed him in the train between Chésy and Dickie Marsh and
manœuvred so skilfully that before reaching Nice the American had
invited Pierre to visit the next morning his yacht, the Jenny, anchored
in the roadstead at Cannes. But the next morning would be the last hours
that Corancez could spend at Cannes before his departure, ostensibly for
Marseilles and Barbentane, in reality for Italy.

He had the promise of Florence Marsh that Hautefeuille's visit to the
_Jenny_ would be immediately followed by an invitation to take part in
the cruise of the 14th. Would Pierre accept? Above all, would he consent
to act as witness in that clandestine ceremony, at which the queerly
named Venetian _abbé_, Don Fortunato Lagumina, would pronounce the
words of eternal union between the millions of the deceased Francesco
Bonnacorsi and the heir of the doubtful scutcheon of the Corancez? The
Provençal had but this last morning to persuade his friend.

But he had no fear of failure, and at half-past nine, fresh, in spite of
the fact that he had returned from Monte Carlo on the last train the
night before, he briskly descended the steps of the hill that separates
Cannes from the Gulf of Juan. Pierre Hautefeuille had installed himself
for the winter in one of those hotels whose innumerable flower-framed
windows line this height, which the people of Cannes have adorned with
the exotic name of California.

It was one of those mornings of sun and wind--of fresh sunlight and warm
breeze--which are the charm of winter on this coast. Roses bloomed by
hundreds on hedge and terrace. The villas, white or painted, shone
through their curtains of palm trees and araucarias, aloes and bamboos,
mimosas and eucalyptus. The peninsula of La Croisette projected from the
hill toward the islands, and its dark forest of pines, flecked with
white houses, arose in strong relief between the tender blue of the sky
and the sombre blue of the sea, and the Sire de Corancez went on gayly,
a bouquet of violets in the buttonhole of the most becoming coat that a
complacent tailor ever fashioned for a handsome young man in chase of an
heiress, his small feet tightly fitted in russet shoes, a straw hat on
his thick, black hair; his eyes bright, his teeth glistening in a half
smile, his beard lustrous and scented, his movements graceful.

He was happy in the animal portion of his nature; a happiness that was
wholly physical and sensual. He was able to enjoy the divine sunlight,
the salt breeze, odorous with flowers; this atmosphere, soft as spring;
to enjoy the morning and his own sense of youth, while the calculator
within him soliloquized upon the character of the man he was about to
rejoin and upon the chances of success:--

"Will he accept or not? Yes, he will beyond any doubt, when he knows
that Madame de Carlsberg will be on the boat. Should I tell him? No; I
would offend him. How his arm trembled in mine last night when I
mentioned her name! Bah! Marsh or his niece will speak to him about her,
or they are no Americans. That is their way--and it succeeds with
them--to speak right out whatever they think or wish.--If he accepts? Is
it prudent to have one more witness? Yes; the more people there are in
the secret, the more Navagero will be helpless when the day comes for
the great explanation.--A secret? With three women knowing it? Madame de
Carlsberg will tell it all to Madame Brion. It will go no further on
that side. Flossie Marsh will tell it all to young Verdier. And it will
stop there, too. Hautefeuille? Hautefeuille is the most reliable of
all.--How little some men change! There is a boy I have scarcely seen
since our school-days. He is just as simple and innocent as when we used
to confess our sins to the good Father Jaconet. He has learned nothing
from life. He does not even suspect that the Baroness is as much in love
with him as he with her. She will have to make a declaration to him. If
we could talk it over together, she and I. Let nature have her way. A
woman who desires a young man and does not capture him--that may occur,
perhaps, in the horrible fogs of the North, but in this sunlight and
among these flowers, never.--Good, here is his hotel. It would be
convenient for a rendezvous, these barracks. So many people going in and
out that a woman might enter ten times without being noticed."

Hôtel des Palmes--the name justified by a tropical garden--appeared in
dazzling letters on the façade of this building, whose gray walls,
pretentiously decorated with gigantic sculpture, arose at a bend of the
road. The balconies were supported by colossal caryatides, the terrace
by fluted columns. Pierre Hautefeuille occupied a modest room in this
caravansary, which had been recommended by his doctor; and if, on the
night before, his sentimental reverie in the hall at Monte Carlo had
seemed paradoxical, his daily presence in a cell of this immense
cosmopolitan hive was no less so.

Here he lived, retired, absorbed in his chimerical fancies, enveloped in
the atmosphere of his dreams, while beside him, above him, and below him
swarmed the agitated colony which the Carnival attracts to the coast.
Again on this morning the indulgent mockery of Corancez might have found
a fitting subject, if the heavy stones of the building had suddenly
become transparent, and the enterprising Southerner had seen his friend,
with his elbows on the writing-table, hypnotized before the gold box
purchased the evening before; and his mockery would have changed to
veritable stupefaction, had he been able to follow the train of this
lover's thoughts, who, ever since his purchase, had been a prey to one
of those fevers of remorseful anxiety which are the great tragedies of a
timid and silent passion.

This fever had begun in the train on the way back from Monte Carlo amid
the party collected by Corancez. One of Chésy's remarks had started it.

"Is it true," Chésy asked of Marius, "that Baroness Ely lost this
evening a hundred thousand francs, and that she sold her diamonds to one
of the gamblers in order to continue?"

"How history is written!" Corancez responded. "I was there with
Hautefeuille. She lost this evening just what she had gained, that is
all; and she sold a trifling jewel worth a hundred louis,--a gold
cigarette case."

"The one she always uses?" asked Navagero; then gayly, "I hope the
Archduke will not hear this story. Although a democrat, he is severe on
the question of good form."

"Who do you suppose would tell him?" Corancez replied.

"The aide-de-camp, _parbleu_," exclaimed Chésy. "He spies into
everything she does, and if the jewel is gone, the Archduke will hear of
it."

"Bah! She will buy it back to-morrow morning. Monte Carlo is full of
these honest speculators. They, in fact, are the only ones who win at
the game."

While Hautefeuille was listening to this dialogue, every word of which
pierced to his heart, he caught a glance from the Marquise Bonnacorsi--a
look of curiosity, full of meaning to the timid lover, for he plainly
read in it the knowledge of his secret. The subject of the conversation
immediately changed, but the words that had been spoken and the
expression in Madame Bonnacorsi's eyes sufficed to fill the young man
with a remorse as keen as though the precious box had been taken from
the pocket of his evening coat, and shown to all these people.

"Could the Marquise have seen me buy it?" he asked himself, trembling
from head to foot. "And if she saw me, what does she think?"

Then, as she entered into conversation with Florence Marsh, and appeared
once more to be perfectly indifferent to his existence, "No, I am
dreaming," he thought; "it is not possible that she saw me. I was
careful to observe the people who were there. I was mistaken. She looked
at me in that fixed way of hers which means nothing. I was dreaming. But
what the others said was not a dream. This cigarette case she will wish
to buy back to-morrow. She will find the merchant. He will tell her that
he has sold it. He will describe me. If she recognizes me from his
description?"

At this thought he trembled once more. In a sudden hallucination he saw
the little parlor of the Villa Helmholtz--the Archduke had thus named
his house after the great savant who had been his master. The lover saw
the Baroness Ely sitting by the fire in a dress of black lace with bows
of myrtle green, the one of her dresses which he most admired. He saw
himself entering this parlor in the afternoon; he saw the furniture, the
flowers in their vases, the lamps with their tinted shades, all these
well-loved surroundings, and a different welcome--a look in which he
would perceive, not by a wild hypothesis this time, but with certitude,
that Madame de Carlsberg knew _what he had done_. The pain which the
mere thought of this caused him brought him back to reality.

"I am dreaming again," he said to himself, "but it is none the less
certain that I have been very imprudent--even worse, indelicate. I had
no right to buy that box. No, I had no right. I risked, in the first
place, the chance of being seen, and of compromising her. And then, even
as it is, if some indiscreet remark is made, and if the Prince makes an
investigation?"

In another hallucination he saw the Archduke Henry Francis and the
Baroness face to face. He saw the beautiful, the divine eyes of the
woman he loved fill with tears. She would suffer in her private life
once more, and from his fault, on account of him who would have given
all his blood with delight in order that mouth so wilfully sad
might smile with happiness. Thus the most imaginary, but also the most
painful of anxieties commenced to torture the young man, while Miss
Marsh and Corancez in a corner of the compartment exchanged in a low
voice these comments:--

"I shall ask my uncle to invite him, that's settled," said the young
American girl. "Poor boy, I have a real sympathy for him. He looks so
melancholy. They have pained him by talking so of the Baroness."

"No, no," said Corancez. "He is in despair at having missed, by his own
fault, a chance of speaking with his idol this evening. Imagine, at the
moment when I went up to her--piff--my Hautefeuille disappeared. He is
remorseful at having been too timid. That is a sentiment which I hope
never to feel."

Remorse. The astute Southerner did not realize how truly he had spoken.
He was mistaken in regard to the motive, but he had given the most
precise and fitting term to the emotion which kept Hautefeuille awake
through the long hours of the night, and which this morning held him
motionless before the precious case. It was as though he had not bought
it, but had stolen it, so much did he suffer to have it there before his
eyes. What was he to do now? Keep it? That had been his instinctive, his
passionate desire when he hurried to the merchant. This simple object
would make the Baroness Ely so real, so present to him. Keep it? The
words he had heard the night before came back to him, and with them all
his apprehension. Send it back to her? What could be more certain to
make the young woman seek out who it was who had taken such a liberty,
and if she did find out?

A prey to these tumultuous thoughts, Pierre turned the golden box in his
hands. He spelled out the absurd inscription written in precious stones
on the cover of the case: "M.E. moi. 100 C.C.--Aimez-moi sans cesser,"
the characters said; and the lover thought that this present, bearing
such a tender request, must have been given to Madame de Carlsberg by
the Archduke or some very dear friend.

What agony he would have felt had the feminine trinket been able to
relate its history and all the quarrels that its sentimental device had
caused during the _liaison_ of the Baroness Ely with Olivier du Prat.
How often Du Prat, too, had tried to discover from whom his mistress had
received this present--one of those articles whose unnecessary gaudiness
savors of adultery. And he could never draw from the young woman the
name of the mysterious person who had given it, of whom Ely had said to
Madame Brion, "It was some one who is no longer in this world."

In truth, this suspicious case was not a souvenir of anything very
culpable; the Baroness had received it from one of the Counts Kornow.
She had had with him one of her earliest flirtations, pushed far
enough--as the inscription testified--but interrupted before its
consummation by the departure of the young Count for the war in Turkey.
He had been killed at Plevna.

Yes, how miserable Hautefeuille would have been if he could have divined
the words that had been uttered over this case--words of romantic
tenderness from the young Russian, words of outrageous suspicion from
his dearest friend, that Olivier whose portrait--what irony!--was on the
table before him at this moment. That heart so young, still so intact,
so pure, so confiding, was destined to bleed for that which he did not
suspect on this morning when, in all his delicacy, he accused no one but
himself.

Suddenly a knock on the door made him start in terror. He had been so
absorbed in his thoughts that he had not noticed the time, or remembered
the rendezvous with his friend. He hid the cigarette case in the table
drawer, with all the agitation of a discovered criminal. "Come in," he
said in a quivering voice; and the elegant and jovial countenance of
Corancez appeared at the door. With that slight accent which neither
Paris nor the princely salons of Cannes had been able wholly to correct,
the Southerner began:--

"What a country mine is, all the same! What a morning, what air, what
sunlight! They are wearing furs up there, and we--" He threw open his
light coat. Then, as his eye caught the view, he continued, thinking
aloud: "I have never before climbed up to your lighthouse. What a scene!
How the long ridge of the Esterel stretches out, and what a sea! A piece
of waving satin. This would be divine with a little more space. You are
not uncomfortable with only one room?"

"Not in the least," said Hautefeuille; "I have so few things with
me--merely a few books."

"That's so," Corancez replied, glancing over the narrow room, which,
with the modest case opened on the bureau, had the look of an officer's
tent. "You have not the mania for _bric-à-brac_. If you could see the
ridiculously complete dressing-case that I carry around with me, not to
speak of a trunk full of knick-knacks. But I have been corrupted by the
foreigners. You have remained a true Frenchman. People never realize how
simple, sober, and economical the French are. They are too much so in
their hate of new inventions. They detest them as much as the English
and Americans love them--you, for example. I am sure that it was only by
accident you came to this ultra-modern hotel, and that you abominate the
luxury and the comfort."

"You call it luxury?" Hautefeuille interrupted, shrugging his shoulders.
"But there is truth in what you say. I don't like to complicate my
existence."

"I know that prejudice," Corancez replied; "you are for the stairway
instead of the lift, for the wood fire instead of the steam heater, for
the oil lamp instead of the electric light, for the post instead of the
telephone. Those are the ideas of old France. My father had them. But I
belong to the new school. Never too many hot and cold water faucets.
Never too many telegraph and telephone wires. Never too many machines to
save you the slightest movement. They have one fault, however, these new
hotels. Their walls are thin as a sheet of paper; and as I have
something serious to say to you, and also a great service to ask of you,
we will go out, if you are willing. We'll walk to the port, where Marsh
will wait for us at half-past ten. Does that suit you? We'll kill time
by taking the longest way."

The Provençal had a purpose in proposing the "longest way." He wished
to lead his friend past the garden of Madame de Carlsberg.

Corancez was something of a psychologist, and was guided by his instinct
with more certainty than he could have been by all the theories of M.
Taine on the revival of images. He was certain that the proposition in
regard to the plot at Genoa would be accepted by Hautefeuille for the
sake of a voyage with the Baroness Ely. The more vividly the image of
the young woman was called up to the young man, the more he would be
disposed to accept Corancez's proposition.

Thanks to his innocent Machiavelism, the two friends, instead of going
straight toward the port, took the road that led to the west of
California. They passed a succession of wild ravines, still covered with
olives, those beautiful trees whose delicate foliage gives a silver tone
to the genuine Provençal landscape. The houses grew more rare and
isolated, till at certain places, as in the valley of Urie, one seemed
to be a hundred miles from town and shore, so completely did the wooded
cliffs hide the sea and the modern city of Cannes.

The misanthropy of the Archduke Henry Francis had led him to build his
villa on this very ridge, at whose foot lay that species of
park--inevitably inhabited and preserved by the English--through which
Corancez conducted Hautefeuille. They came to a point where the Villa
Helmholtz suddenly presented itself to their view. It was a heavy
construction of two stories, flanked on one side by a vast greenhouse
and on the other by a low building with a great chimney emitting a dense
smoke. The Southerner pointed to the black column rising into the blue
sky and driven by the gentle breeze through the palms of the garden.

"The Archduke is in his laboratory," he said; "I hope that Verdier is
making some beautiful discovery to send to the Institute."

"You don't think, then, that he works himself?" asked Pierre.

"Not much," said Corancez. "You know the science of princes and their
literature. However, that doesn't matter to me in the least. But what I
don't like at all is the way he treats his charming wife--for she is
charming, and she has once more proved it to me in a circumstance that I
shall tell you about; and you heard what they said last night, that she
is surrounded by spies."

"Even at Monte Carlo?" Hautefeuille exclaimed.

"Above all at Monte Carlo," replied Corancez. "And then, it is my
opinion that if the Archduke does not love the Baroness he is none the
less jealous, furiously jealous, of her, and nothing is more ferocious
than jealousy without love. Othello strangled his wife for a
handkerchief he had given her, and he adored her. Think of the row the
Archduke would make about the cigarette case she sold if it was he who
gave it to her."

These remarks, in a tone half serious, half joking, contained a piece of
advice which the Southerner wished to give his friend before departing.
It was as though he had said in plain language: "Court this pretty woman
as much as you like; she is delicious; but beware of the husband." He
saw Hautefeuille's expressive face suddenly grow clouded, and
congratulated himself on being understood so quickly. How could he have
guessed that he had touched an open wound, and that this revelation of
the Prince's jealousy had but intensified the pain of remorse in the
lover's tender conscience?

Hautefeuille was too proud, too manly, with all his delicacy, to harbor
for a moment such calculations as his friend had diplomatically
suggested. He was one of those who, when they love, are afflicted by
nothing but the suffering of the loved one, and who are always ready to
expose themselves to any danger. That which he had seen the night before
in the hallucination of his first remorsefulness he saw again, and more
clearly, more bitterly,--that possible scene between the Archduke and
the Baroness Ely, of which he would be the cause, if the Prince learned
of the sale of the case, and the Baroness was unable to recover it.

So he listened distractedly to Corancez's talk, who, however, had had
the tact to change the conversation and to relate one of the humorous
anecdotes of his repertory. What interest could Pierre have in the
stories, more or less true, of the absurdities or scandals of the coast?
He did not again pay attention to his companion until, having reached La
Croisette, Corancez decided to put the great question. Along this
promenade, more crowded than usual, a person was approaching who would
furnish the Southerner with the best pretext for beginning his
confidence; and, suddenly taking the arm of the dreamer to arouse him
from his reveries, Corancez whispered:--

"I told you a moment ago that Madame de Carlsberg had of late been
particularly good to me, and I told you, as we left the hotel, that I
had a service to ask of you, a great service. You do not perceive the
connection between these two circumstances? You will soon understand the
enigma. Do you see who is coming toward us?"

"I see the Count Navagero," Hautefeuille answered, "with his two dogs
and a friend whom I do not know. That is all."

"It is the whole secret of the enigma. But wait till they pass. He is
with Lord Herbert Bohun. He will not deign to speak to us."

The Venetian moved toward them, more English in appearance than the
Englishman by his side. This child of the Adriatic had succeeded in
realizing the type of the Cowes or Scarborough "masher," and with such
perfection that he escaped the danger of becoming a caricature. Clothed
in a London suit of that cloth which the Scotch call "harris" from its
place of origin, and which has a vague smell of peat about it, his
trousers turned up according to the London manner, although not a drop
of rain had fallen for a week, he was walking with long, stiff strides,
one hand grasping his cane by the middle, the other hand holding his
gloves.

His face was smoothly shaven; he wore a cap of the same cloth as that of
his coat, and smoked a briarwood pipe of the shape used at Oxford. Two
small, hairy Skye terriers trotted behind him, their stubby legs
supporting a body three times as long as it was high. From what tennis
match was he returning? To what game of golf was he on his way? His red
hair, of that color so frequent in the paintings of Bonifazio, an
inheritance from the doges, his ancestors, added the finishing touch to
his incredible resemblance to Lord Herbert.

There was, however, one difference between them. As they passed Corancez
and Hautefeuille, the twins uttered a good morning--Bohun's entirely
without accent, while the syllables of the Venetian were emphasized in a
manner excessively Britannic.

"You have observed that man," Corancez continued, when they had passed
beyond earshot, "and you take him for an Anglomaniac of the most
ridiculous kind. But, when you scratch his English exterior, what do you
suppose you find beneath it? An Italian of the time of Machiavelli, as
unscrupulous as though he were living at the court of the Borgias. He
would poison us all, you, me, any one who crossed his path. I have read
it in his hand, but don't be uneasy; he has not yet put his principles
into practice, only he has tortured for six years a poor, defenceless
woman, the adorable Madame Bonnacorsi, his sister. I do not attempt to
explain it. But for six years he has so terrorized over this woman that
she has not taken a step without his knowing of it, has not had a
servant that he has not chosen, has not received a letter without having
to account for it to him. It is one of those domestic tyrannies which
you would not believe possible unless you had read of them in the
newspaper reports, or actually witnessed it as I have. He does not wish
her to remarry, because he lives on her great fortune. That is the
point."

"How infamous!" Hautefeuille exclaimed. "But are you sure?"

"As sure as I am that I see Marsh's boat," replied Corancez, pointing to
the trim yacht at anchor in the bay. And he continued lightly, in a tone
that was sentimental and yet manly, not without a certain grace: "And
what I am going to ask you is to help me circumvent this pretty
gentleman. We Provençaux have always a Quixotic side to our character.
We have a mania for adventurous undertakings; it is the sun that puts
that in our blood. If Madame Bonnacorsi had been happy and free,
doubtless I should not have paid much attention to her. But when I
learned that she was unhappy, and was being miserably abused, I fell
wildly in love with her. How I came to let her know of this and to find
that she loved me I will tell you some other day. If Navagero is from
Venice, I am from Barbentane. It is a little further from the sea, but
we understand navigation. At any rate, I am going to marry Madame
Bonnacorsi, and I am going to ask you to be my groomsman."

"You are going to marry Madame Bonnacorsi?" repeated Hautefeuille, too
astonished to answer his friend's request. "But the brother?"

"Oh! he knows nothing about it," Corancez replied. "But that is just
where the good fairy came into the story in the form of the charming
Baroness Ely. Without her, Andryana--permit me thus to call my
_fiancée_--would never have brought herself to say 'yes.' She loved me,
and yet she was afraid. Do not misjudge her. These tender, sensitive
women have strange timidities, which are difficult to understand. She
was afraid, but chiefly for me. She feared a quarrel between her brother
and me--hot words, a duel. Then I proposed and persuaded her to accept
the most romantic and unusual expedient,--a secret marriage. On the 14th
of next month, God willing, a Venetian priest, in whom she has
confidence, will marry us in the chapel of a palace at Genoa. In the
meantime I shall disappear. I am supposed to be at Barbentane among my
vineyards. And on the 13th, while Navagero is playing the Englishman on
Lord Herbert Bohun's yacht, with the Prince of Wales and other royal
personages, Marsh's boat, to which you will be invited, will sail away
with a number of passengers, among whom will be the woman I love the
most in the world, and to whom I shall devote my life, and the friend I
most esteem, if he does not refuse my request. What does he answer?"

"He answers," said Hautefeuille, "that if ever he was astonished in his
life, he is so now. You, Corancez, in love, and so much in love that you
will sacrifice your liberty. You have always seemed so careless, so
indifferent. And a secret marriage. But it will not remain a secret
twenty-four hours. I know your exuberance. You always tell everything
you know to everybody. But I thank you for the friendship you have shown
me, and I will be your groomsman."

As he said these last words he shook Corancez's hand with that simple
seriousness which he showed for everything. His companion had touched
him deeply. Doubtless this simplicity and candid trustfulness
embarrassed the Southerner. He was very willing to profit from them, but
he felt a little ashamed at abusing too much this loyal nature, whose
charm he also felt, and he mingled with his thanks a confession such as
he had never before made to any one.

"Don't think me so exuberant. The sun always has that effect. But, in
truth, we men of the South never say what we mean.--Here we are.
Remember," he said, with his finger on his lips, "Miss Marsh knows all,
Marsh knows nothing."

"One word more," Hautefeuille replied; "I have promised to be your
groomsman. But you will permit me to go to Genoa another way? I don't
know these people well enough to accept an invitation of that kind."

"I trust to Flossie Marsh to overcome your scruples," said Corancez,
unable to repress a smile. "You will be one of the passengers on the
_Jenny_. Do you know why this boat is called the _Jenny_? Only an
Anglo-Saxon would permit himself seriously such a play upon words. You
have heard of Jenny Lind, the singer? Well, the reason the facetious
Marsh gave this pretty name to his floating villa was _because she keeps
the high seas_. And every time he explains this he is so amazed at his
wit that he fairly chokes with laughter.--But what a delicious day."

The elegant lines of the _Jenny's_ rigging and white hull could now be
seen close at hand. She seemed the young, coquettish queen of the little
port, amid the fishing boats, yawls, and coasters that swarmed about the
quay. A group of sailors on the stone curb sang while they mended their
nets. On the ground-floor of the houses were offices of ship companies,
or shops, stored with provisions and tackle. The working population,
totally absent from this city of leisure, is concentrated upon the
narrow margin of the port, and gives it that popular picturesqueness so
refreshing in contrast with the uniform banality imprinted on the South
by its wealthy visitors. It was doubtless an unconscious sense of that
contrast that led the plebeian Marsh to choose this point of the
roadstead.

This self-made man who also had labored on the quays at Cleveland, by
the shores of Lake Erie, whose waters are more stormy than the
Mediterranean, despised at heart the vain and vapid society in which he
lived. He lived in it, however, because the cosmopolitan aristocracy was
still another world to conquer.

When he regaled some grand duke or prince regent on board his yacht,
what voluptuous pride he might feel on looking at these fishermen of his
own age, and saying to himself, while he smoked his cigar with the royal
or imperial highness: "Thirty years ago these fishermen and I were
equals. I was working just as they are. And now?" As Hautefeuille and
Corancez did not figure on any page of the Almanach de Gotha, the master
of the yacht did not consider it necessary to await his visitors on
deck; and when the young men arrived they found no one but Miss Flossie
Marsh, seated on a camp-stool before an easel, sketching in water
colors. Minutely, patiently, she copied the landscape before her,--the
far-off group of islands melting together like a long, dark carapace
fixed on the blue bay, the hollow and supple line of the gulf, with the
succession of houses among the trees, and, above all, the water of such
an intense azure, dotted with white sails, and over all that other azure
of the sky, clear, transparent, luminous. The industrious hand of the
young girl copied this scene in forms and colors whose exactitude and
hardness revealed a very small talent at the service of a very strong
will.

"These American women are astonishing," whispered Corancez to
Hautefeuille. "Eighteen months ago she had never touched a brush. She
began to work and she has made herself an artist, as she will make
herself a _savante_ if she marries Verdier. They construct talents in
their minds as their dentists build gold teeth in your mouth.--She sees
us."

"My uncle is busy at present," said the young girl, after giving them a
vigorous handshake. "I tell him he should call the boat his office. As
soon as we reach a port his telephone is connected with the telegraph
station, and the cable begins to communicate with Marionville. Let us
say good morning to him, and then I will show you the yacht. It is
pretty enough, but an old model; it is at least ten years old. Mr. Marsh
is having one built at Glasgow that will beat this one and a good many
others. It is to measure four thousand tons. The _Jenny_ is only
eighteen hundred. But here is my uncle."

Miss Florence had led the young men across the deck of the boat, with
its planking as clean, its brass-work as polished, its padded furniture,
of brown straw, as fresh, its Oriental rugs as precious as though this
flooring, this metal, these armchairs, these carpets belonged to one of
the villas on the coast, instead of to this yacht which had been tossed
on all the waves of the Atlantic and Pacific. And the room into which
the young girl introduced them could not have presented a different
aspect had it been situated in Marionville on the fifth story of one of
those colossal buildings which line the streets with their vast cliffs
of iron and brick. Three secretaries were seated at their desks. One of
them was copying letters on a typewriter, another was telephoning a
despatch, the third was writing in shorthand at the dictation of the
little, thick-set, gray-faced man whom Corancez had shown to
Hautefeuille at the table of _trente-et-quarante_. This king of Ohio
paused to greet his visitors:--

"Impossible to accompany you, gentlemen," he said. "While you are taking
your promenade," he added, with that air of tranquil defiance by which
the true Yankee manifests his contempt for the Old World, "we shall
prepare a pretty voyage for you. But you Frenchmen are so contented at
home that you never go anywhere. Do you know the Lake Region? Wait, here
is the map. We have there, just on these four lakes--Superior, Michigan,
Huron, and Erie--sixty thousand ships, amounting to thirty-two million
tons, which transport every year three thousand five hundred million
tons of merchandise. The problem is to put this fleet and the cities on
the lakes--Duluth, Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo,
Marionville--in communication with Europe. The lakes empty into the
ocean through the St. Lawrence. That is the road to follow.
Unfortunately we have a little obstacle to overcome at the outlet of
Lake Erie, an obstacle once and a half as high as the Arc de l'Etoile at
Paris. I mean Niagara, and also the rapids at the outlet of Lake
Ontario. They have made seven or eight canals, with locks which permit
the passage of little boats. But we wish a free passage for any
transatlantic vessel. This gentleman is about to conclude the affair,"
and Marsh pointed to the secretary at the telephone. "Our capital has
been completed this morning--two hundred million dollars. In two years I
shall sail home in the _Jenny_ without once disembarking. I wish
Marionville to become the Liverpool of the lakes. It has already a
hundred thousand inhabitants. In two years we shall have a hundred and
fifty thousand; that is equal to your Toulouse. In ten years, two
hundred and fifty thousand--that is equal to your Bordeaux--and in
twenty years we shall reach the five hundred and seventeen thousand of
old Liverpool. We are a young people, and everything young should begin
by progressing. You will excuse me for a few minutes, gentlemen?"

And the indefatigable worker had re-commenced his dictation before his
niece had led from the room these degenerate children of slow Europe.

"Is he enough of an American for you?" Corancez whispered to
Hautefeuille. "He knows it too well, and he acts his own rôle to the
point of caricature. All their race appears in that." Then aloud: "You
know, Miss Flossie, we can talk freely of our plan before Pierre. He
consents to be my groomsman."

"Ah! how delightful!" the young girl cried; then added gayly: "I had no
doubt you would accept. My uncle has asked me to invite you to join our
little voyage to Genoa. You will come, then. That will be perfectly
delicious. You will be rewarded for your kindness. You will have on
board your flirt, Madame de Carlsberg."

As she said this the laughing girl looked the young man in the face. She
had spoken without malice, with that simple directness upon which
Corancez had justly counted.

The people of the Hew World have this frankness, which we take for
brutality; it results from their profound and total acceptation of
facts. Flossie Marsh knew that the presence of Baroness Ely on the yacht
would be agreeable to Hautefeuille. Innocent American girl as she was,
she did not imagine for a moment that the relations between this young
man and a married woman could exceed the limits of a harmless flirtation
or a permissible sentimentality. So it had seemed to her as natural to
hazard this allusion to Pierre's sentiments as it would have been to
hear an allusion to her own sentiments for Marcel Verdier. Thus it was
strangely painful for her to see by the sudden pallor of the young man
and the trembling of his lips that she had wounded him. And her face
grew very red.

If the Americans in their simplicity are at times wanting in tact, they
are sensitive to the highest degree; and these faults of tact which they
commit so easily are a real affliction to them. But that blush only
aggravated the painful surprise which Hautefeuille had felt at hearing
Madame de Carlsberg thus spoken of. By an inevitable and overwhelming
association of ideas he recalled Corancez's words, "I am sure that Miss
Marsh will overcome your scruples," and the smile with which he said
this. The look Madame Bonnacorsi had given him in the train the night
before returned to his memory. By an intuition, unreasoned yet
irrefutable, he perceived that the secret of his passion, hidden so
profoundly in his heart, had been discovered by these three persons.

He quivered in every nerve with shame, revulsion, and distress; his
heart palpitated so violently that he could scarcely breathe. The
martyrdom of having to speak at this painful moment was spared him,
thanks to Corancez, who saw clearly enough the effect produced upon his
friend by the imprudence of the American girl, and, assuming the rôle
of host, he began:--

"What do you think, Hautefeuille, of this salon and this smoking-room?
Isn't it well arranged? This trimming of light, varnished wood--what
neat and virile elegance! And this dining-room? And these cabins? One
could spend months, years in them. You see, each one with its separate
toilet-room."

And he led on his companion and the young girl herself. He remembered
everything, with that astonishing memory for objects possessed by
natures like his, created for action, adapted to realities; with his
habitual self-assurance, he commented upon everything, from the pikes
and guns on the middle deck, awaiting the pirates of the South Seas, to
the machinery for filling and emptying the baths, and suddenly he asked
Miss Marsh this question, singular enough in a passage of that colossal
and luxurious toy which seemed to sum up the grand total of all
inventions for the refinement of life:--

"Miss Flossie, may we see the death chamber?"

"If it would interest M. Hautefeuille," said Florence Marsh, who had not
ceased to regret her thoughtless remark. "My uncle had an only
daughter," she continued, "who was named Marion, after my poor aunt. You
know that Mr. Marsh, who lost his wife when he was very young, named his
town after her, Marionville. My cousin died four years ago. My uncle was
almost insane with grief. He wished nothing to be altered in the room
she occupied on the yacht. He put her statue in it, and she has always
around her the flowers she loved in life. Wait, look, but do not go in."

She opened the door, and the young men saw, by the light of two
blue-shaded lamps, a room all draped in faded pink. It was filled with a
profusion of small objects such as might be possessed by a spoiled child
of a railroad magnate--a toilet case of silver and gold, jewels in glass
boxes, portraits in carved frames--and in the centre, on a real bed of
inlaid wood, lay the statue of the dead girl, white, with closed
eyelids, the lips slightly parted, among sheaves of carnations and of
orchids. The silence of this strange shrine, the mystery, the delicate
perfume of the flowers, the unlooked-for poetry of this posthumous
idolatry, in the boat of a yachtsman and a man of business, would, in
any other circumstances, have appealed to the romanticism innate in
Pierre Hautefeuille's heart. But during all this visit he had had but
one thought,--to escape from Miss Marsh and Corancez, to be alone in
order to reflect upon the evidence, so painfully unexpected, that his
deepest secret had been discovered. So it was a relief to depart from
the boat, and still a torture to have the company of his friend a few
minutes longer.

"Did you notice," said Corancez, "how much the dead girl resembles
Madame de Chésy? No? Well, when you meet her some time with Marsh, be
sure to observe her. The canal by the Great Lakes, his railroad, the
buildings of Marionville, his mines, his boat--he forgets them all. He
thinks of his dead daughter. If little Madame de Chésy should ask him
for the Kohinoor, he would set out to find it, for the mere sake of this
resemblance. Isn't it singular, such a sentimental trait in a rogue of
his stamp? His character ought to please you. If you are interested in
him, you will be able to study him at your leisure on the 13th, 14th,
and 15th. And let me thank you again for what you are going to do for
me. If you have anything to communicate to me, my address is Genoa,
_poste restante_. And now I must return to look after the packing. Will
you let me take you part of the way? I see the old coachman whom I told
to come here at eleven."

Corancez hailed an empty cab which was passing, drawn by two small
Corsican ponies, who saluted the young man with a wink, his "Good day,
Monsieur Marius" revealing the familiarity of long conversations
between these two Provençaux. Pascal Espérandien, otherwise known as
the Old Man, was an alert little personage and very crafty, the pride of
whose life was to make his two rats trot faster than the Russian horses
of the grand dukes residing at Cannes. He harnessed them, trimmed them,
ornamented them so fantastically that they drew from all Miss Marsh's
compatriots, from Antibes to Napoule, the same exclamations of "How
lovely, how enchanting, how fascinating!" that they would have uttered
before a Raphael or a Worth dress, a polo match or a noted gymnast.
Doubtless the wily old man, with his shrewd smile, possessed diplomatic
talents which might make him useful in a secret intrigue, for the
prudent Corancez never took any other carriage, especially when he had,
as on this morning, a rendezvous with the Marquise Andryana. He was to
see her for five minutes in the garden of a hotel where she had a call
to make. Her carriage was to stand before one of the doors, the Old
Man's equipage before another. So nothing could have been more agreeable
than Pierre's response to this clandestine _fiancé_.

"Thanks, but I prefer to walk."

"Then good-by," said Corancez, getting into the cab. And, parodying a
celebrated verse, "To meet soon again, Seigneur, where you know, with
whom you know, for what you know?"

The cab turned the corner of the Rue d'Antibes, and departed with
furious speed. Hautefeuille was at last alone. He could filially face
the idea which had been formulating itself in his thoughts with terrible
precision ever since Miss Florence Marsh had spoken these simple words,
"Your flirt, Madame de Carlsberg."

"They all three know that I love her--the Marquise, Corancez, and Miss
Marsh. The look I caught from one of them last night, the remark and the
smile of the other, and what the third one said, and her blush at having
thought aloud--these are not dreams. They know I love her--But then,
Corancez, last night, when he led me to the gambling-table, must have
divined my thoughts. Such dissimulation!--is it possible? But why not?
He acknowledged it himself awhile ago. To have concealed his sentiments
for Madame Bonnacorsi, he must know how to keep a secret. He kept his
and I have not kept mine. Who knows but they all three saw me buy the
cigarette case? But no. They could not have had the cruelty to speak of
it and to let it be spoken of before me. Marius is not malicious,
neither is the Marquise, nor Miss Marsh. They know--that is all--they
know. But how did they find out?"

Yes, how? With a lover of his susceptibility such a question would of
necessity result in one of those self-examinations in which the scruples
of conscience develop all their feverish illusions. On the way back to
California and at the table where his luncheon was served to him apart,
and afterward on a solitary walk to the picturesque village of Mougins,
his life during these last few weeks came back to him, day by day, hour
by hour, with a displacement of perspective which presented all the
simple incidents of his naïve idyl as irreparable faults, crowned by
that last fault, the purchase of the gold box in a public place and in
full view of such people.

He recalled his first meeting with Madame de Carlsberg, in the Villa
Chésy. How the peculiar beauty of the young woman and her strange charm
had captivated him from the start, and how he had permitted himself to
gaze upon her unrestrainedly, not dreaming that he was thus attracting
attention and causing remarks! He remembered how often he had gone to
her house, seizing every opportunity of meeting her and talking with
her. The indiscretion of such assiduity could not have passed
unperceived, any more than his continued presence at places where he had
never gone before.

He saw again the golf field on those mornings when the Baroness Ely
seemed so beautiful, in her piquant dress of the bright club colors--red
and white. He saw himself at the balls, waiting in a corner of the room
until she entered with that enchantment which emanated from every fold
of her gown. He remembered how often at the confectioner's, or La
Croisette, he had approached her, and how she had always invited him to
sit at her table with such grace in her welcome. Each of these memories
recalled her amiability, her delicate indulgence.

The memory of that charm, to which he yielded himself so completely,
augmented his self-reproach. He recalled his imprudent actions, so
natural when one does not feel one's self to be observed, but which
appear to be such faults as soon as one is conscious of suspicion. For
example, during the ten days on which the Baroness was absent from
Cannes he had not once returned to those places where he had gone simply
for the sake of seeing her. No one had met him at the golf field, nor at
any evening party, nor at any five o'clock tea. He had not even made a
call. Could this coincidence of his retirement with the absence of the
Baroness have failed to be remarked? What had been said about it? Since
his love had drawn him into this agitated world of pleasure he had often
been pained by the light words thrown out at hazard at the women of this
society, when they were not present. Had he been simply an object of
ridicule, or had they taken advantage of his conduct to calumniate the
woman he loved with a love so unhappy, ravaged by all the chimeras of
remorse?

The words used by Florence Marsh--"your flirt"--gave a solid basis to
these hypotheses. He had always despised the things which this word
implied,--that shameful familiarity of a woman with a man, that dangling
of her beauty before his desire, all the vulgarity and indiscretion
which this equivocal relationship suggests. Could they think that he had
such relations with Madame de Carlsberg? Had this evil interpretation
been put upon his impulsiveness? Then he thought of the sorrows which he
divined in the life of this unique woman, of the espionage that was
spoken of, and again the hall at Monte Carlo appeared to him, and he
could not understand why he had not realized the prodigious indelicacy
of his action. He felt it now with most pitiful acuteness.

Haunted by these thoughts he prolonged his walk for hours and hours, and
when in the twilight, suddenly grown dark and cold, as it happens in the
South after days most soft and blue, as he entered the door of his
hotel, the concierge handed him a letter on which he recognized the
writing of Baroness Ely, his hands trembled as he tore open the
envelope, sealed with the imprint of an antique stone--the head of
Medusa. And if the head of this pagan legend had appeared alive before
him he would not have been more overwhelmed than he was by the simple
words of this note:--


"DEAR SIR--I have returned to Cannes and I should be happy if you could
come to-morrow, at about half-past one, to the Villa Helmholtz. I wish
to talk with you upon a serious matter. That is why I set this hour, at
which I am most certain of not being interrupted."


And she signed herself, not as in her last letters with her full name,
but as in the first she had written him--Baroness de Sallach Carlsberg.
Hautefeuille read and re-read these cold, dry lines. It was evident that
the young woman had learned of his purchase at Monte Carlo, and all the
agony of his remorse revealed itself in these words, which he cried
aloud as he entered his room:--

"She knows! I am lost!"



CHAPTER IV


LOVERS' RESOLUTIONS


The note which had thus brought Pierre's anxiety to its extreme
represented the first act in a plan invented by Madame Brion to put an
immediate and irreparable end to a sentiment for which her friendly
insight had led her to predict frightful suffering, a possible tragedy,
a certain catastrophe. After Madame de Carlsberg's sudden and passionate
confidences, she had said to herself that if she did not succeed in
immediately separating these two beings, drawn to each other by such an
instinctive attraction, the young man would not be slow to discover the
sentiment he inspired in the woman he loved. It was only thanks to his
remarkable ingenuousness and candor that he had not already discovered
it.

When he knew the truth, what would happen? Ingenuous and candid though
she was herself, Louise Brion could not evade the true answer to this
question. As soon as an understanding took place between Hautefeuille
and Ely, she would go to the end of her desire. She had too clearly
revealed in her confession the indomitable audacity of her character,
her need of complying with the demands of her passions. She would become
the young man's mistress. Although the conversation of the night before
had imposed upon Louise the evidence of faults already committed by her
friend, neither her mind nor her heart could entertain the thought of
these faults. The mere idea of this liaison filled her with a shudder of
fright, almost of horror. All through the night she had tried to think
of some way to obtain the only escape she could see for Ely, the
voluntary departure of Hautefeuille.

Her first thought was to appeal to his delicacy. The portrait Madame de
Carlsberg had drawn of him, his interesting face, his frank and honest
look, the naïveté of his amorous action in buying the gold box, all
revealed an exquisite fineness of nature. If she should write him,
bravely, simply, an unsigned letter, speaking of that action, of that
purchase which might have been, and no doubt had been, seen by others
too? If on this account she should beg him to leave in order to save
Madame de Carlsberg from trouble? During her long and feverish insomnia
she had tried to formulate this letter, without discovering expressions
which satisfied her.

It was so difficult to make such a request without letting it signify,
"Go, because she loves you!"

Then in the morning, when she had wakened from the tardy sleep that
ended this night of agony, a chance accident, commonplace enough, but in
which her piety saw something providential, gave her an unexpected
excuse for pleading, not with the young man at a distance, but with
Madame de Carlsberg herself and at once. While reading distractedly in
bed one of those newspapers of the Riviera, journals of international
snobbism which communicate information concerning all these arrant
aristocrats, she discovered the arrival at Cairo, of M. Olivier du Prat,
secretary of the Embassy, and his wife; and she rose at once to show Ely
these two lines of mundane news, so insignificant, yet so full of menace
for her.

"If they are at Cairo," she said to the Baroness, "it means that their
Nile trip is over, and that they think of returning. What is the natural
route for them? From Alexandria to Marseilles. And if he is so near his
friend, this man will wish to see him."

"It is true," said Ely, her heart beating wildly as she read the letters
of that name, Olivier du Prat.

"It is true," she repeated. "They will meet again. Was I not right last
night?"

"See," cried Louise Brion, "what it would have been if you had not had
thus far the strength to fight against your sentiment. See what it will
be if you do not put an end to it forever."

And she continued describing with all the eloquence of her passionate
friendship a plan of conduct which suddenly occurred to her as the
wisest and most effectual.

"You must take this opportunity which is offered to you. You will never
have a better one. You must have the young man come, and speak to him
yourself about the purchase he made last night. Tell him that others
have seen it; show him your astonishment at his indiscretion; tell him
that his assiduity has been noticed. For the sake of your welfare and
your reputation command him to go away. A little firmness for a few
minutes and it will all be done. He is not what you paint him, what I
feel him to be, if he does not obey your request. Ah! believe me, the
one way to love him is to save him from this tragedy, which is not
simply a far-off possibility, but an immediate and inevitable danger."

Ely listened, but made no reply. Worn out by the terrible emotion of her
confidence on the previous night, she had no strength left to resist the
tender suggestions which appealed to her love itself, to struggle
against her love. There is, in fact, in these complete passions an
instinctive and violent desire for extreme resolutions. When these
sentiments cannot find satisfaction in perfect happiness, they obtain a
kind of grateful relief in their absolute frustration. Filling our soul
to the exclusion of all else, they bear it incessantly to one or the
other of the two poles, ecstasy and despair, without resting for a
moment between them. Having come to this stage of her passion, it
followed of necessity, as Louise Brion had clearly seen, that the
Baroness Ely should either become the young man's mistress, or that she
should put between herself and him the insurmountable barrier of a
separation before the _liaison_--secret romance of so many women, both
virtuous and otherwise. Yes! how many women have thus, in a delirium of
renouncement, dug an abyss between them and a secretly idolized being,
who never suspects this idolatry or this immolation. To the innocent
ones, the anticipation of the remorse which would follow their fault
gives the requisite energy; the others, the culpable, feel, as Madame de
Carlsberg felt so strongly, the inability to efface the past, and they
prefer the exalted martyrdom of sacrifice to the intolerable bitterness
of a joy forever poisoned by the atrocious jealousy of that
indestructible past.

Another influence aided in overcoming the young woman's spirit of
revolt. Stranger as she was to all religious faith, she did not, like
her pious friend, attach anything providential to this commonplace
accident,--a newspaper account of a diplomatist's voyage,--but had
acquired, through her very incredulity, that unconscious fatalism which
is the last superstition of the sceptic. The sight of these fine printed
syllables, "Olivier du Prat," a few hours after the night's
conversation, had filled her with that feeling of presentiment, harder
to brave than real danger for certain natures, like hers, made up of
decision and action.

"You are right," she answered, in the broken accent of an irremediable
renunciation, "I will see him, I will speak to him, and all will be
finished forever."

It was with this resolution, made in truth with the fullest strength of
her heart, that she arrived at Cannes on the afternoon of the same day,
accompanied by Madame Brion, who did not wish to leave her; and, as soon
as she arrived, she had, almost under the dictation of her faithful
friend, written and despatched the letter which overwhelmed
Hautefeuille. She truly believed herself to be sincere in her resolution
to separate from him, and yet if she had been able to read to the bottom
of her heart, she might have seen, from a very trifling act, how fragile
this resolution was, and how much she was possessed by thoughts of love.
No sooner had she written to him from whom she wished to separate
forever than, at the same place, and with the same ink, she wrote two
letters to two persons of her acquaintance, in whose love-affairs she
was the confidante, and to some extent the accomplice,--Miss Florence
Marsh and the Marquise Andryana Bonnacorsi.

She invited them to lunch with her on the morrow, thus obeying a
profound instinct which impels a woman who loves and suffers to seek the
company of women who are also in love, with whom she may talk of
sentimental things, of the happiness which warms them, who will pity her
sorrow, if she tells them of it, who will understand her and whom she
will understand. Usually, as she had said the night before, the
hesitation of the sentimental and timid Italian woman fatigued her, and
in the passion of the American girl for the Archduke's assistant, there
was an element of deliberate positivism, which jarred upon her native
impulsiveness. But the young widow and the young girl were two women in
love, and that sufficed, in this season of melancholy, to make it
delightful, almost necessary, to see them. She little thought that this
impulsive and natural invitation would provoke a violent scene with her
husband, or that a conjugal conflict would arise from it, whose final
episode was to have a tragic influence upon the issue of that growing
passion, which her reason had sworn to renounce.

Having arrived at Cannes at three o'clock in the afternoon, she had not
seen him during the rest of the day. She knew that he had been with
Marcel Verdier in the laboratory, nor was she surprised to see him
appear at the dinner hour, accompanied by his aide-de-camp, Comte von
Laubach, the professional spy of His Highness, without a sign of
interest in her health, without a question as to how she had spent the
past ten days.

The Prince had been in his youth one of the bravest and most handsome of
the incomparable cavaliers of his country, and the old soldier was
recognizable in the figure of this scientific maniac, which had remained
slender in spite of the fact that he was approaching his sixtieth year,
in the tone of command which his slightest accents retained, in his
martial face, scarred by a sabre at Sadowa, in his long mustache of
grizzly red. But what one never forgot after seeing the singular man was
his eyes--eyes of an intense blue, very bright and almost savagely
restless, under the pale, reddish brows of formidable thickness. The
Archduke had the eccentric habit of always wearing, even with his
evening dress, heavy laced shoes, which permitted him, as soon as the
dinner was over, to go out on foot, accompanied sometimes by his
aide-de-camp, sometimes by Verdier, for an endless nocturnal walk. He
prolonged them at times till three o'clock in the morning, having no
other means of gaining a little sleep for his morbid nerves. This
extreme nervousness was betrayed by his delicate hands, burned with
acids and deformed by tools of the laboratory, whose fingers twitched
incessantly in uncontrollable movements.

From all his actions could be divined the dominant trait of his
character, a moral infirmity for which there is no precise term, the
inability to continue any sensation or to persist in any effort of the
will. That was the secret of the singular uneasiness which this man, so
distinguished in certain ways, imparted to those around him, and from
which he was the first to suffer. One felt that in the hands of this
strangely irritable person every enterprise would fail, and that a kind
of inward and irresistible frenzy prevented him from putting himself in
harmony with any environment, any circumstance, any necessity. This
superior nature was incapable of submission to facts.

Perhaps the secret of his unbalanced condition lay in the fixed idea
that he had been at one time so near the throne and had lost it forever,
that he had seen irreparable faults committed in politics and in war,
that he had known of them while they were taking place and had not been
able to prevent them.

Thus at the beginning of the war of 1866 he had, it was said, planned a
campaign which might have changed the face of Europe at this end of the
century. Instead he had to risk his life to execute manœuvres whose
certain failure he foresaw. Every year, on the anniversary of the famous
battle at which he had been wounded, he became literally insane for
forty-eight hours. He was equally so whenever he heard mentioned the
name of some great revolutionary soldier.

The Archduke did not forgive himself for his weakness in continuing the
benefits attached to his title and rank when his tastes for abstract
theories and the bitterness of his blighted destiny had led him to
embrace the worst convictions of anarchistic socialism. With all that,
prodigiously learned, a great reader, and a great conversationalist, he
seemed to take revenge upon his own inconsistencies in conduct and in
action by the acuteness of his criticism. Never did his lips express
admiration without some disparaging and cruel reservation. Only
scientific research, with its impregnable certitudes, appeared to
communicate to this disordered intelligence a little repose, and, as it
were, a steadier equilibrium.

Since the time when his disagreements with his wife had resulted in that
species of moral divorce imposed by higher authority, his researches had
absorbed him more than ever.

Retired at Cannes, where he was kept by the beginning of an attack of
asthma, he had worked so hard that he had transformed himself from an
amateur into a professional, and a series of important discoveries in
electricity had given him a semi-reputation among specialists. His
enemies had spread abroad the report, which Corancez had echoed, that he
had simply published under his own name the work of Marcel Verdier, a
graduate of the École Normale, attached for some years to his
laboratory. In justice to the Archduke, it must be said that this
calumny had not lessened the enthusiasm and jealous affection which the
strange man felt for his assistant. For the final trait of this being,
so wavering, uncertain, and, in consequence, profoundly, passionately
unjust, was that his only attachments were infatuations. The story of
his relations with his wife was the same as with all the relations
formed in a life made up of alternations between passionate sympathy and
inordinate antipathy for the same persons, and for no other cause than
that incapacity of self-control, an incapacity which had made him, with
all his gifts, tyrannical, unamiable, and profoundly unhappy, and, to
borrow a vulgar but too justifiable epigram from Corancez, the great
Failure of the Almanach de Gotha.

Madame de Carlsberg had had too long an experience with her husband's
character not to understand it admirably, and she had suffered too much
from it to avoid being, on her side, exceedingly unjust toward him. A
bad temper is of all faults the one that women are least willing to
pardon in a man, perhaps because it is the most opposed to the most
virile of virtues, steadfastness.

She was too keen not to discern in that tormented face the approaching
storm, as sailors read the face of the sky and the sea.

When on this evening of her return to Cannes, she found herself sitting
at the table in front of the Archduke, she easily divined that the
dinner would not end without some of those ferocious words with which he
relieved his ill temper. At the first glance she understood that he had
another violent grievance against her. What? Had he already been
informed by that infamous Judas, in his feline manner, of how she had
conducted herself at the gambling-table the night before, and was he,
the democratic prince, with one of his customary resumptions of pride,
preparing to make her feel that such Bohemian manners were not becoming
to their rank? Was he offended--this inconsistency would not have
astonished her any more than the other--because she had stayed at Monte
Carlo all the week, without sending a word, except the despatch to the
_maître d'hôtel_ to announce her return.

Her heart was so full of pain at the thought of her resolution that she
felt that kind of insensibility which follows moral suffering. So she
did not pay attention during the dinner to the fierce sallies with which
the Archduke, addressing Madame Brion, abused in turn Monte Carlo and
the women of fashion, the Frenchmen on the coast, and the foreign
colony--the wealthy class, in short, and all society. The livery
servants were moving silently about the table, and their knee-breeches,
silk stockings, and powdered wigs lent a contrast of inexpressible irony
to the words of the master of this princely house. The aide-de-camp,
with a wheedling mixture of politeness and perfidy, replied to the
witticisms of the Archduke in such a way as to exasperate them, while
Madame Brion, growing more and more red, submitted to the assault of
insolent sarcasms, with the idea that she was suffering for Ely, who
scarcely paid the slightest attention to such whimsical outbursts as
this:--

"Their pleasures are the measure of a society, and that is what I like
on this coast. You see in all their perfection the folly and the infamy
of the plutocrats.--Their wives? They amuse themselves like jades, and
the men like blackguards.--The taxes, the laws, the magistrates, the
army, the clergy--all this social machinery which works for the profit
of the rich, accomplishes what? The protection of a gilded debauchery of
which we have a perfect specimen on this coast.--I admire the naïveté
of socialists, who, before an aristocracy of this kind, talk of reforms!
A gangrenous limb should simply be burnt and cut off. But the great
fault of modern revolutionists is their respect. Happily the weakness
and folly of the ruling class are exposing themselves everywhere with
such magnificent ingenuousness that the people will end by perceiving
them, and when the millions of workingmen who nourish this handful of
parasites make a move--a move--ah! we'll laugh, we'll laugh!--Science
will make it so easy to prepare for action. Make all the children of the
proletariat electricians and chemists, and in a generation the thing
will be done."

Whenever he proffered declarations of this order the Archduke glared
around him with a physiognomy so menacing that no one thought of smiling
at his paradoxes, as comical as they were ineffectual in these opulent
surroundings. Those who were acquainted with the secrets of contemporary
history remembered that a legend, though calumnious, associated the name
of the "Red Archduke" with a mysterious attempt made upon the life of
the head of his own family. The sanguinary dream of a demagogic
Cæsarism was too plainly visible in those eyes, which never looked at
one without a menace, and one felt one's self to be in the presence of a
tyrant whom circumstances had thwarted, but by so little that one
trembled.

Usually after he had thus thrown out some sinister witticism no one
replied, and the dinner continued in a silence of embarrassment and
oppression, in which the disappointed despot revelled for a time. Then
it occasionally happened that, having relieved his spleen, he would show
the seductive side of his nature, his remarkable lucidity of mind, and
his immense knowledge of actual facts. This evening he was doubtless
tormented by some peculiar agitation; for he did not disarm until, just
as they returned to the parlor, a remark of Madame de Carlsberg to
Madame Brion brought forth an outburst which revealed the true cause for
this terrible mood.

"We shall ask Flossie Marsh about that. She will lunch with us
to-morrow," the Baroness had said.

"May I have five minutes' conversation with you?" suddenly demanded the
Prince; and, leading her aside, careless of the witnesses of this
conjugal scene, "You have invited Miss Marsh to lunch to-morrow?" he
continued.

"Certainly," she replied. "Does that annoy Your Highness?"

"The house is yours," said the Archduke, "but you will not be surprised
if I forbid Verdier to be there.--Don't interrupt.--For some time I have
observed that you favor the project of this girl, who has taken it into
her head to marry that boy. I do not wish this marriage to take place.
And it shall not take place."

"I am ignorant of Miss Marsh's intentions," replied the Baroness, whose
pale cheeks had grown red as she listened to her husband's discourse. "I
invite her because she is my friend, and I am pleased to see her. As for
M. Verdier, he seems to be of an age to know whether or not it is best
for him to marry, without taking orders from any one. Besides, if he
wishes to talk to Miss Marsh, he has no need of my intermediation, and
if he was pleased to dine with her this evening--"

"He has dined with her this evening?" interrupted the Prince in his
violent exasperation. "You know of it? Answer. Be frank."

"Your Imperial Highness may entrust other persons with this espionage,"
said the young woman, proudly, throwing at Monsieur von Laubach a glance
of mingled contempt and defiance.

"Madame, no ironies," exclaimed the Archduke. "I will not endure them. I
wish to give you a message for your friend, and if you do not deliver it
I will speak to her myself. Tell her that I am aware of all her
intrigues. I know, understand me, I know that she doesn't love this
young man, but is an instrument in the service of her uncle, who has
heard of a discovery that we have made, Verdier and I, in my residence,"
and he pointed in the direction of the laboratory. "It is a revolution
in electric railroads, this invention; but to have it, it is necessary
to have the inventor. I am neither to be bought nor married. No more is
Verdier to be bought, but he is young, he is innocent, and Mr. Marsh has
employed his niece. I perceive that he has brought you to side with him,
and that you are working for him. Listen to what I say: Visit them, the
uncle and the niece, as much as you like; join their parties at Monte
Carlo and anywhere. If you like _rastaquouères_, that is your affair.
You are free. But do not mix with this intrigue or you will pay dearly
for it. I shall know the point to strike you in. With her uncle's
millions, let this girl buy a name and a title, as they all do. There is
no lack of English marquises, French dukes, and "Roman princes to sell
their armorial devices, their ancestors, and their persons. But this man
of millions, my friend, my pupil--hands off! That Yankee would turn his
genius into a new dollar-coining machine. Never that; never, never. This
is what I beg you to say to that girl; and no remonstrance from
you.--Monsieur von Laubach."

"Monseigneur?"

Scarcely had the aide-de-camp time to take leave of the two ladies, so
precipitately did the Archduke depart, with the air of a man who could
no longer contain himself.

"And that is the secret of his fury," said Madame Brion, when her friend
had repeated the brutal discourse of the Prince. "It is very unjust. But
I am glad it is only that. I was so afraid he had heard of your play
last night, and especially that imprudence. You are going to cancel your
invitation to Miss Florence?"

"I?" said the Baroness, shrugging her shoulders, and her noble face wore
an expression of disgust. "There was a time when this boorishness
crushed me; a time when it revolted me. To-day I care no more than that
for this brute and all his rage."

While saying this she had lit a Russian cigarette, with a long paper
stem, at a little lamp used for this purpose, and from her contemptuous
lips she blew a ring of smoke, which rose, opening and stretching out
till it was dissipated in the warm and perfumed atmosphere of the little
room. It was an atmosphere of intimacy surrounding the two friends, in
this bright parlor, with the soft shades of its tapestry, the old
paintings, the precious furniture, the vague green of the conservatory
behind one of the glass doors, and everywhere flowers--the beautiful
living flowers of the South, interwoven with threads of sunlight. Lamps,
large and small, veiled in shades of supple silk, radiated through this
retreat an attenuated light which blended with the clear, gay fire. Ah,
the unfortunate would little envy these surroundings of the rich, if
they but knew the secret agony for which these surroundings so often
serve as a theatre! Ely de Carlsberg had sunk upon a lounge; she was
saying:--

"What do you suppose these wretched things matter to me, with the pain
you know is in my heart? I shall receive Flossie Marsh to-morrow, and
for several days after, and the Archduke may be as angry as he likes. He
says he knows the place to attack me. There is only one, and I am going
to strike it myself. It is as though he should threaten to fight a duel
with some one who has determined to commit suicide."

"But do you not think he is right about Marsh's calculations?" asked
Madame Brion to arrest the crisis of the revolt which she saw
approaching.

"It is quite possible," said the Baroness. "He is an American, and for
those people a sentiment is a fact like any other, and is to be utilized
as much as possible. But admitting that he speculates on Flossie's
passion for a savant and an inventor, does the uncle's speculation prove
that the sentiment of the niece is not sincere? Poor Flossie," she added
in a tone that once more vibrated with her inward torment. "I hope she
will not allow herself to be separated from the man she loves. She would
suffer too much, and if it is necessary to help her not to lose him, I
will help her."

These two successive cries betrayed such distress, and in consequence so
much uncertainty still remaining in the wise resolution they had made
together, that the faithful friend was terrified. The thought which she
had had the night before, and had rejected as being too difficult to
execute, the thought of appealing directly to the magnanimity of the
young man, seized her again with excessive force. This time, she gave
free rein to it, and the next morning a messenger, found at the station,
delivered at the Hôtel des Palmes the following letter, which Pierre
Hautefeuille opened and read after a long night of anxiety and cruel
insomnia:--


"MONSIEUR--I trust to your delicacy not to seek to know who I am, or the
motive which leads me to write you these lines. They come from one who
knows you, although you do not know her, and who esteems you profoundly.
I have no doubt that you will listen to this appeal made to your honor.
A word will suffice to show you how much your honor is concerned in
ceasing to compromise, most involuntarily, I am sure, the peace and the
reputation of a person who is not free, and whose elevated situation is
exposed to much envy. You were seen, Monsieur, the night before last, in
the roulette hall at Monte Carlo, when you bought an article which that
person had just sold to a merchant. If that were an isolated
circumstance, it would not have such a dangerous significance. But you
must yourself perceive that your attitude during the last few weeks
could not have escaped malignant comments. The person concerned is not
free. She has suffered a great deal in her private life, and the
slightest injury done to the one upon whom her situation depends might
provoke a catastrophe for her. Perhaps she will never tell you herself
what pain your action, of which she has been informed, has caused her.
Be an honest man, Monsieur, and do not try to enter into a life which
you can only trouble. Do not compromise a noble-hearted woman, who has
all the more right to your respect from the fact that she does not
distrust you. Have, then, the courage to do the only thing that can
prevent calumny, if it has not already begun, and that can put an end to
it if it had begun. Leave Cannes, Monsieur, for some weeks. The day will
come when you will be glad to think you have done your duty, your whole
duty, and that you have given to a noble woman the one proof of devotion
that you could be permitted to offer--a consideration for her welfare
and her honor."


In the famous story of Daniel DeFoe, that prodigious epitome of all the
profound emotions of the human heart, there is a celebrated page which
symbolizes the peculiar terror we feel at revelations that are
absolutely, tragically unexpected. It is when Robinson sees with a
shudder the print of a bare foot on the shore of his island.

A like convulsive trembling seized Pierre Hautefeuille as he read this
letter, in which he saw the proof after twenty-four hours of
incertitude--the indisputable overwhelming proof--that his action had
been seen. By whom? But what mattered the name of the witness, now that
Madame de Carlsberg was informed? His secret instinct had not deceived
him. She had summoned him in order to reprove his indiscretion, perhaps
to banish him forever from her presence. The certainty that the subject
of this interview would be the act for which he now reproached himself
as for a crime was so intolerable to the lover that he was seized with
the idea of not going to the rendezvous, of never seeing again that
offended woman, of fleeing anywhere far away. He took up the letter,
saying, "It is true; there is nothing but to go!" Wildly, yet
mechanically, as though a mesmeric suggestion had emanated from the
written words on that little sheet of paper, he rang, ordered the
timetable, his bill, and his trunk. If the express to Italy, instead of
leaving late in the afternoon, had left at about eleven, perhaps the
poor young man, in that hour of semi-madness, would have precipitately
taken flight--an action which in a few hours was to appear as senseless
as it now appeared necessary.

But he was forced to wait, and, the first crisis once over, he felt that
he should not, that he could not go without explaining himself. He did
not think of justifying himself. In his own eyes he was unpardonable.
And yet he did not wish Madame de Carlsberg to condemn him without a
plea for the delicacy of his intentions. What would he say to her,
however? During the hours that separated him from his rendezvous, how
many discourses he imagined without suspecting that the imperious force
that attracted him to the Villa Helmholtz was not the desire to plead
his cause! It was toward the sensation of her presence that he was
irresistibly moving, the one idea around which everything centres in
that heart of a lover, at which everything ends, from the most
justifiable bitterness to the extremest timidity.

When the young man entered the parlor of the Villa Helmholtz, the excess
of his emotions had thrown him into that state of waking somnambulism in
which the soul and body obey an impulse of which they are scarcely
conscious. This state is analogous to that of a resolute man passing
through a very great danger--a similitude which proves that the two
fundamental instincts of our nature, that of self-preservation and that
of love, are the work of impersonal forces, exterior and superior to the
narrow domain of our conscious will.

At such times our senses are at once super-acute and
paralyzed,--super-acute to the slightest detail that corresponds to the
emotion that occupies us, paralyzed for everything else. Thinking
afterward of those minutes so decisive in his life, Hautefeuille could
never remember what road he had taken from the hotel to the villa, nor
what acquaintances he had met on the way.

He was not roused from this lucid dream until he entered the first and
larger of the two parlors, empty at this moment. A perfume floated
there, mingled with the scent of flowers, the favorite perfume of Madame
de Carlsberg,--a composition of gray amber, Chypre, and Russian cologne.
He had scarcely time to breathe in that odor which brought Ely's image
so vividly before him when a second door opened, voices came to him, but
he distinguished only one, which, like the perfume, went to his heart.

A few steps further and he was before Madame de Carlsberg herself, who
was talking with Madame Brion, the Marquise Bonnacorsi, and the pretty
Vicomtesse de Chésy. Further on, by the window near the conservatory,
Flossie Marsh stood talking with a tall, blond young man, badly dressed,
by no means handsome, yet revealing under his dishevelled hair the
bright face of a savant, the frank smile, the clear meditative eyes. It
was Marcel Verdier, whom the young girl had boldly forewarned by a note,
in the American manner, and who, kept from lunching by the Archduke, had
escaped for ten minutes from the laboratory in order to get to her.

Neither was the Baroness seated. She was pacing the floor in an effort
to disguise the nervousness which was brought to its extreme by the
arrival of him she awaited. But how could he have suspected this? How
could he have divined from her classic, tailor-made walking dress of
blue serge that she had not been able that morning to remain indoors?
She had been within sight of his hotel, as he had so often been near the
Villa Helmholtz, to see the house and to return with beating heart. And
how could he have read the interest in the tender, blue eyes of Madame
de Bonnacorsi, or in the soft brown eyes of Madame Brion a solicitude
which to a lover capable of observing would have given reason for hope?
Hautefeuille saw distinctly but one thing,--the uneasiness which
appeared in Madame de Carlsberg's eyes and which he at once interpreted
as a sign of measureless reproach. That was almost enough to deprive him
of the force to answer in the commonplace phrases of politeness; he took
a seat by the Marquise at the invitation of the romantic Italian, who
was moved to pity by his visible emotion.

Meanwhile the gay Madame de Chésy, the pretty blonde, whose eyes were
as lively as those of Andryana Bonnacorsi were deep, was smiling on the
newcomer. This smile formed little dimples in her fresh, rounded face,
while under the cap of otter skin, and with her light figure in a jacket
of the same fur, her small hands playing with her muff, her slender feet
in their varnished boots, she was one of those charming little images of
frivolity toward whom the world does well to be indulgent, for their
presence suffices to render gay and frivolous as themselves the most
embarrassing occasions and the most ominous situations. With all that
Madame Brion knew, and all that Madame de Bonnacorsi thought, and with
all the feelings of the Baroness Ely and Pierre Hautefeuille, his
arrival would have made the conversation by far too difficult and
painful, if the light Parisienne had not continued her pretty bird-like
babble:--

"You! I ought not to recognize you," she said to Pierre Hautefeuille.
"For ten days," she added, turning to Madame de Carlsberg, "yes, ever
since I dined beside him here the night before your departure; yes, for
eight days, he has disappeared. And I did not write about it to his
sister, who entrusted him to me. For she entrusted you to me, that is
positive, and not to the young ladies of Nice and Monte Carlo."

"But I have not been away from Cannes for a week," Pierre replied,
blushing in spite of himself.

Madame de Chésy's remark had pointed too plainly to the significant
coincidence of his disappearance and the absence of Madame de Carlsberg.

"And what were you doing only last night at the table of
_trente-et-quarante_?" the young woman asked, teasingly. "If your sister
knew of that; she who thinks her brother is basking prudently in the
sun!"

"Don't scold him," interrupted Madame Bonnacorsi. "We brought him back
with us."

"And you didn't finish telling us of your adventure," Madame de
Carlsberg added.

The innocent teasing of Madame de Chésy had displeased her, because of
the embarrassment it had caused in Hautefeuille. Now that he was there,
living and breathing in the little room, she, too, felt that sensation
of a loved one's presence which overpowers the strongest will. Never had
the young man's face appeared more noble, his expression more
attractive, his lips more delicate, his movements more graceful, his
whole being more worthy of love. She discerned in his attitude that
mingling of respect and passion, of timidity and idolatry irresistible
to women who have suffered from the brutality of the male, and who dream
of a love without hate, a tenderness without jealousy, voluptuous
rapture devoid of violence.

She felt like crying to Yvonne de Chésy, "Stop. Don't you see that you
are wounding him?" But she knew well that the thoughtless woman had not
an atom of malice in her heart. She was one of the modern women of
Paris, very innocent with a very bad tone, playing childishly with
scandal, but very virtuous at heart--one of those imprudent women who
sometimes pay with their honor and happiness for that innocent desire to
astonish and amuse. And she continued, revealing her whole character in
the anecdote which Hautefeuille's arrival had interrupted:--

"The end of my adventure? I have already told you that this gentleman
took me for one of those demoiselles. At Nice, a little woman, dining
all alone at a little table in a little restaurant. And he was doing his
best to call my attention with his 'hum! hum!'--I felt like offering him
gumdrops--and his 'waiter!' perfectly useless to make me turn. And I did
turn, not much, just enough, to let him see me--without laughing. I
wanted to badly enough! Finally I paid, rose, and left. He paid. He
rose. He left. I didn't know what to do to get to the train. He followed
me. I let myself be followed.--Have you ever wondered, when you think of
those demoiselles, what they say to them to begin with?"

"Things which I think I should be rather afraid to hear," said Madame
Bonnacorsi.

"I don't think so any longer," Madame de Chésy replied; "for it is just
as stupid as what these gentlemen say to us. I stopped before the window
of a florist. He stopped beside me on my left. I looked at the bouquets.
He looked at the bouquets. I heard his old 'hum! hum!' He was going to
speak. 'Those are fine roses, madame,' he said. 'Yes, monsieur, they are
fine roses.' 'Are you very fond of flowers, madame?' I was just going to
say, 'Yes, monsieur, I am very fond of flowers,' when a voice on my
right called out, 'Well, Yvonne, you here?' And I was face to face with
the Grand Duchess Vera Paulovna, and at the same moment I saw my
follower turning the color of the roses we had been looking at together,
as he, stammering, bowed before Her Imperial Highness, and she, with her
Russian accent, 'My dear, allow me to present the Count Serge Kornow,
one of my most charming compatriots.' Tableau!"

The laughing woman had scarcely finished her account of this childish
prank, told with the inexplicable but well-known pleasure which women of
society find in the contact with the _demi-monde_, when the sudden
entrance of a new personage into the parlor arrested the laughter or the
reproof of the friends who had been listening to this gay narrative.

It was no other than the Archduke Henry Francis, his face red as it
usually was, his feet in heavy laced shoes, his tall, thin body in a
suit of dark clothes whose stains and grime spoke of the laboratory.
Faithful to his threat of the previous night, he had prevented Verdier
from lunching at the table of the Baroness; neither had he been present
himself. The master and the pupil had eaten, as they often did, between
two experiments, standing in their working aprons beside one of the
furnaces. Then the Prince had retired, ostensibly for a siesta, it not
appearing whether he had really wished to rest, or had planned a
decisive proof, by which to measure the intimacy already existing
between Miss Marsh and his assistant. He had, of course, not mentioned
the name of any guest to Verdier, nor had Verdier spoken of this matter.
So when on entering the parlor he saw the American girl and the young
man talking familiarly apart, a look of veritable fury came into his
face.

His eyes glared from one group to the other. If he had had the power at
that moment, he would have put them all in irons, his wife because she
was certainly to blame for this treason, Madame Brion and Madame
Bonnacorsi because Madame de Carlsberg loved them; Madame de Chésy and
Hautefeuille because they were the complacent witnesses of this
_tête-à-tête_! In his imperious voice, which he could scarcely
control, he called from one end of the room to the other:--

"Monsieur Verdier!"

Verdier turned. His shock at seeing the Prince, his humiliation at being
summoned in this way before the woman he loved, his impatience with a
yoke borne so long, were audible in the accent with which he answered:--

"Monseigneur?"

"I need you in the laboratory," said the Archduke; "please come, and
come at once."

Now it was the eyes of the assistant that shone with fury. For a few
moments the spectators of this odious scene could observe the tragic
combat of pride and gratitude in the face of this superior man so
unworthily humiliated. The Archduke had been peculiarly kind to the
young man's family. A dog unjustly beaten has that way of looking at his
master; will he fly at his throat or obey him? Doubtless Verdier,
knowing the Archduke, feared to arouse the anger of that madman and a
burst of insulting insolence against Florence Marsh. Perhaps, too, he
thought that his position of an employee under obligations permitted but
one dignified course--to oppose his own correctness of deportment to the
unqualified roughness of his master.

"I am coming, monseigneur," he replied, and, taking Miss Marsh's hand
for the first time, he dared to kiss it. "You will excuse me,
mademoiselle," he said, "for having to leave you, but I hope to be able
to call before long--mesdames, monsieur."

And he followed his redoubtable patron, who had departed as abruptly as
he had entered, when he saw Verdier raise to his lips the hand of Miss
Marsh.

Every one remained standing in silence, the silence that follows a gross
breach of politeness, which the company cannot criticise aloud. Neither
Madame Brion nor Madame Bonnacorsi nor Madame de Chésy dared to look at
Madame de Carlsberg, who had faced the Prince with defiance and now
trembled with anger under the affront which her husband had inflicted
upon her by so demeaning himself at the very doors of her own parlor.

Florence Marsh, bending over a table, pretended to be hunting for the
gloves, handkerchief, and smelling salts which she had left there,
doubtless endeavoring to hide the expression of her face. As for
Hautefeuille, ignorant of the under side of this society, except for the
indiscretions shrewdly measured out by Corancez, knowing absolutely
nothing of the relations between Marcel Verdier and the American girl,
he would not have been a lover if he had not connected this outburst of
the Prince with the fixed idea which possessed him. Beyond doubt the
espionage had done its work. The Archduke had learned of his
indiscretion. How much this indiscretion was to blame for the ferocious
humor of Madame de Carlsberg's husband, the young man could not tell.
What appeared to him but too certain, after he had met the terrible eyes
of the Prince, was that his presence was odious to this man, and whence
could arise that aversion if not from reports, alas, but too well
founded.

Ah, how could he beg pardon of the loved one for having added new
troubles to all her others? But the silence was broken by Madame de
Chésy, who, after looking at her watch, kissed the Baroness and said:--

"I shall be late for the train. I dine at Monte Carlo to-night. But that
will be all over after the carnival! Adieu, dear, dear Ely."

"And we, too, must go," said Madame Bonnacorsi, who had taken Miss
Marsh's arm while Yvonne de Chésy was leaving, "I shall try to console
this tall girl a little."

"But I have consoled myself," replied Florence, adding with a tone that
was singularly firm: "One always succeeds in anything that one wishes,
if it is wished enough. Shall we walk?" she asked of the Marquise.

"Then you will go through the garden, and I'll accompany you for a
little air," said Madame Brion. And, kissing Ely, she said aloud: "Dear,
I shall be back in a quarter of an hour," and added, in a whisper, "Have
courage."

The door through which they passed into the garden closed. Ely de
Carlsberg and Pierre Hautefeuille were at last alone. Both of them had
long meditated over the words they should speak at this interview. Both
had come to it with a fixed determination, which was the same; for she
had decided to ask of him precisely what he had decided to offer,--his
departure. But both had been confused by the unexpected scene they had
witnessed.

It had moved the young woman especially in every fibre of her being; the
wild spirit of revolt, which had been dormant under her growing love,
rose again in her heart. Her wounded pride, soothed, almost healed by
that gentle influence, suddenly reopened and bled. She felt anew the
hardness of the fate which placed her, in spite of all, at the mercy of
that terrible Prince, the evil genius of her youth.

As for Hautefeuille, all the legends gathered here and there about the
tyranny and jealousy of the Archduke had suddenly taken shape before his
eyes. That vision of the man and wife, face to face, one menacing, the
other outraged, which had been so intolerable even to imagine, had been
realized in an unforgetable picture during the five minutes that the
Prince was in the room. That was enough to make him another man in this
interview. Natures like his, pure and delicate, are liable to
hesitations and indecisions which appear feeble, almost childish, so
long as they are not confronted by a clear situation and a positive
duty. It is enough for them to think they could be helpful to one they
love in order to find in the sincerity of their devotion all the energy
which they seem to lack. Pierre had felt that he could not even bear the
look of Baroness Ely the moment he read in it the knowledge of his
action. But now he was ready to tell her himself of this action,
naturally, simply, in his irresistible and passionate desire to expiate
his fault, if it were to blame for her suffering, which he had witnessed
with an aching heart.

"Monsieur," she began, after that silence which precedes an explanation,
and which is more painful than the explanation itself, "I have written
you that we must have a conversation upon a rather serious and difficult
subject. But I wish you to be assured of one thing at the start--if in
the course of our conversation I have to say anything that pains you,
know that it will cost me a great deal;" she repeated, "a great deal."

"Ah, madame," he answered, "you are afraid of being hard on me when you
have the right to be so severe. What I wish to assure you of at the
start is that your reproaches could not equal my self-reproach! Yes," he
continued, in a tone of passionate remorse, "after what I have seen and
understood, how can I ever forgive myself for having caused you an
annoyance, even were it but the slightest. I understand it all. I know
(from an anonymous letter that came with yours) that what I did the
night before last was seen,--my purchase of the case which you had just
sold. I know that you have been told of it, and I may divine what you
think. I do not ask you to pardon an indiscretion whose gravity I should
have felt at once. But then I didn't think. I saw the merchant take that
case, which I had seen you use so often. The thought of that object,
associated with your image in my mind--the thought of its being sold the
next day in a shop of that horrible locality, and being bought, perhaps,
by one of those frightful women like those around me near the
table--yes, this idea was too strong for my prudence, too strong for my
duty of reserve regarding you. You see, I do not attempt to justify
myself. But perhaps I have the right to assure you that even in my
thoughtless indiscretion there was still a respect for you."

"I have never doubted your delicacy," said Madame de Carlsberg.

She had been moved to the bottom of her heart by this naïve
supplication. She felt so keenly the contrast of his youth and
tenderness with the brutal manners of the Prince a quarter of an hour
before in this same place. And then, as she had recognized the hand of
Louise Brion in the anonymous letter, she was touched by that secret
proof of friendship, and she attempted to bring the conversation to the
point which her faithful friend had so strongly urged--timid and
fruitless effort now to conceal the trouble in her eyes, the involuntary
sigh that heaved her breast, the trembling of her heart in her voice.

"No," she repeated, "I have never doubted it. But you know yourself the
malice of the world, and you see by the letter that was written to you
that your action was observed."

"They will not write to me twice," the young man interrupted. "It was
not only from that letter that I understood the world's malice and
ferocity. What I perceived still more plainly a few moments ago," he
added, with that melancholy firmness which holds back the tears of
farewell, "was that my duty is clear now. My indiscretion the night
before last, and others that I might commit, it is happily in my power
to redeem, and I have come to tell you simply, madame, that I am going;
going," he repeated. "I shall leave Cannes, and if you permit me to hope
that I may gain your esteem by doing this I shall leave, not happy, but
less sad."

"You are going!" Ely repeated. "You wish to go?" She looked the young
man in the face. She saw that delicate physiognomy whose emotion touched
her in a way she had never known before, and that fine mouth, still
trembling from the words just spoken. The thought of being forever
deprived of his presence suddenly became real to her with a vividness
which was physically intolerable, and with this came the certainty of
happiness if they should yield to the profound instinct that drew them
toward each other. She abandoned her will to the force of her
irresistible desire, and, feeling aloud, she said:--

"You shall not go, you cannot go. I am so lonely, so abandoned, so
miserable. I have nothing genuine and true around me; nothing, nothing,
nothing. And must I lose you?"

She rose with a passionate movement, which brought Hautefeuille also to
his feet, and, approaching him, her eyes close to his, supernaturally
beautiful with the light that illuminated her admirable face in the rush
of her soul into her lips and eyes, she took his two hands in her hands,
and, as though by this pressure and these words she would mingle her
being with his, she cried:--

"No, you shall not leave me. We will not separate. That is not possible
since you are in love with me, and I with you."



CHAPTER V


AFLOAT


Fifteen days had passed since Madame de Carlsberg, in spite of her
promises, her resolutions, her remorse, had confessed her passion to
Pierre Hautefeuille. The date fixed for the cruise of the Jenny had
arrived, and he and she were standing side by side on the deck of the
yacht, which was bearing also the Marquise Bonnacorsi toward her
fantastic marriage, and her confidante, Miss Marsh, and pretty Madame de
Chésy and her husband for the entertainment of the Commodore. That was
the nickname given by his niece to the indefatigable Carlyle Marsh, who,
in truth, scarcely ever left the bridge, where he stood directing the
course of the boat with the skill of a professional sailor.

This Marionville potentate would have had no pleasure in a carriage
unless he drove it, or in a yacht unless he steered it. He said himself,
without boasting:--

"If I should be ruined to-morrow I know twenty ways of making a living.
I am a mechanic, coachman, carpenter, pilot."

On this afternoon, while the _Jenny_ sailed toward Genoa, he was at his
post on the bridge, in his gold braided hat, glass in hand, his maps
open before him, and he directed the course with an attention as
complete and scrupulous as though he had been occupied all his life in
giving orders to sailors. He had to a supreme degree that trait common
to all great workers,--the capacity for giving himself always and wholly
to the occupation of the moment. And to him the vast sea, so blue and
soft, whose calm surface scarcely rippled, was but a racecourse upon
which to exercise his love of contest, of struggle, the one pleasure of
the Anglo-Saxon. Five hundred yards to the right, ahead of the _Jenny_,
was a low, black yacht, with a narrower hull, steaming at full speed. It
was the _Dalilah_, of Lord Herbert Bohun. Farther ahead, on the left,
another yacht was sailing in the same direction. This one was white,
like the _Jenny_, but with a wider beam. It was the _Albatross_, the
favorite plaything of the Grand Dukes of Russia. The American had
allowed these two yachts to leave Cannes some time before him, with the
intention, quickly perceived by the others, of passing them, and
immediately, as it were, a tacit wager was made by the Russian prince,
the English lord, and the American millionaire, all three equally
fanatical of sport, each as proud of his boat as a young man of his
horses or his mistress.

To Dickie Marsh, as he stood with his glass in his hand, giving orders
to the men, the whole scene reduced itself to a triangle, whose corners
were marked by the three yachts. He was literally blind to the admirable
horizon that stretched before him; the violet Esterel, with the long,
undulating line of its mountains, its dark ravines and jagged
promontories, the port of Cannes and the mole, with the old town and the
church rising behind it, all bathed in an atmosphere so transparent that
one could distinguish every little window and its shutters, every tree
behind the walls, the luxuriant hills of Grasse in the background, and
along the bay the line of white villas set in their gardens; then the
islands, like two oases of dark green, and suddenly the curve of another
gulf, terminated by the solitary point of the Antibes. And the trees on
this point, like those of the islands, bouquets of parasol pines, all
bent in one direction, spoke of the eternal drama of this shore, the war
of the mistral and the waves. But now the drama was suspended, giving
place to the most intoxicating flood of light. Not a fleck of foam
marred the immense sweep of liquid sapphire over which the Jenny
advanced with a sonorous and fresh sound of divided water. Not one of
those flaky clouds, which sailors call cattails, lined the radiant dome
of the sky where the sun appeared to expand, dilate, rejoice in ether
absolutely pure. It seemed as though this sky and sea and shore had
conspired to fulfil the prophecy of the chiromancer, Corancez, upon the
passage of the boat that was bearing his clandestine _fiancée_; and
Andryana Bonnacorsi recalled that prediction to Flossie Marsh as they
leaned on the deck railing, clothed in similar costumes of blue and
white flannel--the colors of the _Jenny's_ awning--and talked while they
watched the _Dalilah_ drawing nearer and nearer.

"You remember in the Casino at Monte Carlo how he foretold this weather
from our hands, exactly this and no other. Isn't it extraordinary, after
all?"

"You see how wrong you were to be afraid," replied Miss Marsh; "if he
saw clearly in one case, he must have done so in the others. We are
going to have a fine night on sea, and by one o'clock to-morrow we shall
head for Genoa."

"Don't be so confident," said the Italian, extending her hand with two
fingers crossed to charm away the evil fates; "you will bring us bad
luck."

"What! with this sky, this sea, this yacht, these lifeboats?"

"How should I know? But suppose Lord Herbert Bohun decides simply to
follow us to the end and go with us to Genoa?"

"Follow us to the end on the _Dalilah_ and we on the _Jenny_? I should
like to see him try it!" said the American. "See how we gain on him. But
be careful, Chésy and his wife are coming in this direction. Well,
Yvonne," she said to the pretty little Vicomtesse, blond and rosy in her
dress of white serge, embroidered with the boat's colors, "you are not
afraid to go so fast?"

"No," said Madame de Chésy, laughing; and, turning toward the bow, she
drew in a long breath. "This air intoxicates me like champagne!"

"Do you see your brother, Marquise?" asked Chésy, pointing to one of
the persons standing on the deck of the _Dalilah_. "He is beside the
Prince. They must not feel very well satisfied. And his terriers, do you
see his terriers running around like veritable rats? I am going to make
them angry. Wait." And making a trumpet of his hands he shouted these
words, whose irony he did not suspect:--

"Ay, Navagero; can we do anything for you at Genoa?"

"He doesn't understand, or pretends not to," said Madame de Chésy. "But
here's something he will understand. The Prince is not looking, is he?"
And boyishly she stretched her two hands from her nose with the most
impertinent gesture that a pretty woman ever made to a company
containing a royal highness. "Ah! the Prince saw me," she cried, with a
wild laugh. "Bah! he's such a good fellow! And if he doesn't like it,"
and she softly tapped her eye with the ends of her fingers, "et voilà!"

When the frolicsome Parisienne began this piece of disrespectful
childishness the two yachts had come abreast of each other. For a
quarter of an hour they went side by side, cutting through the water,
propelled only by the force of their robust lungs of steel, vomiting
from their chimneys two straight, black columns, which scarcely curved
in the calm air; and behind them stretched a furrow of glaucous green
over the blue water, like a long and moving path of emerald fringed with
silver, and on it rolled and pitched a sailboat manned by two young men,
sporting in the wake of the steamers.

On this wild race the deck was yet so motionless that the water did not
tremble in the vases of Venetian glass placed on the table near a group
of three women. The purple and saffron petals of the large roses slowly
dropped upon the table. Beside the flowers, amid their perfume, Madame
de Carlsberg was sitting. She had ungloved one of her beautiful hands to
caress the bloom of the flowers, and she gazed, smiling and dreamily,
from the _Dalilah_ to the luminous horizon, from her fellow-voyagers out
to the vast sea, and at Hautefeuille standing, with Chésy, beside her,
and turning to her incessantly. The breeze of the boat's motion revealed
the slender form of the young man under his coat of navy blue and
trousers of white flannel, and softly fluttered the supple red stuff of
Baroness Ely's blouse and her broad tie of black _mousseline de soie_,
matched with the large white and black squares of her skirt. The young
man and the young woman both had in their eyes a feverish joy in living
that harmonized with the radiance of the beautiful afternoon. How little
his smile--the tender and ready smile of a lover who is loved--resembled
the tired laughter that the jokes of Corancez had won from him two weeks
before. And she, with the faint rose that tinged her cheeks, usually so
pale, with her half-opened lips breathing in the healthful odor of the
sea and the delicate perfume of the flowers, with her calm, clear
brow--how little she resembled the Ely of the villa garden, defying,
under the stars of the softest Southern night, the impassive beauty of
nature. Seated near her loved one, how sweet nature now appeared--as
sweet as the perfume of the roses that her fingers deflowered, as
caressing as the soft breeze, as intoxicating as the free sky and water!
How indulgent she felt for the little faults of her acquaintances, which
she had condemned so bitterly the other night! For the eternal
hesitations of Andryana Bonnacorsi, for the positivism of Florence
Marsh, for the fast tone of Yvonne Chésy, she had now but a complacent
half-smile. She forgot to be irritated at the naïve and comic
importance which Chésy assumed on board the boat. In his blue yachting
cap, his little body stiff and straight, he explained the reasons of the
_Jenny's_ superiority over the _Dalilah_ and the _Albatross_, with the
technical words he had caught from Marsh, and he gave the orders for
tea:--

"Dickie is coming down as soon as we pass the other yacht," he said,
and, turning to a sailor, "John, tell the _chef_ to have everything
ready in a quarter of an hour;" then addressing Madame de Carlsberg:
"You are uncomfortable here, Baroness. I told Dickie that he should
change his chairs. He is so careless at times. Do you notice these rugs?
They are Bokharas--magnificent! He bought five at Cairo, and they would
have rotted on the lower deck if I had not discovered them and had them
brought here from the horrible place where he left them. You remember?
And these plants on deck — that is better, is it not? But has he taken
too many cocktails this morning--See how close we are passing to the
Albatross! Good evening, monseigneur."

And he saluted the Grand Duke--a kind of giant, with the broad, genial
face of a moujik--who applauded the triumph of the _Jenny_, calling out
in his strong voice:--

"Next year I'll build another that will beat you!"

"Do you know I was frightened," said Chésy to Marsh, who, according to
his promise, had descended from the bridge; "we just grazed the
_Albatross_!"

"I was very sure of the boat," Marsh continued; "but I should not have
done it with Bohun. You saw how far I kept away from him. He would have
cut our yacht in two. When the English see themselves about to be
beaten, their pride makes them crazy, and they are capable of anything."

"That is just what they say of the Americans," gayly replied Yvonne de
Chésy.

The pretty Parisienne was probably the only person in the world that the
master of the Jenny would have permitted such a pleasantry. But Corancez
had been right in what he said to Hautefeuille--when the malicious
Vicomtesse was speaking Marsh could see his daughter. So he did not take
offence at this epigram against his country, susceptible as he usually
was to any denial that in everything America "beat the Old World."

"You are attacking my poor compatriots again," he said simply. "That is
very ungrateful. All of them that I know are in love with you."

"Come, Commodore," replied the young woman; "don't try the madrigal. It
is not your specialty. But lead us down to tea, which ought to be
served, should it not, Gontran?"

"They are astonishing," Miss Marsh whispered, when her uncle and the
Chésys had started toward the stairway that led to the salon. "They act
as though they were at home."

"Don't be jealous," said Madame Bonnacorsi. "They will be so useful to
us at Genoa in occupying the terrible uncle."

"If it were only she," Florence replied; "she is amusing and such a good
girl. But he--I don't know if it is the blood of a daughter of the great
Republic, but I can't endure a nobleman who has a way of being insolent
in the rôle of a parasite and domestic."

"Chésy is simply the husband of a very pretty woman," said Madame de
Carlsberg. "Everything is permitted to those husbands on account of
their wives, and they become spoilt children. You are going down? I
shall remain on deck. Send us tea here, will you? I say us, for I shall
keep you for company," she continued, turning to Hautefeuille. "I know
Chésy. Now that the race is over he will proceed to act as the
proprietor of the yacht. Happily, I shall protect you. Sit here."

And she motioned to a chair beside her own, with that tender and
imperious grace by which a woman who loves, but is obliged to restrain
herself before others, knows how to impart all the trembling passion of
the caress she cannot give. Lovers like Pierre Hautefeuille obey these
orders in an eager, almost religious, way which makes men smile, but not
the women. They know so well that this devotion in the smallest things
is the true sign of an inward idolatry. So neither Miss Marsh nor Madame
Bonnacorsi thought of jesting at Hautefeuille's attitude. But while
retiring, with that instinctive complicity with which the most virtuous
women have for the romance of another, they said:--

"Corancez was indeed right. How he loves her!"

"Yes, he is happy to-day; but to-morrow?"

But to-morrow? He had no thought for the mysterious and dangerous morrow
of all our peaceful to-days. The _Jenny_, free of her antagonists,
continued with her rapid and cradling motion over this velvet sea. The
_Dalilah_ and the _Albatross_ were already faint in the blue distance,
where the coast also was disappearing. A few more strokes of the
engines, a few more turns of the screw, and there would be nothing
around them but the moving water, the motionless sky, and the sinking
sun. The end of a beautiful winter day in Provence is really divine
during that hour before the chill of evening has touched the air and
darkened the sea and land. Now that the other guests of the yacht had
gone down to the dining-room, it seemed as though the two lovers were
all alone in the world on a floating terrace, amid the shrubbery and the
perfume of flowers. One of the boat's servants, a kind of agile and
silent genius, had placed the small tea-table beside them, with a
complicated little apparatus of silver, on which, as well as on the cups
and plates, was the fantastic coat of arms adopted by Marsh--the arch of
a bridge over a swamp, "arch on Marsh"--this pun, in the same taste as
that in which the boat had been baptized, was written under the
scutcheon. The bridge was in or, the marsh in sable, on a field of
gules. The American cared nothing for heraldic heresies. Black, red, and
yellow were the colors of the deck awning, and this scutcheon and device
signified that his railroad, celebrated in fact for the boldness of its
viaducts, had saved him from misery, here represented by the marsh.
Naïve symbolism which would have typified even more justly the arch of
dreams thrown by the two lovers over all the mire of life. Even the
little tea-set, with its improvised coat of arms, added to this fleeting
moment a charm of intimacy, the suggestion of a home where they two
might have lived heart to heart in the uninterrupted happiness of each
other's daily presence; and it was this impression that the young man
voiced aloud after they had enjoyed their solitude for a few moments in
silence.

"How delicious is this hour," he said, "more delicious than I had ever
dreamed! Ah! if this boat belonged to us, and we could go thus on a long
voyage, you and I, to Italy, which I would not see without you, to
Greece, which gave you your beauty. How beautiful you are, and how I
love you! _Dieu_! if this hour would never end!"

"Every hour has an end," answered Ely, half shutting her eyes, which had
filled with ecstasy at the young man's impassioned words, and then, as
though to repress a tremor of the heart that was almost painful in its
tenderness, she said, with the grace and gayety of a young girl: "My old
German governess used to say, as she pointed to the eagles of Sallach,
'You must be like the birds who are happy with crumbs'; and it is true
that we find only crumbs in life.--I have sworn," she went on, "that
you, that we, will not fall into the 'terrible sorrow.'"

She emphasized the last two words, which were doubtless a tender
repetition of a phrase often spoken between them, and which had become a
part of their lovers' dialect. And playfully she turned to the table and
filled the two cups, adding:--

"Let us drink our tea wisely, and be as _gemüthlich_ as the good
_bourgeois_ of my country."

She handed one of the cups to Hautefeuille while she said this. As the
young man took it, he touched with his fingers the small and supple hand
that served him with the delight in humble indulgences so dear to women
who are really in love. His simple caress caused them to exchange one of
those looks in which two souls seem to touch, melt together, and absorb
each other by the magnetism of their desire. They paused once more, rapt
in the sense of their mutual fever so intoxicating to share amid that
atmosphere, mixed with the scent of the sea and the perfume of the
roses, with the languid palpitation of the immense waters sleeping
around them in their silence. During the two weeks that had passed since
the sudden avowal of Madame de Carlsberg they had repeated their vows of
love, they had written passionate, wild letters, and had exchanged their
souls in kisses, but they had not given themselves yet wholly to each
other. As he looked at her now on the deck of the yacht he trembled
again from head to foot to see her smile with those lips, whose fresh
and delicious warmth he still felt on his own. To see her so supple and
so young, her body quivering with all the nervousness of a creature of
fine race, recalled the passionate clasp with which he had enfolded her
in the garden of her villa two days after the first vows. She had led
him, under the pretext of a conversation, to a kind of belvedere, or
rather cloister, a double row of marble columns, overlooking the sea and
the islands. In the centre was a square space thick planted with
gigantic camellias. The ground was all strewn with blossoms, buried in
the large petals of red and rose and white fallen from the trees, and
the red, rose, and white of other flowers gleamed above amid the sombre
and lustrous foliage. It was there that he had for the second time held
her close in his arms, and again still more closely in an obscure spot
of the adorable villa of Ellenrock, at Antibes, where he had gone to
wait for her. She had come to him, in her dress of mauve, along a path
bordered with blue cineraria, violet heart's-ease, and great anemones.
The neighboring roses filled the air with a perfume like that around
them now, and sitting on the white heather, beneath the pines that
descended to a little gray-rocked cove, he rested his head upon the
heart of his dear companion.

All these memories--and others as vivid and troubling--mingled with his
present emotion and intensified it. The total unlikeness of Ely to all
the women he had met served to quiet the young man's naïve remorse for
his past experiences, and to make him forget the culpability of that
sweet hour. Ely was married, she had given herself to one man, and had
no right while he lived to give herself to a second. Although Pierre was
no longer sufficiently religious to respect marriage as a sacrament, the
imprint of his education and his memories of home were too deep, and
above all he was too loyal not to feel a repugnance for the stains and
miseries of adultery. But Ely had been careful to prevent him from
meeting the Archduke after that terrible scene, and to the lover's
imagination the Prince appeared only in the light of a despot and a
tormentor. His wife was not his wife; she was his victim. And the young
man's pity was too passionate not to overcome his scruples; all the more
since he had, for the last two weeks, found his friend in an incessant
revolt against an outrageous espionage--that of the sinister Baron von
Laubach, the aide-de-camp with the face of a Judas. And this voluntary
policeman must really have pursued Ely with a very odious surveillance
for his memory to come to her at this moment when she wished to forget
everything except this sky and sea, the swift boat, and the ecstatic
lover who was speaking by her side.

"Do you remember," he was saying, "our uneasiness three days ago, when
the sea was so rough that we thought we could not start? We had the same
idea of going up to La Croisette to see the storm. I could have thanked
you on my knees when I met you with Miss Marsh."

"And then you thought that I was angry with you," she said, "because I
passed with scarcely speaking to you. I had just caught a glimpse of
that foxlike Iago von Laubach. Ah! what a relief to know that all on
board are my friends, and incapable of perfidy! Marsh, his niece,
Andryana, are honor itself. The little Chésys are light and frivolous,
but there is not a trace of ill-nature about them. The presence of a
traitor, even when he is not feared, is enough to spoil the most
delightful moments. And this moment, ah! how I should suffer to have it
spoiled!"

"How well I understand that!" he answered, with the quick and tender
glance of a lover who is delighted to find his own ways of feeling in
the woman he loves. "I am so much like you in that; the presence of a
person whom I know to be despicable gives me a physical oppression of
the heart. The other evening at your house, when I met that Navagero of
whom Corancez had so often spoken, he poisoned my visit, although I had
with me that dear, dear letter which you had written the night before."
Then, dreamily following this train of thought, he continued: "It is
strange that every one does not feel the same about this. To some
people, and excellent ones too, a proof of human infamy is almost a joy.
I have a friend like that--Olivier du Prat, of whom I spoke to you and
whom you knew at Rome. I have never seen him so gay as when he had
proved some villainy. How he has made me suffer by that trait of his!
And he was one of the most delicate of men, with the tenderest of hearts
and finest of minds. Can you explain that?"

The name of Olivier du Prat, pronounced by that voice which had been
moving Ely to the heart--what an answer to the wish sighed by the
amorous woman that this divine moment should not be spoiled! These
simple words were enough to dissipate her enchantment, and to interrupt
her happiness with a pain so acute that she almost cried aloud. Alas!
she was but at the very beginning of her love's romance, and already
that which had been predicted by Louise Brion, her faithful and too
lucid friend, had come true--she was shut in the strange and agonizing
inferno of silence which must avoid, as the most terrible of dangers,
the solace of confession. How many times already in like moments had a
similar allusion evoked between her and Pierre the image of that other
lover! Pierre had very soon alluded lightly and gayly to his friend, and
as the Baroness had thought it best not to conceal the fact that she had
met him in Rome, he continued to recall memories of Du Prat, without
suspecting that his words entered like a knife into the poor woman's
heart. To see how much Hautefeuille loved Du Prat--with a friendship
equal to that which the latter had for him--how could she help feeling
anew the constant menace hanging over her? And then, as at the present,
she was filled with an inexpressible anguish. It was as though all the
blood in her veins had suddenly flowed out through some deep and
invisible wound. At other times it was not even necessary that the
redoubtable name should be mentioned in their conversation. It sufficed
that the young man, in the course of the intimate talks which she
encouraged as often as her social servitude permitted, should
ingenuously express his opinion on some of the love-affairs reported by
the gossips of the coast. She would then insist upon his talking in
order to measure his uncompromising morality. She would have been pained
if he had felt differently, for then he would not have been that noble
and pure conscience unspotted by life; and she suffered because he did
feel thus, and so unconsciously condemned her past. She made him open
his mind to her, and always she found at the bottom this idea, natural
to an innocent soul, that if love may be pardoned for everything,
nothing should be pardoned to caprice, and that a woman of noble heart
could not love a second time. When Hautefeuille would make some remark
like this, which revealed his absolute and naïve faith in the
singleness and uniqueness of true love, inevitably, implacably, Olivier
would reappear before the inward eye of the poor woman. Wherever they
were, in the silent patio strewn with camellia leaves, under the
murmuring pines of the Villa Ellenrock, on the field at La Napoule,
where the golf players moved amid the freshest and softest of
landscapes, all the marvellous scenery of the South would vanish,
disappear--the palms and orange trees, the ravines, the blue sky and the
luminous sea, and the man she loved. She would see nothing before her
but the cruel eyes and evil smile of her old lover at Rome. In a sudden
half hallucination she would hear him speaking to Pierre. Then all her
happy forces would suddenly be arrested. Her eyelids would quiver, her
mouth gasp for air, her features contract with pain, her breast shudder
as though pierced by a knife; and, as at present, her tender and
unconscious tormentor would ask, "What is the matter?" with an eager
solicitude that at the same time tortured and consoled her; and she
would answer, as now, with one of those little falsehoods for which true
love cannot forgive itself. For hearts of a certain depth of feeling,
complete and total sincerity is a need that is almost physical, like
hunger and thirst. What an inoffensive deception it was! And yet Ely had
once more a feeling of remorse at giving this explanation of her sudden
distress:--

"It is a chill that has come over me. The night comes so quickly in this
country, with such a sudden fall of temperature."

And while the young man was helping to envelop her in her cloak, she
said, in a tone that contrasted with the insignificance of her remark:--

"Look how the sea has changed with the sinking sun; how dark it has
grown--almost black--and what a deep blue the sky is. It is as though
all nature had suddenly been chilled. How beautiful it is yet, but a
beauty in which you feel the approach of shadows."

And, indeed, by one of those atmospheric phenomena more general in the
South than elsewhere, the radiant and almost scorching afternoon had
suddenly ended, and the evening had come abruptly in the space of a few
minutes. The _Jenny_ moved on over a sea without a wave or a ripple. The
masts, the yards, and the funnel threw long shadows across the water,
and the sun, almost at the edge of the horizon, was no longer warm
enough to dissipate the indistinct and chilly vapor that rose and rose,
already wetting with its mist drops the brass and woodwork of the deck.
And the blue of the still sea deepened into black, while the azure of
the clear sky paled and waned. Then, as the disk of the sun touched the
horizon abruptly, the immeasurable fire of the sunset burst from the sky
over the sea. The coast had disappeared, so that the passengers of the
yacht, now returned to the deck, had nothing before them but the water
and the sky, two formless immensities over which the light played in its
fairy fantasies--here spread in a sheet of tender and transparent rose,
like the petals of the eglantine; there rolling in purple waves, the
color of bright blood; there stretching like a shore of emerald and
amethyst, and farther, built into solid and colossal porticos of gold,
and this light opened with the sky, palpitated with the sea, dilated
through infinite space, and suddenly as the disk disappeared beneath the
waves, this splendor vanished as it came, leaving the sea again a bluish
black, and the sky, too, almost black, but with a bar of intense orange
on its verge. This bright line vanished in its turn. The earliest stars
began to come out, and the yacht lights to appear, illumining the dark
mass which went on, bearing into the falling night the heart of a woman
which had all day reflected the divine serenity of the bright hours, and
which now responded to the melancholy of the rapid and fading twilight.

Although she was not at all superstitious, Ely could not help feeling,
with a shudder, how this sudden invasion of the radiant day by the
sadness of evening, resembled the darkening of her inward heaven by the
evocation of her past. This analogy had given an added poignancy to her
contemplation of the tragic sunset, the battle of the day's last fire
with the shadows of night, and happily the magnificence of this
spectacle had been so overwhelming that even her light companions had
felt its solemnity. No one had spoken during the few minutes of this
enchantment in the west. Now, when the babble recommenced, she felt like
fleeing from it--fleeing even from Hautefeuille, whose presence she
feared. Moved as she was, she was afraid of breaking into tears beside
him; tears that she would not be able to explain. When he approached her
she said, "You must pay some attention to the others," and she began to
pace the deck from end to end in company with Dickie Marsh. The American
had the habit, while on board, of taking a certain amount of exercise
measured exactly by the watch. He looked at the time, then paced over a
measured distance until he had complied with his hygienic rules. "At
Marionville," he would say, "it was very simple; the blocks are each
exactly a half mile long. When you have walked eight of them, you know
you have done four miles. And your constitutional is finished." Usually,
when thus engaged in the noble duty of exercise, Marsh remained silent.
It was the time when he invented those schemes that were destined to
make him a billionaire. Ely, knowing of this peculiarity, counted upon
not exchanging ten words while walking with the potentate of
Marionville. She thought that the silent promenade would quiet her
overwrought nerves. They had paced thus for perhaps ten minutes, when
Dickie Marsh, who appeared more preoccupied than usual, suddenly
asked:--

"Does Chésy sometimes speak to you of his affairs?"

"Sometimes," answered the young woman, "as he does to everybody. You
know he has an idea that he is one of the shrewdest on the Bourse, and
he is very glad to talk about it."

"Has he told you," Marsh continued, "that he is speculating in mining
stocks?"

"Very likely. I do not listen to him."

"I heard him say so," the American said, "and just a moment ago, after
tea, and I am still upset by it. And there are not many things that can
worry me. At this moment," he continued, looking at Madame de Chésy,
who was talking with Hautefeuille, "this charming Vicomtesse Yvonne is,
beyond doubt, ruined; absolutely, radically ruined."

"That is impossible. Chésy is advised by Brion, who, I have heard, is
one of the best financiers of the day."

"Pooh!" said Dickie Marsh, "he would be swallowed in one mouthful in
Wall Street. As for the small affairs on this side of the water, he
understands them well enough. But it is just because he understands them
that his advice will ruin Chésy. It will not bore you to have me
explain how and why I am sure that a crash is coming in that famous
silver mine syndicate which you have at least heard of. All those who
buy for a rise--whom we call the bulls--will be caught. Chésy has a
fortune of $300,000. He explained his position to me; he will lose
$250,000. If it has not happened already, it will happen to-morrow."

"And you have told him all that?"

"What's the use?" the American replied. "It would only spoil his trip.
And then it will be time enough at Genoa, where he can telegraph. But
you, Baroness, will help me to do them a real service. You see that if
Brion advises Chésy to join the bulls, it is because he himself is with
the bears. That is our name for those who play for a decline. All this
is legitimate. It is a battle. Each one for himself. All the financiers
who give advice to men of society do the same, and they are right. Only
Brion has still another reason: imagine Madame de Chésy with an income
of ten thousand francs.--You understand."

"It is ignoble enough for him, that calculation," Ely said with disgust.
"But how can I help you to prevent that scoundrel from proposing to the
poor little woman to be his paid mistress, since that is certainly what
you mean?"

"Exactly," replied the American. "I wish you would say to her, not this
evening, or to-morrow, but when things have turned the way I know they
will. 'You have need of some one to help you out of your embarrassment?
Remember Dickie Marsh, of Marionville.' I would tell her myself. But she
would think me like Brion, amorous of her, and offering money for that.
These Frenchwomen are very clever, but there is one thing they will
never understand; that is that a man may not be thinking with them about
the 'little crime,' as they call it themselves. That is the fault of the
men of this country. All Europe is rotten to the core. If you speak to
her, there will be a third person between her and me, and she will know
very well that I have another reason."

He paused. He had so often explained to Madame de Carlsberg the
resemblance between Yvonne de Chésy and his dead daughter, which moved
him so strongly, that she was not deceived in regard to the secret
reason of his strange interest and stranger proposition. There was in
this business man, with all his colossal schemes, a touch of romanticism
almost fantastic, and so singular that Ely did not doubt his sincerity,
nor even wonder at it. The thought of seeing that pretty and charming
face, sister to the one he had loved so much, soiled by the vile lust of
a Brion, or some other _entreteneur_ of impoverished women of society,
filled this man with horror, and, like a genuine Yankee, he employed the
most practical means of preventing this sacrilege. Neither was Ely
surprised at the inconsistency of Marsh's conscience when the speculator
found Brion's rascality in money affairs very natural, while the
Anglo-Saxon was revolted at the mere thought of a love-affair. No, it
was not astonishment that Madame de Carlsberg felt at this unexpected
confidence. Troubled as she was by her own unhappiness, she felt a new
thrill of sadness. While she and Marsh paced from one end of the boat to
the other during this conversation, she could hear Yvonne de Chésy
laughing gayly with Hautefeuille. For this child, too, the day had been
delicious, and yet misfortune was approaching her, from out of the
bottomless gulf of destiny. This impression was so intense that, after
leaving Marsh, Ely went instinctively to the young woman, and kissed her
tenderly. And she, laughing, answered:--

"That is good of you. But you have been so good to me ever since you
discovered me. It took you long enough."

"What do you mean?" asked the Baroness.

"That you did not at first suspect that there was a gallant little man
hidden in your crazy Yvonne! Pierre's sister knows it well, and always
has."

As the pretty and heedless young woman made this profession of faith,
her clear eyes revealed a conscience so good in spite of her fast tone,
that Ely felt her heart still more oppressed. The night had come, and
the first bell for dinner had sounded. The three lights, white, green,
and red, shone now like precious stones on the port, the starboard, and
the foremast. Ely felt an arm pass under hers. It was Andryana
Bonnacorsi who said:--

"It is too bad that we must go down to dress; it would be so pleasant to
spend the whole night here."

"Would it not?" replied the Baroness, murmuring to herself, "She at
least is happy." Then aloud: "It is the farewell dinner to your
widowhood; you must look beautiful. But you seem to be worried."

"I am thinking of my brother," said the Italian woman, "and the thought
of him weighs upon me like remorse. And then, I think also of Corancez.
He is a year younger than I. That is nothing to-day, but in ten years?"

"She too feels the menace of the future," thought Ely, a quarter of an
hour later, while her maid was arranging her hair in the chamber of
honor that had been given her next to that of the dead girl. "Marsh is
disconsolate to see Chésy confronted by a terrible disaster. Andryana
is preparing for marriage, haunted by remorse and fear. Florence is
uncertain of ever being able to wed the man she loves. And Hautefeuille
and I, with a phantom between us, which he does not see, but which I see
so clearly, and which to-morrow, or the day after, in a week or two,
will be a living man, who will see us, whom I shall see, and who will
speak,--will speak to him."

A prey to this growing melancholy, the young woman took her seat at the
dinner table, laden with the costly flowers that delight the
ostentatious Americans. Incomparable orchids spread over the table a
carpet of the softest hues. Other orchids were wreathed about the
candles and the electric chandelier suspended from the varnished
ceiling; and amid this prodigality of fantastic corollas, gleamed a set
of goldware of the time of Louis XIV.--the historical personage who was
second only to Napoleon in the estimation of this Ohio democrat, who
evinced, on this point, as on so many others, one of the most
astonishing inconsistencies of his compatriots. And the bright tones of
the wainscoting, the precision of the service, the delicacy of the food
and wine, the brilliant toilets of the women, made this a setting for
the consummation of refinement, with the sea visible through the open
portholes, still motionless, and now touched by the rays of the crescent
moon. Marsh had ordered the boat's speed to be slackened, so that the
vibration of the screw was scarcely noticeable in the dining-room. The
hour was really so exquisite, that the guests gradually yielded to the
charm, the master of the boat first of all. He had placed Madame de
Carlsberg in front of him, between Chésy and Hautefeuille, in order to
have Madame de Chésy on his left, and in his tones and looks, as he
talked to her, there was an amused and tender affection, a protecting
indulgence, and an inexpressible depth of reverie. Resolved to save her
from the danger which Chésy's confidences had suddenly revealed, it was
as though he were going to do something more for the other, for the dead
one whose image was sleeping in the rear room. He laughed at the follies
of Yvonne, delicious in her pink dress, a little excited by the dry
champagne whose golden foam sparkled in the glass,--a gold the color of
her hair,--and still more excited by the sense of pleasing--the most
dangerous and the only intoxication that women thoroughly enjoy. Miss
Marsh, all in blue, seated between her and Chésy, listened to his
discourse upon hunting, the one subject on which this gentleman was well
informed, with the profound attention of an American girl who is
gathering new information. Andryana Bonnacorsi was silent, but cheered
by the genial surroundings, her tender blue eyes, the color of the
turquoise in her magnificent white corsage, smiled musingly. She forgot
the dangerous character of her brother, and the future infidelity of her
_fiancé_, to think of nothing but the caressing eyes, the voluptuous
lips, and the alluring grace of the young man whose wife she would be in
a few hours. Nor could the Baroness Ely resist the contagion that
floated in this atmosphere. Once more the loved one was near her and all
her own. In his youthful eyes she could see such respect and love,
timidity and desire. He spoke to her in words that all could hear, but
with a trembling in his voice which she alone could understand. She
began by replying to him, then she also grew silent. A great wave of
passion rose within her, drowning all other thoughts. Her fears of the
future, her remorse for the past--all was forgotten in the presence of
Pierre, whom she could see with his heart beating, his breast agitated,
alive and quivering beside her. How often he was thus to see her in
memory, and pardon the fearful suffering she had caused him for the sake
of her beauty at that moment! Ah! divine, divine beauty! Her eyes were
drowned in languorous ecstasy. Her open lips breathed in the air as
though half dying. The admirable curve of her neck rose with such grace
above her low-cut dress of black,--a black that gave a richer gleam to
the whiteness of her flower-soft skin; and in the simple folds of her
hair, crowning her noble head, burned a single stone, a ruby, red and
warm as a drop of blood.

How often he was to remember her thus, and as she appeared to him when
later she leaned on the railing of the deck and watched the water that
murmured, dashed, and sighed in the darkness, and the sky and the silent
innumerable stars; and then looked at him and said: "I love you. Ah! how
I love you." They had exchanged no promises. And yet, as surely as the
sea and sky were there around them he knew that the hour had come, and
that this night, this sky and sea, were the mystic and solemn witnesses
of their secret betrothal! Nothing was audible in the calm night but the
peaceful and monotonous respiration of the moving boat and the rhythmic
splash of the sea--the caressing sea, their accomplice, who enchanted
and rocked them in its gentle waves--while the tempest waited.



CHAPTER VI


IL MATRIMONIO SEGRETO


When the first pale rays of dawn broke upon the glass of the porthole,
Pierre rose and went on deck. Dickie Marsh was there already, regarding
the sky and the sea with the attentive scrutiny of an old sailor.

"For a Frenchman," he said to the young man, "you surprise me. I have
seen a good many of your countrymen upon the _Jenny_. And yet you are
the first that I have seen, so far, who rises at the most delicious hour
of the day on sea.--Just breathe the breeze that comes from the open.
You could work for ten hours without feeling tired, after taking a
supply of such oxygen into your lungs.--The sky makes me a little
uneasy," he added. "We have gone too far out of our course. We cannot
reach Genoa before eight o'clock and the _Jenny_ may receive a good
tossing before that time.--I never had any sympathy for those yachtsmen
who invite their friends to enjoy the hospitality of a stateroom in
company with a slop-pail!--We could have gone from Cannes to Genoa in
four hours, but I thought it better to let you sleep away from the
tumult of the port.--The barometer was very high! I have never seen it
descend so quickly."

The dome of the heavens, so clear all the preceding day and night, had
indeed, little by little, been obscured by big, gray, rock-like clouds.
Others were spread along the line of the horizon like changing lines
fleeing from each other. Pale rays of sunlight struggled to pierce this
curtain of gray vapor. The sea was still all around them, but no longer
motionless and glossy. The water was leadlike in hue, opaque, heavy,
menacing. The breeze freshened rapidly, and soon a strong gust of wind
swept over the sullen sheet of the water. It caused a trembling to run
along the surface, as though it shuddered. Then thousands of ripples
showed themselves, becoming larger and larger, until they swelled into
countless short, choppy waves, curling over and tossing their white
crests in the air.

"Are you a good sailor?" Marsh asked Hautefeuille. "However, it does not
matter. I was mistaken in my calculations. The _Jenny_ will not get much
tossing about, after all.--We're going before the wind and will soon be
under the shelter of the coast. Look! There is the Porto-Fino
lighthouse. As soon as we have rounded the cape, we shall be out of
danger."

The sea, by this time, was completely covered with a scattered mass of
bubbling foam through which the yacht ploughed her way easily without
rolling much, although she listed alternately to the right and then to
the left like a strong swimmer accommodating his stroke to the waves.
Close to a ruined convent, some distance ahead, a rocky point projected,
bearing a dazzlingly white lighthouse at its extremity. The promontory
was covered, as with a fleece, with a thick growth of silvery olive
trees, between which could be seen numerous painted villas, while its
rocky base was a network of tiny creeks. This was Cape Porto-Fino, a
place rendered famous by the captivity there of Francis I. after Pavia.
The yacht rounded it so closely that Hautefeuille could hear the roar of
the waves breaking upon the rocks. Beyond the promontory again stretched
the sullen sheet of water with the long line of the Ligurian coast,
which descends from Chiappa and Camogli as far as Genoa by way of Recco,
Nervi, and Quinto. Height ascending after height could be seen, the
hills forming the advance guard of the Apennines, their valleys planted
with figs and chestnuts, their villages of brightly painted cottages,
dotting the scene, and with, in the foreground, the narrow strip of
sandy soil that serves as seashore. The landscape, at once savage and
smiling, impressed the business man and the lover in different ways, for
the former said with disdain:--

"They have not been able to make a double track railway along their
coast! I suppose the task is too big for these people.--Why, my line
from Marionville to Duluth has four tracks--and we had to make tunnels
of a different sort from these!"

"But even one line is too much here," replied Hautefeuille, pointing to
a locomotive that was slowly skirting the shore, casting out a thick
volume of smoke. "What is the good of modern inventions in an old
country?--How can one dream of an existence of struggles amid such
scenery?" he continued, as though thinking aloud. "How is it possible to
contemplate the stern necessities of life upon this Riviera, or upon the
other?--Provence and Italy are oases in your desert of workshops and
manufactories. Have a little respect for them. Let there be at least a
corner of the world left for lovers and poets, for those who yearn for a
life of peace and happiness, for those who dream of a solitude shared
only by some beloved companion and surrounded by the loveliness of
nature and of art.--Ah! how sweet and peaceful this morning is!"

This state of enraptured exaltation, which made the happy lover reply
with dreamy poetical reflections to the American's practical remarks,
without noticing the comical character of the contrast, lasted all
through the day. It even increased as time passed. The _Jenny's_
passengers came up on deck one by one. And then Madame de Carlsberg
appeared, pale and languid. In her eyes was the look of tender anxiety
that gives such a touching aspect to the expression of a loving woman on
the morrow of her first complete surrender. And what a happy revulsion,
what rejoicing, when she sees, as Ely de Carlsberg did in her first
glance, that the soul of her beloved vibrates in sympathy with her own,
that he is as sensitive, as tender, as loving as before! This similarity
of nature was so sweet, so deep, so penetrating, for the charming woman,
that she could have gone down upon her knees before Pierre. She adored
him at this moment for being so closely the image of what she desired
him to be. And she felt compelled to speak of it, when they were seated
side by side, as upon the night before, watching the gulf growing into
life before them, with Genoa the Superb surging from the waves.

"Are you like me?--Were you afraid and yet longing to see me again, just
as I longed to see you and yet was afraid? Were you also afraid of being
soon called upon to differ for so much happiness? Did you feel as though
a catastrophe were close at hand?--When I awoke and saw stretching
before me the leaden sea and clouded sky, a shudder of dread ran through
me like a presentiment.--I thought all was over, that you were no longer
my Prince Beau-Temps"--this was a loving title she had conferred upon
Pierre, alleging that the sky had cleared each time she had met him.
"How exquisite it is," she continued caressingly, with the irresistible
fascination of a loving woman, "to have trembled with apprehension and
then to find you just as you were when I left you last night--no, not
last night, this morning!"

At the remembrance of the fact that they had parted only so short a time
before, she smiled. Her face lit up with an expression in which languor
was mingled with such archness, grace with such voluptuous charm, that
the young man, at the risk of being seen by the Chésys or Dickie Marsh,
printed a kiss upon the hem of the loose Scotch cloak that enveloped
her, its long hood streaming behind in the wind. Happily the American
and his two guests had eyes for nothing but the beautiful city growing
nearer and nearer and more distinct. It towered aloft now, girdled by
its encircling mountains. Beyond the two ports, with their forests of
masts and spars, could be seen the countless houses of the town, of all
shapes and heights, pressed closely one upon the other. Tiny, narrow
streets, almost lanes, wound upward, cutting through the mass of
dwellings at right angles. The colors of the houses, once bright and
gay, were faded and washed out by sun and rain. And yet it seemed still
a city of wealth and caprice, with the terraces of its palaces outlined
and covered with rare plants and statues. The apparently endless line of
scattered villas stretching along the coast were here clustered in
groups like little hamlets, forming suburbs outside the suburbs, and
further on stood isolated in the luxuriant verdure of gardens and
shrubbery. With the simple aid of a field-glass Marsh recognized
everything, palaces, villas, suburbs, one after the other.

"There is San Pier d'Arena," he said, handing the glass to Yvonne and
her husband, "and there are Cornegliano and Sestri to the left. To the
right you can see San Francesco d'Albaro, Quarto, Quinto, San Mario
Ligure, the Villa Gropallo, the Villa Croce."

"Why, Commodore, there is another trade you can turn to the day your
pockets are empty," said Madame de Chésy, laughingly. "You can become
cicerone."

"Oh," said Marsh, "it is the easiest thing in the world. When I see a
place that I cannot recognize or that I do not know, I feel as though I
were blind."

"Ah! You are not like me," cried Chésy. "I never could understand a
map, and yet that has not prevented me getting a lot of amusement out of
my travels.--Believe me, my dear fellow, we are right not to trouble
about such things; we have sailors on sea and coachmen on land to attend
to them!"

While this conversation was going on at the bow, Florence Marsh was aft
trying to instil a little courage into Andryana Bonnacorsi. The future
Vicomtesse de Corancez would not even glance at the town, but remained
with her eyes looking fixedly at the vessel's wake.

"I feel convinced," she said with a sigh, "that Genoa will be fatal to
me; 'Genova prende e non rende,' as we Italians say."

"It will take your name, Bonnacorsi, and will not return it, that is
all," replied Florence, "and the proverb will be verified!--We have a
proverb, too, in the United States, one that Lincoln used to quote. You
ought to take note of it, for it will put an end to all your fears. It
is not very, very pretty, particularly to apply to a marriage, but it is
very expressive. It is, 'Don't trouble how to cross a mud creek before
you get to it.'"

"But suppose Lord Bohun has changed his mind and the _Dalilah_ is in the
port with my brother on board? Suppose the Chésys want to come with us?
Suppose Prince Fregoso at the last minute refuses to lend us his
chapel?"

"And suppose Corancez says, 'I will not' at the altar?" interrupted
Florence. "Suppose an earthquake engulfs the lot of us?--Don't be
uneasy, the _Dalilah_ is riding at anchor in the roadstead at Calvi or
Bastia. The Chésys and my uncle have five or six English and American
yachts to visit, and it is madness to think that they will sacrifice
this arrangement for the sake of going with us to museums and churches.
Since the old prince has consented to lend his place to Don Fortunato it
is not likely that he has changed his mind--particularly as he and the
abbé were companions in prison in 1859. Between Italians anything
concerning the _Risorgimento_ is sacred. You know that better than I do.
I have only one fear," she added with a gay laugh, "and that is that
this Fregoso may have sold some of his finest paintings and his most
beautiful statuary to one of my countrymen. Those pirates loot
everything, under the plea that they have not only the money but also
good taste, and that they are connoisseurs. Would you believe it, when I
was at college in Marionville, the professor of archæology taught us
the history of Grecian art anterior to Phidias with the aid of
photographs of specimens in the collection belonging to this very
Fregoso?"

"Well, what did I tell you?" Florence Marsh again asked her friend, a
couple of hours later. "Was I right? Have you come to the mud creek?"

The passengers had landed, just as had been prearranged. The Chésys and
Dickie Marsh had gone off to visit the fleet of pleasure yachts moored
near the pier. The Marchesa had received a telegram from Navagero
announcing the arrival of the Dalilah in Corsican waters. And now a
hired landau was bearing the tender-hearted woman, in company with
Florence, Madame de Carlsberg, and Pierre Hautefeuille, toward the
Genoese palace, where Corancez was awaiting them. The carriage climbed
up the narrow streets, passing the painted façades of the old marble
houses whose columns, all over the city, testify to the pretentious
opulence of the old half-noble, half-piratical merchants. All along the
route the streets, or rather the corridors, that descended to the port
swarmed with a chattering, active, gesticulating people. Although the
north wind was now blowing keenly, the three women had insisted upon the
carriage being left open, so that they could see the crowd, the
crumbling, splendid façades, and the picturesque costumes. The Marchesa
smiled, still agitated, but now happy, in reply to Miss Marsh's words of
encouragement, as she said:--

"Yes, you were right. I am not afraid now, and begin to think that I am
awake and not dreaming.--Yet, if any one had told me that some day I
should go with you three along the Piazza delle Fontane Morose to do
what I am going to do.--Ah! _Jésus Dieu_! there is Corancez!--How
imprudent he is!"

It was, indeed, the Provençal. He was standing at the corner of the
famous square and the ancient via Nuova, now the via Garibaldi, the
street which Galéas Alessi, Michael Angelo's pupil, glorified with the
palaces of Cambiaso, Serra, Spinola, Doria, Brignole-Sale, and Fregoso,
masterpieces of imposing architecture that, by themselves, are
sufficient justification for the title of Superb, given to Genoa by its
arrogant citizens.

It was certainly ill-advised to venture into the streets, risking a
meeting with some French acquaintance. But Corancez had not been able to
resist the temptation. He was playing for such high stakes that for once
his nervousness had overmastered the natural prudence of the Provençal,
ordinarily patient and circumspect, one of those people for whom the
Genoese would seem to have invented this maxim: "He who is patient will
buy thrushes for a liard each."

By means of a messenger he had been informed of the arrival of the
_Jenny_. He had then left the safe shelter of the palace so as to be
sure that his _fiancée_ had arrived. When he saw the beautiful golden
hair of Madame Bonnacorsi, a wave of hot blood seemed to course through
his veins. He jumped upon the carriage-step gayly, boyishly even,
without waiting for the carriage to stop. Without any more delay than
was required to kiss his betrothed's hand, to utter a word of welcome to
Madame de Carlsberg and Florence, and to greet Hautefeuille gratefully,
he began to tell of his two weeks' exile with his usual gayety.

"Don Fortunato and I are already a couple of excellent friends," he
said. "Wait till you see what a comical little fellow he is with his
knee-breeches and big hat. You know him, Marchesa, so you can imagine. I
am already his _figlio mio_!--As for you, Andryana, he worships you. He
has written, specially for you, an epithalamium in fifty-eight
cantos!--And yet this religious marriage without the civil ceremony
disquiets him.--What would Count Camillo Cavour, whose walking-stick and
portrait he piously cherishes, have said of it? Between Cavour and the
Marchesa, the Marchesa and Cavour, he has been hard pushed to make a
choice. However, he has thrown in his lot with the Marchesa, a decision
that I understand very easily. All the same, he is now afraid to even
glance at the portrait and the stick, and will not dare to do so until
we have complied with all the requirements of the Italian law.--I vowed
to him that there would only be a delay of a few days, and then Prince
Pierre reassured him.--That is another character.--You will have to
visit the museum and see his favorites there.--But, here we are!"

The landau stopped before the imposing door of a palace, having, like
its neighbors, a marble peristyle, and brilliantly painted, like the
other houses. The balustrade of the balcony upon the first floor bore a
huge carved escutcheon, displaying the three stars of the Fregosi, an
emblem that was once dreaded all over the Mediterranean when the vessels
of the Republic swept the seas of the Pisans, the Venetians, the
Catalans, Turks, and French.

The new arrivals were received by a _concierge_ wearing the livery, very
much soiled, of the Fregosi, the buttons stamped with armorial bearings.
He carried a colossal silver pommelled cane in his hand, and led the
visitors into a vaulted vestibule at the foot of a huge staircase.

Beyond they could see an enclosed garden, planted with orange trees.
Ripe fruit glowed among the sombre foliage, through which glimpses could
be obtained of an artificial grotto peopled with gigantic statuary.
Several sarcophagi embellished the entrance, characterized by that air
of magnificence and decay common to old Italian mansions. How many
generations had mounted that worn staircase since the gifted genius
designed the white moulding upon a yellow background that decorated the
ceiling! How many visitors had arrived here from the distant colonies
with which the great Republic traded! And yet probably no more singular
spectacle had been seen for three centuries, than that presented by the
noble Venetian lady arriving from Cannes upon the yacht of an American,
for the purpose of marrying a ruined would-be gentleman from Barbentane,
and accompanied by a young American girl, and the morganatic wife of an
Austrian archduke with her lover, one of the most artless, most
provincial Frenchmen of the best school of French chivalry.

"You must admit that my wedding _cortège_ is anything but commonplace,"
said Corancez to Hautefeuille, glancing at the three women behind whom
he and his friend were standing.

They had not met since the morning they had visited the _Jenny_ at
Cannes. The acute Southerner, the moment of his arrival, had felt that
there was a vague embarrassment in Pierre's greeting and in his
expression. Upon the boat, the young lover's happiness had not been in
the least troubled by the presence of Miss Marsh and of the Marchesa,
although he knew they could not be ignorant of his sentiments. But he
also knew that they would respect his feelings. With Corancez it was
different. A mere glance of Corancez's disturbed him. "All is over," the
Provençal had evidently thought. And, with his easy-going instincts of
loose morality, Corancez was all the happier for his friend's happiness;
he rejoiced in his friend's joy. He therefore bent all his energies upon
the task of dispelling Hautefeuille's slight uneasiness, which he had
discovered with his infallible tact.

"Yes," he went on in a conciliatory tone, "this staircase is a little
more chic than the staircase of some vile _mairie_.--And it is also
delightful to have such a friend as you for my witness! I don't know
what life may hold in store for us, and I am not going to make a lot of
protestations, but, remember, you can ask me anything, after this proof
of your friendship.--There must have been a host of things that were
disagreeable to you in this expedition. Don't deny it. I know you so
well!--And yet you have faced them all for the sake of your old friend,
who is not, for all that, Olivier du Prat.--Isn't my _fiancée_
gloriously beautiful this morning?" he continued. "But, hush! here comes
the old Prince in person, and Don Fortunato.--Watch closely, and listen;
you'll find it worth your while!"

Two old gentlemen were just issuing from the entrance of a high windowed
hall, at the top of the staircase. They might have stepped out of one of
the pictures in which Longhi has fixed so accurately, and so
unpretentiously, the picturesque humor of ancient Italy. One was the
Abbé Lagumina, very thin, very little; with his shrivelled legs, no
thicker than skeleton's, buried in knee-breeches, and stockings that
came above his knees. His bowed body was wrapped in a long
ecclesiastical frock-coat. He rubbed his hands together unceasingly and
timidly, bowing all the time. And yet his physiognomy was so acute, so
stamped with intelligence, that the ugliness of his huge nose and his
toothless gums was forgotten and only the charm of his expression
remained.

The other was Prince Paul Fregoso, the most celebrated descendant of
that illustrious line, whose doughty deeds are inscribed in the golden
book of Genoa's foreign wars, and, alas! in the book of brass devoted to
her civil conflicts. The Prince owed his Christian name, Paul, an
hereditary one in the family, to the legendary souvenirs of the famous
Cardinal Fregoso, who was driven from the city, and ruled the seas for
a long time as pirate.

This grandnephew of the curious hero was a veritable giant. His features
were massive, and his eyes intensely bright. His feet and hands were
distorted by gout. In spite of his faded, sordid costume, in spite of
the fact that he was almost bent in two and leaned upon his stick, of
which the point was protected from slipping by an india-rubber shield,
Prince Paul looked every inch a descendant of the doges by his haughty
mien. He spoke with a deep, voluminous, cavernous voice, that indicated
great vigor even at his advanced time of life, for he was about
seventy-nine years of age.

"Ladies," he said, "I beg you to excuse me for not having descended this
diabolical staircase in order to greet you as I ought to have done.
Please do not believe the epigram that our Tuscan enemies have made
about us: 'At Genoa there are no birds in the air, the sea has no fish,
the mountains are woodless, and the men without politeness.'--You see my
birds," and he pointed through the window to the gulls that soared above
the port in search of food. "I hope, if you do me the honor of lunching
with me, that you will find my mullets are as good as those you get at
Leghorn.--And, with your permission, we will go at once into another
salon, where there is a fireplace. In that fireplace you will see plenty
of wood that comes from my estates outside the Roman gate. With such a
north wind we need plenty of warmth in these big halls, which in our
fathers' time required only a scaldino.--The first greeting is that due
to the health of our guests! Madame la baronne! Madame la marquise! Miss
Marsh!"--And he bowed to each of the three ladies, although he did not
know either of them, with an indescribable air of easy grace and
ceremonious courtesy.--"The abbé will lead the way.--I can only follow
you like an unfortunate _gancio di mare_--the deformed, miserable
creature you call a crab," he added, addressing Corancez and
Hautefeuille. He made them go on before him, and then dragged himself
along in their wake with his poor, feeble steps, to a rather smaller
salon.

Here a meagre wood fire smouldered, making much smoke in a badly
constructed chimney. The floor was formed of a mosaic of precious
marbles, and the ceiling decorated with colored stuccoes and frescoes,
representing the arrival of Ganymede at the feast of the gods. It was
painted lightly and harmoniously with colors whose brilliancy seemed
quite fresh. The graceful figures, the exquisite fancifulness of
landscape and architecture, all the pagan charm, in fact, in its very
delicacy, spoke of some pupil of Raphael. Below the moulding were hung
several portraits. The aristocratic touch of Van Dyck was apparent at
the first glance. Beneath the huge canvases antique statues were grouped
on the floor, and stools that had once been gilded, shaped like the
letter X, and without backs, gave the air of a museum to the salon. The
three women could not restrain their admiration.

"How beautiful it is! What treasures!" they cried.

"Look at the Prince," said Corancez, in a whisper to Pierre. "Do you see
how disgusted he is? You have got a front seat for a comedy that I can
guarantee as amusing. I am going to pay a little attention to my
_fiancée_. Don't lose a word; you will find it worth attention."

"You think this is beautiful?" said the Prince to the Baroness and Miss
Marsh, who stood beside him, while Corancez and Madame Bonnacorsi
chatted in a corner. "Well, the ceiling is not too bad in its way.
Giovanni da Udine painted it. The Fregoso of that time was jealous of
the Perino del Vagas of the Doria Palace. That particular head of the
house was my namesake, Cardinal Paolo, the one you know who was a
pirate--before he was a cardinal. He summoned another of Raphael's
pupils, the one who had aided the master at the Vatican.--Each of those
gods has a history. That Bacchus is the cardinal himself, and that
Apollo, whose only garment is his lute, was the cardinal's
coadjutor!--Don't be shocked, Don Fortunato.--Ah, I see, he has gone off
to prepare for the marriage sacrament; _mene malo_.--The Van Dycks,
also, are not bad as Van Dycks.--They too have their history. Look at
that beautiful woman, with her impenetrable, mysterious smile.--The one
holding a scarlet carnation against her green robe.--And then look at
that young man, with the same smile, his pourpoint made of the same
green material, with the same carnation.--They were lovers, and had
their portraits painted in the same costume. The young man was a
Fregoso, the lady an Alfani, Donna Maria Alfani.--All this was going on
during the absence of the husband, who was a prisoner among the
Algerians. They both thought he would never return.--'Chi non muore, si
revede,' the cardinal used to like to say, 'He who is not dead always
returns.'--The husband came back and slew them both.--These portraits
were hidden by the family. But I found them and hung them there."

The two immense pictures, preserved in all their brilliancy by a long
exile from the light, smiled down upon the visitors with that
enigmatical smile of which the old collector had spoken. A voluptuous,
culpable grace shone out of the eyes of Donna Maria Alfani, lingered
upon her crimson lips, her pale cheeks, and her dark hair. The delicate
visage, so mobile, so subtle, preserved a dangerous, fascinating
attraction even up there in the stiff outlines of the lofty green
frieze. The passionate pride of a daring lover sparkled in the black
eyes of the young man. The perfect similarity in the colors of their
costumes, in the hue of the carnations they held in their hands, in the
pose of the figures, and in the style of the paintings seemed to prolong
their criminal liaison even after death. It seemed like a challenge to
the avenger. He had killed them, but not separated them, for they were
there, upon the same panel of the same wall, proclaiming aloud their
undying devotion, glorified by art's magic, looking at each other,
speaking to each other, loving each other.

Ely and Pierre could not resist the temptation to exchange a glance, to
look at each other with the tenderness evoked by the meeting of two
lovers with the relics of a passion long since passed away. In it could
be read how keenly they felt the evanescent nature of their present
happiness in the face of this vanished past. Ely was moved more deeply
still. The cardinal-pirate's threatening adage, "Chi non muore, si
revede," had made her shudder again, had thrilled her with the same
terror she had felt upon the boat at the sweetest moment of that
heavenly hour. But this terror and melancholy were quickly dissipated
like an evil dream when Miss Marsh replied to the commentaries of the
Genoese prince:--

"My uncle would pay a big price for those two portraits. You know how
fond he is of returning from his visits to the Old World laden with
knick-knacks of this kind! He calls them his scalps.--But Your Highness
values them very highly, I suppose? They are such beautiful works of
art!"

"I value them because they descend to me as heirlooms from my family,"
replied Fregoso. "But don't profane in that way the great name of Art,"
he added solemnly. "This and that," he continued, pointing to the
vaulted dome and to the picture, "can be called anything you like,
brilliant decoration, interesting history, curious illustrated legend,
the reproduction of customs of a past age, instructive psychology.--But
it is not Art.--There has never been any art except in Greece, and once
in modern times, in the works of Dante Alighieri. Never forget that,
Miss Marsh."

"Then you prefer these statues to the pictures?" asked Madame de
Carlsberg, amused by the tone of his sally.

"These statues?" he replied. He looked around at the white figures
ranged along the walls, and the grand lines of his visage took on an
expression of extreme contempt. "Those who bought these things did not
even know what Greek art was. They knew about as little as the
ignoramuses who collected the mediocrities of the Tribune or of the
Vatican."

"What?" interrupted Madame de Carlsberg. "The Venus de' Medici is at the
Tribune and the Apollo and the Ariadne at the Vatican!"

"The Venus de' Medici!" cried Fregoso, angrily, "don't speak to me about
the Venus de' Medici!--Look," he went on, pointing to one of the statues
with his gouty fingers, "do you recognize it? That is your Venus!--It
has the same slender, affected body, the same pose of the arms, the same
little cupid at her feet, astride a playful dolphin, and, like the
other, it is a base copy made from Praxiteles's masterpiece in the taste
of the Roman epoch which brought it into existence.--Would you have in
your house one of those reproductions of 'Night' which encumber the
shops of the Tuscan statuary dealers?'--Copies, I tell you; they are all
copies, and made in such a way!--That is the sort of art you admire in
Florence, Rome, Naples.--All those emperors and Roman patricians who
stocked their villas with the reproductions of Greek _chefs d'œuvre_
were barbarians, and they have left to us the shadow of a shadow, a
parody of the real Greece, the true, the original, the Greece that
Pausanias visited!--Why, that Venus is a pretty woman bathing, who takes
flight to arouse desire! She is a coquette, she is lascivious!--What has
she in common with the Anadyomene, with the Aphrodite who was the
incarnation of all the world's passionate energies, and whose temple was
forbidden to men, with the goddess that was also called the Apostrophia,
the Preserver?--Think of asking this one to resist desire, to tear Love
from the dominion of the senses!--And look at this Dromio of your
Apollo.--Does it not resemble in a confusing way the Belvedere that
Winckelmann admired so much?--It is another Roman copy of a statue by
Scopas. But what connection is there between this academic gladiator and
the terrible god of the Iliad, such as he is still figured on the
pediment at Olympia?--The original was the personification of terrible,
mutilating, tragical light. You feel the influence of the East and of
Egypt, the irresistible power of the Sun, the torrid breath of the
desert.--But here?--It is simply a handsome young man destined to
lighten the time of a depraved woman in a secluded chamber, a _venereo_,
such as you can find by the hundred in the houses at Pompeii.--There is
not an original touch about these statues; nothing that reveals the hand
of the artist, that discloses the eye guiding the hand, the soul guiding
the eye, and guiding the soul, the city, the race, all those virtues
that make Art a sacred, magisterial thing, that make it the divine
blossom of human life!"

The old man spoke with singular exaltation of spirit. His faded visage
was transfigured by a noble, intellectual passion. Suddenly the comical
and familiar side of the man came uppermost again. His long lips
protruded in a ludicrous pout and, threateningly shaking his knotted
finger at one of the statues, a Diana with a quiver, whose countenance,
white in some parts and yellow in others, disclosed the fact that it had
been restored, he added:--

"And the hussies are not even intact!--They are only patched-up
copies.--Just look at this one.--Ah, you baggage, you should not keep
that nose if it were not too much trouble to knock it off!--Ah!" he
continued, as a servant opened the double door at the end of the
gallery, "a thoroughbred needs no spur--Don Fortunato is ready."

Approaching Andryana Bonnacorsi, he said:--

"Will Madame la marchesa do me the honor of accepting my arm to lead her
to the altar? My age gives me the right to play the rôle of father. And
if I cannot walk quickly enough you must excuse me; the weight of years
is the heaviest man ever has to carry.--And don't be alarmed," added the
good old man in a whisper, as he felt the arm of his companion tremble.
"I have studied your Corancez very deeply for several days. He is an
excellent and good fellow."

"Well," said Corancez to Madame de Carlsberg, offering her his arm,
while Florence Marsh took Hautefeuille's, "are you still as sceptical as
you were about chiromancy and the line of fate? Is it simply a chance
that I should have the Baroness Ely leaning on my arm in my wedding
procession? And is it merely hazard that has provided me with an
original like our host to amuse you during the wearisome affair?"

"It is not wearisome," replied the Baroness, laughing. "All the same,
you are lucky in marrying Andryana; she is looking so beautiful to-day,
and she loves you so much!--As to the Prince, you are right; he is
unique. It is pleasant to find such enthusiasm in a man of his
age.--When Italians are taken up with an idea they are infatuated with
it passionately, devotedly, as they are with a woman.--They have rebuilt
their country with the help of that very quality."

During these few minutes Miss Marsh was talking to Hautefeuille.

"You cannot understand that feeling," she was saying, "for you belong to
an old country. But I come from a town that is very little older than
myself, and it is an ecstasy to visit a palace like this where
everything is eloquent of a long past."

"Alas, Miss Marsh," replied Hautefeuille, "if there is anything more
painful than living in a new country, it is living in one that wants to
become new at any price when it is filled to overflowing with relics of
the past, of a glorious past,--a country where every one is making
desperate efforts to destroy everything.--France has had that mania for
about a hundred years."

"Yes, and Italy has had it for twenty-five years," said the American
girl. "But we are here," she added gayly, "to buy everything and to
preserve it.--Oh! what an exquisite chapel.--Just look at it!--Now I'll
bet you that those frescoes will finish their existence in Chicago or
Marionville."

As she spoke she pointed out to Pierre the mural paintings that
decorated the chapel they entered at the moment. The little place where
the cardinal-pirate had doubtless often officiated was embellished with
a vast symbolical composition from floor to ceiling. It was the work of
one of those unknown masters whose creations confront one at every step
in Italy and which anywhere else would be celebrated. But there, as the
soldiers in the famous charge say, they are too numerous! This
particular painter, influenced by the marvellous frescoes with which
Lorenzo Lotto had beautified the Suardi Chapel at Bergamo, had
represented, above the altar, Christ standing up and holding out His
hands. From the Saviour's finger-tips a vine shoot spread out, climbing
up and up to the dome, covered with grapes. The tendrils wound round,
making frames for the figures of five saints on one side, and on the
other five female figures. Above the head of Christ the inscription,
"Ego sum vitis, vos palmites," gave an evangelical significance to the
fantastic decoration.

The principal episodes in the legend of St. Laurence, the patron saint
of the cathedral at Genoa, were painted on the walls and in the panels
made by the pillars. These were: Decius slaying the Emperor Philip in
his tent; the young sou of the dead Emperor confiding his father's
treasures to Sixtus to be distributed among the poor; Sixtus being led
to the scene of his martyrdom, followed by Laurence, crying, "Where art
thou going, O father, without thy son? Where art thou going, O priest,
without thy deacon?" Laurence receiving the treasures in his turn and
confiding them to the poor widow; Laurence in prison converting the
officer of the guard; Laurence in Sallust's gardens collecting together
the poor, the halt, and the blind, saying at the same time to Decius,
"Behold the treasures of the Church!" Laurence surrounded by flames upon
a bed of fire!--The picturesqueness of the costumes, the fancy displayed
in the architecture, the fruitful nature of the landscape, the breadth
of the drawing, and the warmth of the coloring revealed the influence of
the Venetian school, although attenuated and softened by the usury of
time, which had effaced the too glaring brilliancy and toned down the
too vivid warmth of the painting. It had taken on something of the faded
tone of old tapestry.

The whole gave to the marriage that was being celebrated in the old
oratory of the ancient palace of an aged prince by a Gallophobe priest a
fantastic character that was both delightful and droll. The ultra-modern
Corancez kneeling with the descendants of the doges with Don Fortunato
to bless them, in a setting of the sixteenth century, was one of those
paradoxes that only nature dare present, so pronounced are they as to be
almost incredible! And equally incredible was the simple-mindedness of
the abbé, the impassioned worshipper of Count Camillo. He rolled out a
little oration to the young _fiancés_ before uniting them. This oration
was in French, a condescension he had determined upon making, in spite
of his political hatreds, for the sake of the foreigner to whom he was
to marry his dear marchesa.

"Noble lady! Honored sir! I do not intend to say much.--Tongueless birds
furnish no auguries.--Sir, you are going to marry this dear lady in the
presence of God. In thus consecrating the union of a great Venetian name
with that of a noble French family, it seems as though I were asking
once more for the blessing of Him Who can do all things, that I were
appealing to Him to consecrate the friendship between two countries
which ought to be only one in heart; I mean, my lady, our dear Italy,
and your beautiful France, my lord!--Italy resembles that figure painted
by a master, a genius, upon the wall of this chapel. It is from her that
proud Spain and brilliant France, two young branches of the Latin race,
have sprung as from a fruitful vine. The same vigorous sap courses
through the veins of the three nations. May they be reunited some day!
May the mother once more have her two daughters by her side! May they be
united some day as they are already by the relationship of their
languages, by the communion of their religion! May they be bound
together by a bond of love that nothing can break, such as is going to
unite you, my dear lord and lady! Amen!"

"Did you hear him?" Corancez asked Hautefeuille an hour later.

The _Ita missa est_ had been spoken; the solemn "I will" had been
exchanged, and the luncheon--including the mullet that surpassed those
of Leghorn--had been brought to an end amid toasts, laughter, and the
reading of the epithalamium upon which Don Fortunato had worked so long
and so patiently. The entire company had adjourned to the gallery for
coffee, and the two young men were chatting in the angle of a window
close to the repaired Artemis.

"Did you hear him? The good old abbé simply worships me.--He worships
me even too much, for I am not as noble as he has made me out.--He has
given Andryana a proof of inalienable affection in consenting to our
secret marriage. He is as intelligent as it is possible to be. He knows
Navagero to the very marrow and dreaded an unhappy future for Andryana
if she did not escape from her brother's clutches. He is also a clever
diplomatist, for he persuaded his old companion in _carcere duro_ to
lend us his little chapel.--Well, intelligence, diplomacy, friendship,
and all the rest are swept on one side in the Italian soul by the law of
primogeniture. Did you not hear how, in his quality of Cavour's friend,
he made us feel that France was only the youngest scion of the great
Latin family?--In this case the youngest has fared better than the
eldest! But I pardoned all Don Fortunato's presumption when I thought of
the face my brother-in-law will pull, Italian though he is, when he is
shown the piece of paper which bears your name beside that of the
Prince.--Would you like another proof of Corancez's luck? Look over
yonder."

He pointed through the window to the sky covered with black clouds and
to the street below, at the foot of the palace, where the north wind,
sweeping along, made the promenaders huddle up in their cloaks.

"You don't understand?" he went on. "Don't you see you cannot sail again
while such a sea is on? The ladies will stay at the hotel all night." As
he spoke the Provençal smiled with an easy-going, semi-complicity.
Happily the newly made vicomtesse drew near and brought the
_tête-à-tête_ to an end. She was leaning on Madame de Carlsberg's
arm. The two young women, so beautiful, so graceful, so delicate, so
enamoured, formed a living commentary as they thus approached the two
young men. And the pagan air that one seems to breathe in Italy was so
keen, so penetrating, that Pierre's uneasy scruples were soothed by the
love he could read in his mistress's brown eyes that were lit up by the
same tender fire that shone in the blue eyes of the Venetian when she
regarded her husband.

"You have come to us from the Prince, I suppose?" asked Corancez. "I
know him! You will have no peace until he has shown you his treasures."

"Yes, he has been asking for you," said Andryana. "But I came on my own
account.--A husband who abandons his wife an hour after marriage is
rather hurried."

"Yes, it is a little too soon," repeated Ely. And the hidden meaning of
the words, addressed as it was in reality to Hautefeuille, was as sweet
as a kiss to the young man.

"Let us obey the Prince--and the Princess," he said, bearing his
mistress's hand to his lips as though in playful gallantry, "and go to
the treasure-house. You know all about it, I suppose?" he added, turning
to his friend.

"Do I know it?" replied Corancez. "I had not been here an hour before I
had gone through the whole place. He is a little bit--" and he tapped
his forehead significantly, pointing to the old Prince and Don
Fortunato, who were going out of the gallery with Miss Marsh. "He is a
little bit crazy.--But you will judge for yourself."

All the procession--to use the term employed by the "representative
of a great French family," as the Abbé Lagumina styled the
Provençal--followed in Fregoso's wake and descended a narrow staircase
leading to the private apartments of the collector. He was now leading,
eager to show the way. As is often the case in big Italian mansions, the
living rooms were as little as the reception halls were big. The Prince,
when alone, lived in four cramped rooms, of which the scanty furniture
indicated very plainly the stoicism of the old man, wrapped up in a
dream-world and as indifferent to comfort as he was impervious to
vanity. The twenty or twenty-five pieces that formed his museum were
hung on the walls. At the first glance the Fregoso collection,
celebrated all over the two hemispheres, was made up of shapeless
fragments, rudely carved, that could not fail to produce the same
impression upon the ignorant in such matters that Corancez had felt.
Fregoso had studied antique art so closely that he now cared for nothing
but statuary dating from an epoch anterior to Phidias. He worshipped
these relics of the sixth century which afford glimpses of primitive and
heroic Greece--the Greece that repulsed the Asiatic invasion by the
simple virtue of a superior, elevated race placed face to face with the
countless hordes of an inferior people.

The Genoese nobleman had become the most devoted of archæologists after
being one of the most active conspirators. And now he lived among the
gods and heroes of that little known and distant Hellas as though he had
been a contemporary of the famous soldier carved upon the stele of
Aristion.

The gouty old man seemed to be miraculously rejuvenated the moment the
last of his guests crossed the threshold of the first chamber, which
usually served him as a smoking-room. He stood erect. His feet no longer
dragged upon the floor as though too heavy for his strength. His dæmon,
as his beloved Athenians would have said, had entered into him and he
began to talk of his collection with a fire that arrested any
inclination to smile. Under the influence of his glowing language the
mutilated marble seemed to become animated and to live again. He could
see the figures of two thousand four hundred years ago in all their
freshness. And by a species of irresistible hypnotism his imagination
imposed itself upon the most sceptical among his auditors.

"There," he said, "are the oldest carvings known.--Three statues of
Hera, three Junos in their primitive form: that is, wooden idols copied
in stone by a hand that still hesitates as though unfamiliar with the
work."

"The xoanon!" said Florence Marsh.

"What! You have heard of the xoanon?" cried Fregoso. And from this point
on he addressed only the American girl. "In that case, Miss Marsh, you
are capable of understanding the beauty of these three examples of art.
They are unique.--Neither that of Delos, that of Samos, or that of the
Acropolis is worthy to be compared with them.--You can see the creation
of life in them.--Here you see the body in its sheath, and what a
sheath!--One as shapeless and rough as the harshest of wools. And yet it
breathes, the bosom is there, the hips, the legs are indicated.--Then
the material grows supple, becoming a delicate fabric of fine wool, a
long divided garment that lends itself to every movement. The statue
awakes. It walks.--Just look at the grandeur of the torso under the
peplum, the closely fitting cloak gathered in closely fitting folds on
one side and spread fanlike on the other. Don't you admire the pose of
the goddess as she stands, the weight of her body thrown upon the right
foot, with the left advanced?--Now she moves, she lives!--Oh! Beauty!
Heavenly Beauty!--And look at the Apollos!"

He was so excited by his feverish enthusiasm that he could no longer
speak. He pointed in speechless admiration to three trunks carved in
stone that had been turned red by a long sojourn in a ferruginous soil.
They were headless and armless, with legs of which only the stumps
remained.

"Are they not the models of those at Orchomenos, Thera, and Tenea?"
asked Miss Marsh.

"Certainly," replied the Prince, who could no longer contain his
happiness. "They are funeral images, statues of some dead hero deified
in the form of Apollo.--And to think that there are barbarians in the
world who pretend that the Greeks went to Egypt and to Mesopotamia in
search of their art!--Do you think an Egyptian or an Asiatic could ever
have imagined that proud carriage, that curved chest, that strong
back?--They never made anything but sitting idols glued to the
wall.--Just look at the thighs! Homer says that Achilles could leap
fifty feet. I have studied the subject deeply, and I find that the
tiger's leap at its maximum is exactly that distance. It appears
incredible to us that a man could do that. But look at those
muscles--that makes such a leap a possibility. Art is seen at its
perfection there; magnificent limbs capable of magnificent efforts. 'I
moti divini,' as Leonardo said. If you put that energy at the service of
the city and represent that city by gods, by its gods, you have Greece
before you."

"And you have Venice, you have Florence, you have Sienna, you have
Genoa, all Italy, in fact!" interrupted Don Fortunato.

"Italy is the humble pupil of Greece," replied Fregoso, solemnly. "She
has received touches of grand beauty, but she is not the grand beauty."

Looking around, he added mysteriously:--

"Ah! we must close the shutters and lower the curtains. Will you help
me, Don Fortunato?"

When the room had thus been darkened, the old man handed a lighted taper
to the abbé and made a sign for them all to follow him. Approaching a
head carved in marble placed upon a pedestal, he said, in a voice broken
with emotion:--

"The Niobe of Phidias!"

The three women and the two young men then saw by the light of the tiny
flame a shapeless fragment of marble. The nose had been broken and
shattered. The place where the eyes ought to have been was hardly
recognizable. Almost all the hair was missing. By chance, in all the
dreadful destruction through which the head had passed, the lower lip
and the chin had been spared. Accustomed as he was to the almost
infantile _mise-en-scène_ of the archæologist, Don Fortunato let the
light shine full on the mutilated mouth and chin.

"What admirable life and suffering is displayed in that mouth!" cried
Fregoso, "and what power there is in the chin!--Does it not express all
the will and pride and energy of the queen who defied Latona?--You can
hear the cry that issues from the lips.--Follow the line of the cheek.
From what remains you can figure the rest.--And what a noble form the
artist has given the nose!--Look at this."

He took up the head, placed it at a certain angle, drew out his
handkerchief, and taking a portion of it in his hands, he stretched it
across the base of the forehead at the place where there was nothing but
a gaping fracture in the stone.

"There you have the line of the nose!--I can see it.--I can see the
tears that flow from her eyes," and he placed the head at another angle.
"I can see them!--Come!" he said, sighing, after a silence, "we must
return to everyday life. Draw up the curtains and open the shutters."

When daylight once more lit up the shapeless mass Fregoso sighed again.
Then, taking up a head, rather less battered than the Niobe, he bowed to
Miss Marsh, whose technical knowledge and attentive attitude had
appealed in a flattering way to his mania.

"Miss Marsh," he said, "you are worthy of possessing a fragment of a
statue that once graced the Acropolis.--Will you allow me to offer you
this head, one only recently discovered? Look how it smiles."

The head really seemed to smile in the old man's hands, with a curious,
disquieting smile, mysterious and sensual at the same time.

"It is the Eginetan smile, is it not?" asked the American girl.

"Archæologists have given it that name on account of the statues upon
the famous pediment. But I call it the Elysian smile, the ecstasy that
ought to wreathe forever the lips of those tasting the eternal
happiness, revealed in advance to the faithful by the gods and
goddesses.--Remember the line Æschylus wrote about Helen: 'Soul serene
as the calm of the seas.' That smile expresses the line completely."

When Hautefeuille and the three women were once again in the landau that
was taking them toward the port after the fantastic marriage and the
more fantastic visit, they looked at each other with astonishment. It
was about three o'clock in the afternoon and it seemed so strange to be
again in the streets full of people, to see the houses with the little
shops on the ground-floor, to read the bills that covered the walls, and
to form part of the swarming, contemporary life. They felt the same
impression that seizes one after a theatrical performance in the daytime
when one is again on the boulevard flooded with sunshine. The deception
of the theatre, which has held you for a couple of hours, makes the
reawakening to life almost painful. Andryana was the first to speak of
this uncomfortable sensation.

"If I had not Don Fortunato's epithalamium in my hand," she said,
showing a little book she held, "I should think I had been dreaming.--He
has just given it to me with great ceremony, telling me at the same time
that only four copies of it had been printed at the workshop where the
proclamations of Manin, our last doge, used to be, printed. There is one
for Corancez, one for Fregoso, one for the abbé himself, and this
one!--Yes, I should think I had been dreaming."

"And I also," said Florence, "if this head were not so heavy." She
weighed the strange gift which the archæologist had honored her with in
her little hands. "Heavens, how I should like to visit the museum
without the Prince!--I have an idea that he hypnotized us, and that if
he were not there we should see nothing.--For example, we saw the smile
on this face when Fregoso showed it to us.--I cannot find the least
trace of it now. Can you?"

"No!--Nor I!--Nor I!--" cried Ely de Carlsberg, Andryana, and
Hautefeuille in chorus.

"I am certain, however," the latter added, laughingly, "that I saw
Niobe, who had neither eyes nor cheeks, weeping."

"And I saw Apollo run, although he had no legs," said Madame de
Carlsberg.

"And I saw Juno breathe, though she had no bosom," said Andryana.

"Corancez warned me of it," said Hautefeuille. "When Fregoso is absent,
his collection is a simple heap of stones; when he is there, it is
Olympus."

"That is because he is a believer and impassioned about art," replied
the Baroness. "The few hours we spent with him have taught me more about
Greece than all my promenades in the Vatican, the capital, and the
Offices. I do not even regret being unable to show you the Red Palace,"
she said, addressing Hautefeuille, "notwithstanding the fact that its
Van Dycks are wonderful."

"You will have plenty of time to-morrow," said Miss Marsh. "My uncle
will sail to-night, I know; but he will leave us here, for the _Jenny_
is going to have a rough time, and he will not allow any one to be sick
on his boat. Look how the sea is already rolling in to the port.--There
is a tempest raging out at sea."

The landau arrived at the quay where the yacht's dingy was awaiting the
travellers. Little waves were breaking against the walls. All the
roadstead was agitated by the rising north wind and was a mass of tiny
ripples, too small to affect the big steamers riding at anchor, but
strong enough to pitch about the pleasure boats and fishing smacks. What
a difference there was between this threatening gray swell that was felt
even in the port, in spite of its protecting piers, and the wide
mirror-like expanse of motionless sapphire which had spread before them
the day before at the same hour in the open sea off Cannes! What a
contrast between this cloudy sky and the azure dome that smiled down
upon their departure, between this keen north wind and the perfumed
sighing of the breeze yesterday!--But who thought of this? Certainly not
Florence Marsh, completely happy in the possession of the archaic scalp
she was taking on board. Certainly not Andryana, to whom the prospect of
a night spent on shore was full of such happy promise; she was to meet
her husband, and the idea of this clandestine and at the same time
legitimate rendezvous after her romantic marriage had filled the loving
woman with happiness. It was the first time for many years that she had
forgotten her dreaded brother. Nor did Hautefeuille or his mistress
notice the contrast, for the long hours of the night were to be spent
together. The young man, who had fallen behind with Ely de Carlsberg,
said gayly and yet tenderly, as they walked down toward the dingy of the
Jenny, whose red, white, and black flag crackled in the breeze:--

"I am beginning to believe that Corancez is right about his lucky
line!--And it appears to be contagious."

At the very moment he spoke, and as Ely answered him with a smile full
of languor and voluptuousness, one of the sailors standing on the quay
near the boat handed a large portfolio to Miss Marsh. It was the
vessel's postman, who had just returned with the passengers' mail. The
young girl rapidly ran through the fifteen or twenty letters.

"Here is a telegram for you, Hautefeuille," she said.

"You will see," he said to Ely, continuing his badinage, "it is good
news."

He tore open the yellow slip. His visage lit up with a happy smile, and
he handed the telegram to Madame de Carlsberg, saying:--

"What did I tell you?"

The despatch said simply:--


"Am leaving Cairo to-day. Shall be at Cannes Sunday or Monday at latest.
Will send another telegram. So happy to see you again.

OLIVIER DU PRAT."



CHAPTER VII


OLIVIER DU PRAT


The second telegram arrived, and on the following Monday, at two
o'clock, Pierre Hautefeuille was at the station at Cannes, awaiting the
arrival of the express. It was the train he had taken to come from Paris
in November, while still suffering from the attack of pleurisy that had
been nearly fatal to him. Any one who had seen him getting out of the
train on that November afternoon, thin, pale, shivering in spite of his
furs, would never have recognized the invalid, the feverish
convalescent, in the handsome young fellow who crossed the track four
months later, supple and erect, rosy-cheeked and smiling, and with his
eyes lit up with a happy reflection that brightened all his visage.
Between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five, in that period of life
when the vital principle is ripe and intact, the most timid of men have
at times a keen joy in life which betrays itself in every gesture. It is
a sign that they love, that they are beloved, that all around smiles
upon their love. And the sensation that no obstacle stands between them
and their passions fills them to overflowing with happiness. Their very
physique seems to be transfigured, to be exalted. They have a different
bearing, another look, a prouder attitude. It is as though some magnetic
current emanated from happy lovers, that clothes them with a momentary
beauty intelligible to every woman. They recognize at once the
"enraptured lover," and hate him or sympathize with him, according as
they are envious or indulgent, prosaic or romantic.

To this latter class belonged the two people whom Hautefeuille met face
to face on the little central platform that serves as a sort of
waiting-place at the Cannes station. One of these was Yvonne de Chésy,
accompanied by her husband and Horace Brion. The other was the Marchesa
Bonnacorsi,--as she still called herself,--escorted by her brother,
Navagero. To reach them, the young man had to work his way through the
fashionable crowd gathered there, as is usual at this hour, awaiting the
train that is to carry them to Monte Carlo. The comments exchanged
between the two women and their escorts during the few minutes that this
operation took proved once more that the pettiness of malignant jealousy
is not the characteristic of the gentler sex solely.

"Hallo! there is Hautefeuille!" said Madame de Chésy. "How pleased his
sister will be to see him so wonderfully changed!--Don't you think he is
a very handsome young fellow?"

"Yes, very handsome," assented the Venetian, "and the prettiest part of
it is that he does not seem to be aware of it."

"He won't keep that quality long," said Brion. "It is 'Hautefeuille
here, 'Hautefeuille' there! You hear of nothing but Hautefeuille at your
house," addressing Yvonne, "at Madame Bonnacorsi's, at Madame de
Carlsberg's. He was simply a good, little, inoffensive, insignificant
youngster. You are going to make him frightfully conceited."

"Without considering that he will compromise one of you sooner or later
if it continues," said Navagero, glancing at his sister.

Since the trip to Genoa the artful Italian had noticed an unusual air
about Andryana and had been seeking the motive of it, but in the wrong
direction.

"Ah! That's it, is it?" cried Yvonne, laughingly. "Well, just to punish
you I am going to ask him to come into our compartment, and shall invite
him to dine with us at Monte Carlo, so that he can take charge of
Gontran--who needs some one to look after him. I say, Pierre," she went
on, addressing the young man who was now standing before her, "I attach
you to my service for the afternoon and evening.--You will report it to
me if my lord and master loses more than one hundred louis.--He lost a
thousand the day before yesterday at _trente-et-quarante_. Two affairs
like that every week throughout the winter would be a nice income.--I
shall have to begin thinking of how I am to earn the living expenses."

Chésy did not reply. He tugged at his mustache nervously, shrugging his
shoulders. But his features contracted with a forced smile that was very
different from the one his wife's witty sallies usually provoked. The
catastrophe Dickie Marsh had predicted was slowly drawing near, and the
unfortunate fellow was childish enough to try to offset the imminent
disaster by risking the little means he had left upon the green cloth at
Monte Carlo. Heedless to say, his wife was entirely ignorant of the
truth. Thus Yvonne's remark was singularly cruel for him, and for her,
uttered as it was, in the presence of Brion, the professional banker of
needy _mondaines_. Hautefeuille, who had been enlightened by his
conversations with Corancez and Madame de Carlsberg, felt the irony
hidden in the pretty little woman's conversation at such a moment, and
said:--

"I am not going to Monte Carlo. I am simply waiting for one of my
friends--for Olivier du Prat--whom, I think, you know."

"What! Olivier! Why, he is an old sweetheart of mine, when I was staying
with your sister.--Yes, I was crazy about him for at least a fortnight.
Bring him along then and invite him to dine with us this evening. You
can take the five o'clock train."

"But he is married."

"Well, invite his wife as well," cried the giddy creature, gayly. "Come,
Andryana, persuade him. You have more power over him than I have."

Continuing her teasing like a spoilt child, she took Navagero's arm, and
turning away, nothing amused her more than to see the expression on the
Italian's face when he saw his sister in conversation with some one of
whom he was suspicious. She was ignorant of the service she was
rendering her friend, who profited by the few instants of her brother's
absence to say to Pierre:--

"He also arrives by this train. I only came down to see him. Will you
tell him that I am going to meet Florence upon the _Jenny_ to-morrow
morning at eleven o'clock? And, above all, don't be annoyed if Alvise is
not very polite. He has got the idea that you are paying me
attentions.--But here is the train."

The locomotive issued out of the deep cutting that leads into Cannes,
and Pierre saw Corancez's happy profile almost immediately. He jumped
out before the train stopped, and, embracing Hautefeuille, said loudly,
so that his wife could hear:--

"How good of you to come to meet me!" adding in a whisper, "Try to get
my brother-in-law away for a minute."

"I cannot," replied Hautefeuille; "I am expecting Olivier du Prat. Did
you not see him in the train? Ah! I see him."

He left the Provençal's side without troubling himself further about
this new act in the _matrimonio segreto_ which was being played upon the
station platform, and ran toward a young man standing upon the step of
the train looking at him with a tender, happy smile. Although Olivier du
Prat was only the same age as Pierre, he looked several years older, so
stern and strongly marked was his bronzed, emaciated face. His features
were so irregular and striking that it was impossible to forget them.
His black eyes, of a humid, velvety black, the whiteness of his regular
teeth, his thick, flowing hair, gave a sort of animal grace to his
physiognomy which counterbalanced the bitterness that seemed to be
expressed in his mouth, his forehead, and, above all, his hollow cheeks.
Without being tall, his arms and shoulders denoted great strength.
Hardly had he stepped down from the carriage when he embraced
Hautefeuille with a fervor that almost brought the happy tears to his
eyes, and the two friends remained looking at each other for a few
seconds, both forgetting to offer a helping hand to a young woman who
was, in her turn, standing upon the high step awaiting with the most
complete impassibility until one of the young men should think about
her. Madame Olivier du Prat was a mere child of about twenty years of
age, very pretty, very refined, and with a delicacy in her beauty that
was almost doll-like and pretty. Her hair was of a golden color that was
cold through its very lightness. In her blue eyes there was, at this
moment, that indefinable impenetrable expression that can be seen on the
faces of most young wives before the friends of their husband's youth.
Did she feel sympathy or antipathy, confidence or suspicion, for
Olivier's dearest friend, who had been her husband's groomsman at their
marriage? Nothing could be gathered from her greeting when the young man
came and excused himself for not having welcomed her before and assisted
her to the platform. She hardly rested the tips of her fingers upon the
hand that Pierre held out to her. But this might only be a natural
shyness, as the remark she made when he asked her about the journey
might express a natural desire to rest:--

"We had a very pleasant journey," she said, "but after such a long
absence one longs to be at home again."

Yes, the remark was a natural one. But, uttered by the lips of the
slender, chilly little wife, it also signified: "My husband wished to
come and see you and I could not prevent him. But don't be mistaken, I
am very dissatisfied about it." At any rate, this was the involuntary
construction Hautefeuille placed upon the words in his inner
consciousness. Thus he was grateful to Corancez when he approached and
spared him the difficulty of replying. The train started off again,
leaving the road clear for the passengers, and the Southerner walked up,
holding out his hand and smiling.

"How do you do, Olivier?--You don't remember me?--I am Corancez. We
studied rhetoric together. If Pierre had only told me that you were in
the train, we could have travelled together and had a good gossip about
old times. You are looking splendidly, just as you did at twenty. Will
you present me to Madame du Prat?"

"As a matter of fact, I did not recognize him," Olivier said a few
minutes later, when they were in the carriage that was rolling toward
the Hôtel des Palmes. "And yet he has not changed. He is the type of
the Southerner, all familiarity that is intolerable when it is real and
is ignoble when it is affected. Among all the detestable things in our
country--and there is a good assortment — the most detestable is the
'old schoolfellow.' Because he has been a convict with you in one of
those prisons called French colleges, he calls you by your Christian
name, he addresses you as though you were his dearest friend. Do you see
Corancez often?"

"He seems to think a great deal of you, Monsieur' Hautefeuille," said
the young wife. "He embraced you the instant he was on the platform."

"He is rather demonstrative," replied Pierre, "but he is really a very
amiable fellow, and has been very useful to me."

"That surprises me," said Olivier. "But how is it you never spoke to me
of him in your letters? I should have been more communicative."

This little conversation was also unimportant. But it was sufficient to
establish that feeling of awkwardness that is often sufficient to
destroy the joy felt in the most dearly desired meeting. Hautefeuille
divined there was a little reproach in the remark made by his friend
about his letters, and he felt again the sensation, of hostility in
Madame du Prat's observation. He became silent. The carriage was
ascending the network of roads that he had traversed with Corancez upon
the morning of their visit to the Jenny, and the white silhouette of the
Villa Helmholtz stood out upon the left beyond the silvery foliage of
the olive trees. His mistress's image reappeared in the mind of the
young man with the most vivid intensity. He could not help making a
comparison between his dear beloved Ely and his wife's friend. The
little Frenchwoman seated by his side, a little constrained and stiff in
spite of her elegant correctness, suddenly appeared to him so poor, so
characterless, such a nullity, so uninteresting beside the supple,
voluptuous image of the foreigner.

Berthe du Prat was the embodiment of the quiet and somewhat negative
distinction that stamps the educated Parisienne (for the species
exists). Her travelling costume was the work of a famous _costumier_,
but she had been so careful to shun the merest approach to eccentricity
that it was completely impersonal. She was certainly pretty with the
fragile, delicate prettiness of a Dresden china figure. But her visage
was so well under control, her lips so close pressed, her eyes so devoid
of expression, that her charming physiognomy did not provoke the least
desire to know what sort of a soul it hid. It was so apparent that it
would only be made up of accepted ideas, of conventional sentiments, of
perfectly irreproachable desires. This is the sort of woman that men who
have seen much life ordinarily seek for wives. After having corrupted
his imagination in too many cases of irregularity, Olivier had naturally
married the child whose beauty flattered his pride and whose
irreproachable conduct was a guarantee against any cause for jealousy.

It was not less natural that Pierre, educated in the midst of
conventional ideas, and who had suffered from the prejudices of his
family, should remark in the composition of the young woman her very
evident poverty of human sympathy, as well as all that was mean and
mediocre, particularly by comparison.

Impressions of this kind quickly produced that shrinking, that retreat
of the soul, that we call by a big word, convenient by reason of its
very mystery; that is, antipathy. Pierre had not felt this antipathy at
the first meeting with Mademoiselle Berthe Lyonnet, now Madame du Prat.
And yet she ought to have displeased him still more, among her original
surroundings, between her father, the most narrow-minded of solicitors,
and her mother, a veritable dowager of the better class of Parisian
middle life. But at that time the romantic side of the young man was as
yet dormant. The intoxication of love had awakened him, and he was now
sensitive to shades of feminine nature that had been hidden from him
before. Being too little accustomed to analyzing himself to recognize
how the past few weeks had modified his original ideas, he explained the
sentiment of dislike that he felt for Berthe du Prat by this simple
reason, one that helps us to justify all our ignorance on the subject of
another's character.

"What is it that is changed in her?--She was so charming when she was
married! And now she is quite a different woman.--Olivier has also
changed. He used to be so tender, so loving, so gay! And now he is quite
indifferent, almost melancholy. What has happened?--Can it be that he is
not happy?"

The carriage stopped before the Hôtel des Palmes just as this idea took
shape in Pierre's mind with implacable clearness. He kept repeating the
question while watching Olivier and his wife in the vestibule. They
walked about, chatting of the orders to be given about the luggage and
to the chambermaid. Their very step was so out of harmony, so different,
that by itself it opened up a vista of secret divorce between the two.
It is in such minute, in the instinctive fusion, the unison in the
gesture of both, that the inner sympathy animating two lovers, or
husband and wife, must be sought. Olivier and his wife walked out of
step metaphorically, for expressions have to be created to characterize
the shades of feeling that can neither be defined nor analyzed, but
which are attested by indisputable evidence. And what a world of
evidence was contained in a remark made by Du Prat, when the hotel clerk
showed him the rooms that had been kept for him. The suite was composed
of a large room with a big bed, two _cabinets de toilette_, one of which
was huge, and a drawing-room.

"But where are you going to put my bed?" he asked. "This dressing-room
is very little."

"I have another suite with a salon and two contiguous bedrooms," said
the clerk; "but it is on the fourth floor."

"That doesn't matter," replied Du Prat.

He and his wife went up in the elevator without even glancing at the
beautiful flowers with which Pierre had embellished the vases. He had
beautified the conjugal chamber of Olivier and Berthe in the way he
would have liked the room to be decorated which he would have shared
with Ely. Left alone breathing the voluptuous aroma of mimosa mingled
with roses and narcissus, he looked through the window across the clear
afternoon landscape, the Esterels, the sea, and the islands. The little
sunny chamber, quiet and attractive, was a veritable home for kisses
with such perfumes and such a view. And yet Olivier's first idea had
been to go and seek two separate rooms! This little fact added to the
other remarks, and, above all, to his involuntary, intuitive
conclusions, made Hautefeuille become meditative. A comparison between
the passionate joy of his sweet romance and the strange coldness of this
young household again arose in his mind. He recalled the first night of
real love, that night in heavenly intimacy on the yacht. He remembered
the second night, the one Ely and he had passed at Genoa. How sweet it
had been to slumber a brief moment, his head resting upon the bosom of
his beloved mistress. He thought of the very preceding evening when Ely
had yielded to his supplications to allow him to visit her that night at
the Villa Helmholtz, and he had glided into the garden by means of an
unprotected slope. At the hothouse he found the door open with his
mistress awaiting him. She had taken him to her room by a spiral
staircase which led to the little salon and which only she used. Ah!
What passionate kisses they had exchanged under the influence of the
double emotions of Love and Danger! This time he left the room with
despair and heartburning. He had returned alone, along the deserted
roads, under the stars, dreaming of flight with her, with his beloved,
of flight to some distant spot, to live with her forever, husband living
with his wife! Could it be that Olivier had not the same sentiments
toward his young wife; that he could forego that right to rest upon her
adored heart all the night and every night? Could he forego that
precious right, the most precious of all, of passing all the night and
every night, half the year to the end of the year, half a lifetime to
the end of life, with her pressed close to him? Could he renounce the
ecstasy of her presence when, with her dress, the woman had put off her
social existence to become once again the simple, true being, beautified
only with her youth, with her love, to become only the confiding,
tender, all-renouncing creature that no other sees?

But if they loved each other so little after so short a married life,
had he ever really loved her? And if he had never really loved her, why
had he married her?--Pierre had got to this point in his reflections
when he was abruptly aroused by a hand being laid upon his shoulder.
Olivier was again standing before him, this time alone.

"Well," he said, "I have arranged everything. The rooms are rather high,
but the view is all the more beautiful. Have you anything to do just
now? Suppose we go for a walk."

"How about Madame du Prat?" asked Hautefeuille.

"We must give her time to get settled," replied Olivier, "and I admit
that I am very glad to be alone with you for a few minutes. One can only
talk when there are two. By one I mean 'us.'--If you only knew how glad
I am to be with you again!"

"My dear Olivier!" cried Pierre, deeply moved by the sincere accent of
the remark.

They took each other's hands and their glances met, as at the station.
No word was spoken. In the Fioretti of St. Francis it is related how St.
Louis one day, disguised as a pilgrim, came and knocked at the door of
the convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli. Another saint, named Egidio,
opened the door and recognized him. The king and the monk kneeled, the
one before the other, and then separated without speaking. "I read his
heart," said Egidio, "and he read mine." The beautiful legend is the
symbol of the meeting of friends such as the two young people. When two
men who know each other, who have loved each other since infancy, as
Pierre and Olivier did, meet face to face again, they have no need of
protestation, no need of fresh assurances of their reciprocal
faithfulness, esteem, confidence, respect, devotion; all the noble
virtues of male affection need no words to explain them. They shine and
glow, their mere presence sufficing, like a pure and steady flame. Once
again the two friends felt that they could count upon each other.--Once
more they felt how closely they were united with the bonds of fraternal
love.

"So you were good enough to think of putting flowers in the rooms to
welcome us?" said Olivier, taking his friend's arm. "I will just give
orders for them to be taken up to our apartments.--Let us go now.--Not
to the Croisette, eh?--If it is like what it used to be when I stayed
here before, it must be intolerable. Cannes was a real 'Snobopolis' at
that time, with its army of princes and prince worshippers!--I remember
some lovely spots between California and Vallauris, where the scenery is
almost wild, where there are big forests of pines and of oaks--with none
of those grotesque feather brushes they call palms, which I hate."

They were by this time leaving the hotel garden, and Du Prat pointed, as
he spoke, to the alley of trees that gave its name to the fashionable
caravansary. His friend began to laugh, as he replied:--

"Don't throw too much sepia over the gardens of poor Cannes. They are
very excellent hotbeds for an invalid! I know something about it."

This was an allusion to an old joke that Pierre had often made in their
youth when he would liken the wave of bitterness that seemed to sweep
over Olivier in his evil moments to the jet of black liquid projected by
the cuttlefish to hide its whereabouts. Olivier also laughed at the
memories the souvenir recalled. But he continued:--

"I don't recognize you in your present state. You fraternize with
Corancez, you the irreconcilable! You, the master of Chaméane, love
these paltry gardens, with their lawns that they turn up in spring, with
their colored metallic trees and with their imitation verdure!--I prefer
that."

And he pointed, as he spoke, to the turning of the road, where the
mountain showed itself covered with a fleece of dark pines and light
larch trees. At its foot the line of villas from Cannes to Golfe Juan
continued for a little distance and then ceased, leaving nothing upon
the mountain side right up to the peak but a growth of primitive forest.
To the right spread the sea, deserted, unbroken by even a single sail.
The sense of isolation was so complete that for a moment, glancing from
the verdant mountain to the shimmering sea, the illusion of what the
landscape must have been before it had become a fashionable
wintering-place was startlingly complete.

The two young men walked on for a few hundred yards further and plunged
into mid-forest. The red trunks of the pines were now growing so thickly
around them that the azure brilliancy of the waves could only be seen
fitfully. The black foliage above their heads was outlined against the
open sky with singular distinctness. The refreshing, penetrating odor of
resin, mingled at intervals with the delicate perfume of a large,
flowing mimosa, enveloped them in a balmy atmosphere.

Olivier surveyed the forest with its northern aspect with all the
pleasure of a traveller returning from the East, tired of sandy
horizons, weary of that monotonous, implacably burnished nature, and who
feels a keen joy at the sight of a variegated vegetation and in the
multitudinous colors of the European landscape.

Hautefeuille, for his part, looked at Olivier. Disquieted to the verge
of anxiety by the enigma of a marriage that he had formerly accepted
without remark, he began to study the changing shades of thought, grave
and gay, that flitted across his friend's candid physiognomy. Olivier
was plainly more at ease in the absence of his wife. But he retained the
expression of scorn in his eyes and the bitter curve on his lips that
his friend knew so well. These signs were the invariable forerunners of
one of those acrimonious fits of which Madame de Carlsberg had told
Madame Brion. Pierre had always suffered for his friend when these
crises attacked Olivier, and when he began to speak about himself and
about life in a tone of cruel scorn that disclosed an abnormal state of
cynical disillusion, he suffered doubly to-day; for his heart was
unusually sensitive by reason of the love that filled it. What would his
suffering have been could he have understood the entire significance of
the remarks in which his companion's melancholy sought relief!

"It is strange," Olivier began musingly, "how complete a presentiment of
life we have while still very young! I remember, as clearly as though it
were this very moment, a walk we took together in Auvergne.--I am sure
you do not recall it. We had returned to Chaméane from La Varenne,
during the vacation after our third year. I had spent a fortnight with
your mother, and upon the morrow I was to return to that abominable
rascal, my guardian. It was in September. The sky was as soft as it is
to-day, and the atmosphere was as transparent. We sat down at the foot
of a larch for a few minutes' rest. I could see you before me. I saw the
sturdy tree, the lovely forest, the glorious sky. All at once I felt a
nameless languor, a sickly yearning for death. The idea suddenly came
over me that life held nothing better for me, that I need expect
nothing.--What caused such an idea? Whence did it come, for I was only
sixteen then?--Even now I cannot explain it. But I shall never forget
the intense suffering that wrung my soul that mild afternoon under the
branches of the huge tree, with you by my side. It was as though I felt
in advance all the misery, all the vanity, all the disasters of my
life."

"You have no right to speak in that way," said Hautefeuille. "What
miseries have you? What failures? What disasters?--You are thirty-two.
You are young. You are strong. Everything has smiled upon you. You have
been lucky in fortune, in your career,--in your marriage. You have an
income of eighty thousand a year. You are going to be First Secretary.
You have a charming wife--and a friend from Monomotapa," he added
laughingly.

Olivier's deep sigh pained him keenly. He felt all the melancholy that
had prompted his outbreak, which to others would have seemed singularly
exaggerated! And, as he had often done before, he combated it with a
little commonplace raillery. It was rare that Du Prat, with his
delicate, critical turn of mind, sensitive to the least lack of good
taste, did not also change his mood when his friend spoke in such a way.
But this time the weight upon his heart was too heavy. He continued in a
duller, more hopeless tone:--

"Everything has smiled upon me?" and he shrugged his shoulders. "And yet
it seems so when one makes up the account with words.--But in reality,
at thirty-two youth is over, the real, the only youth is
finished.--Health and good fortune still preserve you from a few
worries, but for how long?--They are not additional happinesses.--As to
my career.--Don't let us speak on that idiotic subject.--And my
marriage?"

He paused for a second as though he recoiled from the confidence he had
been about to make. Then with a bitterness in his voice that made Pierre
shudder, for it revealed an interior abscess that was full to bursting
with an evil, malignant substance:--

"My marriage? Well, it is a failure like all the rest, a frightful,
sinister failure.--But," he added, shaking his head, "what does it
matter, either that or anything else?"

And he went on while Pierre listened without further interruption:--

"Did you never wonder what decided me to marry? You thought, I suppose,
like everybody else, that I was tired of a solitary life, and that I
wanted to settle down, that I had met a match that fulfilled all the
conditions requisite for a happy alliance. Nothing was lacking. There
was a good dowry, an honorable name, a pretty, well-educated girl. And
you thought the marriage the most natural thing in the world. I don't
wonder at it. It was simply an illustration of ordinary ideas. We are
the slaves of custom without even knowing it. We ask why so-and-so has
not married like every one else. But we never think of asking why
so-and-so has married like every one else when he is not every one
else.--Besides, you did not know, you could not know, what bitter
experiences had brought me to that point.--We have always respected each
other in our confidences, my dear Pierre. That is why our friendship has
remained so noble, so rare, something so different from the loathsome
companionship that most men designate by the name. I never spoke to you
about my mistresses, about my loves. I never sought to hear of yours.
Such vilenesses, thank God, have always remained outside our affection."

"Stop," broke in Hautefeuille, hurriedly, "don't sully your souvenirs in
that way. I don't know them, but they must be sacred. If I have never
questioned you about the secrets of your sentiments, my dear Olivier, it
is through respect for them and not through any respect for our
friendship.--Our affection would not have been limited by association
with a true, deep love. Do not calumniate yourself. Do not tell me that
you have never loved truly and deeply, and do not blaspheme."

"True love!" interrupted Olivier, with singular irony. "I don't even
know what the two words taken together mean. I have had more than one
mistress. And, when I think of them, they all represent wild desire,
followed by deeper disgust; bitter sensuality, saturated with jealousy,
much falsehood understood, much falsehood uttered, and not an emotion,
not one, do you understand? Not one that I would wish to recall, not a
happiness, not a noble action, not a satisfaction! Whose fault is it? Is
it due to the women I have met or to myself, to their vileness or to my
poverty of heart?--I cannot say."

"The heart is not poor," interrupted Hautefeuille, with just as much
earnestness, "in him who has been the friend that you have been to me."

"I have been that friend to you because you are yourself, my dear
Pierre," replied Olivier, in a tone of absolute sincerity. "Besides, the
senses have no place in friendship. They have a big one in love, and my
senses are cruel. I have always suffered from evil desires, from wicked
voluptuousness. And I cannot tell you what leaven of ferocity has worked
in the deepest depths of my soul every time that my desires have been
strongly aroused.--I do not justify myself. I do not explain the
mystery. It exists, that is all. And all my _liaisons_, from the first
to the last, have been poisoned by this strange, fermenting mixture of
hatred."

"Yes," he went on, "from the first to the last.--Above all, the
last!--It was at Rome, two years ago. If ever I thought I could love it
was at that time. In that unique city I met a woman, herself unique,
different from the others, with so much unflinching courage in her mind,
so much charm in her heart, without any meanness, without any smallness,
and beautiful!--Ah! so beautiful!--And then our pride clashed and
wounded us both. She had had lovers before me.--One at least, whom I was
sure about.--He was a Russian, and had been killed at Plevna. I knew she
had loved him. And although he was no more, that unreasoning jealousy,
the unjust, inexpressible jealousy of the dead, made me cruel toward the
unhappy woman, even before our first rendezvous, from our first
kisses!--I treated her brutally.--She was proud and coquettish. She
avenged herself for my cruelty. She accepted another lover without
dismissing me--or I thought she did, which amounts to the same
thing.--In any case she made me suffer so horribly that I left her, the
first. I left her abruptly one day without even saying farewell,
swearing that never again would I seek satisfaction in that way.

"I was at the middle of my life. From the passionate experiences I had
tasted, all that remained to me was such a poverty of sentiment, such a
singular interior distortion, if I may so explain myself, such a
terrible weariness of my mode of life, that I made a sudden resolution
to change it, certain that nothing would be, nothing could be,
worse.--There are marriages of calculation, of sentiment, of
convenience, of reason. I made a marriage of weariness.--I don't think
that such cases are rare. But it is much more rare for one to admit
having made such a marriage. I admit it.--I never had but one
originality. I was never hypocritical with myself. I hope to die without
having lost the quality.--There you have my story."

"And yet you seemed to love your _fiancée_," said Pierre. "If you had
not loved her, or if you had not thought you loved her, you, the
honorable friend, whom I know so well, would never have linked your life
with hers."

"I did not love her," replied Olivier. "I never thought I loved her. I
hoped to love her. I told myself that I should feel what I had never
felt at the contact of this soul so different, so new, so fresh, and in
a life that resembled my past so little. Yes, once again I hoped and
tried to feel." He accentuated the words with singular energy. "The real
evil of this twilight of the century is the obstinate headstrong
research of emotion. That malady I have.--I said to myself, to soothe my
conscience: 'If I do not marry this girl, another will. She will be
swept off by one of those countless rascals that flourish upon the Paris
boulevards and one who is only hungry for her dowry. I shall not be a
worse husband than such a one.'--And then I hoped for children, for a
son.--Even that would not stir my heart now, I believe. The experiment
has been made. Six months have been enough. My wife does not love me. I
do not love, I never shall love, my wife.--There is the whole
account.--But you are right. Honor still remains, and I will keep my
word to the best of my ability."

He passed his hand before his eyes and across his brow, as though to
drive away the hideous ideas that he had just evoked with such brutal
frankness, and went on more calmly:--

"I don't know why I should sadden you with my nervousness in the first
moments of our meeting.--Yes, I do know.--It is the fault of this
forest, of the color of the sky, of the souvenir of sixteen years ago,
a souvenir so exact that it is a veritable obsession. However, it is
finished. Don't speak; don't console me. The bitter pill has to be
swallowed without a word."

Then, with a smile, once again tender and open, he said:--

"Let us talk about yourself. What are you doing here? How are you? I see
from your face that the South has cured you. But upon these shores,
where the sun does you good, the weariness of life does you so much
harm, that it is more than compensated for."

"But I assure you I am not weary, not the least in the world!" replied
Pierre.

He felt that Olivier could not, that he ought not to, speak any more
intimately about his married life. His heart was torn by the confidences
he had just been listening to, and he could only wait until the wounds
which had been so suddenly exposed to his view were less irritated, more
healed. There was nothing left for him to do other than to give way to
his friend's capricious curiosity. Besides, if Du Prat was going to stay
at Cannes for any length of time, he must be prepared to see him going
about and paying visits. He, therefore, continued:--

"What do I do?--Really, I hardly know. I simply go on living.--I go out
rather less than ordinarily. You have not yet felt the charm of Cannes,
for you stayed here too short a time. It is a town of little circles.
You must be in one or two to feel the sweetness of this place. I have
been lucky enough to fall into the most agreeable of all.--Tennis, golf,
five o'clock teas, dinners here and there, and you have the springtime
upon you before you have even noticed that August has ended. And then
there is yachting.--When I received your telegram from Cairo, I was at
Genoa making a cruise on board an American's yacht. I will introduce you
to him. His name is Marsh. He is very original, and will amuse you."

"I doubt it very much," replied Olivier. "I don't get along very well
with the Americans. The useless energy of the race tires me even to
think of. And what a lot of them there is!--What numbers I saw in Cairo,
or on the Nile, men and women, all rich, all healthy, all active, all
intelligent, observing everything, understanding everything, knowing
everything, digesting everything!--And all had gone, were going, or were
going again round the world. They seemed to me to be a moral
representation of those mountebanks one seeks at the fairs, who swallow
a raw fowl, a shoe sole, a dozen rifle-balls, and a glass of water into
the bargain.--Where do they store the pile of incoherent impressions
which they must carry away with them?--It is a puzzle to me.--But your
Yankee must be of a different sort, since he seems to have pleased
you.--What reigning or dethroned prince had he on board?"

"None!" replied Hautefeuille, happy to see the misanthropic humor of his
friend disappearing before his gayety. "There was simply his niece, Miss
Florence, who has, I must admit, the ostrich-like stomach which amuses
you so much. She paints, she is an archæologist and a chemist, but she
is also a very fine girl.--Then there was a Venetian lady, the Marchesa
Bonnacorsi, a living Veronese."

"I like them best in pictures," said Olivier. "The resemblance of
Italians to the paintings of the great masters was my despair in Rome.
You enter a salon and you see a Luini talking to a Correggio upon a sofa
in the corner. You draw near them. And you find that the Luini is
telling the plot of the vilest and stupidest of the latest French novel
to the Correggio, who listens to the Luini with an interest that
disgusts you forever with the Madonnas of both painters. But, all the
same, you had a pretty cosmopolitan party on your boat. Two Americans,
an Italian, and a Frenchman.--What other nations were represented?"

"France, or rather Paris, and Austria, that was all.--Paris was
represented by the two Chésys. You know the wife; Yvonne.--Don't you
remember?--Mademoiselle Bressuire."

"What, the girl whom your sister wanted me to marry? She who displayed
her shoulders to the middle of her back and painted her face at sixteen
years old?--Who is her lover?"

"Why, she is the best little woman in the world!" replied Hautefeuille.

"Then she was a poor representative of Paris," said Olivier. "What about
the Austrian?"

"The Austrian?" replied Pierre.

He hesitated for a second. He knew that he would have to speak of his
mistress sooner or later to Olivier. He had only mentioned his cruise in
the yacht in order to bring her name into their first conversation. And
yet he was afraid. What remark would his idol's name call forth from his
ironical friend? There was a little unsteadiness in his voice as he
repeated:

"The Austrian?" and he added, "Oh, Austria was represented by the
Baroness de Carlsberg, whom you met in Rome. We have often spoken about
you."

"Yes, I met her in Rome," said Olivier.

It was now his turn to hesitate. At the sound of that name spoken by his
friend in the silence of the wood where was heard but the rustling of
the pines, his surprise was so great that his very countenance changed.
His hesitation, this alteration in his physiognomy, the very reply of Du
Prat, ought to have warned Hautefeuille of some impending danger. But he
dared not look at his friend, who had now mastered his quivering nerves,
and said:--

"Yes, I remember, the Archduke has a villa at Cannes.--Does she live
with him now?"

"Why, was she separated from him then?" asked Pierre.

"Legally, no; in reality, yes," replied Olivier.

He was too much of a gentleman to make even the least slighting remark
about a woman of whom he had been the lover. The bitter, profound grudge
he bore her manifested itself in a strange way. As he could not, as he
would not speak any evil of her, he began to praise her husband, the man
whom he detested the most in the world.

"I never knew why they could not agree," he said. "She is very
intelligent, and he is one of the first men of his time. He is one of
the three or four important personages, with the Emperor of Brazil, the
Prince of Monaco, and the Archduke of Bavaria, who have taken a place in
the ranks of science to the honor of royalty. It appears that he is a
true scientist."

"He may be a true scientist," replied Hautefeuille; "I don't deny it.
But he is a detestable creature.--If you had only seen him as I did, in
his wife's salon, making a violent scene before six people, you would
admire her for supporting life with that monster, even for a single day,
and you would pity her."

He spoke now with a passionate seriousness. At any time Olivier would
have been surprised at the intensity of this openly avowed interest, for
he knew Pierre to be very undemonstrative. But now, agitated as he was,
the sincerity of his friend surprised him still more, stirred him more
deeply. He looked at him again. He perceived an expression that he had
never before seen on the face he had known from childhood. In a sudden
blinding flash of overpowering intuition, he understood. He did not
grasp the entire truth as yet. But he saw enough to stun him. "Does he
love her?" he asked himself. The question sprang into being in his mind
suddenly, spontaneously, as though an unknown voice had whispered it in
him in spite of himself.

The idea was too unexpected, too agonizing, for a reaction to fail to
follow instantly. "I am mad," he thought; "it is impossible." And yet he
felt that it was beyond his strength to question Pierre about the way he
had made the acquaintance of Madame de Carlsberg, about their trip to
Genoa, about the life he led at Cannes. Such inability to lay bare the
truth seizes one before certain hypotheses which touch the tenderest,
most sensitive part of the heart. He replied simply:--

"Perhaps you are right. I was only going upon hearsay."

The conversation continued without any further mention of the Baroness
Ely's name. The two friends spoke of their travels, of Italy, of Egypt.
But when the spirit of observation is once aroused, it is not soothed to
slumber by a mere act of the will. It is like an instinctive and
uncontrollable force working within us and around us, in spite of us,
until the moment that it has satisfied its desire to know. During the
long promenade, upon their return, during and after dinner, all
Olivier's powers of attention were involuntarily, unceasingly, painfully
concentrated upon Pierre. It was as though there were two beings in him.
He joked, replied to his wife, gave orders about the service. And yet
all his senses were upon the _qui vive_, and he discovered signs by the
score that he had not noticed at first, absorbed as he had been by the
joy of revisiting his friend, and then later by his thoughts about
himself and his destiny.

In the first place, he saw the indefinable but unmistakable indications
of a more virile, more decided personality in Pierre, in his looks, in
his features, in his gestures and attitude. His former _farouche_
timidity had yielded to the proud reserve that the certainty of being
loved gives to some delicate, romantic natures. Next he noted the
principal, the infallible sign of secret happiness, the expression of
tender ecstasy that seemed to lurk in the depths of his eyes, and a
constant faraway look. Never had Olivier noticed this abstraction in
their former conversations. Never had Pierre's thoughts been in other
climes while his friend spoke. Lovers are all alike. They speak to you.
You speak to them. They know not what to say, nor do they hear you.
Their soul is elsewhere. At this moment Pierre's thoughts were upon the
deck of a yacht illumined by the moonbeams; upon the staircase of an old
Italian palace; in the patio of the Villa Helmholtz, far away from the
little table of the hotel dining-room; far away from Madame du Prat,
upon whom he forgot to attend; far away from Olivier, whom he no longer
even saw!

And then Olivier noticed tiny details of masculine adornment, little
nothings which disclosed the tender coquetting of a mistress who would
not have her lover make a gesture without being reminded of her by some
caressing souvenir. Pierre wore a ring upon his little finger that his
friend had never seen, two golden serpents interlaced, with emerald
heads. A St. George medal, which he did not recognize, was hanging to
his watch-chain. In taking out his handkerchief it gave forth a delicate
perfume that Pierre had never formerly used. Olivier had been engaged in
too many intrigues to be mistaken for an instant about any of these
evidences of feminine influence. They were only additional proofs. They
simply confirmed the change he had noticed in Pierre's inexplicable
acquaintance with Corancez, in his liking for cosmopolitan society, in
the unexpected frivolity of his mode of life, in his evident sympathy
for things at Cannes that Olivier had expected would have most shocked
his friend.

How was it possible not to put these facts together? How was it possible
not to draw the conclusion from them that Pierre was in love? But with
whom? Did the energy with which he had attacked the Archduke prove that
he loved Madame de Carlsberg? Had he not defended Madame de Chésy with
the same energy? Had he not equally warmly sung the praises of Madame
Bonnacorsi's beauty, of Miss Marsh's grace?

While Olivier was studying his friend with a super-acute and almost
mechanical tension of the nerves, these three names occurred to him
again and again. Ah! how he longed for another sign among all these
indications; for one irrefutable proof, something that would drive away
and annihilate the first hypothesis, the one that he had seen for an
instant as in a flash, and yet plainly enough for him to be already
possessed by it as by the most ghastly, threatening nightmare.

Toward eleven o'clock Pierre withdrew upon the pretext that the
travellers must be longing to rest. Olivier, having taken leave of his
wife, felt that it was impossible any longer to support this
uncertainty. Often, in former days, when Pierre and he were together in
the country, if one was suffering from insomnia, he would awake the
other, and they would go out for a walk in the night air, talking
incessantly. Olivier thought that this would be the surest way of
exorcising the idea that was again beginning to haunt him, an idea that
stirred up in him, without his knowing why, a wave of unreasoning,
violent, almost savage, revolt. Yes, he would go and talk to
Hautefeuille. That would do him good, although he did not know how nor
of what they would talk.

The most elementary delicacy would prevent him speaking a word that
could arouse the suspicions of his friend, no matter what were the
relations that existed between Pierre and Ely de Carlsberg. But the
conversations of close friends afford such opportunities! Perhaps an
intonation of the voice, a look, a movement, would furnish him with the
passionately desired sign after which he would never again even think of
the possibility of Pierre having a sentiment for his former mistress.

He was already in bed when this idea seized him. Automatically, without
any further reflection, he rose. He descended the staircases of the
immense hotel, now silent and in semi-darkness. He arrived at
Hautefeuille's door. He knocked. There was no reply. He knocked again,
and again there was silence. The key was in the lock. He turned it and
entered. By the light of the moon that flooded the room through the open
window, he saw that the bed was undisturbed. Pierre had gone out.

Why did Olivier feel a sudden pain at his heart, followed by an
inexpressible rush of melancholy, as he noticed this? He went and leaned
on the window rail. He glanced over the immense horizon. He saw all the
serene beauty of the Southern night, the stars that glittered in the
soft, velvety blue of the sky, the bronzed golden moon whose beams
played caressingly with the sea--the sea that rolled supple and vast
afar off. He saw the lights of the town shining among the black masses
of shrubbery in the gardens. The warm breeze enveloped him with the
languorous, enthralling, enchanting odor of lemon blossom. What a divine
night for the meeting of lovers! And what a divine night for a lover
dreaming of his mistress, as he wandered along the solitary paths!--Was
Pierre that lover? Had he gone to meet his mistress? Or was he simply
pursuing his vision in the perfumed solitude of the gardens?--How was he
to know?--Olivier thought of the Yvonne de Chésy with whom he had
danced. He recalled all the Americans and the Italians he had ever
known, in order to compose a Marchesa Bonnacorsi and an ideal Florence
Marsh.--It was in vain! Always did his imagination return to the
souvenir of Ely de Carlsberg, to that mistress of a so short time ago,
whose image was still so present. Always did his thoughts return to the
memory of those caresses, whose intoxicating tenderness he had tested.
And he sighed, sadly and mournfully, in the pure night air:--

"Ah! What unhappiness if he loves her! My God! What unhappiness!"


His sigh floated off and was lost in the soft voluptuous breeze which
bore it away from him who unconsciously called it forth. At this moment
Pierre was making his way through the shrubbery of the Villa Helmholtz
gardens as he had done once before. He arrived at the door of the
hothouse. A woman awaited him there, trembling with love and
terror.--What caused the terror? Hot the fear of being surprised in this
secret meeting. Ely's courage was superior to such weaknesses. No. She
knew that Olivier had returned that day. She knew that he had passed the
afternoon talking with Pierre. She knew that her name must have been
pronounced between them. She was certain that Pierre would not betray
their dear secret. But he was so young, so innocent, so transparent to
the observer, while the other was so penetrating, so keen!--She was
going to learn if their love had been suspected by Olivier, if this man
had warned his friend against her in revenge.--When she heard Pierre's
slow, furtive footsteps upon the pathway, her heart beat so strongly
that she seemed to hear it echo through the deathly silence of the
hothouse!--He is here. She takes his hand. She feels that the beloved
fingers reply with their old confident pressure. She takes him in her
arms. She seeks his mouth and their lips unite in a kiss in which she
feels that he is all hers to the depths of his soul. That other has not
spoken! And now tears begin to flow down the cheeks of the loving woman,
warm tears that the lover dries with his burning kisses, as he asks:--

"What, are you weeping! What is it, my beloved?"

"I love you," she replies, "and they are tears of joy."



CHAPTER VIII


FRIEND AND MISTRESS


Olivier du Prat thought he knew himself. It was a pretension he had
often justified. He was really, as he had said to Hautefeuille, a child
of the declining century in his tastes, in his passion, almost mania,
for self-analysis, in his thirst for emotions, in his powerlessness to
remain faithful to any one of his sensations, in his useless lucidity,
as regarded himself, and in his indulgence of the morbid, unsatisfied,
unquiet longings of his nature. He felt his case was irremediable, the
gloomy sign that characterizes the tragically disturbed age we live in,
and one of the infallible marks of decadence in a race. Healthy life
does not entirely rest upon a freedom from wounds. For the body as for
the soul, for a nation as for an individual, vigorous life is indicated
by the power to heal those that are made. Olivier was entirely without
this capacity. Even the most distant troubles of his childhood became so
real as to be agonizing when he thought of them after all the years that
had passed. In recalling their walk among the mountains of Auvergne, as
he had done the night before to Pierre, he had simply been thinking
aloud as he always thought to himself. His imagination was incessantly
occupied in turning and returning with an unhealthy activity of mental
retrospection, to the hours, the minutes, that had forever vanished. In
his mind he reanimated, revived, the past and lived it over again. And
by this self-abandonment to a past sensitiveness he continually
destroyed all present sensitiveness. He never allowed the wounds that
had once been made to heal over, and his oldest injury was always ready
to bleed afresh.

This unfortunate singularity of his nature would, under any
circumstances, have made a meeting with Madame de Carlsberg very
painful, even though the dearest friend of his youth had not been
concerned in it. And he would never have heard that his friend loved
without being deeply moved. He knew he was so tender-hearted, so
defenceless, so vulnerable! Here, again, he was the victim of a
retrospective sensitiveness. Friendship carried to the extreme point
that his feeling for Hautefeuille occupied is a sentiment of the
eighteenth rather than of the thirty-second year. In the first flush of
youth, when the soul is all innocence, freshness, and purity, these
fervent companionships, these enthusiasms of voluntary fraternity, these
passionate, susceptible, absolute friendships, often appear to quickly
fade away. Later in life self-interest and experience individualize one
and isolation is unavoidable. Complete communion of soul with soul
becomes possible only by the sorcery of love, and friendship ceases to
suffice. It is relegated to the background with those family affections
that once also occupied a unique place in the child and in the youth.
Certain men there are, however, and Olivier was one of the number, upon
whom the impression made by friendships about their eighteenth year has
been too deep, too ineffaceable, and, above all, too delicate, to be
ever forgotten, and even to be ever equalled. It remains an incomparable
sentiment. These men, like Olivier, may pass through burning passions,
suffer all the feverish shocks of love, be bruised in the most daring
intrigues, but the true romance of their sensitive natures is not to be
found in these passions. It is to be found in those hours of life when,
in thought, they project themselves into the future with an ideal
companion, with a brother that they have chosen, in whose society they
realize for an instant La Fontaine's sublime fable, the complete union
of mind, tastes, hopes:--


"And one possess'd nothing that the other did not share."


In the case of Olivier and Pierre this ideal comradeship had been
sacredly cemented. Not only had they been brothers in their dreams, they
had been brothers in arms. They were nineteen years of age in 1870. At
the first news of the immense national shipwreck both had enlisted. Both
had gone through the entire war. The first snowfall of the winter that
saw the terrible campaign found them bivouacking upon the banks of the
Loire. It was as though this friendship of the two students, now become
soldiers in the same battalion, had been heroically baptized. And they
had learned to esteem as much as they loved each other as they simply,
bravely, obscurely risked their lives side by side. These souvenirs of
their youth had remained intact and living in both, but particularly in
Olivier. For him they were the only recollections unmixed with
bitterness, unsullied by remorse. Before these memories his life had
been full of sadness, completely orphaned as he had been early in life
and turned over to the guardianship of a horribly selfish uncle. Sensual
and jealous, suspicious and despotic as he was, he had only known the
bitterness and the pains of love apart from his souvenirs of Pierre.
Nothing more is necessary to explain to what a degree this illogical and
passionate, this troubled and disillusioned being was moved by the mere
idea that a woman had come between his friend and him--and what a woman,
if she were Madame de Carlsberg, so hated, despised, condemned by him
formerly!

Olivier's imagination could only attach itself to two precise facts
during the night that followed the arousing of his first suspicions,--a
night that was given up to the consideration, one by one, of the
possibilities of a love-affair between Ely and Hautefeuille. These were
the character of his friend and that of his former mistress. The
character of his friend made him fear for him; the character of his
former mistress made him fear for her. Upon this latter point also his
feelings were very complex. He was convinced that Ely de Carlsberg had
had a lover before him, and the idea had tortured him. He was convinced
that she had had a lover at the same time with him, and he had left her
on account of this idea. He was mistaken, but he was sincere, and had
only yielded to proofs of coquetry that appeared sufficiently damaging
to convince his jealous nature. This double conviction had left in him a
scornful resentment against Ely; had left that inexpiable bitterness
which compels us to continually vilify in our mind an image that we
despairingly realize can never become entirely indifferent to us. He
would have considered a _liaison_ with such a creature a frightful
misfortune for any man. What, then, were his feelings when he saw that
she had made herself beloved by his friend or that she might make
herself beloved?--Having such a prejudiced, violent contempt for this
sort of woman, Olivier divined what was really the truth, although it
had remained so for so short a time. Ely had been angered by his
departure. She had felt the same resentment with him that he had felt
with her. Chance had brought her face to face with his dearest friend,
with Pierre Hautefeuille, of whom he had so often spoken in exalted
terms. She must have decided upon revenge, upon a vengeance that
resembled her--criminal, refined, and so profoundly, so cruelly,
intelligent!--In this way Du Prat reasoned. And, although his reasoning
was only hypothetical, he felt, as he fed his mind with such thoughts, a
suffering mingled with a sort of unhealthy and irresistible satisfaction
that would have terrified him had he considered it calmly. To suppose
that Madame de Carlsberg had avenged herself upon him with such
calculation was to suppose that she had not forgotten him. The windings
in the human heart are so strange! In spite of the fact that he had
insulted his former mistress all the time they had been together, that
he had left her first, without a farewell, that he had married after due
reflection, and had resolved to keep his vows honorably--in spite of all
this, the idea that she still remembered him secretly stirred him
strangely. It must be remembered that he was just passing through one of
the most dangerous moments of conjugal existence. Every moral crisis is
complicated with a multitude of contradictory elements in souls such as
his,--souls without fixed principles, that are turned aside at every
moment by the influence of their faintest impression. Marriages
contracted through sheer lassitude, such as the one he admitted having
contracted, bring down their own punishment upon the abominable egoism
that prompts them. They have to pay a penalty worse than the most
redoubtable catastrophe. They are followed immediately by profound,
incurable weariness. The man, thirty years of age, who, thinking he is
disgusted forever with sensual passions, and who, mistaking this disgust
for wisdom, settles down, as the saying is, quickly finds that those
very passions that sickened him are as necessary to him as morphine is
to the morphine maniac who has been deprived of his Pravaz syringe, as
necessary as alcohol is to the inebriate put upon a _régime_ of pure
water. He suffers from a species of nostalgia, of longing for those
unhealthy emotions whose fruitlessness he has himself recognized and
condemned. If a brutal but very exact comparison can be borrowed from
modern pathology, he becomes a favorable medium for the cultivation of
all the morbid germs floating in his atmosphere. And at the very moment
when everything seems to point to the pacific arrangement of their
destiny, some revolution takes place, as it was doing in Olivier,--a
revolution so rapid, so terrible, that the witness and victims of these
sudden wild outbursts are left almost more disconcerted than despairing.

He had therefore passed the night meditating upon all the details,
significant and unimportant, that he had observed in the afternoon and
evening, from the moment he had remarked the unexpected intimacy of
Pierre with Corancez until the instant he had entered his friend's
chamber hoping for an explanation, and had found it empty.

Toward five o'clock he fell asleep, slumbering brokenly and heavily as
one does in a railway train in the morning. He dreamed upon the lines of
thought that had kept him awake, as was to be expected. But it
heightened his uneasiness by an appearance of presentiment. He thought
he was again in the little salon of the palace at Rome, where Ely de
Carlsberg used to receive him. Suddenly his wife arrived, leading Pierre
Hautefeuille by the hand. Pierre stopped, as though smitten with terror,
and tried to scream. Suddenly paralysis struck him down, turning his leg
rigid, forcing out his left eye, drawing down the corner of his mouth,
whence not a sound issued! The suffering caused by this nightmare was so
intense that Olivier felt its influence even after he was awake.

He felt so ill that he could not even wait to see his wife before going
out. He scribbled a line telling her that he was suffering from a slight
headache, and that he had gone out to try and seek relief. He added that
he had not liked to disturb her so early in the morning, and that he
would be back about nine o'clock. He told her, however, that she was not
to await his return should he happen to be late.

He felt that he must steady his nerves by means of a long walk so as to
be prepared to cope with the events of the day, which he was convinced
would be decisive. Prolonged walks were his invariable remedy in his
nervous crises, and he might have been successful this time if, after
having walked straight before him for some time, he had not come, about
ten o'clock, to the corner of the Rue d'Antibes, the most animated and
interesting part of Cannes.

At this hour the long corridor-like street was one mass of sharply
outlined shadow, swept and freshened by one of those brisk breezes that
impart a touch of crispness to the burning air of morning in Provence.
The carriage wheels seemed to roll more rapidly, the horses' hoofs
seemed to ring more resonantly upon the white roadway.

Young people were passing to and fro, English for the most part,
attending with characteristic thoroughness to their after-breakfast
constitutional or their before-lunch exercise. They walked along,
overtaking or meeting young girls with whom they chatted gayly, having
doubtless arranged the meeting upon the preceding evening. Others were
hastening to the station to catch the train for Nice or Monte Carlo.
Their manner, bearing, and costume bore that indescribable imprint of a
frivolous life of amusement. Olivier was all the more deeply impressed
by this from the mere fact that he had formerly been a leader in such an
aimless mode of life.

Mornings such as this recurred to his mind. He remembered his life in
Rome just two years before. Yes, the sky was of the same shade of blue,
the same fresh breeze softened the sun's burning rays in the streets.
Carriages rolled along there with the same busy hurry, people walked
about wearing the same unconcerned look of amused idleness. And he,
Olivier, was one of those promenaders.

He remembered just such a morning when he had gone to meet Ely at some
appointed place. He had bought some flowers in the Piazza di Spagna to
brighten the room where he was to meet her.

Moved by that mechanical parody of will which remembrance sometimes
calls into action, he entered a florist's in this Rue d'Antibes, which
had recalled to him the Roman Corso for a moment. Roses, pinks,
narcissus, anemones, mimosa, and violets were piled up in heaps on the
counter. Everywhere was displayed the glorious prodigality of the soil
which, from Hyères to San Remo, is nothing but a vast garden nestling
upon the shores of the sea. The shop was filled with a sweet penetrating
odor which resembled the perfumes that enveloped them in their hours of
love long ago.

The young man carelessly selected a cluster of pinks. He came out again
holding them in his hand. And the thought flashed into his mind: "I have
no one to whom I can offer them!" As a contrast to this thought the
image of his friend and Madame de Carlsberg recurred to him. The thought
provoked another sentiment in addition to those of which he had been the
prey for some sixteen hours. He felt the most instinctive, the most
unreasoning jealousy. He shrugged his shoulders and was just upon the
point of flinging the pinks into the road when he thought, in a rush of
the ironical self-analysis with which he often found relief for his
weary heart:--

"It is your own doing, Georges Dandin," he thought. "I will offer the
bouquet to my wife. It will give me an excuse for having gone out
without saying good morning."

Berthe was seated before her desk, writing a letter in her long,
characterless hand, upon a travelling pad, when he entered the salon of
their little apartment at the hotel, to carry out his project of marital
gallantry,--something very novel for him. Around the blotter a score of
tiny knick-knacks were arranged--a travelling clock, portraits in
leather frames, an address book, a note pad--all ready as though she had
inhabited the room for several weeks, instead of several hours. She was
dressed in a tailor-made costume which she had put on with the idea that
her husband would certainly return to show her around Cannes. Then, as
he was late, she began to reply to overdue correspondence with an
apparent calmness that completely deceived Olivier.

She did not let him see the slightest sign of vexation or reproach when
he came in. Her rigid features remained just as cold and fixed as
before. The two young people had begun this life of distant politeness
in the early weeks of their married life. Of all forms of conjugal
existence, this form is the most contrary to nature and the most
exceptional in the beginning. The fact that a marriage has been a
failure must be an accepted one before it is possible to realize that
politeness is the sole remedy for incompatibility of temper. It, at any
rate, reduces the difficulties of daily intercourse which is as
intolerable when love is lacking as it is sweet and necessary in a happy
marriage.

But even in the most inharmonious households this very politeness often
conceals in one of the two persons displaying it all the violence of
passion, kept in check because misunderstood. Was this the case with
Madame du Prat, with this child of twenty-two, with this woman so
completely mistress of herself that she seemed to be naturally
indifferent? Did she suffer because of her husband without showing it?
The future would show. For the moment she was a woman of the world
travelling, tranquil in aspect, who held up her forehead for the kiss of
her lord and master, without a complaint, without a shade of surprise,
even when he began:--

"I am sorry I let the luncheon hour go by. I hope you did not wait for
me. I have brought you these flowers in the hope that you will excuse
me."

"They are very beautiful," replied Berthe, burying her face in the
bouquet and inhaling its subtle perfume.

The brilliant reds of the large flowers, so warm and rich in hue, seemed
to accentuate all the coldness of her blond beauty. Her blue eyes had
something metal lie in their depth, something steely, as though they had
never felt the softening influence of a tear. And yet, from the manner
in which she revelled in the musky, pungent odor of the flowers offered
her by her husband, it was easy to detect an almost emotional
nervousness. But there was no trace of this in the tone with which she
asked:--

"Have you been out without eating?--That is very foolish.--Has your
headache disappeared?--You must have slept badly last night, for I heard
you walking about."

"Yes; I had a little attack of insomnia," replied Olivier, "but it is
nothing. The open air on such a beautiful morning has put me all right
again.--Have you seen Hautefeuille?" he added.

"No," she replied dryly. "Where could I see him? I have not been out."

"And he has not asked after me?"

"Not that I know of."

"He is perhaps also unwell," continued Olivier. "If you don't mind, I
will go and ask after him."

He left the salon before he had finished speaking. The young woman
remained with her forehead resting upon her hand in the same attitude.
Her cheeks were burning, and although she was not weeping, her heart was
swollen with grief, and her breathing was agitated and hurried. She
became another woman with Olivier absent. Apart from him she could
abandon herself completely to the strange sentiment that her husband
inspired in her. She felt a sort of wounded and unrequited affection for
him. Her feelings could not seek relief either in reproaches or in
caresses. They were, therefore, in a constant state of mute irritation.
Under such moral conditions Olivier's visibly partial affection for
Pierre could not be very sympathetic to the young woman, particularly
since their return to Cannes, which had delayed their return just at the
moment she was longing to see her family again.

But there was another reason that caused her to detest this friendship.
Like all young women who marry into a different circle from their own,
she was mortally anxious about her husband's past. Olivier, in one of
those half-confidences that even the most self-contained men fall into
in the moment of candor following marriage, had allowed her to see that
he had suffered a particularly cruel disillusion in the latter part of
his bachelor life. Another half-confidence had enabled her to learn that
this incident had taken place at Rome, and that the cause of it was a
foreigner of noble birth.

Olivier had completely forgotten these two imprudent phrases, but Berthe
treasured them in the recesses of her memory. She had even not been
content to brood over the avowals; she had put them side by side, and
had completed them by that species of mental mosaic work in which women
excel, seizing a detail here, another there, in the most insignificant
conversation to add them to the story upon which they are at work. They
make deductions in this way that the most scientific observers, the most
wily detectives, cannot equal.

Olivier had not the least suspicion of this work going, on in Berthe's
mind. Still less did he suspect that she had discovered the first name
of this unknown mistress, a name whose very singularity had helped to
betray it. It happened in this way: When they were married he had
destroyed a number of letters, thrown a lot of faded flowers into the
fire with many a portrait. Then--it is the common story of those mental
_autos da fé_--his hand had trembled in taking up some of these relics,
relics of a troubled, unhappy youth, of his youth. And this had made him
treasure a portrait of Madame de Carlsberg, in profile, so beautiful, so
clear cut, so marvellously like the profile of some antique medallion
that he could not bear to burn it. He slipped the portrait into an
envelope, and, some one happening to call upon him at this moment, he
placed the envelope in a large portfolio in which he carried his papers.
Then he forgot all about it. He had never thought about the portrait
until he was in Egypt. Again he decided to burn it, and again he could
not bear to destroy it.

In the cosmopolitan society into which his diplomatic functions called
him it is a frequent thing for women to give their photographs bearing
their signatures to their friends, sometimes even to mere acquaintances.
Ely's name written at the foot of the photograph, therefore, signified
nothing. Berthe would never find the portrait, or if she did all that he
would need to do would be to speak of her as an acquaintance. He,
therefore, returned the photograph to its hiding-place in the portfolio,
and one day the improbable happened in the simplest way in the world.
They were staying at Luxor. He happened to be away from the hotel for a
short time. Berthe, who during the entire journey kept the accounts of
their expenses with a natural and cultivated exactitude, was looking for
a bill that her husband had paid, and, without thinking, opened the
portfolio. There she found the photograph. But the second half of
Olivier's reasoning was faulty. She never thought of questioning him
upon the subject. The presence of the portrait among Olivier's papers,
the regal and singular beauty of the woman's face, the strangely foreign
name, the elegant toilet, the place where the photograph had been
taken,--Rome,--all told the young wife that this was the mysterious
rival who had taken up such a large place in her husband's past.

She thought about it continually. But she could not speak to Olivier
without his thinking that she had spied upon him, that she had
deliberately searched among his papers. And besides, what was there to
ask him about? She divined all that she did not actually know. So she
kept silent, her heart seared with this torturing and fatal curiosity.

Her knowledge was sufficient to make her think, when her husband went
out the day before with the most intimate friend of his youth: "They are
going to talk about her!" For who could be in Olivier's confidence if
not Pierre Hautefeuille? Was any other reason necessary to explain her
antipathy? She had noticed Olivier's agitation upon his return from the
walk with his friend. And she had said to herself: "They have talked
about her." In the night she had heard her husband walking restlessly
about in his room, and she had thought: "He is thinking about her." And
this was the reason why she remained, now that the door was again
closed, alone, her brow resting upon her hand, motionless, with her
heart beating as though it would burst, and hating with an intense
hatred the friend who knew what she ignored. By dint of concentrated
reflection, she had divined a part of the truth. It would have been
better for her, better for Olivier, better for all, had she only known
it all!

Olivier's heart was also beating rapidly when, after having knocked at
Pierre's door, he heard the words, "Come in," spoken by the voice he
knew so well and whose sound he had so longed to hear the night before
upon this very staircase. Pierre was not yet out of bed, though it was
eleven o'clock. He excused himself merrily.

"You see what Southern habits I have fallen into. I shall soon be like
one of the Kornows who stays here. Corancez called the other day and
found him in bed at five o'clock in the afternoon. 'You know,' said
Kornow, 'we are not early risers in Russia.'"

"You do well to take care of yourself," said Olivier, "seeing that you
have been so ill."

He had spoken with some embarrassment and a little at random. How he
wished his friend would tell him of his nocturnal promenade in reply!
But no, a little crimson flush colored Pierre's cheek, and that was all.
But it was sufficient to remove all doubt from Olivier's mind as to the
reason of his midnight absence. His mind suddenly made a choice between
the two alternatives imagined when he had found the room empty. The
evidence was overpowering. Pierre had a mistress and he had gone to meet
her. He saw the countenance, still so youthful, reposing upon the pillow
and bearing the traces of a voluptuous lassitude imprinted upon it. The
eyes were sunken, his face had that pallor that follows the excesses of
a too exquisite passion, as though the blood were momentarily fatigued,
and his lips were curved in a smile that was both languid and yet
contented.

While chatting upon one thing and another, Olivier noted all these
overwhelming indications. He suffered, almost physically, as he remarked
them, and â pang of agonizing pain shot through his heart, a pain that
almost wrung a cry from him, at the idea that the caresses which had.
left Pierre weary, and still intoxicated, had been lavished upon him by
Ely.

With the passionate anxiety of a trembling friendship, of an awakening
jealousy, of a longing that refuses to be calmed, of a curiosity that
will not slumber, he continued his implacable and silent reasoning. Yes,
Pierre had a mistress. And this mistress was a society woman, and not
free. The proof of this was the hour fixed for their meeting, in the
precautions taken, and, above all, in the strange pride in his beloved
secret that the lover had in the depths of his eyes. To meet her he must
have had to go through a thicket in some garden. Upon his return, Pierre
had flung his soft hat that he had worn during his promenade upon the
drawers. Little twigs of shrubbery still remained on the brim, and a
faint green line bore witness to a passage through foliage pushed on one
side with the head. The young man had placed his jewellery near the hat,
and lying in close proximity to the watch and keys and purse, was the
ring that Olivier had already noticed, the two serpents interlaced, with
emerald heads. Du Prat rose from his chair under the pretext of walking
about the room, in reality to take up the ring. It fascinated him with
an unhealthy, irresistible attraction. As he passed before the commode,
he took up the ring, mechanically and without ceasing to talk, and
turned it about in his hand for a second with an indifferent air. He
noticed an inscription engraved in tiny letters upon its inner surface.
_Ora e sempre_, "Now and forever." It was a phrase that Prince Fregoso
had used in speaking about Greek art, and, as a souvenir of their voyage
to Genoa, Ely had had the idea of having the words engraved upon the
love talisman she gave to Pierre upon their return. Olivier could not
possibly divine the hidden meaning of this tender allusion to hours of
ecstatic happiness. He laid down the ring again without any comment. But
if any doubt had remained in his mind as to what was causing him such
secret anxiety, it would have disappeared before his immediate relief.
He found nothing in the ring to suggest, as he had expected, a present
from Madame de Carlsberg. On the contrary, the words, in Italian, again
suggested the idea that Pierre's mistress might just as easily be Madame
Bonnacorsi as the Baroness Ely. He thought, "I am the horse galloping
after its shadow once more." And, looking at his friend, who had again
crimsoned under Olivier's brief scrutiny, he asked:--

"Is the Italian colony here very large?"

"I know the Marchesa Bonnacorsi and her brother, Navagero.--And I must
admit the latter is a sort of Englishman much more English than all the
Englishmen in Cannes!"

Hautefeuille reddened still more as he spoke of the Venetian. He guessed
what association of ideas had suggested Olivier's question so quickly
after having toyed with the ring and after having undoubtedly read the
inscription. His friend thought the souvenir was the gift of some
Italian. And who could this be if not the Marchesa Andryana? Any one
else would have hailed with satisfaction the error that turned his
friend's watchful perspicacity in a wrong direction. Hautefeuille,
however, was too sensitive not to be pained by a mistake that
compromised an irreproachable woman, to whose marriage he had even been
a witness.

His embarrassment, his crimson cheeks, a slight hesitation in his voice,
were only so many signs to Olivier that he was upon the right path. He
felt remorse at having yielded to an almost instinctive impulse. He was
afraid he had wounded his friend and he wished to ask his pardon. But to
ask pardon for an indiscretion is sometimes only to be more indiscreet.
All that he could do, all that he did, was to make up a little for the
impression his sarcasm upon the day before must have made upon
Hautefeuille if he was in love with the Venetian. Navagero's Anglomania
served him as a pretext to caricature in a few words a snob of the same
order whom he had met in Rome and he then said, in conclusion:--

"I was in a vile temper yesterday, and I must have appeared somewhat
prudish in my fit of sepia.--I have often been amused by the motley
society one meets in watering-places, and I have felt all the charm of
the women from other countries!--I was younger then.--I remember even
having been fond of Monte Carlo!--I am curious to see it again. Suppose
we dine there to-day? It would amuse Berthe, and I don't think it would
bore me."

He spoke truly. In such mental crises, purely imaginary, the first
moments of relief are accompanied by a strange feeling of
light-heartedness, which shows itself in an almost infantile gayety,
often as unreasoning as the motives from which it springs. During the
rest of the time until the train started for Nice Olivier astonished his
wife and friend by the change in his temper and conversation, a change
that was inexplicable for them. The _Ora e sempre_ of the ring and its
sentimentality; all his recollections of the simplicity, of the
naïveté of Italians in love; the opulent beauty that Pierre had
suggested in comparing Madame Bonnacorsi to a Veronese,--all gave him
the idea that his friend was the lover of an indulgent and willing
mistress, one who was both voluptuous and gentle. It pleased him to
think of this happy passion. He felt as much satisfaction in
contemplating it as he had suffered at the thought of the other
possibility. And he believed in all good faith that his anxiety of the
night before and of the morning had been solely prompted by his
solicitude about Hautefeuille, and that his present content grew out of
his reassured friendship.

A very simple incident shattered all this edifice of voluntary and
involuntary illusions. At Golfe Juan Station, as Hautefeuille was
leaning a little out of the window, a voice hailed him. Olivier
recognized the indestructible accent of Corancez. The door opened and
gave admittance to a lady, no other than the ex-Marchesa Bonnacorsi,
escorted by the Southerner. When she saw that Pierre was not alone,
Andryana could not help blushing to the roots of her beautiful blond
hair, while Corancez, equal to every circumstance, always triumphant,
beaming, smiling, performed the necessary introduction. The conjugal
seducer had thought of everything, and before leaving for Genoa he had
established a meeting-place in one of the villas at Golfe Juan in which
to enjoy the prolongation of their secret honeymoon. Andryana had
managed to cheat her brother's watchfulness and had gone to meet her
husband upon the first day of his arrival. Her happiness began to give
her the courage upon which the wily Southerner had counted to bring his
enterprise to a successful conclusion, but he had not yet trained her to
lie with grace. Hardly was she seated in the compartment when she said
to Olivier and his wife, without waiting for any question:--

"I missed the last train, and as Monsieur de Corancez did the same, we
decided to walk to Golfe Juan to take the next train instead of waiting
wearily in the station at Cannes."

All the time she was speaking Olivier was looking at her little patent
leather shoes and the hem of her dress, which gave such a palpable lie
to her statement. There was not a speck of dust upon them and her
alleged walking companion's gaiters had very evidently not taken more
than fifty steps. The married plotters surprised Olivier's look. It
completed the Italian's confusion and almost provoked a wild fit of
laughter in Corancez, who said merrily:--

"Are you going to Monte Carlo? I will perhaps meet you there. Where
shall you dine?"

"I don't know," replied Olivier, with a forbidding tone that was almost
rude.

He did not speak another word while the train fled along the coast,
flying through tunnel after tunnel. The Southerner, without taking any
notice of his old comrade's very apparent bad temper, entered into a
conversation with Madame du Prat, which he managed to make almost a
friendly one.

"So this is the first time you have been to the gaming-rooms, madame? In
that case I shall ask you to let me play as you think best, in case we
meet in the rooms.--Good, here is another tunnel.--Do you know what the
Americans call this bit of the railway?--Has Miss Marsh not told you,
Marchesa?--No?--Well, they call it 'the flute,' because there are only
a few holes up above from time to time.--Isn't it pretty? How did you
like Egypt, madame?—They say Alexandria is like Marseilles.--But the
Marseillais would say they have no mistral.--Hautefeuille, you know my
_cocher_, L'Ainé, as they call him?--About a couple of months ago at
Cannes--one day when all the villas were rocking--he said to me: 'Do you
like the South, Monsieur Marius?'--'Yes,' I replied, 'if it were not for
the wind.' '_Hé, pécheire_!' he cried, 'wind! Why, there is never any
wind upon this coast, from Marseilles to Nice!' 'What is that?' I asked,
pointing to one of the palms on the Croisette, which was so much bent
upon one side that it was slipping into the sea. 'Do you call that the
wind, Monsieur Marius?' he said; 'why, that is not wind--it is the
mistral, which makes Provence so bright and cheerful!'"

"No, Corancez is the Italian's real lover," thought Olivier. He had only
needed to see Hautefeuille with Andryana a couple of minutes to be quite
convinced. She was certainly not the unknown mistress with whom the
young man had passed part of the previous night.

The evident intimacy existing between her and the Southerner, their
pleasure together, the too apparent falsehood she had told, the
fascination Corancez's showiness had for her, as well as a host of
indications, left no room for doubt.

"Yes," he repeated, "there is her lover.--They are worthy of each other.
This beautiful, luxuriant woman, who might sell oranges on the Riva dei
Schiavoni, is a fitting mate for this handsome chatterbox! Heavens! What
an accurate observer he was who said:--'Will you be quiet a minute,
Bouches-du-Rhône?'--Just look how complacently Hautefeuille listens to
him! He does not seem at all astonished at these people vaunting their
adultery in a train side by side with a young married couple. How he has
changed!"

With all his scepticism, Olivier was still a slave to current illogical
prejudices. While he was young it had seemed the most natural thing in
the world for him to carry on his intrigues under the shelter of
pure-minded women who might happen to be friends or relatives of his
mistresses. And yet he was astonished that Pierre was not shocked at the
idea of Madame Bonnacorsi and Corancez installing themselves comfortably
in the same compartment as Monsieur and Madame du Prat! But the
principal portion of his reflections had to do with the painful
deductions that had been interrupted for a few hours. "No," he thought,
"this plump Italian and this mountebank from the South cannot interest
him.--If he tolerates them at all, it is because they are in his secret;
they represent an easy-going complicity, or they are simply people who
know his mistress.--For I am sure he has one. Even though I did not know
that he had passed the night away from his room, even had I not seen him
in bed this morning, with sunken eyes and pallid complexion, even had I
not held in my hands his ring with its inscription, I should only have
to look at him now.--He is another man!"

As he soliloquized in this way Olivier watched his friend intently,
taking note of every movement with eager avidity, observing the very
fluttering of his eyelids, of his respiration, as closely as a savage
would note, analyze, and interpret the trampled grass, a footprint in
the earth, a broken branch, a crumpled leaf upon the road taken by a
fugitive.

He also noticed the weakening of the exclusively Gallic character in
Pierre, which he had formerly liked. The young man had been in love with
Ely only three months; it was only three weeks since he had learned that
she loved him; but by dint of thinking of her all his associations of
ideas, all his quotations, had been modified insensibly but strikingly.
His conversation was tinged with an exotic quality. He referred to
Italian and Austrian matters quite naturally. He who formerly astonished
Olivier by his absolute lack of curiosity, now appeared to enjoy with
the pleasure of the newly initiated the stories of the cosmopolitan
society to which he was attached by secret but none the less living
bonds. He had now an interest in it, was accustomed to it, sympathized
with it. And yet nothing in his letters had prepared his friend for this
metamorphosis.

Olivier continued to seek indications disclosing the identity of the
woman he loved in his conversation, in the expression on Pierre's face,
in the least important words of the three speakers. Berthe, who had
hardly deigned to reply to Corancez's attempts to interest her, now
appeared absorbed in contemplation of the beautiful view across the sea.
The afternoon was drawing to its close. The sheets of blue and violet
water slumbered in the indented coast. The foam tossed about, appearing
and disappearing around the big wooded promontories. And on the other
side, shutting in the horizon, beyond the deep mountains, were outlined
the white sierras of the snowclad peaks.

But the young woman's self-absorption was but in appearance. And if
Olivier had not been too startled by the sound of a name suddenly
mentioned he must have seen that the name also made a shudder run
through his wife.

"Are you dining at the Villa Helmholtz to-morrow?" Madame Bonnacorsi
asked Hautefeuille.

"I shall go later in the evening," he replied.

"Do you know whether the Baroness Ely is at Monte Carlo to-day?" asked
Corancez.

"No," answered Hautefeuille; "she is dining with the Grand Duchess
Vera."

Simple as was the sentence, his voice trembled as he spoke. It would
have seemed to him both puerile and ignoble to attempt to hide anything
from Olivier, and it was perfectly natural for Corancez, who knew of his
relations with Madame de Carlsberg, to ask him about such a trifling
matter. But the gift of second sight seems to descend upon lovers. He
felt that his friend was watching him with a singular expression in his
eyes. And--more extraordinary still--his friend's young wife was also
observing him. The knowledge of the tender secret he carried hidden in
his heart, a sanctuary of adoration, made the glances so painful to
support that insensibly his face disclosed his feelings just
sufficiently to enable the two people spying upon him at the moment to
find food in his momentary agitation for their thoughts.

"The Baroness Ely?--Why, that is the name on the portrait!"--How was it
possible for Berthe to avoid the rapid reflection? And then she thought:
"Can this woman be at Cannes? How embarrassed both Olivier and Pierre
look!"

As for Olivier, he thought: "He knows all about her movements.--How
naturally Corancez asked him about her!--That is just the tone such
people adopt in speaking with you about a woman with whom you have a
_liaison_.--And yet, is it possible there is such a _liaison_?"

Was it possible? The inner voice, stilled for a moment by the words
engraved on the ring, again began to be heard. It replied that a
_liaison_ between Ely and Pierre was not only possible; it was probable;
it was even certain.--And still the indisputable facts to support this
feeling of certitude were far from numerous. But others began to be
gathered. In the first place, Pierre disclosed a secret to his friend in
the name of Corancez, who had not been blind to the coldness of his old
schoolfellow.

"You were not very pleased to see Corancez walk into our compartment. He
felt it. Now admit it."

"That is one of the customs of this region," replied Olivier. "I simply
think he might have spared me this association with my wife. All the
better for him if Madame Bonnacorsi is his mistress, but for him to
present her to us in the way he did is, I think, rather cool."

"She is not his mistress," replied Hautefeuille. "She is his wife. He
has just asked me to tell you. I will explain all about it."

Pierre continued with the story, in a few hurried words, of the
extraordinary secret marriage, of Navagero's tyranny over his sister, of
the resolution the lovers had taken, of the departure of them all upon
the yacht, and of the ceremony in the ancient Genoese palace. To make
this disclosure he had seized the moment, in the vestibule of the
restaurant, when Berthe was taking off her veil and cloak a few paces
away, and while they themselves were handing their overcoats to the
cloak-room attendant. It was the first minute they had had alone since
the arrival of the train.

"But, with all that to do, you cannot have had time to see Genoa?" said
Olivier, as his wife approached.

"Oh, yes. The sea was so rough that we did not return until next day."

"They passed the night together there," thought Olivier. Even if they
had passed it on the boat, his conclusion would have been the same. And
then, just as though Fate were obstinately trying to dissipate his last
lingering doubts, Hautefeuille stopped as they were traversing the
restaurant to secure a table. Among the mingled crowd of diners Pierre
saluted four people seated round a table more richly appointed than the
others and embellished with rare flowers.

"Did you not recognize your former cotillon partner?" he asked Olivier,
when he was once more with the Du Prats.

"Yvonne de Chésy? How little she has changed.--Yes, she is very young,"
replied Olivier.

Before him there was a large mirror, in which he saw reflected all the
picturesque confusion of the fashionable restaurant. He could see the
tables surrounded by women of the highest society and women of the most
dubious, in gorgeous toilets and coquettish bonnets, elbowing each
other, chatting to their companions, men who knew the women of both
classes. The position in which he was placed gave him a view of Yvonne's
profile. In front of her was her husband, no longer the dazzling,
rattlebrained Chésy of the _Jenny_, but a nervous, anxious,
absent-minded creature, the exact type of the ruined player who amid the
most brilliant surroundings is wondering whether or not he will leave
the place to blow out his brains.

Between this poor being, visibly ill at ease, and the laughing young
wife, who never dreamed of anything so tragic, was seated an individual
of ignoble physiognomy, flabby-cheeked, with double chin, piercing,
inquisitorial, brutal eyes set in a full-blooded countenance. He had the
rosette of the Legion d'Honneur at his buttonhole, and he was paying
manifest court to the young wife.

Between Yvonne and Chésy, a second woman was placed. At first Olivier
could only see the back of her head. Then he noticed that this woman
turned some three or four times to look toward their table at them.
There was something so strange in the action of the unknown, the
attention she paid to the group in which Hautefeuille and Olivier were
was in such total contrast to the reserved expression on her face and to
her quiet bearing, that Olivier had for a moment a flash of fresh hope.
What if this woman, so pretty, so refined, with an expression that was
so gentle and interesting, were Pierre's beloved mistress? As though
absent-mindedly, he asked:--

"Who are the Chésys dining with? Who is the man with the decoration?"

"It is Brion, the financier," replied Hautefeuille. "The charming woman
in front of him is his wife."

Again Olivier looked in the mirror. This time he surprised Madame Brion
with her eyes evidently fixed upon him. His memory, so tenacious of all
touching his sojourn in Rome, awoke and reminded him of the time he
heard the name last, reminded him in a souvenir that brought back the
name as pronounced by an unforgetable voice. He pictured himself again
in a garden walk at the Villa Cœlimontana, talking to Ely about his
friendship for Pierre and entering into a discussion with her such as
they often had.

He declared that friendship, that pure, proud sentiment, that mixture of
esteem and affection, of absolute confidence and sympathy, could not
exist except between man and man. She averred that she had a friend upon
whom she could depend just as he could upon Hautefeuille. And she had
then spoken of Louise Brion. It was Ely's friend who was now dining a
few feet away. And if she was regarding him with that singular
persistence, it was because she knew.--What did she know?--Did she know
that he had been Madame de Carlsberg's lover?--Without doubt that was
it. Did she know that Pierre was her lover now?

This time the idea became such a violent, such an imperious obsession
that Olivier felt he could no longer stand it. Besides, was there not a
means close at hand of learning the truth, and that immediately? Had not
Corancez told them that he should finish the evening in the Casino? And
he must certainly know, seeing that he had passed the winter with
Hautefeuille and Madame de Carlsberg.

"I will ask him about it openly, frankly," said Olivier to himself.
"Whether he replies or not, I shall be able to read what he knows in his
eyes.--He is so stupid!"

Then he felt ashamed of such a proceeding, as though of a frightful
indelicacy in regard to his friend.

"That is what comes of a woman stealing in between two men. They become
vile at once!--No, I will not try to get the facts of the case from
Corancez. And yet--"

Was Corancez stupid? It was impossible to be more mistaken about the
wily Southerner. Unfortunately, he was at times too astute. And in the
present case, his excessive subtlety made him commit the irreparable
fault of definitely enlightening Olivier. For the scruples of this
latter were, alas! powerless to withstand the temptation. After all he
had thought, in spite of all he felt so clearly, he succumbed to the
fatal desire to know. And when, about ten o'clock, he encountered
Corancez in one of the rooms of the Casino, he asked him abruptly:--

"Is the Baroness Ely, of whom you spoke in the train, the Madame de
Carlsberg I knew in Rome?--She was the wife of an Austrian archduke."

"The very same," responded Corancez, saying inwardly: "Hallo!
Hautefeuille has not said anything.--Du Prat knew her in Rome? Heaven
grant he has no feeling in that quarter, and that he will not go
chattering to Pierre!"

Then, aloud, he said:--

"Why do you ask?"

"For no reason," replied Olivier.

There was a short silence. Then he said:--

"Is not my dear friend Hautefeuille somewhat in love with her?"

"Ah! Now for it," thought the Southerner. "He'll be sure to learn all
about it sooner or later. It had better be sooner. It will prevent
mistakes."

And he replied:--

"Is he in love with her? I saw it from the beginning. He simply worships
her."

"And she?" asked Olivier.

"She?" echoed Corancez. "She is madly in love with him!"

And he congratulated himself upon his perspicacity, saying to himself:--

"At any rate, I feel more at ease now. Du Prat will not commit any
folly."

For once the Southerner had not realized the irony of his own thoughts.
He was as naïve as his secret wife, simple-minded Andryana, who,
discovering Madame du Prat at one of the roulette tables, replied to the
questions of the young wife without noticing her trouble, answering with
the most imprudent serenity.

"You were talking about a Baroness Ely in the train.--What an odd name!"

"It is a diminutive of Elizabeth, and is common enough in Austria."

"Then she is an Austrian?"

"What! You don't know her? It is Madame de Carlsberg, the morganatic
wife of the Archduke Henry Francis.--You are sure to meet her in Cannes.
And you will see for yourself how beautiful and good and sympathetic she
is."

"Did she not live in Rome for some time?" continued the young wife.

How her heart beat as she asked the question! The Venetian replied in
the most natural tone:--

"Yes, for a couple of winters. She was not on good terms with her
husband then, and they lived according to their own guise. Things are a
little better now, although--"

And the good creature was discreetly silent.



CHAPTER IX


FRIEND AND MISTRESS--_Continued_


The sentiment of perfect happiness that Ely experienced when she was
convinced, in talking to Pierre, that Olivier had not disclosed anything
to his friend did not continue long. She knew her former lover too well
not to understand the constant danger threatening her. She knew that he
still remembered her, and she realized the intensity of morbid passion
of which the unhappy man was capable. It was impossible that he should
not feel toward her now as in the past, that he should not judge her in
the present as during the time of their liaison, with a savage cruelty
allied to a suspicion that had so wounded her. She knew how dearly he
loved Hantefeuille. She knew how solicitous, how jealous that friendship
was. No, he would not suffer her to possess his beloved companion
without a struggle, were it only to save him from her whom he judged so
hardly.

Besides her tact, the intuition of the former mistress was not to be
deceived. When the man whom she knew to suffer, as from a malady, from a
sensuality that was almost ferocious, should learn the truth, his worst,
most hideous jealousy would be aroused into action. Had she not counted
upon this very thing in the first place when she had nourished a scheme
of vengeance that to-day filled her with shame?

All these ideas crowded into her mind immediately Hautefeuille left her.
Again, as after his first visit, she accompanied him as far as the
threshold of the hothouse, clasping his hand and leading him through the
salon plunged in darkness, with a feeling of terror and yet of pride
when she felt that the hand of the young man, indifferent to danger,
never trembled. She shuddered at the first contact of the cold night
air. A last embrace, their lips united in a yearning final kiss, the
kiss of farewell,--always heartrending between lovers, for fate is
treacherous and misfortune flies swiftly,--a few minutes during which
she stood listening to his steps resounding as he walked down the
deserted pathways of the garden, and then she returned to her room,
returned to find the place, now cold, where her beloved had reposed in
her solitary bed. In the sudden melancholy mood caused by separation her
intelligence awoke from its vision of happiness and forgetfulness, awoke
to a sense of reality. And she was afraid.

Here fear was intense, but short-lived. Ely descended from a line of
warriors. She was capable of carrying out actively an energetic policy.
She could think out clearly a situation. Resourceful and proud natures
like hers have no time for the feverish creations of an unsound
imagination enfeebled by terror. She was one of those who dare to look
upon approaching danger. Thus in the first flush of her dawning passion
for Hautefeuille, as her confession to Madame Brion proved, she had
foreseen with a clearness that was almost a certainty the struggle that
would take place between her love and Olivier's friendship for Pierre.

But this power of courageous realization allows such natures to measure
the danger once they are face to face with it. They lay bare, with the
greatest clearness, the facts of the crisis through which they pass.
They have the strength that comes from daring to hope, from having an
exact idea of the danger in moments that appear desperate. Thus though
Ely de Carlsberg was a victim to a return of her awful anxiety, after
Hautefeuille's departure, when she again laid down her head upon the
pillow, though she suffered from a disquietude that kept her awake, when
she arose the following morning she again felt confidence in the future.
She had hope!

She had hope, and for motives that she saw clearly, just as the General,
her father, used to see a battlefield laid out in imagination definitely
and accurately. She had hope, in the first place, in Du Prat's love for
his wife. She had felt how refreshing to the heart is the love of a
young, pure nature innocent of the world. She had experienced it
herself. She knew how the moral nature is restored, reformed,
re-created, is purified by contact with the belief in the good, the
magnanimity of generous impulses, the nobility of a broad charity. She
knew how such an association washes away all shameful bitterness, all
evil sentiment, all traces of vice. Olivier had married the girl of his
choice. She loved him and he loved her. Why should he not have felt all
the beneficent influence of youth and purity? And in that case where
would he find the strength to wreck the happiness of a woman whom he had
loved, whom he judged severely, but in whose sincerity he could not fail
to believe?

Ely had this basis for her hope. She trusted in the truth of her passion
for Pierre, in the evidence that would confront Olivier of his friend's
happiness. She said to herself: "Once his first moment of suspicion is
passed, he will begin to observe, to notice. He will see that with
Pierre I have been free from any of the faults that he used to magnify
into crimes, that I have been neither proud nor frivolous nor
coquettish."--She had been so single-minded, so upright, so true in her
love! Like all people possessed by a complete happiness, she thought it
impossible for any one to misunderstand the truth of her heart.

Then, again, she trusted in the honor of both--in Pierre's, to begin
with. Not only was she sure he would not speak of her, she knew in
addition that he would use all his strength to prevent his secret being
suspected by even his most intimate friend. Then she trusted in Olivier.
She knew him to be of a scrupulous delicacy in all things, to be careful
in his speech, to be a perfect gentleman! He would certainly never
speak. To utter the name of one who had once been his mistress when
their relations had been conducted under certain unrevealed conditions
would be an infraction of a tacit agreement, as sacred as his word of
honor, would be to be disgraced in his own eyes. Olivier had too much
self-respect to be guilty of such a fault, unless it were in a moment of
maddening suffering. This condition was lacking in his case. He could
never have this excuse under the circumstances in which he returned,
married and happy, after an absence of months and months, almost two
years! No, there could not arrive this crisis in his life now. And,
above all, he would never cause his friend to suffer.--Besides--and this
was the final motive upon which Ely's hopes were based, was the most
solid of all, and only that proved how thoroughly she knew Olivier--if
he spoke of her to Pierre it would place a woman between them, it would
trouble the ideal serenity of their affection, which had never been
dimmed by a cloud. Even should he lose his self-respect, Olivier would
never lose his respect for his friendship.

It was in such thoughts that the unhappy woman sought relief upon the
day following Olivier's arrival in Cannes. It was the very day that the
young man's suspicions took bodily form, the day when all indications
pointed to one thing only, accumulated around him and were condensed
into absolute certainty by the well-meant but irreparable words spoken
by Corancez!


Ely de Carlsberg hoped, and her reason confirmed her hopes. But that
very same reason was to destroy, bit by bit, the ground for hoping in
the week following Olivier's return. And this, also, without her once
meeting him. She dreaded nothing so much as meeting him face to face,
and yet she would have preferred an explanation, even a stormy one, to
this total lack of intercourse. That they did not meet was evidently an
intentional act upon the part of the young man, for it was an
impoliteness that could not be accidental.

There was only one way left for Ely to learn the truth, the talks that
she had with Hautefeuille. How her suffering was intensified, how her
agony was increased! Only from Hautefeuille could she hear of Olivier
during the week. Through Hautefeuille she followed the tragedy being
enacted in the heart of her former lover. To Pierre it was quite natural
to tell his dear confidante of all the anxiety that his friend caused
him. He never dreamt that the least important detail was full of
significance for her. In every conversation with Pierre during the first
eight days she descended deeper and deeper into the dangerous abyss of
Olivier's thoughts. She saw a possible catastrophe approaching from the
first,--a possible catastrophe that became a probability, even a
certainty, at last.

The first blow to Ely's hope was dealt upon the day following the dinner
at Monte Carlo, when she again saw Pierre, not this time in the quiet
intimacy of a nocturnal meeting, but at the big soirée which had been
spoken about in the train. It was late when he arrived. The salons were
quite full, for it was nearly eleven o'clock.

"Olivier insisted upon keeping me," he said, excusing the lateness to
Madame de Carlsberg. "I began to think he would never let me go."

"He wanted to keep you for himself," she replied; "it is so long since
he saw you."

With a beating heart she waited to hear if Du Prat had manifested any
repugnance when he knew that Pierre was coming to her house.

"You must not wound the susceptibility of an old friend."

"He is not susceptible," replied Pierre. "He knows well enough how
attached I am to him. He kept me talking about his married life."

And, he added, sadly:--

"He is so unhappy! His wife is so badly suited to him. She does not
understand him He does not love her and she does not love him.--Ah! it
is frightful!"

So the rejuvenation of Olivier's heart by the love of a girl, the
sentimental renewal upon which his former mistress had counted, was only
one of her illusions. The man was unhappy in the very marriage in which
she would have liked to see a sure guarantee of forgetfulness, the
effacing of both their pasts. The revelation was so full of menace to
the future of her own happiness that she felt she must know more, and
she kept Pierre in a corner of the little salon, questioning him. They
were near the foot of the private staircase leading to her room. By one
of those contrasts that re-vivify in two lovers the fiery sweetness of
their secret this salon, traversed by them with peril, in complete
obscurity, hand clasping hand, this little salon, witness of their
secret meetings, was now blazing with light, and the crowd moving about
gave, as it does to all the fêtes on the Riviera, the sensation of a
worldly aristocracy.

It served as a passage between the brilliantly lighted hothouse and the
rooms of the ground-floor, decorated with shrubs and flowers and
overflowing with guests. The prettiest women in the American and English
colonies were there, extravagantly displaying their wealth of jewels,
talking and laughing aloud, with the splendid complexion that
characterizes the race. And mingling with them were Russians and
Italians and Austrians, all looking alike at the first glance: all
different at the second. The ostentations elegance of toilets, all
daringly bright-colored, spoke loudly of the preponderance of foreign
taste.

Evening coats were sprinkled about among these women, worn by all the
authentic princes in the wintering-place and also by the society men of
the place. All the varieties of the kind were represented there. The
most celebrated of sportsmen, renowned for his success as a pigeon shot,
elbowed an explorer who had come to Provence in search of rest after
five years spent in "Darkest Africa," and both were chatting with a
Parisian novelist of the first rank, a Norman Hercules with a faunlike
face, contented smile, and laughing eyes, who a few winters later was to
die a death worse than death, was to see the wreck of his magnificent
intellect.

This evening an air of gayety appeared to hang over the salons, lit by
innumerable electric lamps and ventilated by the balmy breath of early
spring. In a few more days this society would be dispersed to the four
corners of the continent. Did the fête owe its animation to this
sentiment of a season that was almost finished, to the approach of an
adieu soon to be spoken?

In any case this spring seemed to have penetrated even as far as the
master of the house--the Archduke Henry Francis--in person. It was his
first appearance in his wife's salon since the terrible day when he came
there in search of Verdier to take him off almost by force to the
laboratory. Those who had assisted at his cavalier entrance upon that
occasion, and who were again present this evening, Madame de Chésy, for
example, Madame Bonnacorsi, Madame Brion, who had come from Monte Carlo
for two days, and Hautefeuille, were astounded by the change.

The tyrant was in one of his rare moments of good humor, when it was
impossible to dislike him. He went about from group to group with a
kindly word for all. In his quality of Emperor's nephew, and one who had
almost ascended the throne, he had the princely gift of an infallible
memory for faces. This enabled him to call by their names people who had
been presented to him only once. And he joined to this quality another,
one that disclosed him to be a man of superior calibre, an astonishing
power of talking with each upon his special subject. To a Russian
general, famous for having built at great peril a railroad through an
Asiatic desert, he spoke of the Trans-Caspian plains with the knowledge
of an engineer, coupled to a thorough familiarity with hydrography. He
recited a verse from the Parisian novelist's first work, a volume of
poems now too little known. With a diplomatist who had been for a long
time in the United States he discussed the question of tariffs, and
immediately afterward recommended the latest model of gun, with all the
knowledge of a maker, to the celebrated pigeon shot. He talked with
Madame Bonnacorsi about her ancestors in Venice, like an archæologist
from the St. Mark library; with Madame de Chésy about her costumes,
like some habitué of the Opéra, and had a kindly and private word for
Madame Brion about the Rodier firm and the rôle it was playing in an
important Austrian loan.

This prodigious suppleness of intellect, assisted by such a technical
memory, made him irresistibly seductive when he chose to be winning.

He had thus arrived, amid general fascination, at the last salon, when
he saw his wife talking with Hautefeuille. At this sight, as though it
were an additional pleasure to surprise Ely _tête-à-tête_ with the
young man, his blue eyes, which shone so brightly in his ruddy face,
became even more brilliant still. Advancing toward the pair, who became
silent when they saw him approaching, he said in an easy manner to the
Baroness, the friendliness of the tone accentuating the irony of the
words:--

"I do not see your friend Miss Marsh this evening. Is she not here?"

"She told me she would come," replied Madame de Carlsberg. "She is
perhaps indisposed."

"Have you not seen her to-day?" asked the Prince.

"Yes, I saw her this morning.--Will Your Highness tell me why you ask
the question?"

"Simply because I am deeply interested in everybody who interests you,"
replied the Archduke.

As he uttered the insolently mocking phrase, the eyes of the terrible
man shot a glance at Hautefeuille that was so savage that he felt an
almost magnetic thrill shoot through him. It was only a flash and then
the Prince was in another group talking, this time about horses and the
last Derby with the Anglomaniac Navagero, without paying any more
attention to the two lovers, who separated after a couple of minutes,
heavy with unuttered thoughts.

"I must go and speak to Andryana," said Madame de Carlsberg. "I know the
Prince too well not to be sure that his good temper hides some cruel
vengeance. He must have found some way of embroiling Florence with
Verdier.--Good-by for the present.--And don't be cast down over the
misery of your friend's married life.--I assure you there are worse."

As she spoke, she gently waved a big fan of white feathers. The perfume
she preferred, the perfume that the young man associated with the
sweetest emotions, was waved abroad by the feathers. She gently bowed as
a sign of farewell, and her soft brown eyes closed with the tender look
of intelligence that falls upon a lover's heart like an invisible kiss.

But at that moment Pierre was unable to feel its sweetness. Again he had
experienced, in the presence of the Archduke, the pain that is one of
the frightful penalties of adultery; to see the beloved one ill-treated
by the man who has the right because he is the husband, see it, and to
be unable to defend her. He watched her going away now with the bearing
of a beautiful, graceful queen, so proudly regal in her costume of pink
moiré shot with silver. Upon the beloved visage which he saw in profile
as she crossed the room, he discerned traces of profound melancholy, and
again he pitied her with all his heart for the bitterness of her married
life. He never dreamt that the Archduke's sarcasm left Madame de
Carlsberg completely indifferent, nor that the relations of Miss Marsh
and Verdier did not interest her sufficiently to cause such a complete
feeling of depression. No. It was this idea that was weighing upon the
mind of the young woman, that was lying upon her heart like lead in the
midst of the fête: "Olivier is unhappily married! He is miserable. He
has not gained that gentleness of heart that he would have done had he
loved his wife.--He is still the same.--So he hates me yet.--It was
enough for him to learn that Pierre was to pass the evening with me for
him to try to prevent him from coming here.--And yet he does not know
all.--When he does!"

And hoping against hope, she forced herself to think, to say, to repeat:
"Well! When he does know he will see that I am sincere; that I have not
made his friend unhappy; that I never will make him suffer."

It was also Pierre who awoke her from the second illusion that Olivier
would be touched by the truth and purity of her love. Three days passed
after the soirée, during which the young man did not see his mistress.
Cruel as were these separations, Ely judged it wisest to prolong them
during Du Prat's stay. She hoped to make up for it later; for she
counted upon passing the long weeks of April and May at Cannes with
Hautefeuille, weeks that were so mild, so covered with flowers, so
lonely upon the coast and among the deserted gardens. The idea of making
a voyage to Italy, where they could meet, as they had done at Genoa, in
surroundings full of charm, also haunted her. The prospect of certain
happiness, if she could escape from the danger menacing her, gave her
strength to support the insupportable; an absence that contained all the
possibilities of presence, the torture of so great a love, of being so
near and yet not seeing each other.

It was the one way, she believed, of preventing suspicion from awakening
in Olivier. After these three weary days of longing, she appointed a
meeting with Pierre one afternoon in the garden of the Villa Ellenrock,
which recalled to both an hour of exquisite happiness. While her
carriage rolled toward the Cap d'Antibes, she looked out upon the
foliage of the climbing roses, peering over the coping of the walls, the
branches, already long and full of leaves, falling under their heavy
load, instead of standing out strong and boldly, and casting heavy, deep
shadows. A conflagration of full-blown roses blazed upon the branches.
At the foot of the silvery olive trees, a thick growth of young wheat
covered the loose soil of the fields. All these were the visible signs
that the year had passed from winter to springtide in the three weeks.
And a shudder of melancholy shot through the young woman at the sight.
It was as though she felt the time slipping away, bearing her happiness
with it. In spite of a sky, daily warmer and of a softer azure; in spite
of the blue sea, of the odors permeating the soft, balmy air; in spite
of the fascination of the flowers, blooming all around, as she strolled
down the alleys, still bordered with cinerarias, anemones, and pansies,
she felt that her heart was not as light as when she had flown to the
last rendezvous. She perceived Hautefeuille, in profile, awaiting her
under the branches of the big pine, at the foot of which they had
rested. She felt at the first glance that he was no longer the lover of
that time, enraptured with an ecstatic, perfect joy, and without a
hidden thought. It seemed as though a shade hovered before his eyes and
enveloped his thoughts. It could not be that he was vexed with her. It
could not be that his friend had revealed the dreaded secret. And yet
Pierre was troubled about Olivier. He admitted it at once before Ely had
time to question him.

"I cannot think," he said, "what has come between us. I have the strange
impression that certain things in me irritate him, unnerve him,
displease him.--He is vexed with me about trifles that he would not even
have noticed formerly; as, for example, my friendship with Corancez.
Would you believe it? He reproached me yesterday for having witnessed
the ceremony at Genoa, as though it were a crime.--And all because we
met poor Marius and his wife in the train at Golfe Juan yesterday!

"'Our nest is built there,' Corancez said to me, adding--these were his
very words--that 'the bomb was going to explode,' meaning that Andryana
was going to speak to her brother.--I told the story to Olivier to amuse
him, and he flew into a temper, going so far as to talk of its being
'blackmail,' as though one could blackmail that abominable creature
Navagero!--I replied to him, and he answered me.--You cannot imagine in
what terms he spoke to me about myself, about the danger that I ran in
frequenting the society of this place, of the unhappiness my change of
tastes and ideas gave him.--He could not have talked more seriously had
Cannes been tenanted by a gang of thieves who wished to enroll me in
their ranks.--It is inexplicable, but the fact remains. He is pained,
wounded, uneasy because I am happy here. Can you understand such madness
in a friend whom I love so sincerely, who loves me so tenderly?"

"That is the very reason why you must not feel angry," replied Ely.
"When one suffers, one is unjust. And he is unhappy in his married life.
It is so hard to have made a mistake in that way."

She spoke in this way, prompted by a natural jealousy. Her passionate,
ungovernable nature was too proud, too noble to employ the method of
secretly poisoning the mind of husband or lover against friendships that
are disliked, a method that wives and mistresses exercise with a sure
and criminal knowledge. But to herself she said:--

"Olivier has discovered that Pierre loves some one. Does he suspect that
it is I?"

The reply to the question was not a doubtful one. Ely had too often
noticed, when in Rome, the next to infallible perspicacity displayed by
Olivier in laying bare the hidden workings of the love intrigues going
on all around them. Although she continued, in spite of all, to hope in
his honor, she dreaded, with a terror that became daily more intense,
the moment when she would acquire the certitude that he knew. These two
beings began to draw closer together by means of Hautefeuille, began to
measure each other's strength, to penetrate each other's minds, even
before the inevitable shock precipitated them into open conflict.

Again it was Pierre who brought to his suffering mistress the proof for
which she longed and which she feared.--It was the seventh night after
Olivier's arrival, and she was awaiting Pierre at half-past eleven,
behind the open door of the hothouse. She had only seen him in the
afternoon long enough to fix this nocturnal meeting which made her pulse
throb as with a happy fever. The afternoon had been cloudy, heavy,
stormy. And the opaque dome of clouds stretched over the sky hid every
ray of moonlight, every twinkling star. Heavy lightning glowed upon the
horizon at moments, lighting up the garden, disclosing everything to the
eyes of the young woman who stooped forward to see the white alleys
bordered with the bluish agaves, the lawns with their flowering shrubs,
the green stems of the bamboos, a bunch of parasol pines with their red
trunks whose dark foliage stood out for a moment in the sudden flash of
light followed immediately by a darker, more impenetrable shadow. Was it
nervousness caused by the approaching tempest, for a heavy gust of hot
wind swept across the garden, announcing the advent of a hurricane, or
was it remorse at the idea of exposing her friend to the violence of the
storm when he parted from her, that made Ely already anxious, troubled,
and unhappy? When she at last saw Hautefeuille, by the light of the cold
and livid lightning, passing along the fringe of bamboos, her heart beat
with anxiety.

"Heavens!" she said to him, "you ought not to have come upon such a
night.--Listen."

Big drops of rain began to fall upon the glass of the hothouse. Two
formidable thunderclaps were heard in the distance. And now the drops of
rain became more and more general, so that around the two lovers under
the protecting dome of glass there was a continuous, sonorous rattle
that almost drowned the sound of their voices.

"You see our good genius protects us," answered the young man, pressing
her passionately to his heart, "since I got here just in time.--And,
besides, I should have come through the tempest without noticing it.--I
have been too unhappy this evening. I felt I must see you to comfort me,
to help me."

"You look disturbed," she replied. And touching his face in the darkness
with her soft, caressing hands, she added, her voice changing: "Your
cheeks are burning and there are tears in your eyes.--What is the
matter?"

"I will tell you presently," Pierre answered, "when I have been
comforted by feeling that you are near me.--God! How I love you! How I
love you!" he repeated with an intensity in which she discerned
suffering.

Then, later, when they were both in the solitude of her room, he said:--

"I think Olivier is going mad. These last few days he has been even
stranger than ever.--This evening, for example, he regarded me with a
look that was so curious, so insistent, so penetrating, that I feel
positively uneasy. I have not reposed any confidence in him, and yet I
had the impression that he read in me — not your name.--Ah! happily,
not that--not that!--but how am I to explain it?--my impatience, my
desire, my passion, my happiness, all my sensations? And I had a feeling
that my sentiments filled him with horror.--Why?--Is he not unjust? Have
I taken away from our friendship in loving you? I was very miserable
about it. Finally at ten o'clock I bade good night to him and his
wife.--A quarter of an hour later some one knocked at my door. It was
Olivier.--He said, 'Would you mind coming for a walk? I feel that I
cannot sleep until I have taken a stroll.'--I replied, 'I am sorry I
cannot; I have some letters to write.' I had to find some excuse. He
looked at me again with the same expression that he had had during
dinner.--And all at once he began to laugh. I cannot describe his laugh
to you. There was something so cruel in it, so frightfully insulting, so
impossible to tolerate. He had not spoken a word, and yet I knew that he
was laughing at my love. I stopped him, for I felt a sort of fury rising
in me. I said, 'What are you laughing at?'--He replied, 'At a souvenir.'
His face became perfectly pale. He stopped laughing just as brusquely as
he had begun. I saw that he was going to burst into tears, and before I
could ask him anything he had said 'Adieu' and gone out of the room."

There is a necessity for conflict in the natural, logical issue of
certain situations, a necessity so inevitable that even those who feel
they will be destroyed by it accept the struggle when it comes without
seeking to avoid it. It is thus, in public life, that peoples go to war,
and in private life rivals accept the duel with a passive fatalism that
often contradicts their complete character. They recognize that they
have been caught in the orbit of action of a power stronger than human
will.

When Pierre Hautefeuille had left Ely that night, she felt very cruelly
the impression that a struggle was inevitable and that it was not only a
struggle with a man, but with destiny! As long as her lover remained
near, her tense nerves dominated this impression, but when he had gone
she gave herself up to its contemplation. Alone, without sufficient
strength to go to her bed, she crouched, thoroughly unnerved, upon a
sofa. She began to weep, a crisis that lasted indefinitely, as though
she felt herself trapped, threatened, conquered in advance! Her last
hope had just been shattered. She could no longer doubt, after the scene
that Pierre had told her of, that Olivier knew all. Yes, he knew all.
And his nervousness, his fits of anger, his laughter, his despair,
proved only too clearly that he would not accept the situation, and that
a tempest of ungovernable desires were unchained within him. Now that he
had arrived at such a point of exasperation and of knowledge, what was
he going to do? In the first place, he would try to meet her again. She
felt as certain of this as though he had been standing there before her
laughing the cruel laugh that had wounded Hautefeuille's heart. In a few
days--perhaps in a few hours--she would be in the presence of her mortal
enemy, an enemy not only of herself but of her love. He would be there;
she would see him, hear him moving, breathing, living! A shudder of
horror ran through her frame at the idea. The thought that this man had
once possessed her filled her with a kind of acute suffering that made
her heart almost stop beating. The remembrance of caresses given and
returned induced a feeling of nausea and crushed her with shameful
distress. She had never felt so much as at this minute how her sincere,
deep love had really changed her, had made of her another woman, a
rejuvenated, forgiven, renewed creature!--But it could not be helped.
She would accept, she would support the odious presence of her former
lover. It would be the punishment for not having awaited her love of the
present in perfect purity; for not having foreseen that one day she
would meet Hautefeuille; for not having lived worthy of his love. She
had arrived at that religion--she, the reasoner, the nihilist, atheist,
had come to accept the mysticism of her happiness so natural to the
woman truly in love, and which makes all previous emotions not provoked
by the loved one a sort of blasphemous sacrilege. She would expiate the
blasphemy by supporting his odious presence.--Alas! Olivier would not be
content with simply inflicting the horror of his presence on her. He
would speak with her. What would he say? What would he want? What would
he ask?--She did not deceive herself for a moment. The sentiments of
this man as regarded herself had not changed. As Hautefeuille had told
her of the incident in his room, she had again heard his laugh, cruel
and agonizing and insulting, that she knew so well. And with this laugh
had come back to her all the flood of jealous sensuality that had
sullied her formerly to so great an extent that the traces were still to
be seen. After he had outraged her, trampled her under foot, left her,
after having placed the irreparable obstacle of marriage and desertion
between them, she felt and understood this monstrous thing, one
impossible in any other man, but quite natural in him, that Olivier
loved her still. He loved her, if it can be called love to have for a
woman that detestable mixture of passion and hatred which calls forth
incessantly the cruelty of enjoyment, the ferocity of pleasure.

He loved her. His attitude toward her would have been inexplicable
without this anomalous, hideous sentiment which had lived in him through
all and in spite of all! And, at the same time, he treasured his friend
with that jealous, stormy, passionate friendship which was tearing his
heart at this moment with unheard-of emotions and sufferings. To what
extent might he not be led by the frenzy of such torture agonizing as a
steel blade turned and re-turned in a wound? What could equal the pain
of having loved, of still loving, a former mistress,--of loving her with
such evil, sinister love,--and of knowing that woman was the
mistress of his best, his most tenderly beloved friend, of a brother by
adoption, cherished more than a brother by blood?

As clearly as she saw the first rays of dawn piercing the curtains at
the end of this night of terrified meditation, Ely saw these sentiments
at work in Olivier's heart.

"He who sows the wind shall reap the tempest," says an Austrian proverb.
When she wished to meet Hautefeuille, to make herself dear to him, she
wanted to strike Du Prat in the tenderest, most vulnerable spot in his
organization, to wound him through his friendship, to torture him
through it, to avenge herself in this way. She had succeeded only too
well! What blow was he going to strike in the rage of suffering now
consuming him? She had changed so much since the moment she had
conceived the project of cruel vengeance that she asked herself what she
was to do, what path she was to take? What if she appealed to this man,
made supplication to him, sought to melt his mood?--Or would it be
better to play with him, to cause him to think no _liaison_ existed
between her and Hautefeuille, for, after all, he had no proof.--Or
better still, why not oppose a bold front, and when he dared to appear
before her, drive him from her door, for he had no claim upon her.--Her
pride revolted against the first, her nobility of character against the
second, her reason against the third. In such a decisive crisis as the
one through which the poor woman was passing, the mind calls
instinctively upon all the most secret resources of nature, just as it
collects, summons to the centre of the personality, all its hidden
strength. Ely was remarkable by her need of truth and energy in the
middle of a society that is refined to excess and composite to the verge
of falsity. As she said to her confidante in the alleys of the Brions'
garden, on that night that was so recent and seemed so distant, it was
the truth in Hautefeuille's soul that had first of all attracted her,
charmed her, seduced her. It was in order to live a true life, to feel
true emotions, that she had entered the paths of this love, whose
dangers she had foreseen. After having in thought taken up and laid
down, accepted and rejected a score of projects, she finished by
deciding within herself that she would trust to the simple truth in the
redoubtable scene she felt was drawing near, thinking:--

"I will show him all my heart, just as it is, and he may trample on it
if he can find the strength."

This was the policy that this woman, capable of any error but not of
meanness or common calculation, arrived at after her wretched
wakefulness. She did not find forgetfulness in it for a peril drawing
near. But it gave her the courage that every human being feels in being
completely, absolutely logical in thought, wish, and belief. She was
not, therefore, as much surprised as she even expected when, about ten
o'clock, she received a note that proved how accurately she had
reasoned.

The letter was very short. But it was full of menace for her who read it
in the same little salon where she had made up her mind to dismiss
Pierre Hautefeuille,--a resolution that had been so weakly broken, and
that had been prompted by the very terror of the catastrophe that the
few lines announced:--


"MADAME--I shall have the honor of calling upon you to-day at two
o'clock. May I hope that you will receive me? or if the hour does not
suit you, that you will fix another? Let me assure you that your
slightest wishes will always be commands for


"Yours respectfully,

"Olivier du Prat."


"Very well," she said, "I shall be at home this afternoon."

It was impossible for her to answer the letter in writing. Commonplace
though it was, she could see that Olivier had written it in a singular
state of agitation and decision. Ely knew his handwriting, and she could
see from the few lines that the pen had been clenched, almost crushed in
his hand.

"It is war!" she said to herself. "So much the better. I shall know what
to expect in a few hours."

But in spite of her native energy, in spite of the power of resistance
that her passion gave her, the hours seemed so long to her. Her nerves
became more tense, painfully and unceasingly, as she counted the
minutes. She had given orders that she was not at home to any one except
her dreaded visitor. It seemed that she must regain her strength in a
final solitary retirement before engaging in the duel upon which the
future of her happiness depended.

For this reason she could not completely hide her disappointment when
about half-past one she saw Yvonne de Chésy, who had insisted upon
being admitted, enter the salon. She had only to give one glance at the
face of the pretty little frivolous Parisienne to see that a tragedy was
being enacted in her life also, a life that seemed created only to enjoy
perpetual happiness. The childish countenance of the young woman was
marked by an expression of astounded suffering. Her eyes, usually so
sparkling and laughing, had in their blue depths an expression of
terror, of stupefaction, as though brought suddenly face to face with
some horrible vision. Her gestures betrayed a strained nervousness that
was in strange contrast with her habitual gayety and butterfly
frivolity.

Ely suddenly remembered Marsh's conversation on the boat. She at once
guessed that Brion had begun his amorous blackmailing of the poor child.
She reproached herself for her momentary impatience, and even with all
her own anguish she welcomed the poor girl with all her accustomed
grace. Yvonne stammered an excuse for her insistence.

"You were quite right in coming in," replied Ely; "you know that I am
always at home for you.--But you are all upset. What is the matter?"

"Simply," replied Yvonne, "that I am lost unless I can find some one to
help me.--Ah!" she continued, holding her face in her hands as though to
shut out some dreadful nightmare, "when I think of all that has taken
place since yesterday, I cannot help thinking that I am in a dream.--In
the first place we are ruined, absolutely, irreparably ruined. I only
heard of it twenty-four hours ago.--Poor Gontran did everything to keep
me from learning the truth right to the end,--and I reproached him for
gambling at Monte Carlo! Poor, dear fellow! He hoped that a lucky chance
would give him a hundred or two hundred thousand francs, something of a
capital with which to rebuild our fortune.--For he is going to work! He
is determined to do something, no matter what.--If you only knew how
good and courageous he is!--It is only on my account he feels the
misfortune. It was for me, to obtain everything for me, that he entered
into too risky investments. He does not know how little I care for
wealth.--I can live on next to nothing, I have already told him.--All I
want is a little _couturière_ whom I can direct to make my costumes
according to my ideas; a little establishment at Passy in one of those
tiny English houses; a hired carriage or a coupé for my visits and for
going to the theatre, and I should be the happiest woman. I would go to
the market in the morning, and I am sure I should have a better table
than we have now. And I know I should be happy in such a life.--As a
matter of fact, I was not born to be rich--happily!"

She sketched out this little programme that she thought so modest and
which would have necessitated at the least 50,000f. a year, with such a
charming mixture of girlishness and courage that Madame de Carlsberg's
heart ached. She took her by the hand and kissed her, saying:--

"I know your kind heart, Yvonne.--But I hope everything is not yet
lost.--You have many friends, good ones, beginning with myself.--At
first one is terrified, and then it is always discovered that the ruin
is not as complete as was thought."

"This time it appears that the contrary is the case," said the young
woman, shaking her head. "But it is precisely because I know you to be
my friend," she went on, "that I have come to see you this morning. The
other evening the Archduke spoke to my husband of the difficulty he
experienced in finding some upright superintendent to look after his
estates in Transylvania.--And as the Prince was so pleasant to us that
evening we thought--"

"That Chésy could become his superintendent," interrupted Ely, who
could not keep back a smile at her friend's naïveté. "I wouldn't wish
such a fate for my worst enemy.--If things are really at such a point
that your husband has to seek a position, there is only one man who can
help him."

As she spoke, she saw Yvonne's infantile visage, which had brightened
for a moment under the influence of her bright welcome, become again
overclouded, and her look betrayed a feeling of pain and disgust.

"Yes," went on Ely, "there is only one man, and it is Dickie Marsh."

"The Commodore!" said Madame de Chésy, with manifest astonishment.

Then, shaking her head again, with her mouth closed in a bitter smile,
she added:--

"No, I know now too well the value of these men's friendships and the
price they place upon their services. I have only been ruined a short
time, and already some one,"--she hesitated a second,--"yes, some one
has offered me wealth.--Ah! dear Ely,"--and she clasped her hands over
her eyes, blushing with indignation,--"if I would become his mistress.
You do not know, you cannot know, what a woman feels when she suddenly
discovers that for months and months she has been tracked and waited for
by a man whom she thought her friend, like an animal tracked by a
hunter.--Every familiarity she has allowed, without thinking, because
she saw no harm in it, the little coquettishness that she has innocently
shown, the intimacy that she has not guarded against, all return to her
with shame, with sickening shame. The vile cleverness that was hidden
under the comedy of friendliness she has not seen, and now it is as
clear as daylight. She has not been culpable, and yet it seems as though
she had been. I will never suffer another such affront! Marsh would make
me the same ignoble proposition that the other did.--Oh! it is horrible,
shameful!"

She had spoken no name. But by her trembling, by her look of outraged
innocence, Madame de Carlsberg could imagine the scene that had taken
place, that very morning, perhaps, between the good, if imprudent,
creature and Brion, vile and despicable as he was. She understood for
the second time that the Parisienne was really pure and innocent and
that she was being initiated in the brutalities of life. There was
something pathetic, something that was heartbreaking, in her remorse,
her scruples, the sudden revulsion of a soul that had remained naïve by
irrealism.

Threatened though she was by another man, Ely felt her soul go out
toward the unhappy child. She determined to speak to her about Marsh, to
tell her of the conversation on the yacht, of the promise made by the
American, when, with that acuity of the senses that is awakened by our
inquietude at certain moments, she heard the door of the outer salon
open.

"It is Olivier," she said to herself.

At the same time, with instinctive superstition, she looked at the still
trembling Yvonne and added mentally:--

"I will help her. Such an action will surely bring me good luck."

Turning away, she said:--

"Do not be alarmed. I cannot speak to you just now, as I am expecting
some one. But come again to-morrow afternoon and I promise you I will
have found the very thing you want for Gontran. Let me act as I think
best,--and, above all, no weakness!--No one must suspect anything.--You
must never let people know that you suffer!"

The heroic counsel was addressed to herself. And she illustrated the
remark at the same moment, for the footman opened the door and announced
Monsieur Olivier du Prat. Madame de Chésy could never have guessed, to
see Ely so calm, with such a welcoming smile, what Hautefeuille's
mistress felt as she saw the newcomer enter the little salon. Olivier,
not less calm and polite than the two women, excused himself for not
having called sooner.

"You are forgiven," said Yvonne, who had risen upon Olivier's entrance
and had remained standing. "Really, if the society round had to be gone
through on one's wedding journey, it would not be worth while having a
honeymoon.--Make yours last as long as you can! That is the advice your
old cotillon partner gives you--and excuse me for running away. Gontran
was to come and meet me, and I don't want to miss him."

Then, turning to Ely, with a parting kiss, she said, in a whisper:--

"Are you satisfied with me?"

And the courageous little woman went off with a smile that her friend
'had hardly strength enough to return. Olivier's first glance had been a
terrible trial to support for Madame de Carlsberg. She read in it so
distinctly that brutality of a physical souvenir so intolerable for a
woman after the breaking off of an intrigue, so intolerable, in fact,
that they often prefer the scandal of an open rupture rather than
undergo the torture of meeting a man whose eyes say plainly: "Go on with
your comedy, my dear friend! Receive everybody's adulation, respect,
affection! I know you, and nothing you understand, nothing can efface
that souvenir."

In love, as she was, still glowing with the memory of Hautefeuille's
caresses of the past night, Ely's soul was so wrung by this impression
that she could have shrieked had she dared. She had only one idea, to
cut his visit short. She felt that if it was prolonged to any extent she
should faint before the end. But, suffering torture though she was,
terrified to the verge of unconsciousness, she was still the woman of
the world, the semi-princess, one who preserves her dignity in the midst
of the most cruel explanations. And she had all the grace of a queen as
she said to the man who had once been her lover and whom she so much
dreaded:--

"You wished to see me? I might have refused to receive you, for I have
that right. But I would not exercise it.--Still, I beg you to remember
that this interview is hideously painful to me. Whatever you have to
tell me, say it without a word that can increase my suffering, if it is
possible.--You see, I have neither hostility, bitterness, nor distrust
for you. Spare me any insinuations, any sarcasm, any cruelty.--It is all
I ask, and it is my right."

She spoke with a simple dignity that astonished Olivier. He no longer
noticed the air of defiance that formerly used to exasperate him with
her. From the moment he entered the salon he had been struck by a change
in the character of her beauty. Her countenance was always the same,
with its noble, pure outline, with its delicate and proud features, lit
up by those fathomless eyes, so charming with their touching
languorousness. But there was no longer that mobile curious expression,
that look of unquiet yearning there used to be imprinted on it.

This sensation was, however, too vague to impress her old lover, to
change his hostility into tenderness. He had brooded over one idea too
intensely during the last week, and an anger that was hardly restrained
betrayed itself in his voice as he replied:--

"I will try to obey you, madame! Still, in order that the interview that
I asked for may be understood, I shall have to say some things that you
might perhaps wish unspoken."

"Say them," she said, interrupting him. "All that I ask is that you
should not add anything that is not distinctly necessary."

"I will be very brief," said Olivier.

There was a moment's silence. Then, in a still more bitter tone, he
said:--

"Do you remember about two years ago in Rome, at the Palazzo
Savorelli,--you see I am being exact,--a young man being presented to
you, a young man who did not even think about you, and with whom you
were--How can I describe it without wounding you?"

"Say at once that I coquetted with him," Ely again interrupted, "and
that I tried to make him love It is the truth."

"Since you have such a good memory," went on Olivier, "you surely
recollect that these coquetries went so far that the young man became
your lover."

What a shudder of horror shot through Ely, making her eyelids tremble
with pain, as he accentuated the word with the cruelty that she had
prayed him to spare her!

He continued remorselessly:--

"You remember also that this love was a very miserable one. The man was
sensitive, suspicious, jealous. He had suffered very much in his life. A
woman who loved him truly would have had but one thought,--to lull to
slumber the horrible malady of distrust that raged in him. You did just
the opposite. Close your eyes and look back in memory to a certain ball
at the Countess Steno's, and that young man in the corner of the salon
and you dancing--with whom?"

This allusion to a forgotten episode of the saddest part of their past
brought a wave of blood to Ely's cheeks. She saw again, as her
implacable questioner had asked her, one of the Princes Pietrapertosa
paying his court to her. He was one of the imaginary rivals that Olivier
had detested the most.

She replied--

"I know. I acted wrongly."

"You admit it," went on Du Prat, "and you will also admit that the young
man with whom you played so cruelly had the right to judge you as he
did, to leave you as he did, because when near you he felt all his worst
impulses rise to the surface, because you made him evil, cruel, through
his suffering. Is that also the truth?--And is it not also true that
your pride was wounded by his desertion and that you determined to be
revenged?--Will you deny that, having encountered later the most
intimate, the dearest friend of that man, the deepest and most complete
affection that had ever entered his life, you conceived a horrible idea?
Will you deny that you determined to make his friend love you with the
hope, the certainty, that he would learn, sooner or later, and would
suffer horribly from the knowledge that his former mistress had become
the mistress of his best, his only friend? Do you deny it?"

"No. It is true," she replied.

This time her beautiful face became livid. Her pallor, her aching head
bowed as though under the weight of the blows it received, the fixed
look in her eyes, her half-open mouth gasping for breath, the humble
character of her replies, which proved how sincere she was in her firm
resolve to not offer any defence of her action, ought to have disarmed
Olivier.

But as he uttered the words "to the mistress of his friend" the image
again rose before his eyes, the vision that had tortured him from the
moment he had suspected the truth. He again saw Hautefeuille's face
close to her lovely countenance, his eyes looking into hers, his lips
pressed upon hers. Ely's avowal only increased the tangibility of the
vision. It completed his madness. He had never thought he loved her so
well, that he had such a desire for the woman he had treated so
brutally. His passion took complete possession of him.

"And you admit it!" he cried; "calmly, frankly, you admit it? You do not
see how infamous, how abominable, monstrous your vengeance is? Think of
it; you take a being such as he is, pure, youthful, delicate, one
incapable of distrust, one all simplicity, all innocence, and you make
him love you at the risk of destroying him, of ruining his soul
forever.--And for what?--To satisfy the miserable spite of a flirt angry
at being deserted.--Even his freshness and nobility of soul did not make
you hesitate. Did you never think that to deceive such a defenceless
creature was infamous? Did you never think of what you were destroying
in his soul? Knowing as you did the friendship that bound him to me, if
there had been a spark of--I will not say nobility--a spark of humanity
in your heart, you must have recoiled from this crime, from the
loathsome infamy of soiling, of ravishing him from his noble, beautiful
affection, to give him in exchange a frivolous _liaison_ of a few days,
just long enough for you to find amusement in the vileness of your
caprice!--He had done nothing to you! He had not deserted you! He had
not married another!--Oh, God! What a cowardly, loathsome
vengeance.--But at any rate I cry in your face that it was cowardly,
cowardly, cowardly!"

Ely sprang to her feet as her implacable enemy flung the insulting words
in her face. Her eyes were fixed on Olivier with a regard in which there
was no anger or revulsion of feeling under his affront. Her eyes even
seemed to have an expression of calmness in their sincerity. She took a
few steps toward the young man and put her hand on his arm--the arm that
menaced her--with a gesture so gentle, and at the same time so firm,
that Olivier stopped speaking. And she began to reply to him in a tone
of voice that he did not recognize. It was so simple, so human, that it
was impossible to doubt the sincerity of her words. Her heart was really
disclosed before him. He felt that her words penetrated to the very
centre of his inner nature. He loved this woman more than he knew
himself. He had sought, without being able to create it, to call into
being exactly what he now saw in the woman whose beauty he idolized. The
soul that he saw shining through her tender, sad eyes, the passionate,
shy, ardent soul, capable of the greatest, the most complete, sacrifice
to love, was what he had divined to exist in her, what he had pursued
without ever capturing, what he had longed for and had never possessed
in spite of all their caresses, of all the violence and brutality of his
jealousy! Her real nature had been awakened by another! And that other
was his dearest friend!--He listened to Ely, for she was now speaking.

"You are unjust, Olivier," she said, "very unjust. But you do not know
all--you cannot know.--You saw that I did not try to contradict you when
you reproached me, that I did not try to brave it out. I was not the
proud woman with whom you fought so often in years gone by.--I seem to
have no pride left! How could I have when I see, as I listen to you,
what I was, what I should be still had I not met Pierre, and without the
love that has taken possession of my soul like an honored guest?--When I
told you that I at first thought only of making him love me to avenge
myself upon you, I told you the truth. You ought to believe me when I
tell you that the mere idea now fills me with the same horror that you
feel.--When I got to know him, when I realized the beauty, the nobility,
the purity of his nature, all the virtues that you have just been
speaking of, I awoke to the sense of the infamy I was going to commit.
You are quite right, I should have been a monster if I had been able to
deceive a soul so youthful, so innocent, so lovable, so true! But I have
not been such a monster.--I had not talked with Pierre more than twice
when I had utterly renounced all idea of such a frightful revenge, when
he had won my love entire. I loved him! I love him!--Do you think that I
have not said, that I do not say every day, every hour, to myself all
that you have just spoken? Do you think I have not felt it ever since I
knew what my sentiments were for him? I loved him, and he was your
friend, your brother. I have been your mistress, and I knew that a time
must come when you would meet again, when he would speak to you of me--a
time when he would perhaps know all. Do you think I did not dread
that a time would come when I should see you again and you would speak
to me as you have just been speaking?--Oh, it is horrible, agonizing!"

She dropped Olivier's arm and pressed her clenched hands upon her eyes
with a movement of physical anguish. It was in her being that she
suffered, in the body once abandoned completely to the man who heard
her, as she continued:--

"But pardon me. I do not concern you. It is not what I have suffered
that we have to think of, but of him.--You cannot doubt now that I love
him with all there is in me that is noble, good, and true. You also must
have realized how he loves me with all the wealth of affection that you
know so well. All this week while he was speaking to me I saw you--with
what agony!--I felt that you were laying bare our secret hour by
hour.--Now you know that secret. Pierre loves me as I love him, with an
absolute, unique, passionate love.--And now, if you choose, go and tell
him that I was once your mistress. I will not defend myself any more
than I did a few minutes ago. I have not strength enough to lie to him.
The day he asks me, 'Is it true that Olivier has been your lover?' I
shall reply, 'It is true!'--But it is not I alone whom you will have
killed!"

She ceased speaking, and fell into her chair with her head resting on
the back, as though exhausted by the effort of laying bare her thoughts,
in which were mingled so many sad and bitter memories. She waited
Olivier's reply with an anxiety so intense that her strength seemed to
be ebbing away, and she closed her eyes as in dread. With the logic of a
woman deeply in love, she had forced the man who had come there to
threaten and insult her into a position where he must take one of the
two courses that their wretched situation left open to him,--either to
tell all to Hautefeuille, who would then decide for himself whether he
loved Ely enough to trust her after he knew that she had been his
friend's mistress; or, to spare him this torture, to leave Hautefeuille
in ignorance with his happiness. In this latter case Olivier would have
to go away, to put an end forever to his own misery, and to cease
inflicting the pain of his presence upon Ely, a pain that, in itself,
was the cause of a nervous state sufficient to reveal sooner or later
their past relations.

What would he do? He did not reply; he, who only a few minutes before
had been so eager to speak, so bitter in his reproaches. Through her
half-closed eyes, quivering with the intensity of her anxiety to know
the worst, Ely saw that he was regarding her with a strange, impassioned
look. A struggle was going on within him. What was its cause? What would
be its result? She was about to learn, and also what sort of a sentiment
her heartbreaking appeal had awakened in the heart that had never been
able to tear itself away from her entirely.

"You love him?" he said at last. "You love him?--But, why do I ask? I
know you love him. I feel it, I see it.--It is only love that could have
prompted such words--could have imprinted such an accent, such truth
upon them.--Oh!" he went on bitterly, "if you had only been, when we
were in Rome, what you are now; if only once I had felt that you
vibrated with genuine emotion!--But you did not love me and you love
him!" He repeated, "You love him!--I thought we had inflicted upon each
other all the pain that is in a human being's power, and that I could
never suffer any more than I did in Rome, than I have done during these
past days when I felt that you were his mistress.--But beside this--that
you love him--my sufferings were nothing.--And yet how could you help
loving him?--How was it that I did not understand at once that you would
be touched, penetrated, changed; that your heart would be imbued with
the charm of his grace, of his youth, of his delicacy, of all that makes
him what he is?--Ah! I see you now as I longed to see you once, as I
despaired of ever seeing you, and it is through him, it is for him!"

Then, with a moan as of some stricken animal, he cried:--

"No! I cannot support it. I suffer too much, I suffer too much!"

And words of grief, mingled with words of rage and love, poured forth in
a wild stream.

"Since you hate me enough to have thought of such a brutal vengeance,"
he cried, cruelly, savagely, "since you longed to make me jealous of him
through you, enjoy your work.--Look at it.--You have succeeded."

"Spare me, spare me!" cried Ely. "Oh, God! do not talk like that!"

His sudden outburst, the strange betrayal of his feelings, even in her
suffering, made her shudder. With a mingled feeling of indescribable
terror and pity she had a glimpse into another secret recess in the
heart of the tortured being who, during a half hour of mortal anguish,
had insulted, humiliated, despised, then had understood, accepted,
justified, pitied, and who now cursed her. She had felt, as she listened
to Pierre's confidences on the subject of his friend, that a reflux of
loathing sensuality still seethed in her former lover's heart. She saw
it now. And she also saw that a deep, true passion had always lived,
palpitated, germinated under his sensuality, under his hate. His passion
had never developed, grown, put forth its blossom, because she had never
been the woman he sought, the woman he yearned for, the woman he felt
was in her. Thanks to the miracle worked by love for another, she had
now become the woman he desired. What a martyrdom of suffering for the
unhappy man! Forgetting her fears and inspired only by a movement of
compassion, she said:--

"What! rejoice in your grief?--Think of my vengeance yet. Did you not
feel how sincere I was, what shame I feel at ever having conceived such
a hideous idea? Did you not see how bitterly I loathe, how I regret my
life at Dome? Do you not feel that my heart bleeds at the sight of your
suffering?"

"I am very grateful for your pity," interrupted Olivier.

His voice suddenly became dry and cold. Was he trying to recover his
dignity? Was he wounded by her womanly pity, a pity that is humiliating
when given in place of love? Was he afraid of saying too much, of
feeling too deeply if the interview was prolonged?

"I beg your pardon for not having kept my nerves under better
control.--There is nothing more to say. I promise you one thing: I will
do everything in my power to keep Pierre from ever knowing. Don't thank
me. I will keep silent on his account, on my own account, so as to
preserve a friendship that has always been dear to me, that always will
be dear. I did not come here to threaten you that I would disclose the
past to him. I came to ask you to be silent, to not push your vengeance
to its last extreme.--And now, as I bid you farewell forever, I still
ask you that. You love Pierre, he loves you; promise me that you will
never use his love against our friendship, to respect that feeling in
his heart."

There was a supplicating humility in Olivier's voice. All the religious
sentiment of his friendship, which Ely knew filled him, betrayed itself
in his tone, sadly, almost solemnly! And with a solemn emotion she
replied:--

"I promise you."

"Thank you again," he said, "and farewell."

"Farewell," she replied.

He took a few steps toward the door. Then he turned and approached her.
This time she read in his eyes all the maddening vertigo of love and
desire. She was seized with such a terror that she could not move. When
he arrived at her chair, he took her head between his hands and
frantically, passionately pressed it to his heart. He covered her brow,
her hair, her eyes with kisses, and strove to kiss her lips with a mad
frenzy that restored the woman all her strength. Thrusting him from her
with all the vigor that her indignation gave her, she rose and took
refuge in the corner of the salon, crying, as though appealing for help
to the being who had the right to defend her:--

"Pierre! Pierre! Pierre!"

As he heard the name of his friend, Olivier seized a chair as though he
were about to faint. And suddenly, without looking at Ely, who was
crouching against the wall almost swooning, with her hand pressed upon
her heart, without saying a single word either of adieu or to ask
pardon, he left the salon.

She heard him traverse the bigger room and heard the second door close.
He went away with the terrified air of a man who had almost succumbed to
the temptation to crime and who flees from himself and his loathsome
desire. He passed, without seeing them, the two footmen in the
vestibule, who had to run after him with his cane and overcoat. He went
along one of the alleys in the garden without knowing it. The rush of
emotion that had flung him upon his former mistress, now the mistress of
his dearest friend, now gave way to such a flood of remorse, he was so
tossed about on the sea of conflicting emotions caused by the kisses
pressed upon the face he had longed for so secretly, with such
intensity, during the past few days, by the sensation of her lips
seeking to avoid contact with his own, of the beloved figure thrusting
him away with repulsion and horror, that he felt his reason was giving
way.

All at once, as he turned round the corner of the railing surrounding
the villa, he saw that some one was awaiting him in a carriage. The
sight arrested him with the same ghastly terror he would have felt at
seeing the spectre of some one he believed dead and resting in the bosom
of the earth. It was the avenger whom Ely had called to her aid. It was
Hautefeuille!

"Olivier!"

It was all he said. But his voice, his deadly pallor, his eyes, in which
shone the suffering of a heartbreaking anguish, told his friend that he
knew all.



CHAPTER X


A VOW


The most extraordinary results are always brought about by the simplest
causes, just as the most unexpected things are always logical
happenings. A little reflection would oftener than not have been
sufficient to prevent the one and to foresee the other. But the
characteristic of passion is that its object absorbs its attention
completely. It takes no note of the fact that other passions exist
outside itself, as furious as itself, as uncontrollable with which it
must come in contact. It is a train flying along under full steam, with
no signal to warn it that another train is coming in the opposite
direction on the same line.

Swept away by a torrent of suffering, wrapped up in his thoughts during
this week of mortal agony, Olivier had not noticed that there was a
being near him living, trembling, suffering also. Monomania is full of
such egoism, of such forgetfulness. He had not noticed the working of
his wife's mind, nor foreseen the natural possibility that, exasperated
by her suspicions, Berthe might appeal to her husband's friend for help,
that she might implore Hantefeuille to aid her! This was just what she
finally did, and the interview between them had as result one easy to
prognosticate--that the young wife's jealousy tore off the bandage that
covered the eyes of her husband's unwitting friend. In one minute Pierre
understood everything!

This tragedy--such an interview was one, and one that was big with a
terrible dénouement--was brought about by a last mad imprudence on
Olivier's part. The eve of his meeting with Madame de Carlsberg he had
manifested a more than usually feverish agitation. Not one of the
indications of this state of mind had escaped his wife's notice. He had
walked about in his room almost all the night, sitting down at intervals
to try and write the letter he was going to send to Ely in the morning.
Through the thin dividing partition of the room Berthe, awake and her
senses acutely tense, heard him walk, sit down, rise, sit down again,
crumpling up and tearing papers, walk about again, crush up and tear
other paper. She knew that he was writing. "To her," she thought. Ah!
how she longed to go, to open the door, which was not even locked, to
enter the room, and to know if the anxiety that had consumed her during
the last week was well founded or not, to learn if Olivier had really
met again the mistress he had known in Rome, to discover if this woman
was the cause of the agitated crisis he was going through, if, yes or
no, that former mistress was the Baroness Ely she had so much longed to
meet in one of the salons at Cannes.

But, without her being able to say anything, her husband arranged
something for every day, and they had not paid a single visit or dined a
single time with any of their friends. She was too intelligent not to
have understood at once that Olivier did not wish to mix with the
society of Cannes, and that he would not, on the other hand, go away
from the town. Why? A single premiss would have enabled Berthe to solve
the enigma, but she had not that premiss. Her wifely instinct, however,
was not to be deceived--there was a mystery. With an infallible
certainty all pointed to this fact.

By dint of thinking and observing, she came to this conclusion: "This
woman is here. He regrets her, and yet is afraid of her.--He longs for
her, and that is why we remain here and why he is so unhappy.--He is
afraid of her, and that is why he will not let me mix in society here."

How many times during the week she had been tempted to tell him that
such a situation was too humiliating, that he must choose between his
wife and his former mistress, that she had determined to go away, to
return to Paris, to be once more at home among her own people!

And then Hautefeuille was there, always making a third; Hautefeuille,
who certainly knew all the truth! She hated him all the more in
proportion as she suffered from her helpless ignorance. When alone with
Olivier an invincible timidity prostrated her. She had a shamed terror
of owning that she had discovered the name of the Baroness Ely. She
dreaded having to own she had seen the portrait, as though she had been
guilty of some vile spying. She trembled with fear lest some irreparable
word should be spoken in the explanation that must follow. The unknown
in her husband's character terrified her. She had often heard the
histories of households broken up forever during the first year of
married life. Suppose he should abandon her, return to the other in a
fit of rage? The poor child felt her heart grow cold at the mere idea.

She loved Olivier! And even without any question of love, how could she
accept the idea of seeing her conjugal happiness wrecked with the
scandal of a separation, she so calm, so reasonable, so truly pure and
simple-minded?

Again during the miserable night preceding Olivier's meeting with Ely
she had listened to the restlessness of her husband and had kept silent,
in spite of her suffering, of her sense of desertion, of her jealousy!
Every footstep in the adjoining room made her pray, made her long for
strength to resist the temptation to have finished forever with all her
suffering. A dozen times she compelled herself to begin the comforting
prayer, "Our Father--" and every time when she arrived at the sentence,
"As we forgive them that have trespassed against us," her entire being
had revolted.

"Forgive that woman? Never! never! I cannot." An almost insignificant
detail--are there any insignificant details in such crises?--completed
the tension of her nerves. Toward nine o'clock her husband, ready
dressed for going out, entered her room. He had a letter in his hand
slipped between his gloves and his hat. Berthe could not read the
address on the envelope, but she saw that it bore no stamp. With her
heart beating wildly with expectation of the reply he would make to the
simple question, she said to her husband:--

"Do you want a stamp?--You will find one in my writing case on the
table."

"No, thank you," replied Olivier. "It is simply a line to be delivered
by hand. I will leave it myself."

He went out, adding that he would be back for luncheon. He never dreamed
that his wife burst into a passion of weeping the moment she was alone.
She was now certain the letter was for the Baroness Ely. Then, like
every jealous woman, she gave way to the irresistible, savage instinct
of material research which mitigates nothing, satisfies nothing--for,
suppose a proof of the justice of suspicion is discovered, does that
make the jealous suffering inspired by that suspicion any easier to
bear?

She went into her husband's room. In the wastepaper basket she saw the
fragments of a score of letters, thrown there by the feverish hand of
the young man. They were the drafts of the letters she had heard him
begin and crumple up and destroy the night before. With trembling hands
and burning cheeks, her throat parched with the horror of what she was
doing, she gathered together and rearranged. She thus reconstituted the
beginnings of a score of letters, letters of the most utter
insignificance to any one unaided by the intuition of wounded love, but
terribly, frightfully clear and precise to her.

They were all addressed to a woman. Berthe could read the incoherence of
Olivier's thoughts in them. The entire gamut of sentiment was gone
through, by turn ceremonious: "Madame, will you allow a visitor who has
not yet had the honor;" ironical, "You will not be surprised, madame,
that I cannot leave Cannes;" familiar, "I reproach myself, dear madame,
for not having called upon you before this."

How the young man's pen had hesitated over the form of asking such a
simple thing--the permission to pay a visit! This hesitation was, in
itself, the certain proof of a mystery, and one of the fragments thus
put together again revealed its nature: "Some vengeances are infamous,
my dear Ely, and the one you have conceived--"

Olivier had written this in the most cruel minute of his insomnia. His
suffering found relief in the insolent use of the Christian name, in the
insulting remembrance of an ineffaceable intimacy. Then he tore up the
sheet of paper into minute fragments which betrayed the rage consuming
him. After she had put together and deciphered this fatal phrase Berthe
saw nothing else. All her presentiments were well founded: Baroness Ely
de Carlsberg, of whom Corancez had spoken to Hautefeuille in the train,
was her husband's former mistress! He had only wanted to come to Cannes
because she was there, so as to see her again! The letter in his hand a
few minutes before had been for her! He had gone with it to her villa!

Face to face with this indisputable and overwhelming certainty, the
young woman was seized with a convulsive trembling that increased as the
hour for luncheon drew near.--It burst all bounds when, toward noon, she
received a card from Olivier upon which he had scribbled in
pencil--always the same handwriting!--that a friend whom he had met had
insisted upon keeping him for luncheon, and he begged her not to wait
for him!

"She has won him back from me! He is with her!"

When she had realized this thought, weighted with all the horrible pain
given by evidence that pierces to the heart, like some glittering, icy
cold knife, she felt that she could not support this physical suffering.
With the automatic action that comes upon such occasions she put on her
hat and veil and gloves. Then when she was dressed and ready for going
out a final gleam of reason showed her the folly of the project she had
conceived. She had thought of going to her rival's house, of surprising
Olivier, and of finishing with it all forever!

To finish with it all! She looked at herself in the mirror, her teeth
chattering, her face lividly pale, all her body convulsively trembling.
She realized that such a step in her present state with such a woman
would be absurd. But suppose some one else took this step? Suppose some
one else went to Olivier and said, "Your wife knows all. She is dying.
Come."

The idea of him whom she believed to be her husband's confidant had no
sooner occurred to the mind of the unhappy woman when she rang for her
chambermaid with the same automatic nervousness.

"Beg Monsieur Hautefeuille to come here, if he is in his room," she
said, she who had never had a single conversation in her life
_tête-à-tête_ with the young man.

But she cared nothing for conventionality at the moment. Her nervousness
was so great that she had to sit down when the chambermaid returned, and
said that Monsieur Hautefeuille was coming. Her limbs would no longer
support her. When he entered the room about five minutes later she did
not give him the time to greet her, to ask why she had sent for him. She
sprang toward him like some wild creature seizing her prey, and, taking
his arm in her trembling hand with the incoherence of a madwoman who
only sees the idea possessing her and not the being to whom she speaks,
she said:--

"Ah! you have come at last.--You must have felt that I suspected
something.--You must go and tell him that I know all, you hear me,
all,--and bring him here. Go! Go! If he does not come back I shall go
mad.--You have an honorable heart, Monsieur Hautefeuille. You must think
it wrong, very wrong, that he should return to that woman after only six
months of married life. Go, and tell him that he must come back, that I
forgive him, that I will never speak about it again. I cannot show him
how I love him.--But I do love him, I swear that I love him.--Ah! my
head is reeling."

"But, Madame du Prat," said Pierre, "what is the matter? What has gone
wrong? Where must I go to find Olivier? What is it that you know? What
is it that he has hidden from you? Where has he returned to?--I assure
you I do not understand a single thing."

"Ah! you are lying to me again!" replied Berthe, more violent still.
"You are trying to spare me!--But I tell you I know all.--Do you want
proofs? Would you like me to tell you what you talked about in your
first conversation together the day we arrived, when you left me alone
at the hotel? Would you like to know what you talk about every time that
I am not present?--It is of the woman who was his mistress in Rome, of
whom he has never ceased thinking.--He travelled with her portrait in
his portfolio during our honeymoon! I saw that portrait--I tell you I
saw it! That was how I learned her name. The portrait was signed at the
bottom, signed 'Ely.'--You are satisfied now.--Do you think I did not
notice your agitation, the uneasiness of both of you, when some one
spoke of this woman before me the day we went to Monte Carlo?--You
thought I did not see anything, that I suspected nothing.--I know, I
tell you, that she is here. I will tell you the name of her villa if you
like. It is the Villa Helmholtz.--I know that he only came to Cannes to
see her again. He is with her now, I am certain.--He is with her now!
Don't tell me I am wrong. I have here the pieces of letters that he
wrote to her this past night asking for a meeting."

With her trembling hands, which had hardly strength enough to lift up
the sheets of paper upon which she had arranged the damning fragments
with such patience, she showed Pierre all the beginnings of a letter,
among them the irrefutable sentence that had another significance for
him. He was trembling so violently, his features expressed such anguish,
that Berthe was convinced of his complicity. This fresh proof, after so
many, that her suspicions were well founded, was so painful to the poor
woman that before Pierre's eyes she gave way to a fit of hysterics. She
made a sign to show that her breath was failing her. Her heart beat so
furiously that she felt she was suffocating. She pressed her hand upon
her heart, sobbing, "Oh, God!"--Her voice died away in her throat, and
she fell upon the floor, her head hanging loosely, her eyes gleaming
whitely, and with a little foam at the corners of her mouth as though
she were dying.

The young man recovered his senses before the necessity of helping the
poor woman, whose anguish terrified him, of succoring her by the
simplest means that could be imagined readily, of summoning the
chambermaid, of sending for the doctor and of awaiting his diagnosis.
These cares carried him through the frightful half hour that follows
every such revelation, the half hour that is so terrible.

He only recovered consciousness of the reality of his own misfortune
when the departure of the doctor had reassured him of the young woman's
state. The physician recommended antispasmodics and promised to come
again during the evening. Although he did not seem much alarmed, the
young wife's illness was serious enough to demand the presence of the
husband.

Hautefeuille said, "I am going for M. du Prat," and went off in the
direction of the Villa Helmholtz. It was on the way, while his carriage
was rolling along the road now so familiar to him, that he felt the
first attack of real despair. The news he had just heard was so
stunning, so unexpected, so disconcerting, and full of anguish for him
that he felt as though in the grasp of some hideous nightmare.--He would
awake presently and would find everything as it was only that
morning.--But no.--Berthe's words suddenly recurred to him. He saw again
in imagination the opening of the letter, written in the hand he had
known for twenty years: "Some vengeances are infamous, my dear Ely, and
the one you have conceived--"

In the light of the terrible sentence, Olivier's strange attitude since
his arrival in Cannes became quite comprehensible with a frightful
clearness. Indications to which Pierre had paid no attention crowded
pell-mell into his memory. He recalled glances his friend had cast at
him, his sudden silence, his half confidences, his allusions. All
invaded his recollection like a flood of certainty. It mounted to his
brain, which was stupefied by the fumes of a grief as strong and intense
as though by the influence of some poisonous alcohol. As his horse was
walking up the steep incline of Urie he met Yvonne de Chésy. He did not
recognize her, and even when she called to him he did not hear her. She
made a sign to the driver to stop, and laughing, even in all her
trouble, she said to the unhappy youth:--

"I wanted to know if you had met my husband, who was to have met me. But
I see that a herd of elephants might have gone by without your seeing
them! You are going to call upon Ely? You will find Du Prat there. He
even deigned to recognize me."

Although Pierre had not the least doubt that Olivier was at Madame de
Carlsberg's, this fresh evidence, gathered by pure chance, seemed to
break his heart. A few minutes later he saw the roofs and the terraces
of the villa. Then he came, to the garden. The sight of the hedge he had
passed through only the night before with so much loving confidence, so
much longing desire, completed the destruction of all the reason that
remained to him. He felt that in his present state of semi-madness it
was impossible for him to see his friend and his mistress face to face
with each other without dying with pain. This was why Olivier found him,
awaiting his arrival, at a turn of the road, livid with a terrible
pallor, his physiognomy changed, his eyes gleaming madly.

The situation of the two friends was so tragic, it presaged so painful
an interview, that both felt they could not, that they must not, enter
into an explanation there.

Olivier got into the carriage as though nothing were amiss, and took the
vacant place. As he felt the contact of his friend, Pierre shivered, but
recovered himself immediately. He said to the coachman:--

"Drive to the hotel quickly."

Then, turning to Du Prat, he continued:--

"I came for you because your wife is very ill."

"Berthe?" cried Olivier. "Why, when I left her this morning she seemed
so cheerful and well!"

"She told me where you were," went on Hautefeuille, avoiding a more
direct reply. "By accident she has found among your papers a photograph
taken in Rome and bearing a striking signature. She heard some one
mention this name here. She at once came to the conclusion that the
person bearing the name, and who lives at Cannes, was the original of
the portrait from Rome. She discovered the torn fragments of some
letters in which the same name occurred, and in which you asked for a
rendezvous. In fact, she knows all."

"And you also?" asked Olivier, after a silence.

"And I also!" assented Pierre.

The two friends did not exchange another word during the quarter of an
hour the carriage took to arrive at the Hôtel des Palmes. What could
they have said in such a moment to increase or diminish the mortal agony
that choked their utterance?

Olivier went straight to his wife's room the moment the carriage
arrived, without asking Pierre when they would meet again and without
Pierre asking him. It was one of those silences that happen at a
death-bed, when all seems paralyzed by the first icy impression of the
unchangeable, when all is stifled in the grip of the "nevermore"!

The crisis of weakness, the necessity of expansion that follows such
struggles, began for Du Prat on the threshold of Berthe's room. He was
saluted by the sickly odor of ether upon his entrance. Outlined, pale
and haggard, against the pillow, regarding him with eyes swimming in
tears, he saw the wasted face of the girl who had trusted him, who had
given him her life, the flower of her youth, all her hopes and
aspirations. How unyielding he must have been toward the suffering,
self-contained creature for her to have concealed all her feelings from
him, loving him as she did!

He could not utter a word. He sat down near the bed and remained for a
long time looking at the poor invalid. The sensation of the suffering
that enveloped all four--Berthe, Pierre, Ely, and himself--pierced him
to the heart. Berthe loved him and knew that her lave was not returned.
Pierre loved Ely, and was beloved by her, but his happiness had just
been poisoned forever by the most horrible of revelations. As for
himself, he was in the grasp of a passion for his former mistress, one
whom he had suspected, insulted, deserted, and who had now given herself
to his dearest friend.

Like a man who falls overboard in mid-ocean, who is swimming desperately
in the raging sea, and who sees the waves assembling that will swallow
him up, Olivier felt the irresistible power of the love he had so
yearned to know, rising all around, within him and on every hand. He was
in the influence of the storm, and he felt it sweeping him away. He was
afraid. While he sat near the bedside, listening to the irregular
breathing of his young wife, he felt for an instant the intellectual and
emotional vertigo that imparts to even the least philosophical natures
at such moments the vision of the fatal forces of nature, the implacable
workers-out of our destinies. And then, like a swimmer tossed about by
the palpitating ocean, making a feeble effort to struggle against the
formidable waves before they engulf him, he tried to recover himself--to
act. He wanted to speak with Berthe, to soften all that it was possible
to soften of her suffering.

"You are angry with me?" he said.--"And yet you see that I came the
moment I knew you were ill.--When you are well again I will explain all
that has taken place. You will see that things have not been what you
believe.--Ah! what suffering you would have spared us both if you had
only spoken during the past few days!"

"I do not condemn you," said the poor girl, "and I do not ask you to
explain anything.--I love you and you do not love me; that is what I
know. It is not your fault, but nothing can change it.--You have just
been very good to me," she added, "and I thank you for it. I am so worn
out that I would like to rest."

"It is the beginning of the end," thought Olivier, as he passed into the
salon in obedience to his wife's wish. "What will become of our
household?--If I do not succeed in winning her back, in healing her
wounded heart, it will mean a separation in a very short time, and for
me it will mean the recommencement of an aimless life.--Heal her heart
when my own is bleeding!--Poor child! How I have made her suffer!"

Through all the complications caused by his impressionability, he had
retained the conscience of an honorable man. It was too sensitive not to
shrink with remorse from the answer to this question. But--who does not
know it by experience?--neither remorse nor pity, the two noblest
virtues of the human soul, has ever prevailed against the dominating
frenzy of passion in a being who loves. Olivier's thoughts quickly
turned from the consideration of poor Berthe to the opposite side. The
fever of the kisses he had pressed on Ely's pale, quivering face burned
in his veins. The image of his friend, of the lover to whom the woman
now belonged, recurred to him at the same time, and his two secret
wounds began to bleed again so violently that he forgot everything that
did not concern Ely or Pierre, Pierre or Ely. And a keener suffering
than any he had yet experienced attacked him. What was his friend, his
brother, doing? What had become of the being to whom he had given so
large a part of his very soul? What was still left of their friendship?
What would there still be left to-morrow?

Face to face with a prospective rupture with Hautefeuille, Olivier felt
that this was for him the uttermost limit of anguish, the supreme stroke
that he could not support. The wreck of his married life was a blow for
which he was prepared. His frightful and desperate reflux of passion for
Ely de Carlsberg was a horrible trial, but he would submit to it. But to
lose his consecrated friendship, to possess no longer this unique
sentiment in which he had always found a refuge, a support, a
consolation, a reason for self-esteem and for believing in good, was the
final destruction of all. After this there was nothing in life to which
he could turn, no one for whom and with whom to live. It was the
entrance into the icy night, into total solitude.

All the future of their friendship was at stake in this moment, and yet
he remained there motionless, letting time slip by that was priceless. A
few minutes before, when they were in the carriage returning to the
hotel, he could not say a single word to Pierre. Now he must at all
costs defend this beloved, noble sentiment, take part in the struggle of
which the heart of his friend, so cruelly wounded, was the scene. How
would he receive him? What could they say to each other? Olivier did not
ask. The instinct that made him leave his room to go down to
Hautefeuille's was as unconscious, as irreflective, as his wife's appeal
to Hautefeuille had been, that appeal which had ruined all. Would
Olivier's advances be followed with as fatal results?

When he had passed the threshold of the room, he saw Pierre sitting
before a table, his head resting on his hands. A sheet of paper before
him, still blank, showed that he had intended to write a letter, but had
not been able. The pen had slipped from his fingers upon the paper and
he had left it there. Through the window beyond this living statue of
despair Olivier saw the wonderful afternoon sky, a soft pile of delicate
hues in which the blue was deepened into mauve. Glorious masses of
mimosa filled the vases and filled with their refreshing and yet heavy
perfume the retreat in which the young lover had revelled during the
winter in hours of romantic reverie, in which he was now draining the
vast cup of bitterness that the eternal Delilah fills for her dearest
victims!

Olivier had suffered many a poignant shock during this tragic afternoon,
but none more agonizing than the silent spectacle of this deep, endless
suffering. All the virility of his friendship awoke and his own grief
melted in a fathomless tenderness for the companion of his childhood and
youth, who was dying before his eyes. He put his hand upon Pierre's
shoulder, gently and lightly, as though he divined that at his contact
the jealous body of the lover must rebel and shrink back in horror, in
aversion.

"It is I," he said; "it is I, Olivier.--You must feel that we cannot
remain with this weight upon our hearts. It is a load under which you
are reeling and which is stifling me. You are suffering; I am also in
torture. Our pain will be less if we bear it together, each supporting
the other.--I owe you an explanation, and I have come to give it you.
Between us there can be no secret now. Madame de Carlsberg has told me
all."

Hautefeuille did not appear to have heard the first words his friend
uttered. But at the sound of his mistress's name he raised his head. His
features were horribly contracted, betraying the dreadful suffering of a
grief that has not found relief in tears. He replied in a dry voice in
which all his repulsion was manifest.

"An explanation between us? What explanation? To tell you what? To
inform me of what? That you were that woman's lover last year, and that
I am your successor?" Then, as though lashing himself to fury with his
own words, he went on:--

"If it is to tell me again what you did before I knew whom you were
talking about, you may spare yourself the pain. I have forgotten
nothing.--Neither the story of the first lover, nor of the other, nor of
the one who was the cause of your leaving her.--She is a monster of
falsehood and hypocrisy. I know it, and you have proved it. Don't let us
begin again. It hurts me too much, and, besides, it is useless. She died
for me to-day. I no longer know her."

"You are very hard upon her," replied Olivier, "and you have no right to
be."

The cynicism of the insults Pierre was hurling at Ely was insupportable.
It betrayed so much suffering in the lover who was thus outraging a
mistress whom only the night before he had idolized! And then the
passionate, true tone of the woman was still ringing in his ears as she
spoke of her love. An irresistible magnanimity compelled him to witness
for her, and he repeated:--

"No, you have no right to accuse her. With you she has neither been
deceitful nor hypocritical! She loves you, loves you deeply and
passionately.--Be just. Could she tell you what you now know? If she has
lied to you, it was to keep you; it was because you are the first, the
only love of her life."

"It is a lie!" cried Hautefeuille. "There is no love without complete
sincerity.--But I would have forgiven her all, forgiven all the past, if
she had told me.--Besides, there was a first day, a first hour.--I shall
never forget that day and that hour.--We spoke of you that very day when
I first met her. I can still hear her uttering your name. I did not hide
from her how much I loved you. She knew through you how dearly you loved
me.--It was an easy matter to never see me again, to not attract me, to
leave me free to go my way! There are so many other men in the world for
whom the past would have been nothing more than the past.--But no; what
she wanted was a vengeance, a base, ignoble vengeance! You had left her.
You had married. She took me, as an assassin takes a knife, to strike
you to the heart.--You dare not deny it.--Why, I have read it; I know
you believe that, for I have read it in your handwriting! Tell me, yes
or no, did you write those words?"

"Yes, but I was wrong," said Olivier. "I believed it then, but I was
mistaken. Ah!" he continued with a tone of despair, "why must it be my
lot to defend her to you?--But if I did not believe that she loves you
do you not think that I should be the first to tell you, the first to
say, 'She is a monster'?--Yes, I thought she had taken you in a spirit
of revenge. I thought it from the day of my arrival, when we wandered in
the pine forest and you spoke of her. I saw so clearly that you loved
her, and oh! how I suffered!"

"Ah! You admit it!" cried Pierre.

He rose, and, grasping his friend by the shoulder, he began to shake him
in a fury of rage, repeating:--

"You admit it! You admit it! You knew that I loved her, and yet you said
nothing. For an entire week you have been with me, been near me, you
have seen me giving all my heart, all that is good in me, all that is
tender and affectionate to your former mistress, and you said nothing!
And if I had not learned from your wife you would have let me sink
deeper and deeper in this passion every day, you would have left me in
the toils of some one you despise!--It was at the beginning you ought to
have said, 'She is a monster!'--not now."

"How could I?" said Olivier, interrupting. "Honor forbade it. You know
that very well."

"But honor did not forbid you writing to her," replied Pierre, "when you
knew that I loved her, to ask her for a meeting unknown to me; it did
not prevent you going to her house, when you knew I was not there."

He looked at Olivier with an expression in which shone a veritable
hatred.

"I see clearly now," he went on. "You have both been playing with
me.--You wanted to use what you had discovered to enter into her life
again. Judas! You have lied to me.--Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!"

With the cry of some stricken animal, he sank into a chair and began to
weep passionately, uttering among his sobs:--

"Friendship, love; love, friendship, all is dead. I have lost all. Every
one has lied to me, everything has betrayed me.--Ah! how miserable I
am!--"

Du Prat recoiled, paling under the influence of this flood of invective.
The pain caused by his friend's insult was deep enough. But there was no
anger, no question of egoism in his feelings. The terrible injustice of
a being naturally good, delicate, and tender only increased his pity. At
the same time the sentiment of the irremediable rupture of their
affections, if the interview finished like this, restored a little of
the sangfroid that the other had quite lost. With a voice that was full
of emotion in its gravity, he replied:--

"Yes, you must be suffering, Pierre, to speak to me in that way--me,
your old companion, your friend! your brother--I a Judas? I a
traitor?--Look me in the face. You have insulted me, threatened
me--almost struck me--and you see I have no feeling in my heart for you
except the friendship that is as tender, as sentient as it was
yesterday, as it was a year, ten years, twenty years ago! I have played
with you?--I have deceived you?--No, you cannot think that, you do not
believe it!--You know well enough that our friendship is not dead, that
it cannot die!--And all"--here his voice became agitated and
bitter--"because of a woman!--A woman has come between us, and you have
forgotten all, you have renounced all.--Ah! Pierre, arouse yourself, I
implore you; tell me that you only spoke in your anger; tell me that you
still care for me, that you still believe in our friendship. I ask it in
the name of our childhood, of those innocent moments when we met and
mourned because we were not really brothers. Is there a single
recollection of that time with which I am not connected?--To efface you
from my life would be to destroy all my past, all that part of it that I
turn to with pride, that I contemplate when I want to free myself from
the vileness of the present!--For God's sake, remember our youth and all
that it held of good and noble and pure affection. In 1870, the day
after Sedan, when you wanted to enlist, you came to seek me, do you
recollect? And you found me going off to your house. Do you remember the
embrace that drew us heart to heart? Ah! if any one had told us that a
day would arrive when you would call me traitor, that you would call me,
by whose side you wanted to die, a Judas; with what confidence we should
have replied, 'Impossible!' And do you remember the snowy night in the
forest of Chagey, toward the end, when we learned that all was lost,
that the army was entering Switzerland and that on the morrow we had to
give up our arms? And have you forgotten our oath, that if ever we had
to fight again, we would be together, shoulder to shoulder, heart to
heart, in the same line?--Suppose the hour should come, what would you
do without me?--Ah, you are looking at me again, you understand me, you
feel with me.--Come to my arms, Pierre, as on that third of
September, now more than ten years ago, and yet it seems like
yesterday.--Everything else in this life may fail us, but not our
friendship.--Everything else is passion, sensual, delirium, but that
feeling is our heart, that friendship is our very being!"

As Olivier spoke Pierre's attitude began to change. His sobs stopped and
in his eyes, still wet with tears, a strange gleam appeared. His
friend's voice betrayed such poignant emotion, the vision evoked by his
brotherly love recalled such ideal thoughts to the unhappy man--visions
of heroic deeds and courageous efforts--that, after the first shock of
horrible pain, all his manly energy was called to life by the appeal of
his old brother in arms. He rose, hesitated a second, and then seized
Olivier in his arms. And they embraced with one of those noble
sentiments that dry the tears in our eyes, that strengthen the wavering
will and renew the strength of generosity in our hearts. Then briefly
and simply Pierre replied:--

"I beg your pardon, Olivier; you are better than I am. But the blow was
such a terrible one, and came so suddenly!--I had such entire, complete
confidence in that woman. And I learned all in five minutes, and in that
way!--I knew nothing, suspected nothing.--Then came the two lines in
your handwriting after what your wife had told me, and on the top of
your confidences!--It was like a ship upon the ocean at midnight cut in
two by another vessel, and plunging beneath the waves forever.--A man
could go mad in such a moment.--But let us say nothing more about that.
You are right. We must save our friendship from this shipwreck."

He put his hand before his eyes as though to shut out another vision
that was paining him.

"Listen, Olivier," he said, "you may think me very weak, but you must
tell me the truth.--Have you ever seen Madame de Carlsberg since you
parted in Rome?"

"Never!" replied Olivier.

"You wrote a letter to her this morning. Not the one of which I read the
beginning, but another. What did you write about?"

"To ask for an interview, nothing more."

"And she? Did she reply?"

"Not personally. She sent word that she was at home."

"Why did you ask for this meeting? What did you say to her?"

"I said what I then thought was the truth. I was overwhelmed by the idea
that she was trying to revenge herself upon me through you, and I felt I
must arouse a sense of shame in her. She replied to my reproaches and
proved to me that she loved you."

And he added:--

"Do not ask me anything more."

Pierre looked at him. The fever of such an interrogation began to scorch
him again. A question was burning his lips. He longed to ask, "Did you
speak of your past? Did you speak of your love?"

Then his native nobility recoiled before the baseness of such a
degrading inquisition. He became silent and began to walk up and down
the room, the living scene of a struggle which his friend watched in
mortal anguish. The questions that he had just put brought Ely present
before him with a too cruel vividness. They had reanimated the
sentiments Olivier's manly and apologizing appeal had exorcised a few
minutes before. Love, despising, disabused, vilified, and cruel, but
still love, struggled with friendship in his aching heart. Suddenly the
young man stopped. He stamped upon the floor, shaking his clinched fist
at the same time. He uttered a single "Ah!" full of repulsion, of
disgust, and of deliverance, and then, looking straight into his
friend's eyes, he said:--

"Olivier, give me your word of honor that you will not see this woman
again, that you will not receive her if she comes to see you, that you
will not answer if she writes to you, that you will never ask after her
no matter what may happen, never, never, never."

"I give you my word of honor," said Olivier.

"And I," said Hautefeuille, with a deep sigh that betrayed both despair
and relief, "I give you my word of honor to do the same, that I will
never see her again, that I will never write to her.--There is not room
for you and her in my heart. I feel it now, and I cannot lose you."

"Thank God!" said Olivier, taking his friend's hand. An inexpressible
emotion overcame him, a mixed feeling of joy, of gratitude, and of
terror--joy because of their beloved friendship, gratitude for the
delicacy which had made Pierre save him the pangs of the most horrible
jealousy, terror of the terrible agony imprinted upon his friend's face
as he made his vow of self-sacrifice.

Hautefeuille seemed eager to escape from the room where such a terrible
scene had taken place, and opened the door.

"You have a patient upstairs," he said. "You ought to be near her. She
must get better quickly so that we can go away, to-morrow if possible,
but the next day at the very latest.--I will come with you and will
await you in the salon."

The two friends had hardly stepped into the corridor when they were met
by a servant of the hotel. The man had a letter upon a tray, which he
held out to Pierre, saying:--

"The bearer is waiting for a reply, Monsieur Hautefeuille."

Hautefeuille took the letter and looked at the superscription. Then,
without opening it, he handed it to Olivier, who recognized Ely's bold
handwriting. He returned the letter to Pierre and asked:--

"What are you going to do?"

"What I promised," replied Hautefeuille.

Re-entering his room, he put the unopened letter in another envelope. He
then wrote on it Madame de Carlsberg's name and the address of her
villa. Returning to the corridor he handed it to the servant, saying:--

"There is the reply."

And when he again took Olivier's arm he felt it trembled more than his
own did.



CHAPTER XI


BETWEEN TWO TRAGEDIES


Ely awaited Pierre's reply to her letter without apprehension.
Immediately Olivier had left she wrote, impelled by an instinctive, an
irresistible desire to refresh and purify herself in Hautefeuille's
loyal, devoted tenderness, after the cruel scene from which she issued
broken, humiliated, and soiled. Not for a single minute did she do
Olivier the injustice of suspecting that he would, even though possessed
by the most hateful love, try to destroy the image that Pierre had of
her--an image that bore no resemblance to her in the past, but now so
true--so true to the inner nature of her present being.

She said nothing in this letter to her lover that she had not told him
twenty times before--that she loved him, then again that she loved him,
and, finally, that she loved him. She was sure that he would also reply
with words of love, already read and re-read a score of times, but
always new and welcome as an untasted happiness. When she received the
envelope upon which Pierre had written her address, she weighed it in
her hands, with the joy of a child. "How good he is to send me such a
long letter!" And she tore it open in an ecstasy of love that was at
once changed to terror. She looked first at her own letter with the seal
unbroken and then again at the envelope bearing her name. Was it
possible that such an insult had really been paid her by "her sweet," as
she called her lover, with the affectation common to all sentiments?
Could such an insult really have come from Pierre, who that very night
had clasped her to his bosom with so much respect, mingled with his
idolatry, with piety almost in his passion?

Alas, doubt was not possible! The address was in the young man's
handwriting. It was certainly he who returned the letter to his mistress
without even opening it. Following the terrible scene of a short time
before, this refusal to hear from her, this return of her letter,
signified a rupture. The motive of it was indicated to Ely's terrified
eyes with hideous plainness. It was impossible for her to guess the
exact truth. She could not divine that it had been brought about by
Berthe du Prat's jealousy,--a jealousy awakened by so many suspicions
which started the long-continued inner tragedy and ended in the
irresistible impulse which drove the young wife to make the most
desperate appeal to the most intimate friend of her husband, to make an
appeal that revealed all to him. It was a succession of chances that
nothing could have foretold.

On the other hand, a voluntary indiscretion on the part of Olivier
appeared so probable, so conformable to the habitual meanness of wounded
masculine pride! Ely never thought of any other cause, never sought any
other motive for the crushing revolution wrought in Pierre's soul, of
which she had before her a mute proof, more indisputable, more
convincing than any phrase. The details of the catastrophe appeared
before her simply and logically. Olivier had left her frantic with anger
and desire, with jealousy and humiliated pride. In an excess of
semi-madness he had failed of his honor. He had spoken! What had he
said? All?--

At the mere idea the blood froze in the poor woman's veins. From the
minute when, upon the quay of the old port at Genoa, Hautefeuille had
held out to her the despatch announcing Olivier's return, she had
traversed so many horrible hours that it appeared as though in her
thoughts she must have become accustomed to the danger, that she must
have admitted the possibility of this event. But, when in love, the
heart possesses such stores of confidence, united to a keen power of
self-deception, that she came face to face with the actuality as
unprepared, unresigned, as unwittingly as we all meet death.--Ah! if she
could only see Pierre at once. If she could only be alone with him,
could only talk to him, could only plead her cause, defend herself,
explain to him all she once had been and why, show him what she had now
become and the reason, tell him of her struggles, of her longing to
unbosom herself to him at the beginning, and that she had only kept
silence through fear of losing him, through a trembling terror of
wounding him in his tenderest feelings! If she could only see him to
show him that love had caused it all, that it was love!--

Yes, see him! But where? When? How? At the hotel? He would not receive
her. Olivier was there watching, guarding him. See him at her own villa?
He would not come there again. Make a rendezvous with him? She could
not. He would not even open her letter! She felt in the depths of her
nature, which had remained so primitive and unrestrained, all the savage
spirit of her Black Mountain ancestors rebelling against the bonds that
tied her. With all her wretchedness she could not keep down a movement
of reckless violence. Her powerless rage found vent--it was the only
outlet possible--in a letter written to her cowardly denunciator,
Olivier. She despised him at this moment for all the faith that she had
felt in his loyalty. She loathed him with the same energy that she loved
Pierre.

This second letter was useless and unworthy of herself. But to give free
course to her rage against Olivier was to give relief to her passion for
his friend. Besides--for in stirring up the depths of our nature
suffering arouses that vague foundation of hope that remains with us in
spite of the deepest despair--was it not possible that Olivier, when he
once saw how infamously he had acted, would go to his friend and say:
"It was not true; I lied when I told you she had been my mistress"?

This whirlwind of mad ideas, vain rage, and senseless hypotheses was
shattered and driven away by an event as brutal as the first. Ely sent
the letter to Olivier by one of her footmen about seven o'clock. Half an
hour later, when she was finishing her toilet in a fever of anxiety, the
man brought back the reply. It was a large sealed envelope with her
address written in Olivier's handwriting. Inside was her letter
unopened.

The two friends had thus made a compact. They both insulted her in the
same way! It was as plain to her as though she had seen them take each
other's hand and swear a pact of alliance against her in the name of
their friendship.

For the first time this woman, usually superior to all the pettiness of
her sex, felt against their friendship all the unreasoning hate that the
ordinary mistress has for even the simple companionships of her lover.
She felt that instinctive impulse of feminine antipathy for sentiments
purely masculine, and from which the woman feels excluded forever.
During the hours following the double insult, Ely was not only a woman
in love repulsed and disdained, a woman who loses with him she loves all
joy in life, a woman who will die of the effect of her loss. She was not
only this, she also suffered all the pangs of a devouring jealousy. She
was jealous of Olivier, jealous of the affection he inspired in Pierre
and that Pierre returned. In the despair that the certainty of the cruel
desertion caused her, she felt mingled an additional pang of suffering
at the idea that these two men were happy in the triumph of their
fraternal tenderness, that they dwelt under the same roof, that they
could talk with each other, that they esteemed each other, loved each
other.

True, such impressions were out of conformity with her innate
magnanimity. But extreme sufferings have one trait in common: they
distort the natural feelings and sentiments. The most delicate nature
becomes brutal, the most confiding loses the noble power of expansion,
the most loving becomes misanthropic when in the grasp of a great grief.
There is no more ill-founded prejudice than the one echoed in the famous
line--


"Man is an apprentice; suffering, his master."


It may be a master, but it is a degrading, depraving master. Not to be
corrupted by suffering one must accept the trial as a punishment and a
redemption. And then it is not the suffering that ameliorates one, but
faith!

Without doubt if poor Ely had not been the disabused nihilist who
believed, as she once said energetically, that "there is only this
world," all the obscure fatalities that were crushing her down would
have been made clear with a blinding light. She would have recognized a
mysterious justice, stronger than our intentions, more infallible than
our calculations, in the encounter that made the punishment of her
double adultery issue from the friendship of those who had been her
guilty partners in her failings, and caused those same accomplices to be
each a punishment to the other. But in the blow that overwhelmed her she
saw only the base vengeance of a former lover. And such a form of
suffering could only end in degrading her. All her virtues of generous
indulgence, of tender goodness, of sentimental scrupulousness that her
love, magnificent in its enthusiastic spontaneity, had awakened in her
heart, had receded from her. And she felt that all the most hideous and
all her worst instincts were taking their place at the idea that these
two men, both of whom had possessed her, one of whom she loved to the
verge of madness, despised her. And in imagination she again saw Pierre
as he was there before her, only twenty-four hours before, so devoted,
so noble, so happy!--Ah! Pierre!--All her bitterness melted into a flood
of tears as she cried aloud the beloved name. Ah! to what good was it
that she cried for him? The man for whom such passionate sighs were
breathed would not even listen to them!

What an evening, what a night the unfortunate woman passed, locked in
her room! What courage it needed not to remain there all the following
day, with windows closed, curtains down! How she longed to flee the
daylight, life, to flee from herself, plunged and engulfed in a night
and silence as of death!--But she was the daughter of an officer and the
wife of a prince. She had thus twice over the trait of a military
education, an absolute exactitude in carrying out her promises, a trait
that causes the disciplined will to rise superior to all events and to
execute at the appointed time the duties imposed. She had promised the
night before to intercede with Dickie Marsh in Chésy's favor, and she
was to give his reply in the afternoon. Her lassitude was so great in
the morning that she nearly wrote to Madame Chésy to postpone her visit
and that to the American's yacht. Then she said, "No, that would be
cowardly."--And at eleven o'clock in the morning, her face hidden by a
white veil that prevented her reddened eyes and agitated features from
being seen, she stepped from her carriage on to the little quay to which
the Jenny was moored. When she saw the rigging of the yacht and her
white hull outlined against the sky, pale with the presage of heat, she
remembered her arrival upon the same sun-scorched stones of the little
quay, in the same carriage, only a fortnight before, and the profound
joy she felt when she saw Pierre's silhouette as he looked for her from
the boat anxiously. Those two weeks had been long enough for her
romantic and tender idyl to be transformed into a sinister tragedy.
Where was the lover who was with her when they left for Genoa? Where was
he trying to hide the awful pain caused by her and which she could not
even console? Had he already left Cannes? Ever since the night before
the idea that Pierre had left her forever had made her heart icy with
cold terror. And yet she devoured with her eyes the yacht upon which she
had been so happy.

She was now near enough to be able to count the portholes, of which the
line appeared just above the rail of a cutter moored near the Jenny. The
seventh was the one lighting her cabin, their cabin, the nuptial refuge
where they had tasted the intoxicating joy of their first night of love.
A sailor was seated upon a plank suspended from the rail washing the
shell of the boat with a brush that he dipped from time to time in a big
bucket. The triviality of the detail, of the work being done at that
minute and at that place, completed the faintness of the young woman
caused by the air of contrast. She was speechless with emotion when she
stepped upon the gangway leading from the quay to the boat. Her
agitation was so apparent that Dickie Marsh could not resist an
inclination to question her, thus failing for once to observe the great
Anglo-Saxon principle of avoiding personal remarks.

"It is nothing," she replied; "or rather nothing that concerns me."

Then, making his question an excuse for introducing the subject of her
visit, she said:--

"I am all upset by the news I have just learned from Yvonne."

"Shall we go into the smoking-room?" asked the American, who had
trembled at the sound of Madame de Chésy's name. "We shall be able to
talk better there."

They were in the office where Marsh was busy when Ely arrived. The dry
clicking of the typewriter under the fingers of a secretary had not
stopped or even slackened a moment upon the entrance of the young woman.
Another secretary went on telephoning to the telegraph office, and a
third continued arranging documents. The intensity of their industry
proved the importance and the pressing nature of the work being done.
But the business man left his dictations and his calculations with as
little compunction as an infant displays when he casts aside his hoop or
ball, to question Yvonne's messenger with a veritable fever of anxiety.

"So the bolt has fallen! Are they ruined?" he asked, when they were
alone. Then, in reply to Ely's affirmation, he went on: "Was I not
right? I have not seen the Vicomtesse for some little time. I have not
even tried to see her. I thought Brion was at the bottom of all. I was
sure you would make me a sign at the right moment, unless--But no,
there is no unless--I was sure the poor child would estimate that man
for the abominable cad that he is, and that she would show him the door
the first word he uttered."

"She came to see me," said Ely, "trembling, and revolted at the ignoble
propositions the wretch made to her."

"Ah, what 'punishment' he merits!" said Marsh, with an expressive
gesture that accentuated the energetic boxing term. "Did you tell her to
apply to me? Is her husband willing to work?"

"She came to see me to ask for a place for Gontran as superintendent on
the Archduke's estate," replied Ely.

"No, no!" interrupted Dickie Marsh. "I have the very thing for him. It
is better for me even than for him, for I have a principle that all
services ought to be of some use to him that renders them. In that way,
if the man you oblige proves ungrateful, you are paid in advance.--This
is the affair. Since we were in Genoa we have done a lot of work. We
have founded in Marionville--by we I mean myself and three others, the
'big four,' as we are called--a society for working a score of ruined
ranches we have bought in North Dakota. We have thus miles and miles of
prairies upon which we want to raise not cattle, but horses.--Why
horses? For this reason: In the States a horse is worth nothing. My
countrymen have done away with them, and with that useless thing, the
carriage. Railways, electric tramways, and cable cars are quite
sufficient for every need. In Europe, with your standing armies, things
are different. In another five years you will not be able to find horses
for your cavalry. Now follow me closely. We are going to buy in the
horses in America by the thousand for a song. We shall restore them to
the prairies. We shall cross them with Syrian stallions. I have just
bought five hundred from the Sultan by telegraph."

Excited by the huge perspective of his enterprise, he left the "we" to
use the more emphatic "I."

"I am going to create a new breed, one that will be superb for light
cavalry. I will supply a mount for every hussar, uhlan, and chasseur in
Europe. I have calculated that. I can deliver the animals in Paris,
Berlin, Rome, Vienna at a fourth less than the State pays in France,
Germany, Italy, and in your country. But I must have some competent and
trustworthy man to look after my breeding stables. I want Chésy to take
this place. I will give him $115,000 per year, all his travelling
expenses paid, and a percentage upon the profits. You will perhaps say
that when you want to make wealth by the plough you must put your hand
to it.--That is true. But with the cable I am at hand if only my man
does not rob me. Now, Chésy is honest. He understands horses like any
jockey. He will save for me what a rascally employee would steal and all
that an incompetent one would waste. In ten years he can return to
Europe richer than he would ever have been by following Brion's advice
and without owing me anything.--But will he accept?"

"I can answer for that," replied Ely. "I have an appointment with Yvonne
this afternoon. She will write to you."

"In that case," Marsh continued, "I will cable instructions for the
furnishing of their residences in Marionville and Silver City to be
hurried on. They will have two houses at the society's expense. I shall
go to the States to start him upon his duties. They can be there for
June.--And if they accept will you tell the Vicomtesse that we start for
Beyrout the day after to-morrow on the _Jenny_? I want them to go along
with me. Chésy could begin his work straight away. He will prevent the
Bedouins selling me a lot of old nags in the batch. I will write to him,
however, more at length upon the matter."

There was a short silence. Then he said:--

"There is some one I should like to take with them."

"Who is that?" asked Ely.

The contrast was a very striking one between the sentiment of silent
misery, of despairing prostration, of the uselessness of everything that
prostrated her, and the almost boundless energy of the Yankee business
man. In addition to her sorrow she felt a sort of bewilderment, and she
forgot all about Marsh's intention in regard to his niece's marriage.

"Who?" echoed the American, "why Verdier, naturally. I have also my
secret service bureau," he went on. This time there was even more energy
in his manner. Admiration and covetousness were visible in all his being
as he sounded the praises of the Prince's assistant and of his
inventions. "I know that he has solved his problem. Has he not spoken to
you about it? Well, it is a marvel! You will realize that in a
minute.--You know that aluminum is the lightest of metals. It has only
one fault; it costs too much. Now, in the first place, Verdier has
discovered a process of making it by electrolysis, without the need of
any chemical transformations. He can thus get it very cheap. Then, with
his aluminum, he has invented a new kind of electric accumulator. It is
fifteen times more powerful according to its weight than the
accumulators at present in use.--In other words, the electric railway is
an assured fact. The secret is discovered!--I want to take Verdier with
me to the States, and with the help of his invention we shall wreck the
tramway companies in Marionville and Cleveland and Buffalo. It means the
death of Jim Davis; it means his end, his destruction, his complete
ruin!--You don't know Davis. He is my enemy. You know what it is to have
an enemy, to have some one in the world with whom you have been fighting
for years; all your life, in fact? Well, in my case that some one is Jim
Davis. His affairs are shaky just now. If I can get Verdier's invention,
I can crush him into pieces and utterly smash up the Republican party in
Ohio at the same time."

"Still," said Madame de Carlsberg, interrupting him, "I cannot go to the
laboratory to ask him for his invention."

In spite of her trouble she could not help smiling at the flood of
half-political, half-financial confidences that issued pell-mell from
Marsh. With his strange mixture of self-possession and excitability, he
did not lose sight of his objects for a single moment. He had just
rendered a service to the Baroness Ely. His motto was, give and take. It
was now her turn to serve him.

"No," he replied eagerly, "but you can find out what the young man has
against Flossie. You know that I planned their marriage. Did she not
tell you? It is a very good match for both--for all. To him it means a
fortune, to her it means happiness, to me, a useful instrument. Ah! what
a superb one this genius will be in my hands!" he cried, closing his
hands nervously like a workman seizing the levers of an engine that he
is starting in motion. "Everything seemed to be going on all right when,
suddenly--bang! All came to grief. About five or six days ago I noticed
that the girl was very silent, almost sad. I asked her point-blank, 'Are
you engaged, Flossie?' 'No, uncle,' she replied, 'and I never shall be.'
I talked with her and drew her out--not too much, simply enough to know
that some lovers' quarrel is at the bottom of it all. If you would talk
to her, Baroness, she would tell you more than she will me, and you can
also talk to Verdier. There is no sense in letting the affair drag on in
this way when they love each other as they do. For I know that they are
both in love. I met Mrs. Marsh--she was then Miss Potts--one Thursday at
a bazaar. On the following Saturday we were engaged. There is no time to
lose, not a day, not an hour or minute ought to be thrown away. We shall
waste enough when we are dead!"

"So you would like me to learn from Florence why she is so sad and why
the affair is broken off? I will find out. And I will rearrange the
whole thing if you like."

"That's it, Baroness," said Marsh, adding simply, "Ah! if my niece were
only like you! I would make you a partner in all my business affairs.
You are so intelligent, so quick and matter of fact when it is
necessary. You will find Flossie in her room. As to Chésy, it is an
understood thing. If you like, I will cable for them."

"Do so," said Ely, as she walked away toward Miss Marsh's cabin.

She had to pass the door of the one she had occupied on that
never-to-be-forgotten night. She pushed open the door with a frightful
feeling of melancholy. The little cabin, now unoccupied, was so blank,
seemed so ready to welcome any passing guest, to afford a refuge for
other happiness, other sorrows, other dreams, or other regrets! Was it
possible that the joy felt in this place had disappeared forever?
Whether it was Marsh's conversation which had communicated some of his
energy and confidence to the young woman or that, like the instinct to
struggle to the last that animates a drowning man, the soul is moved by
a vital energy at a certain point of discouragement, whether it were one
or the other motive it is hard to say, but Ely replied, No! to her own
question. Standing upon the threshold of the narrow cell that had been
for her an hour's paradise, she vowed that she would not surrender, that
she would fight for her happiness, that she would again recover it. It
was only a minute's respite, but it sufficed to give her courage to
compose her features so that Miss Marsh, a keener observer than her
uncle, did not notice the marks of a deep sadness imprinted too plainly
upon her face. The young American girl was painting. She was copying a
magnificent bunch of pinks and roses, of yellow, almost golden pinks,
and of blood-red, purple roses, whose deep tints seemed almost black.
The harmonious combination of yellow and red had attracted her eye,
always sensible to bright colors. Her unskilful brush laid coats of
harsh color upon the canvas, but she stuck to her task with an obstinacy
and energy and patience equal to that displayed by her uncle in his
business. And yet she was a true woman, in spite of all her decision and
firm manner. Her emotion upon Ely's entrance was only too visible. She
divined that the Baroness, whose villa she had avoided for several days,
was going to talk to her about Verdier. She did not employ any artifice
with her friend. At her first allusion she replied:--

"I know it is my uncle who has sent you as intermediary. He was quite
right. What I would not tell him, what, in fact, I could not tell him, I
can tell you. It is quite true, I have quarrelled with Monsieur Verdier.
He believed some wicked calumnies that he heard about me. That is all."

"In other words you mean that it is the Archduke who has slandered you,
do you not?" asked Madame de Carlsberg, after a short silence.

"Everything appeared to condemn me," replied Florence, ignoring the
Baroness's remark, "but when there is faith there can be no question of
trusting to appearances. Do you not think so?"

"I think that Verdier loves you," said Ely, in reply, "and that in love
there is jealousy. But what was the matter?"

"There can be no love where there is no esteem," said the young girl,
angrily, "and you cannot esteem a woman whom you think capable of
certain things. You know," she went on, her anger increasing in a way
that proved how keenly she felt the outrage, "you know that Andryana and
her husband hired a villa at Golfe Juan. I went there several times with
Andryana, and Monsieur Verdier knew about it. How I do not know, and yet
it does not astonish me, for once or twice as we went there about
tea-time I thought I saw Monsieur von Laubach prowling about. And what
do you think Monsieur Verdier dared to think of me,--of me, an American?
What do you think he dared to reproach me with? That I was chaperoning
an intrigue between Andryana and Corancez, that I was cognizant of one
of those horrible things you call a liaison."

"But it was the simplest thing in the world to clear yourself," said
Ely.

"I could not betray Andryana's secret," replied Florence. "I had
promised to keep it sacred, and I would not ask her permission to speak;
in the first place, because I had no right to do so, and in the second,"
and her physiognomy betrayed all her wounded pride and sensation of
honor, "in the second because I would not stoop to defend myself against
suspicion. I told Monsieur Verdier that he was mistaken. He did not
believe me, and all is over between us."

"So that you accept the idea of not marrying him," said Ely, "simply
through pride or bitterness rather than make a very simple
explanation!--But suppose he came here, here upon your uncle's boat, to
beg you to forgive him for his unjust suspicions, or rather for what he
believed himself justified in thinking? Suppose he did better still;
suppose he asks for your hand, that he asks you to marry him, will you
say him nay? Will all be over between you?"

"He will not come," said Florence. "He has not written or taken a step
for the last week. Why do you speak to me in that way? You are taking
away all my courage, and, believe me, I have need of it all."

"What a child you are, Flossie!" said Ely, kissing her. "You will
realize some day that we women have no courage to withstand those we
love and those that love us. Let me follow my idea. You will be engaged
before this evening is over."

She spoke the last words of exhortation and hope with a bitter tone that
Florence did not recognize. As she listened to the young girl telling of
the little misunderstanding that separated her and Verdier, she had a
keen sensation of her own misery. This lovers' quarrel was only a
dispute between a child--as she had called Miss Marsh--and another
child. She thought of her rupture with Pierre. She thought of all the
bitterness and vileness and inexpiable offence that there was between
them. Face to face with the pretty American's pride before an unjust
suspicion, she felt more vividly the horror of being justly accused and
of being obliged either to lie or to own her shame while asking for
pity. At the same time she was overwhelmed with a flood of indignation
at the thought of the odious means employed by the Archduke to keep
Verdier with him. She found in it the same sentiment that had aroused
her hatred against Olivier the night before: the attachment of man for
man, the friendship that is jealous of love, that is hostile to woman,
that pursues and tracks her in order to preserve the friend. True, the
sentiment of the Prince for his coadjutor was not precisely the same
that Pierre felt for Olivier and that Olivier felt for Pierre. It was
the affection of a scientist for his companion of the laboratory, of a
master for his disciple, almost of a father for a son.

But this friendship, intellectual though it might be, was not the less
intense after its kind. Madame de Carlsberg, therefore, felt a personal
satisfaction as though she were avenging herself in taking steps to
thwart the Prince's schemes as soon as she had left the Jenny. It was a
poor revenge. It did not prevent her feeling that her heart was broken
by the despair caused by her vanished love, even amid all the intrigues
necessary to protect another's happiness.

Her first step after her conversation with Florence was to go to the
villa that Andryana occupied on the road to Fréjus, at the other end of
Cannes. She had no need to ask anything of the generous Italian. No
sooner had she heard of the misunderstanding that separated Verdier and
Miss Marsh, than she cried:--

"But why did she not speak? Poor, dear girl! I felt sure something was
the matter these last few days. And that was it? But I will go straight
away and see Verdier, see the Prince and tell them all the truth. They
must know that Florence would never countenance any evil. Besides, I
have had enough of living in hiding. I have had enough of being obliged
to lie. I mean to disclose the fact of my marriage to-day. I only
awaited some reason for deciding Corancez, and here it is."

"How about your brother?" asked Ely.

"What? My brother? My brother?" repeated the Venetian.

The rich blood swept to her cheeks in a flood of warm color at this
allusion and then fled, leaving her pale. It was plain that a last
combat was taking place in the nature so long downtrodden. The remains
of her terror fought with her moral courage and was finally conquered.
She had two powerful motives for being brave,--her love, strengthened by
her happiness and rapture, and then a dawning hope of having a child to
love. She told it to Ely with the magnificent daring that is almost
pride of a loving wife.

"Besides," she added, "I shall not have any choice for very much longer.
I think I am about to become a mother. But let us send for Corancez at
once. Whatever you advise, he will do. I do not understand why he
hesitates. If I had not perfect confidence in him, I should think he
already regretted being bound to me."

Contrary to Andryana's sentimental fears, the Southerner did not raise
any objection when Madame de Carlsberg asked him to reveal the mystery
or comedy of the _matrimonio segreto_ to the Archduke and his assistant.
The occasion would have furnished his father with an opportunity of once
more using his favorite dictum, "Marius is a cunning blade," if he had
been able to see the condescending way with which he accorded the
permission that brought to a culminating-point the desires of the
cunning intriguer. There is both Greek and Tuscan in the Southerners
from the neighborhood of Marseilles, and they appear to have written in
their hearts the maxim which contains all Italian or Levantine
philosophy: "Chi ha pazienza, ha gloria." He had expected to make his
marriage public the instant there was a chance that he was to become a
father. But he had never hoped for an opportunity of appearing both
magnanimous and practical, such as was afforded him by consenting to the
announcement upon the request of the Baroness Ely, and that out of
chivalrous pity for a girl who had been calumniated. All these
complexities, natural to an imaginative and practical personage, were to
be found in the discourse that he held with the two women, a discourse
that was almost sincere.

"We have to yield to fate, Andryana," he said. "That is a maxim I
revere, you know. The story of Miss Marsh and Verdier gives us an
indication of what we have to do. We must announce our marriage, no
matter what happens. I should have liked to keep the secret a little
longer. Our romance is so delightful. You know that I am romantic before
everything, that I am a man of the old school, a troubadour. To see her,
to worship her," he indicated Andryana, who blushed with pleasure at his
protestations, "and without any witnesses of our happiness other than
such friends as you"--he turned toward Ely--"such as Pierre, as Miss
Marsh, was to realize an ideal. But it will be another ideal to be able
to say proudly to every one, 'She chose me for a husband.' But," and he
waited a moment in order to accentuate the importance of his advice, "if
Corancez is a troubadour, he is a troubadour who knows his business.
Unless it's contrary to your idea, I do not think it would be very wise
for Andryana and me to announce our marriage to the Prince in person.
Let me speak frankly, Baroness. Besides, I never was good at flattery.
The Prince--I hardly know how to say it--the Prince attaches a great
deal of importance to his own ideas. He does not care to be thwarted,
and Verdier's feelings for Miss Marsh are not very much to his taste. He
must know of their little quarrel. Indeed, he may have spoken very
harshly of the young girl before his assistant. He wants to keep that
youth in his laboratory, and it is only natural. Verdier has so much
talent. In short, all that cannot make it very agreeable for two people
to come and say to him, 'Miss Marsh has been slandered; she has been the
friend of the most honorable and most loyal of women, who is honorably
and legally married to Corancez.'

"And besides, to have to admit that you are in error in such a matter,
and in public, is a very difficult position to be in. Frankly, it
appears to me simpler and more practical, in order to bring about the
final reconciliation, to let the Prince learn all about the matter from
you, my dear Baroness, and from you alone. Andryana will write a letter
to you this very moment. I will dictate it to her, asking you to be her
intercessor with His Royal Highness, and announce our marriage.
Everything else will work easily while we are arranging as well as we
can with good old Alvise."

The most diverse influences, therefore, combined to bring Madame de
Carlsberg again into conflict with her husband at the moment she was
passing through a crisis of such profound sorrow that she was incapable
of forethought and of self-defence, or even of observation. She often
thought about this morning later, and of the whirl of circumstances in
which it seemed as though neither Pierre nor Olivier nor herself could
be dragged, a rush of circumstances which had carried her away in the
first place, and had then reached the two young men. That Chésy had
stupidly ruined himself on the Bourse; that Brion was ready to profit by
his ruin to seduce poor Yvonne; that this latter woman resembled feature
by feature Marsh's dead daughter, and that this identity of physiognomy
interested the Nabob of Marionville to such an extent that he was
determined upon the most romantic and the most practical form of
charity; that Verdier had made a discovery of an immense value to
industry, and that Marsh was trying to gain the benefit of this
invention by the surest means in giving his niece as a wife to the young
scientist; that Andryana and Corancez were waiting for an opportunity to
make their astounding secret marriage public,--were only so many facts
differing with those concerning her own life, facts which appeared to
have never touched her, save indirectly.

And yet each of these stories had some bearing, as though by
prearrangement, upon the step that she was about to take, acting on the
advice of Corancez. This step itself was to prepare an unexpected
dénouement, a terrible dénouement for the moral tragedy in which she
had plunged without any hope of ever issuing. This game of events,
widely separate from each other, which gives to the believer the
soothing certainty of a supreme justice, inflicts on us, on the
contrary, an impression of vertigo when, without faith, we notice the
astounding unexpectedness of certain encounters. How many times did Ely
not ask herself what would have been the future of her passion after the
interview of Olivier with Pierre, if she had not gone upon the _Jenny_
that day to render a service to Yvonne, if Marsh had not asked her to
bring about a reconciliation between Verdier and Florence, and, finally,
if the marriage of Andryana and Corancez had not been announced to the
Archduke under conditions that seemed like bravado, and which only
increased his exasperation and bitterness.

These are vain hypotheses, but they are felt bitterly by those who give
themselves up to the childish work of rebuilding their life in thought.
It seems a manifestation of the irresistible nature of fate.

As she approached the Villa Helmholtz, with Andryana's letter in her
hand, Ely had not the faintest suspicion of the terrible tragedy drawing
near. She was not happy; in fact, joy did not exist for her now that she
was separated so cruelly from Pierre. But she felt a bitter satisfaction
in her vengeance, a feeling that she was to pay for very dearly.

Hardly had she entered the house when she sent a request to the Prince,
who never lunched with her now, to be granted an audience, and she was
ushered into the laboratory, which she had only visited about three
times. The heir of the Hapsburgs, a big apron wrapped around him and a
little cap upon his head, was standing in the scientific workshop before
the furnace of a forge, in which he was heating a bar of iron which he
held in his acid-eaten hands. A little further away Verdier was
arranging some electric batteries. He was dressed like his employer.
There was nothing in the entire room, which was lighted from the
ceiling, except complicated machines, mysterious instruments and
apparatus whose use was unknown to any but the scientists. The two men,
thus surprised in the exercise of their profession, had that attentive
and reflective physiognomy that experimental science always gives to its
followers. It is easy to recognize in it a certain submission to the
object, a patience imposed by the necessary duration of a phenomenon,
the certainty of the result to be gained by waiting--noble, intellectual
virtues created by constant attention to natural law. Nevertheless, in
spite of the calmness he displayed in his work, it was plain that care
hung over the assistant. The Prince appeared rejuvenated by his gayety,
but it was an evil, wicked gayety, which the presence of his wife
appeared to render even more cruel. He met her with this sentence, the
words being full of hideous allusions:--

"What has given us the honor of your visit to our pandemonium? It is not
very gay at the first glance, yet we are happier here than anywhere
else. Natural science gives you a sensation that your life does not even
know of--a sensation of truth. There cannot be either falsehood or
deception in an experiment that has been carefully performed. Is that
not so, Verdier?"

"I am happy to hear Your Highness speak in that way," replied the young
woman, returning irony for irony. "Since you are so fond of the truth,
you will help me, I hope, to secure justice for a person who has been
cruelly slandered here, perhaps even to you, Your Highness, and
certainly to Monsieur Verdier."

"I don't understand," said the Archduke, whose visage suddenly darkened.
"We are not society people, and Monsieur Verdier and I do not permit any
one to be calumniated before us. When we believe anything against any
one, we have decided proof. Is not that so, Verdier?" and he turned
toward his assistant, who did not reply.

The Baroness Ely's words had been as clear to the two men as though she
had named Miss Marsh, and Verdier's look revealed how he loved the young
American, and what suffering it had caused him to know that he could no
longer esteem her. This additional avowal of a hated sentiment was
distasteful to the Archduke, and his voice became authoritative, almost
brutal, as he went on:--

"Besides, madame, we are very busy. An experiment cannot be kept
waiting, and you will oblige me very much if you will speak plainly and
not in enigmas."

"I will obey Your Highness," replied Madame de Carlsberg, "and I will be
very plain. I learn from my friend, Miss Marsh--"

"The conversation is useless if you have come to speak of that
intriguing woman," said the Prince, brusquely.

"Your Highness!"

It was Verdier who spoke as he took a step forward. The insult the
Archduke had cast at Florence had made him tremble to his innermost
being.

"Well," demanded his master, turning toward his assistant, "is it true
that Madame Bonnacorsi arranges for meetings in a little house at Golfe
Juan? Did we see them enter? Do we know by whom the house is engaged and
the lover whom she goes there to meet? If you had a brother or a friend,
would you let him marry a girl whom you knew to be in the secret of such
an intrigue?"

"She is not in the secret of any intrigue," interrupted Ely, with an
indignation that she did not seek to dissimulate. "Madame Bonnacorsi has
not a lover." She repeated: "No, Madame Bonnacorsi has no lover. Since
you have authorized me, let me speak frankly, Your Highness. The 14th of
this month, you understand me, at Genoa, I was present at her marriage
with Monsieur de Corancez in the Chapel of the Fregoso Palace, and Miss
Marsh was also there. Sight or wrong, they did not wish the ceremony to
be made public. I suppose they had their motives. They have not these
motives any longer, and here is the letter in which Andryana begs me to
officially announce to Your Highness the news of her marriage. You see,"
she went on, addressing Verdier, "that Florence was never anything but
the most honest, the most upright, and the purest of young girls. Was I
not right when I said that she has been cruelly, unworthily
calumniated?"

The Archduke took Andryana's letter. He read it and then returned it to
his wife without any comment. He looked her straight in the face with
the keen, haughty regard that seems natural to princes, and whose
imperious, inquisitorial scrutiny reads to the bottom of the soul. He
saw she was telling the truth. He next looked at Verdier. And now the
anger in his eyes changed into an expression of deep sadness. Without
paying any more attention to Ely than if she were not there, he spoke to
the young man with the familiarity that the difference in their ages and
positions authorized, although it was a familiarity that the Prince did
not usually take in speaking to his assistant before witnesses.

"My dear boy," he said--and his voice, usually so metallic and harsh,
became tender--"tell me the truth. Are you sorry for the resolution you
took?"

"I am sorry that I have been unjust," replied Verdier, with a voice
almost as broken as that of his master. "I regret to have been unjust,
Your Highness, and I would like to ask the pardon of the woman whom I
have misjudged."

"You will have all the time you want to ask pardon in," replied the
Archduke. "Of that you may be assured. It is from her that this
knowledge comes. Is it not so, madame?" he replied, looking at Ely.

"Yes," replied the young woman.

"You see I was right," replied the Prince. "Come," he said, with a
peculiar mixture of pity and abruptness, "look into your heart. You have
had eight days in which to make up your mind. Do you still love her?"

"I love her dearly," replied Verdier, after a short silence.

"Another good man ruined," said the Prince, shrugging his shoulders. He
accompanied the brutal triviality of his remark with a deep sigh which
took away its cynicism.

"So," he continued, "the life that we lead together, a life that is so
full, so noble, so free, does not suffice now: our manly joy and the
proud happiness in discovering that we have so often felt together, that
has rewarded us largely, royally, and fully so often, is no longer
enough for you? You want to re-enter that hideous society that I have
taught you to judge at its true value? You wish to marry, to leave this
refuge, leave science, leave your master and your friend?"

"But, Your Highness," interrupted Verdier, "can I not be married and
continue to work with you?"

"With that woman? Never!" replied the Archduke, in a tone of passionate
energy. His anger increased; and he repeated: "Never--Let us separate,
since it has come to that. But let us separate without hypocrisy,
without falsehood, in a manner that is really worthy of what we have
been for each other. You know well enough that the first condition of
your marriage with that girl will be that you make known to her brigand
of an uncle, this secret," and he touched with his hand one of the
accumulators standing on the table. "Don't tell me that you would refuse
to make it known, because the invention belongs to us both. I give you
my part. Do you hear? I give it to you. You would certainly betray me
sooner or later, either through weakness or through that cowardly love
that I see in your heart. I want to spare you that remorse. Marry that
woman. Sell our invention to that business man. Sell him the result of
our research. I give you full authority, but I shall never see you
again. For the secret that you are selling to him is, believe me,
Science. Follow your own will, but it shall at any rate not be said that
you did not know what you were doing, or that in doing it you
participated in all the ignominy of this age: that you lent aid to that
vast collective crime which idiots call civilization. You will continue
to work. You will still have genius, and from this discovery and others
that you will make, your new master will secure millions and millions.
Those millions will signify an abject luxury and viciousness on high,
and a heap of misery and human slavery below. How well I judged that
girl from the first day! Behold her work! She appeared and you have not
been able to hold firm. And against what? Against smiles and looks which
would have been directed at others if you had not been there, which
would have been for the first imbecile who had turned up with a manly
figure and a pair of mustaches!--Against toilet, against dresses, and
against riches. Let me continue for a moment. In an hour you will be
near her, and you can laugh with her at your old master, your old
friend, as much as you like. You do not know what it is to have a friend
like me, one who loves you as I do. You will understand it some day. You
will realize it when you have measured the difference between this
feeling that you are leaving one side, between our manly communion of
ideas, our heroic intimacy of thought, and that which you now prefer,
the life which you are about to commence--an idle, degraded, poisoned
life!

"Good-by, Verdier," and this strange person, in saying the word
_good-by_, spoke with a tone of infinite sadness and bitterness. "I read
in your eyes that you will marry that girl, and since it is to be so,
go. I prefer never to see you again. Make a fortune with the knowledge
that you have secured here. You would certainly have learned it
elsewhere, so we are quits. The happiest hours of my life for years have
been due to you, and I forgive you on that account. But I tell you
again, I see you for the last time. Everything is over between you and
me.

"As for you, madame," he continued, casting a glance of bitter hatred at
Ely, "I promise you I will discover some means of punishing you."



CHAPTER XII


THE DÉNOUEMENT


The Archduke's threat was uttered in a way that betrayed an inflexible
resolution. It did not cause the young woman to flinch or to lower her
gaze. She did not remember anything of this scene, one, nevertheless,
that was momentous for her, since it called down upon her the hatred of
the most vindictive and unjust of men. She did not remember anything
that had passed when she regained her room save one thing, and that was
quite foreign to herself. As she had listened to the Archduke's
passionate cry, wrung from him by wounded friendship, she saw, as though
in a flash of blinding revelation, what had been the strength of the
bonds uniting Olivier and Pierre. She realized keenly the sentiment that
linked them in their revolt against her--the revolt of suffering Man
against Woman and against Love. She understood at last the impulse that
had made them take refuge in a virile fraternal affection, the one
fortress which the fatal passion cannot subdue. She had seen the
passions of Love and Friendship in conflict.

In Verdier's heart love had conquered. He had for the Prince only the
affection of a pupil for his master, of a debtor for his benefactor. It
was a sentiment made up of deference and gratitude. Besides, Verdier
esteemed the woman he loved. How different would have been his attitude
had he returned his protector's friendship with a similar sentiment, had
he felt for the Prince the affection that Olivier had for Pierre, that
Pierre had for Olivier! And, above all, what a change there would have
been in him had he had to condemn Miss Marsh as Pierre had been forced
to condemn his mistress!

This analogy and its contrast forced themselves upon Ely's notice, when
she left the laboratory, with an intensity that completely exhausted all
the physical strength that was left in her. She was no longer supported
by the necessity of working for the sake of others. She was now alone,
face to face with her grief. And, as often happens after any violent
emotion that has been followed by too energetic efforts, she succumbed
under the shock. Hardly had she reached her room than she was
overpowered by an agonizing nervous headache. Such a crisis is really
the shattering of the nervous system, whose strength has been exhausted
by the force of will, and which has finally to surrender.

Ely did not try to struggle any longer. She lay down on her bed like
some one in death agony, at one o'clock, after having sent off a
despatch to the one woman whose presence she felt she could support, the
one woman upon whom she could rely--to Louise Brion, whose devotion she
had almost forgotten during the past weeks.

"She is my friend," she thought, "and our friendship is better than
theirs, for the friendship of those men is made up of hate!"

In the extremity of her distress she, therefore, also had recourse to
the sentiment of friendship. She was mistaken in thinking that Louise
was more devoted to her than was Pierre to Olivier, or than was the
Archduke to Verdier. But she was not mistaken in thinking the devotion
of her friend was of a different character. In reality, feminine
friendship and masculine friendship have a striking difference. The
latter is almost always the mortal foe of love, while the former is most
often only love's complacent ally. It is rare that a man can regard with
any indulgence the mistress of his friend, while a woman, of even the
most upright character, has almost always a natural sympathy for her
friend's lover so long as he makes her friend happy; it is because the
majority of women have a tender feeling for love, for all love, for that
of others as well as for that which concerns them more closely. Men, on
the contrary, have an instinct which remains in them, a relic of the
savage despotism of an earlier barbarism. They do not sympathize with
any love that they do not feel, that they do not inspire.

Louise Brion had felt a pity for Hautefeuille at the very moment when
she had received Ely's confession in the garden of her villa, at the
very moment she had implored her friend to give up the dangerous passion
she had inspired in the young Frenchman. From that evening she had felt
an interest in the young man, in his sentiments, in his movements, even
though at the time she was using all the eloquence that her trembling
affection could suggest to persuade Ely to see him no more. When Ely
gave herself up entirely to her passion later, Louise had withdrawn, had
effaced herself, on account of her scruples, and in order that she might
not be a witness of an intrigue which her conscience considered a great
crime. She had gone away through discretion, so as to not impose an
inopportune friendship on the two lovers, and delicacy had also had its
share in her retirement, for she had felt all the shrinking of the pure
woman from forbidden ecstasy. But she had not felt the least hostility
to Pierre in her retirement and self-effacement. Her tender woman's
imagination had not ceased to link him, in spite of herself, with the
romantic passion of her friend. The singular displacement of her
personality, which had always made her lead, in imagination, the life
Ely was living, rather than her own individual existence, had continued,
had been even accentuated.

Since Olivier's return this identification of her feelings with those of
her dear friend had been more and more complete. The dinner at Monte
Carlo with the Du Prats in such close proximity had made her feverish
with anxiety. She had expected an appeal from her friend from that
moment. She had lived in expectancy of this summons to help Ely to bear
her terrors, to fight with her friend, to share the sufferings of a love
whose happiness she had vainly striven to ignore.

She was thus neither surprised nor deceived by Ely's despatch, which
simply spoke of a little indisposition. She divined the catastrophe that
had happened at once, and before the end of the afternoon she was
sitting at the bedside of the poor woman, receiving, accepting,
provoking all her confidences, without any further inclination to
condemn her. She was ready to do anything to dry the tears that flowed
down the beloved face, to calm the fever that burned in the little hand
she held. She was ready for anything, weak enough for anything, with
indulgence for all and in the secret of all!

For a day and a half Ely was helpless with a severe headache. Then she
asked her friend to assist her in her plans. Like all people of vigorous
frame, Ely was never either well or ill in extremes. When at last she
was able to sleep the heavy slumber that follows such a shock, she felt
as well, as energetic, as strong-willed as upon the day her happiness
had been so completely destroyed. But she did not knowhow to employ her
recovered energy. Again and again she asked herself the question, upon
whose answer her movements depended: "Is Pierre still in Cannes?"

She hoped to see some one in the afternoon who would inform her, but
none of the visitors who came to see her even uttered Hautefeuille's
name. Upon her part she had not the courage to speak of the young man.
She felt that her voice could not utter the beloved syllables without
her face suffusing with blood, without her emotion being apparent to
every one.

And yet there were only very dear friends who called upon her that
afternoon. Florence Marsh was one of the first. Her eyes were bright
with a deep, contented happiness. Her pleasant smile wreathed her lips
at every moment.

"I felt that I had to come to thank you, my dear Baroness. I am engaged
to Monsieur Verdier. I shall never forget all that I owe you. My uncle
asked me to excuse him to you. He has so many things to do, and we leave
to-morrow upon the _Jenny_. My _fiancé_ comes with us."

How could Ely mingle any of the pain which oppressed her heart with the
joy whose innocence caused her deep suffering? How could she let
Andryana, who came in smiling at the footman's announcement, "Madame la
Comtesse de Corancez"--how could she let Andryana suspect her pain?

"Well," said the Venetian, "Alvise took it very calmly. How childish it
was to be afraid! We might have spared ourselves so much trouble if I
had only spoken to him from the first. But," she added, "I do not regret
our folly. It is such a pleasant memory. And I had told such tales about
Alvise to Marius that he was afraid. What could he do to us now?"

Next the Chésys arrived, Madame Chésy quivering with her new-found
gayety, while Gontran was simply astoundingly impertinent as he spoke
with aristocratic nonchalance of his rôle of horse-breeder in the West.

"When horses are in question, poor Marsh is simply a child," he said.
"But he is such a lucky fellow. At the very moment that he undertakes
such an enterprise he finds me ready to hand!"

"I am glad I am going to see the Americans at home," said Yvonne. "I am
not sorry to be able to give them a few lessons in real _chic_."

How was Ely to trouble this little household of childlike Parisians? How
could she stop their amusing babble? She congratulated herself that they
did not even speak of the subject that lay so close to her heart. She
listened to them talking of their American expedition with a gayety that
gave the impression that they were once more playing at housekeeping,
forgetful of the terrible trial they had just gone through.

Ely could not help envying them these faculties of forgetfulness, of
freshness, of illusion. But were not the destinies of Marsh, of Verdier,
and of Corancez all alike? Had they not all before them space, and the
future? Did they not resemble ships sailing upon a vast flood carrying
them toward the open ocean? Her destiny, on the contrary, was like that
of a boat locked in the narrow turn of a river, arrested and imprisoned
by some barrier beyond which lie the rapids, the cataract, the
precipice! A word uttered by Yvonne, who was wild with joy at the idea
of seeing Niagara, brought this simile up in Ely's mind. The idea
pleased her. It was a true image of her sentimental isolation. And while
her visitors stayed she looked incessantly at Louise as if she wished to
convince herself that there was one witness to her emotions, that there
was one heart capable of understanding her, of pitying her, of serving
her. Above all, of serving her!

In spite of the conversation she listened to, notwithstanding the
questions to which she replied, her thoughts followed one idea. She felt
she must know if Pierre had left Cannes. And this was the question that
came quite naturally to her lips the instant she was alone with Madame
Brion.

"You heard all they said?" she said to her. "I know no more than I did
before. Is Pierre still here? And if he is, when is he going away? Ah!
Louise!"

She did not finish. The service she wanted to ask of her friend was of
too delicate a nature. She was ashamed of her own desire. But the tender
creature to whom she spoke understood her and was grateful to her for
her hesitation.

"Why do you not speak frankly?" she said. "Would you like me to find out
for you?"

"But how can you?" replied Ely, without feeling any astonishment at the
facility with which her weak-minded friend lent herself to a mission
that was so opposed to her own character, to her principles, and to her
reason.

What result could possibly come from this inquiry about Pierre's
presence and about his approaching departure? Was not this the occasion
for Louise to repeat, with still more energy, the counsels she had given
to Ely after her first confidence? There could be nothing but silence
and forgetfulness between Madame de Carlsberg and Hautefeuille in
future. For them to see each other again would be simply to condemn them
to the most useless and painful explanations. For them to recommence
their relations would be purgatory. Louise Brion knew all this very
well. But she also knew that if she obeyed Ely's wishes, those dear
eyes, now so sad, would be brightened by a gleam of joy. And the only
reply she gave to the question was to rise and say:--

"How can I arrange it? That is the simplest thing in the world. In half
an hour I shall know all you want to know. Have you the list of visitors
here?"

"You'll find it on the fourth page of one of the papers," said Ely. "Why
do you wish to see it?"

"In order to find the name of a person whom I know and who is staying at
the Hôtel des Palmes. I have it. Here it is, Madame Nieul. Try and be
patient until I get back."

"Well," she said, re-entering the salon about half an hour later, as she
had said she would, "they are both here, and they do not leave for a few
days. Madame du Prat is very ill. It cost me little to find that out,"
she added, with a little nervous smile. "I went to the Hôtel des Palmes
and asked if Madame Nieul was there, and sent up my card. Then I looked
through the list of visitors and questioned the secretary with an
indifferent air. 'I thought Monsieur and Madame du Prat had already
left,' I said to him. 'Do they stay much longer?' And his answer told me
all I wanted to know."

"How good you were to take all that trouble for me!" replied Ely, taking
her hand and stroking it lovingly. "How I love you! It seems to have
given me a fresh lease of life. I feel that I shall see him again. And
you will help me to meet him. Promise me that. I must speak with him
once more, only once. I feel that I must tell him the truth, so that he
may know at least how well I have loved him, how sincere and passionate
and deep is my love for him! It is so hard not to know what he thinks of
me."

Yes! What did Pierre Hautefeuille think of the mistress whom he had
idolized only a few days before, of the mistress who had stood so high
in his esteem, and who was suddenly convicted in his eyes so shamefully?

Alas! The unhappy youth did not even know himself. He was not capable of
finding his way among the maze of ideas and of contradictory impressions
that crowded, jostled, and succeeded each other in his soul. If he had
been able to leave Cannes at once, this interior tumult might have been
less intense. It was the only plan to be followed after the vow that
Olivier and he had exchanged. They ought to have gone away, to have put
distance and time and events between them and the woman they both loved,
and that they had sworn to give up to their friendship. But what can the
will do, no matter what its strength, against imagination, sentiment,
against the emotion in the troubled depths of the heart? We are only
masters of our acts. We cannot govern our dreams, our regrets, and our
desires. They awake, quiver, and increase by themselves. They bring back
memories until recollection becomes an obsession. All the charm of
looks, of smiles, of a face, all the splendor of outline, the beauty of
form of a beloved creature, is made a living reality, and the old fever
once more burns in our veins. The mistress whom we have abandoned stands
before us. She wishes for us, she calls for us, she recovers possession
of us. And if we are in the same city with her, if it only requires a
quarter of an hour's walk to see her again, what courage is needed in
order not to yield!

Pierre and Olivier felt the necessity of this saving flight, and they
had taken a resolution to go away. Then an unfortunate event kept them
in the hotel. As the secretary had told Louise Brion, Madame du Prat was
really ill. She had felt the influence of a shock too great for her
strength, and she could not recover from it. A weakness of the heart
remained, of such intensity that even when she could leave her bed and
stand erect, the least movement brought on palpitations that seemed to
suffocate her. The doctor studying her case forbade her to even attempt
to travel for several days.

Under these circumstances, if Hautefeuille had been wise, he would have
gone away alone. This he did not do. It was impossible for him to leave
Du Prat alone in Cannes. He said to himself that it was because he could
not leave his friend at such a moment. If he had gone down to the bottom
of his heart, if he had probed the place where we dissemble thoughts of
which we are ashamed, where lie hidden plans and secret egoism, he would
have discovered that there were other motives that kept him there,
motives that were much more degrading. Although he had the most complete
confidence in Olivier's word, he trembled at the idea of his remaining
alone in the same town as Ely de Carlsberg. In spite of the heroic
effort to preserve a friendship that was so dear to them both,
notwithstanding the esteem, the tenderness and pity they felt for each
other, in spite of so many sacred recollections, in spite of honor, a
woman stood between them. And that woman had introduced with her all the
fatal influence that so quickly creeps into friendly relations, all the
instinctive jealousy, the quivering susceptibility and uneasy
taciturnity that destroys all.

They were not long in feeling this. Each understood how deeply the fatal
poison had eaten into their souls. And soon they understood a thing that
is both strange and monstrous in appearance, and yet is really so
natural--they realized that the love whose death they had vowed in the
name of their friendship was now bound up in that friendship by the
closest ties!

Neither one nor the other could think of his friend, could look at him,
or hear him, without immediately seeing Ely's image, without immediately
thinking of the mistress who had belonged to them both. They were in the
grasp of an idea that turned the few following days of intimacy into a
veritable crisis of madness, a madness that was all the more torturing
because they both avoided the name of the woman out of fidelity to their
promise.

But was it necessary for them to speak of her, seeing that each knew the
other was thinking of her? How painful these few days were! Although
they were not many, they seemed interminable!

They met the morning following their conversation about ten o'clock in
Olivier's salon. To hear them greet each other, to hear Pierre ask about
Berthe, to listen to Olivier's replies, and then to hear the two speak
of the paper they had been reading, of the weather, of what they were
going to do, one would never have thought their first meeting so
painful. Pierre felt that his friend was studying him. And he was
studying his friend. Each hungered and thirsted to know at once if the
other had had the same thoughts, or rather the same thought, during the
hours they had been separated. Each read this thought in the eyes of the
other, as distinctly as though it had been written upon paper like the
horrible sentence that had enlightened Pierre. The invisible phantom
stood between them, and they were silent. And yet they saw through the
open window that the radiant Southern spring still filled the sky with
blue, still beautified the roads with flowers and sweetened the air with
perfume.

One of them proposed a walk, in the vain hope that a little of the
luminous serenity of nature might enter their souls. They used to like
to walk together formerly, thinking aloud, keeping step in their minds
as in their bodies. They went out, and after ten minutes conversation
came to an end between them. Instinctively, and without prearrangement,
they shunned the quarters in Cannes where they ran the risk of meeting
either Ely or any one of her set. They kept away from the Rue d'Antibes,
La Croisette, and the Quai des Yachts. They avoided even the pine forest
near Vallauris, where they had spoken of her upon the day that Olivier
arrived.

Behind one of the hills which served as outposts to California, they
found a deserted valley, quite neglected on account of its northern
situation. In this valley there was a kind of wild park, which had been
for sale for years. There, in this ravine without horizon, they came
almost like two wounded animals taking refuge in the same fold. The
roads were so narrow that they could no longer walk abreast. This gave
them a pretext for ceasing to talk. The branches stung their faces,
their hands were torn with thorns before they arrived at the little
rivulet running at the bottom of the gorge. They sat down upon a rock
among the tall ferns, and the savageness of this corner of the world, so
solitary, and yet so close to the charming city, soothed their suffering
for a few moments. The fresh humidity of the vegetation growing in the
shadow recalled to their minds similar ravines in the woods of
Chaméane. And then they could speak again together, could recall their
childhood and their distant friendly souvenirs. It seemed as though they
felt their friendship dying away, and that they sought desperately the
place whence it had sprung in order to revive its force. From their
childhood they passed to their youth, to the years spent together in
college, to the impression the war had made upon them.

But there was something forced in these glances backward. There was
something conventional, something prearranged, that arrested all freedom
of intercourse between them. They felt too keenly in comparison with
their former talks in the same way that the spontaneity, the plenitude
that had been the charm of their most unimportant conversations formerly
was now lacking.

Was their affection any less than at that distant period? Would their
friendship never be happy again? Would it never be delivered from this
horrible taint of bitterness?

In addition, during their morning and afternoon walks, they only were
witnesses to their suffering. If they did not speak freely of their
thoughts, at any rate there was no deception. There was no necessity to
act before each other. This was all changed during the meal times. They
lunched and dined in the salon so that Berthe could be present.

The immediate recommencement of a daily familiarity after such scenes as
those which had taken place between the two friends and the young woman
appeared at first impossible. In reality it is quite simple and easy.
Family life is made up of that only. Olivier and Pierre forced
themselves to talk gayly and incessantly out of delicacy toward their
companion. The effort was a painful one. And then even the most guarded
conversation may be full of danger. A phrase, a word even, was
sufficient to send the minds of both back to their relations with Ely.
If Olivier made any allusion to something in Italy, Pierre's imagination
would turn to Rome. He could see Ely, his Ely of the terrace covered
with white and red camellias, his Ely of the garden of Ellenrock, his
Ely of the night he had spent at sea. But instead of coming to him she
was going toward Olivier. Instead of pressing him to her heart, she
flung her arms round Olivier and kissed him. And the vision, prompted by
a retrospective jealousy, tortured him.

And if, on his part, he made the most innocent allusion to the beauty of
the promenades around Cannes, he saw his friend's eyes dim with a pain
which recalled his own sufferings. Olivier could see him in thought
walking with Ely, taking her in his arms, kissing her lips. This
communion of suffering in the same thought, while it wrung their souls,
attracted them with a morbid fascination. How they wished at such
moments to question each other about the most secret details of their
reciprocal romance! How they wished to know all, to understand all, to
suffer at every episode!

When they were alone, a final remnant of dignity forbade them giving way
to these hideous confidences, and, when Berthe was there at table, they
turned the conversation at once so as not to cause any suffering to the
young woman. They could hear her breathe with that uneven respiration,
at times short and at others too deep, the breathing that reveals
heart-disease. And this sensation of a physical suffering so close to
them stirred up a remorse in Olivier and a pity in Pierre that took away
all power to act.

Thus the mornings and afternoons and evenings passed away. And both
awaited with fear and impatience the moment of retiring. With
impatience, because solitude brought with it the liberty of giving
themselves up completely to their sentiments; with fear, because they
both felt that the vow they had exchanged had not settled the conflict
between their love and their friendship.

It is written, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." And the Book adds, "He
that hath looked upon the wife of another with desire in his heart hath
already committed adultery." The phrase is admirable in its truth. It
defines in a word the moral identity that exists between thought and
act, concupiscence and possession. The conscience of the two friends was
too delicate not to feel with shame that their thoughts, when once
alone, were but one long, passionate infidelity to their vow.

Olivier would begin to walk about from his room to that of his wife when
Pierre had left him, talking to her, trying to utter affectionate words,
fighting against the haunting idea which he knew would completely
possess him shortly. Immediately he entered his room, what he called
"his temptation" grasped him, bound him, and dominated him. All his
Roman souvenirs recurred to his imagination. He saw Ely again. Hot the
proud, coquettish Ely of former times, not the woman he had brutalized
while desiring her, hated while loving her, through despair of never
possessing her completely, but the Ely of the present moment, the woman
whom he had seen so tender, so passionate, so sincere, with a soul that
resembled her beauty. And all his soul went out toward this woman in an
impulse of love and longing. He spoke to her aloud, appealing to her
like a madman. The tone of his own voice would awake him from his dream.
He felt all the horror and madness of this childishness. He realized the
crime of his cowardly yearning. He thought of his friend, saying to
himself, "If he only knew!" He would like to have begged his pardon for
the impossibility of ceasing to love Ely, and also pardon for having
made the vow he had not the power to keep. He knew that at the same
moment Pierre was suffering as he was himself. The idea was dreadful. At
these moments of his martyrdom one thought recurred again and again to
Olivier's mind, one idea possessed his heart. He felt that he ought to
go to Pierre and say: "You love her, and she loves you. Remain with her,
and forget me."

Alas! when such a project, with all its supreme magnanimity, occurred to
him, he felt strongly that Pierre would reply, No! and that he himself
was not sincere. He understood it with a mingling of terror and shame.
In spite of all it was a joy for him--a savage, hideous joy, but still a
joy--to think that if Ely was no longer his mistress she would nevermore
be the mistress of his friend.

They were cruel moments. The time was not less miserable for Pierre. He
also, the moment he was alone, tried not to think of Ely. And in trying
he felt that he was yielding. In order to drive her image away he would
call up in his mind the image of his friend, and this formed the very
nature of his suffering. He would tell himself that Olivier had been
this woman's lover, and this fact, which he knew to be the truth, which
he knew to be of the most complete, the most, indisputable verity, took
possession of his brain. He felt as though a hand had taken him by the
head, a hand that would never let him go again.

While Olivier was thinking about his mistress in Rome, a softened,
ennobled mistress, transformed by the love that Pierre inspired in her,
Pierre perceived, beyond the sweet and gentle Ely of the past winter,
the woman whom Olivier had described to him without naming her. He saw
her again, coquettish and perverse, with the same beautiful face in
which he had believed so sincerely. He told himself that she had had two
other lovers, one when she was Olivier's mistress and one before then.
Olivier, Pierre, and those two men made four, and probably there were
others of whom he did not know. The idea that this woman, whom he had
believed he possessed in all the purity of her soul, had simply passed
from one adultery to another, the idea that she had come to him sullied
by so many intrigues, maddened him with pain. All the episodes of his
delightful romance, of his fresh and lovely idyl, faded away and became
vile in his eyes. He saw nothing in it now save the lustful desire of a
woman, wounded in her pride, who had attracted him by one artful plan
after another.

Then he would open the drawer in which he preserved the relics of what
had been his happiness. He would take out the cigarette case he had
bought at Monte Carlo with such happiness. The sight of this foreign
trinket wounded his soul, for it brought back to him the words uttered
by his friend in the woods of Vallauris, "She had lovers before me; at
any rate she had one, a Russian, who was killed at Plevna."

It was probably this lover who had given Ely the object around which he,
Pierre, had woven so many cherished ideas, which he had worshipped
almost with a scrupulous piety. This ironical contrast was so
humiliating that the young man quivered with indignation.

Then he would see in another corner of the drawer the packet of letters
from his mistress. He had not had strength to destroy them. Other words
spoken by Olivier recurred to his memory--words in which he had
affirmed, had vowed that she had loved him, Pierre, truly and sincerely.
Did not every detail of their romantic intimacy prove that Olivier was
right? Was it possible that she had lied upon the yacht, at Genoa, and
in so many other unforgetable hours? A passionate desire to see her
again took possession of Pierre. It appeared to him that if he could
only see her, question her, understand her, his sufferings would be
soothed. He imagined the questions that he would ask and her replies. He
could hear her voice. All his energy melted away before the fatal
weakness of his desire, a degraded desire whose sensuality was sharpened
by scorn. And at such moments the young man hated himself. He remembered
his vow. He remembered all he owed to his self-respect, all he owed to
his friend. What he had said at the moment of the sacrifice was true--he
felt that it was true. If ever he again saw Ely, nevermore could he meet
Olivier. He had a confused impression already that he hated them both.
He had suffered so much from him on her account; so much from her on his
account. Honor finally always won the day, and he would hold himself
erect, strengthen himself in the renunciation he had resolved upon. "It
is only a trial," he said to himself, "and it will not last forever.
Once I am far from here I shall forget it."

This singular existence had lasted five days, when two incidents
happened, one after the other, one caused by the other--two incidents
that were to have a decisive influence upon the tragic dénouement of
the tragic situation.

The first was a visit from the jovial and artful Corancez. Pierre had,
in fact, expected him before. In order to put a bar to any tentative at
reconciliation, the young man had given strict orders that he was at
home to no one. But Corancez was one of those people who have the gift
of triumphing over the most difficult obstacles. And on the morning of
the sixth day, a morning as bright and radiant as the one upon which
they had visited the Jenny together, Hautefeuille saw him again enter
his room, the everlasting bunch of pinks in his buttonhole, a smile on
his lips, a healthy color in his face, and his eyes bright with
happiness. A patch of dry collodion upon his temple bore witness to the
fact that he had received a severe blow either the night before or very
recently. The purple swelling was still visible. But this sign of an
accident did not diminish his good humor nor the gayety of his
physiognomy.

"Oh, this little cut," he said to Hautefeuille, after having lightly
excused himself for insisting upon seeing him, "you want to know what
caused it? Well, it's another proof of my luck. And, in spite of the
homily of Monseigneur Lagumina, the Frenchman has cheated the Italian.
It was caused by a little attempt that my brother-in-law made to bring
about my death. That is all," he added, with his usual jesting laugh.

"You are not speaking seriously," said Hautefeuille.

"I never was more serious in my life," replied Corancez. "But it is
written that I shall meet with a cheerful end. I do not lend myself to
tragedy, it appears. In the first place, you know that my marriage was
made public about five days ago. That is why you have not seen me
before. I had to pay my wedding visits to all the highnesses and lords
in Cannes. I met with a great deal of sympathy and provoked a vast
amount of astonishment. Everybody was asking, 'But why did you have a
secret marriage?' Acting under my advice, Andryana invented an old vow
as the reason. Everybody thought it was very original and very charming.

"I had even too much success, above all with Alvise. He only made one
reproach--that we had hidden it from him, that we had ever supposed for
a moment he would have stood in the way of his sister's happiness. It
was 'my brother' here, 'my brother' there. It was the only thing one
heard in the entire house. But we Southerners understand revenge,
particularly when Corsicans, Sardinians, or Italians are in question. I
asked myself at every moment, 'When is the sword going to fall?'"

"It was very imprudent of him to get so quickly to work," interrupted
Pierre.

"You don't know the anecdote," said Corancez, "of some one who saw a
poor devil going past on his way to the gallows. 'There is a man who has
miscalculated,' he said. Every murderer does that, and, after all, he
hadn't calculated so badly as you think. Who would ever have suspected
Count Alvise Navagero of having made away with his sister's husband, the
man who was his intimate friend? I told you before that he was a man of
the time of Machiavelli, very modernized.

"Just judge for yourself. I kept my eyes open, without appearing to
notice anything. A couple of days ago, just about this hour, he proposed
that we should go for a bicycle ride. It's funny, isn't it, the idea of
Borgia bicycling along a public road with his future victim? I suppose I
am the only one who ever enjoyed this spectacle. We were going along as
quick as the wind, descending the winding road of Villauris upon the
edge of a species of cliff which cut sheer down at one side, when
suddenly I felt my machine double up under me. I was thrown about twenty
metres--on the opposite side to the abyss, luckily. That's the cause of
this cut. I was not killed. In fact, I was so little hurt that I
distinctly read on my companion's face something which made me think
that my accident belonged to the sixteenth century, in spite of the
prosaic means employed. Navagero went off to get a carriage to bring me
back. When I was alone I dragged myself to the ruins of my bicycle,
which still lay in the road, and I saw that a file had been cleverly
used on two of the pieces in such a way that, after a half hour of
violent exercise, the whole thing would break up--and me with it."

"And didn't you have the wretch arrested?" asked Hautefeuille.

"Oh, I don't like a scandal in the family," replied Corancez, who was
enjoying his effect. "Besides, my brother-in-law would have maintained
that he had nothing to do with it. And how could I have proved that he
had? No, I simply opened my other eye, the best one, knowing very well
that he would not wait long before recommencing.

"Well, yesterday evening, before dinner, I entered the salon and there I
found this rascal with his eyes gaining so brightly and with such a
contented air that I said at once to myself, 'It is going to take place
this evening.'

"I can't explain how it was that I began to think about Pope Alexander
VI. and the poisoned wine which killed him. I suppose I have a good
scent, like foxhounds. You know, or perhaps you don't know, that
Andryana drinks nothing but water, and that Anglomaniac, my
brother-in-law, only drinks whiskey and soda.

"'I think to-night,' I said, when we were at table, and wine was offered
me, 'I think I will follow your example. Give me some whiskey.'

"'All right,' he replied.

"To be poisoned with an English drink by a Venetian struck me as rather
novel. At the same time he was so calm when I refused to take any wine
that I thought I must have been mistaken. But he praised a certain port
that he has received from Lord Herbert so highly that I at once had the
idea that this was the particular wine I must not touch. He pressed it
upon me. I allowed the servant to pour me out a glass and smelled it.

"'What a singular odor,' I said to him, calmly. 'I am sure there must be
something in this wine.'

"'It must be a bad bottle,' said Navagero; 'throw it away.'

"His voice, his look, his bearing, convinced me. I felt I was right. I
said nothing. But at the moment the _maître d'hôtel_ was going to take
away my glass I laid my hand upon it, and asked for a little bottle.

"'I am going to take this wine to an analyst,' I said, with the most
natural air in the world. 'They say that port made for the English
market never even sees a grape. I am curious to know if that is the
truth.'

"They brought me a little bottle, and with the greatest calmness
possible I filled it with the wine, corked it up and placed the bottle
in my pocket. I wish you could have seen my brother-in-law's expression.
We had a little explanation later on in the evening, at the end of which
it was decided between us, in quite a friendly way, that I would not
denounce him to the police, but that he would leave for Venice to-day.
He will reside in the Palace, he will have a decent income, and I am
certain he will not begin again. I warned him, in any case, I would have
the wine analyzed, and that the result of this analysis would be placed
somewhere safely. I may tell you that he had put a strong dose of
strychnine in the bottle. I have two copies of the analyst's report. One
of them I have given to Madame de Carlsberg and the other I would like
you to keep. Will you?"

"Gladly," replied Pierre, taking the paper that the Southerner held out
to him.

Such is the egoism of passion that, notwithstanding the astounding
adventure of which he had just been made the confidant, Ely's name,
uttered by chance, had moved him more than all the rest. It appeared to
him that, as he spoke of Madame de Carlsberg, Corancez looked at him
inquisitively. He wondered whether he had brought a message for him. No!
Ely was not a woman to choose such a man as Corancez as ambassador.

But Corancez was just the man to undertake such a conciliatory mission
upon his own responsibility. He had gone to Ely's villa the night before
to tell her the same story and to ask of her the same service. He had
naturally spoken of Hautefeuille, and he had suspected a quarrel. This
strange creature had a real affection, almost a religion, for Pierre. He
felt a tender gratitude to Ely. Forgetting his own story, of which he
was nevertheless very proud, he at once began to try to bring the two
lovers together again. With all his intelligence he could not guess the
truth of the tragedy being enacted in the souls of these two beings. He
had seen them so loving and so happy together! He thought that to tell
Pierre that Ely was suffering would be sufficient to bring him back to
her.

"Is it long since you saw Madame de Carlsberg?" he asked, after having
finished commenting upon his adventure, which he did very modestly, for
he was amiable enough in his triumph.

"Not for several days," replied Hautefeuille. And the question made his
heart beat.

In order to keep his word scrupulously, he ought not to have permitted
his wily friend to go any further. On the contrary, he could not resist
asking:--

"Why?"

"Oh, nothing," said Corancez. "I only wished to ask your opinion about
her. I am not satisfied that she is very well. She was very charming
last night, as usual, but nervous and melancholy. I am afraid her
household affairs are going from bad to worse, and that brute of an
Archduke is leading her a life of martyrdom--all the more because she
has helped Verdier to marry Miss Marsh. Did you not know? Dickie, our
friend of the Jenny, has left for the East with the Chésys, his niece,
and Verdier on board. You can just imagine the Prince's fury."

"So you think he is cruel with her?" asked Pierre.

"I don't think it, I am sure. Go and see her, it will do her good. She
feels a real affection for you. Of that I am convinced. And she was
thinking about you, I feel certain, when she said that all her friends
had abandoned her."

So she was unhappy! While Corancez was speaking, it seemed to Pierre
that he heard the echo of the sigh that had issued from the heart of the
woman he loved so much! He saw again the sad, longing look of the
mistress he judged so harshly. This indirect contact with her, short as
it was, moved him deeply--so deeply, in fact, that Olivier noticed his
agitation. He immediately suspected that something had happened.

"I met Corancez leaving the hotel," he said. "Did you see him?"

"He has just paid me a long visit," replied Pierre. He told Olivier the
story of the two attempts which had been made upon the life of
Andryana's husband.

"He would only have had what he deserves," said Olivier. "You know what
my opinion is about him and his marriage. Was that all he had to tell
you?"

There was a short silence. Then he added:--

"He did not speak to you of--you know whom?"

"Yes," replied Pierre.

"And it has pained you?" asked Olivier.

"Very much."

The two friends looked at each other. For the first time in six days
they had made a definite allusion to the being constantly in their
thoughts. Olivier hesitated, as if the words he was going to say were
beyond his strength. Then he went on in a dull tone of voice:--

"Listen, Pierre," he began; "you are too miserable. This state of things
cannot last. I am going away the day after to-morrow. Berthe is almost
well again. The doctor authorizes her to return to Paris; he even
advises it. Let things stay as they are for another forty-eight hours;
then, when I am no longer here, return to her. I release you from your
vow. I shall not see her, and I shall not know that you have seen her.
Let what is past remain dead between us. You love her more than you love
me. Let that love triumph."

"You are mistaken, Olivier," replied Pierre. "Of course it pains me; I
do not deny it. But the suffering does not come from my resolution--that
I have never regretted for a moment. No, the suffering is caused by the
past. But it is past, and forever. It would be intolerable for us both
were I to return to her under these conditions. No, I have given you my
word and I repeat it. As to what you say, that I love her more than I
love you, you have only to look at me."

Big, heavy tears were in his eyes and rolling down his cheeks as he
spoke. Tears also sprang from Olivier's heart to his eyes at the sight.
For a few moments they remained without speaking. This common suffering,
after their long silence, brought their souls closer together again. The
same impulse of pity had made Olivier release Pierre from his vow and
had made Pierre refuse to be released. It was the same impulse of pity
that brought tears to their eyes. Each pitied the other and each felt he
was pitied. Their affection returned in all its strength, and their
friendship moved them so deeply that once again love was conquered.

Pierre was the first to dry his eyes. With the same resolute tone as
when he made his vow, he said: "I shall leave when you do, in two days,
and it will not cause me a single pang. To remain here would be
impossible. I will not do you that injustice. I will not be a traitor to
our friendship."

"Ah, my dear boy," replied Olivier, "you give me a fresh lease of life.
I would have left you without a single reproach, without a complaint. I
was very sincere in my proposition, but it was too hard. I believe it
would have killed me."

After this conversation they passed an afternoon and evening that were
strangely quiet, almost happy. When the soul is ill, there are such
moments of respite, just as when the body is diseased--moments of
languid calm, when it appears as though one were brought to life again,
still feeble and bruised, it is true.

This sensation of recovery, fragile and feeble though it might be, was
increased in the two friends by the convalescence of Berthe. Olivier had
contented her and brought about her recovery, by what charitable
deceptions no one but he knew. But the young wife was much better and
could walk about, devoting her attention to the many details of their
approaching departure. She was so visibly happy to go away that a tiny
trace of reserve seemed to melt away before her pleasure. She had
suffered so much in these last few days, and the suffering had been
sufficient to awake her feminine tact from its long sleep. She had made
a resolution. It was to win her husband's love, and to merit it. Such
efforts are touching to a man who can understand them, for they indicate
such humility and so much devotion. It is so hard for a young wife, it
is so opposed to her instincts of sentimental pride, to beg for a
sentiment, to provoke it, to conquer. It is so hard to be loved because
she loves, and not because she is loved.

Olivier had too much delicacy not to feel this shade of sentiment. He
gave himself up to the peculiar impression which a man feels who suffers
through a woman, when he receives from another the caresses of which his
unhappy love has taught him the value. He smiled at Berthe as he had
never previously smiled, and Pierre was even deceived by this
semi-cheerfulness of his friend. Was it not in a certain sense his own
work? Was it not the price of the sacrifice he had made when he had
renewed his vow? It was one of those moments which often appear just
before the event of some great crisis of which the deceitful calmness
impresses our mind later, which astonishes us and makes us tremble when
we look back. Nothing bears a more eloquent witness that life is but a
dream, that we are simply the playthings of a superior power which urges
us along the road we have to take, in which we can never see to-day what
to-morrow will bring forth. Danger approaches and stands face to face
with us. The masters of our destiny are by our side. They live and
breathe without seeming to realize the work which is reserved for them.
Is it hazard, fatality, providence? What lot does Fate reserve for us?

Corancez called on Friday. The friends were to leave Cannes on Sunday.
On Saturday morning, about eleven o'clock, Hautefeuille was in his room
packing some of his clothes, when a knock at the door startled him.
Although he was firmly resolved to keep his word, he could not help
hoping. Hoping for what? He could not have told himself. But an
unconscious, irresistible intuition warned him that Ely would not let
him go without trying to see him again. And yet she had not given any
sign of life since he had returned her letter. She had not sent any one
to see him, for Corancez had come without her knowledge. But the young
man was in the state of nervous anxiety which presages and precedes any
great event close at hand. And his voice trembled as he called out "Come
in" to the unknown visitor who knocked at his door. He knew that this
visitor, no matter who it was, came from Ely.

It was simply one of the hotel servants. He brought a letter. It had
been delivered by a messenger who had gone away without waiting for a
reply. Hautefeuille looked at the envelope without opening it. Was he
going to read this letter? He knew it had been sent him by Madame de
Carlsberg. The address was not written in her handwriting. Pierre cast
about in his memory to find out where he had seen this nervous, uneven,
almost timid-looking writing. All at once he remembered the anonymous
note he had received after the evening spent at Monte Carlo. He had
shown it to Ely, who had said, "It is from Louise." The letter he held
in his hand also came from Madame Brion.

There was no longer any possible doubt. To open the envelope was to
communicate with Ely, to seek to hear from her, to break his word, to
betray his friend. Pierre felt all this, and, throwing the tempting
letter from him, he remained for a long while his face buried in his
hands. To do him justice, he did not try to excuse himself by any
sophistry. "I ought not to read this letter," he thought. "I ought not
to read it!" And then, after a few moments, after having locked the door
like a robber preparing for his work, his face purple with shame, he
suddenly tore the envelope open with trembling hand. A letter fell out,
followed by a second envelope, sealed and unaddressed. If there had
remained the least doubt in Pierre's mind as to the contents of this
second envelope, Madame Brion's note would have dissipated it. It read
as follows:--


"DEAR SIR--A few weeks ago you received a letter which begged you to
leave Cannes, and not to bring a certain misfortune upon some one who
was severely tried and who merited your regard. You did not listen to
the advice contained in this letter from an unknown friend. The dreaded
misfortune has now arrived, and the same friend begs you not to repulse
the second appeal as you did the first. The person into whose life you
have entered and taken up so large a place never hopes to recover the
happiness of which she has been robbed. All that she asks is that you
will not condemn her unheard. If you will search in your conscience, you
will admit that she has the right to ask it. She has written you a
letter which you will find enclosed in this one. Do not send it back, as
you did her first, with a harshness that is not natural to you. If you
ought not to read it, destroy it at once. But if you do, you will be
very cruel to a being who has given you all that has remained in her
that is sincere, noble, delicate, and true."


Pierre read again and again the simple, awkward sentences that were yet
so eloquent to him. He felt in them all the passionate fondness Louise
Brion had for Ely. He was touched by them as all unhappy lovers are
touched by proofs of devotion shown to their mistress. He felt such a
longing to know that she was loved, protected, and cared for, although
at the same moment he hated her with the most implacable hatred,
although he was ready to condemn her with all the madness of rage. And
what devotion could be greater than this shown by the pure-minded Louise
in going from weakness to weakness so far as to charge herself with a
letter from Ely to Hautefeuille. She had longed to go in person to the
Hôtel des Palmes to ask for Pierre, to speak with him, to give him the
envelope herself, but she had not dared. Perhaps she would have failed
had she done so, whereas this indirect expedient conquered the young
man's scruples. The emotions that the simple note had aroused left him
powerless to contend with the flood of loving souvenirs that swept over
him. He opened the second envelope and read:--


"PIERRE--I do not know whether you will even read these few words,
whether I am not writing them in vain, just as the tears that I have
shed in thinking of you ever since that frightful day have been shed
vainly. I do not know whether you will let me tell you once more how I
love you, whether you will let me tell you that I never loved any one in
the world except you, that I feel I shall never love any one else. But I
must tell it to you with the hope that my plea may reach you, the humble
plea of a heart that suffers less from its own pain than from the
knowledge that it has caused you to suffer. When I received back the
other letter I wrote,--the one that you would not open,--my heart bled
at the thought that you must have been mad with pain, or you would not
have been so harsh with me. And I felt nothing except that you were
suffering.

"No, my beloved, I cannot speak to you in any other way than I have done
since the hour when I called you to me to ask you to go away, the hour
when I took you in my arms. I have tried to conquer my feelings. It
caused me too much pain not to disclose all that I felt. If you do not
read these lines, you will not hate me for the loving words I have said
to you, for you will not know of them. But if you read them--ah! if you
read them you will remember the hours which passed so quickly on the
seashore in the shade of the calm pines at the Cap d'Antibes, the hours
spent upon the deck of the yacht, hours spent at Genoa before you were
struck down by the terrible blow, hours when I could still see you
happy, when I could still make you happy! You do not know, sweetheart,
you cannot know, what it is for a woman to make the man she loves happy!
If I did not tell you at once what you know to-day, it was because of
the certainty that never again should I see in your eyes the clear light
of complete happiness which shone from your enraptured soul--a light
that I have seen so much and loved so much.

"Understand me, beloved, I do not wish to excuse my crime. I was never
worthy of you. You were beauty, youth, and purity--all that is best,
tenderest, and most loving in this world. I had lost the right to be
loved by such a man as you. I ought to have told you the first day I met
you. Then, if you had wished for me, you could have taken me and left me
like a poor being that only lived for you, that was only made to please
you a moment, to distract you and then say good-by. I thought of it,
believe me, and I have paid very dearly for the movement not of pride,
but of love. I had a horror of being despised by you. And then the woman
that you had called into being in me was so different from what I had
been before I knew you. I said to myself, 'I am not deceiving him.' And,
believe me, I did not lie when I told you that I loved you. My heart was
so completely changed. All! how I loved you! How I loved you! You will
never know how much nor even I myself. It was something so deeply
implanted in my heart, it was so sad when I thought of what might have
been if I had only waited for you.

"You see, Pierre, that I speak of myself in the past as one speaks of
the dead. Do not be afraid. I have not any idea of ending my life. I
have caused you too much sorrow to increase your suffering by remorse. I
live, and I shall live, if that can be called living in a being who has
known you, who has loved and been beloved by you, and who has lost you.
I know that you are leaving Cannes, that you are going away to-morrow. I
cannot think that you will leave me forever without speaking to me. My
hand trembles even in writing. I cannot find the words with which to
explain my thoughts. Yet it will be too cruel if you leave me without
giving me the opportunity of making what excuse I have for the life I
once led. If you were near me for only one hour, you could go away and
then you would think differently of me. What once was can never be
again. But I wish to carry with me into the solitude which will surround
my life in future the consolation of thinking that you see me as I am,
and that you do not believe me capable of something I have never
committed. My beloved, the time is so short. You leave to-morrow. When
you read this letter, if you do read it, we shall not even have an
entire day to be in the same city. If you do read my poor letter, if it
touches you, if you find that my request is not too great, come to me at
the hour you used to come. At eleven o'clock I will wait for you in the
hothouse. If you condemn me without any appeal, if you refuse to grant
me this last interview, good-by again, and again good-by. Not a reproach
will ever find place in my heart, and I shall always say forever and
ever, 'Thanks, my beloved, for having loved me.'"


"I will not go," said the young man to himself, when he had finished
reading the pages, eloquent with a passionate emanation of love. He
repeated: "I will not go." But he felt that he was not frank with
himself. He knew that he could not resist. He knew that he would yield
to her imploring appeal, that he would obey the voice of the woman, a
voice whose music rang in every word of her letter, a voice that
implored him, that told of her adoration, that soothed his wounded heart
like a sad caress sweet as death.

But the nearer Pierre drew to the meeting-place the more he felt an
unspeakable sadness. His action appeared to him so culpable when he
realized all its infamy that he was overwhelmed. And yet he would not
draw back. On and on he went. The love potion the words of the letter
had poured into his veins continued to dominate his failing will. He
went on, but the contrast between this despicable, clandestine walk to a
woman that he despised, to a woman who made him despise himself for
longing for her, was very different from the pilgrimages he used to make
toward the same villa, along the same road, filled with a happy fervor.

And Olivier? Heaven! if Olivier could see him at present! If Olivier,
whom he was betraying so cruelly, could only see him!

The tension of his nerves was so great, he was so shaken by the double
emotions of love and remorse, that the tiniest noise startled him. The
surrounding objects took on an aspect that was both menacing and
fantastic. His heart beat and his nerves quivered. He was afraid. He
seemed to hear footsteps following him in the night, and he stopped to
listen. At the moment that he was going to ascend the slope by which he
had been accustomed to enter Ely's garden, the idea that he was being
followed became so strong that he retraced his steps, peering about
along the road, among the bushes and heaps of stones. He avoided the
strong rays of light of an electric lamp standing on one of the pillars
of the fence as though he had been a robber.

His examination, however, was fruitless. But the idea was so strong that
he was afraid to enter by the same path. It appeared too open, too easy
of access. He began to run, as though he had really been followed,
around the little park which ended the garden of the villa at its upper
end. A wall enclosed a part of it. With the help of the branches of an
oak growing at its foot, he climbed over. While still on the coping he
listened again. He heard but the sound of the dying breeze, the
quivering of the foliage, the vast silence of night, and far, far away,
the barking of a dog in some isolated house. He thought he must have
been dreaming, and slipped down on the other side of the wall. It was
about three metres in height, and he was lucky enough to fall upon a
spot of soft earth. Then he made his way toward the house.

A few minutes later he was at the door of the greenhouse. He pushed it
open gently and Ely's hand took his own.

But what would have been his thoughts if he had known that his fears
were well founded, if he had known that he had been followed since he
left the hotel, that the witness whose presence he had felt so near him
in the dark, until the moment he began to run, was none other than
Olivier?

The house stood closed and silent in all the mystery of its shadows,
with isolated spots of light where the lamp shone full upon it. The same
vast silence of night that had oppressed Pierre while upon the wall, the
silence broken by the distant baying of a dog, still enveloped the
country. The trees still quivered, and the flowers poured forth their
perfume. The stars still shone, and Olivier remained motionless at the
edge of the garden, in the place where he had thrown himself down so
that his friend might not see him.

His suffering at this moment was not the suffering of some one who
struggles and fights. When he saw Pierre at luncheon, his contracted
features, his shining eyes, his trembling lips, had revealed to him that
something had happened. He was so weary of fighting, so tired of always
struggling with his own heart, of seeing so much suffering in his
friend's heart! Besides, what more could he ask him after the
conversation of the night before? So he kept silent. What was the good
of continually torturing each other?

Then, as Hautefeuille's agitation increased, his suspicions were
aroused. He thought, "She has written to him asking for a meeting!" But
no, it was not possible! To receive a letter from Ely, read it, and not
speak about it was a crime against their friendship under their present
relations that Pierre would never be guilty of. Olivier struggled to
convince himself of the madness of his suspicion. The emotion of his
friend communicated itself to him. He felt, when he took his hand upon
separating for the night, that his betrayal was near, was certain, was
even then an accomplished fact!

Why did he not speak to him at that moment? A heart that has been
deceived often yields to such an impulse of renunciation. It is
impossible to struggle against certain unexpected events, it is
impossible to complain of them. What reproach could he make to Pierre?
What was the good of reproaching him if he had really conceived the idea
of breaking the compact he had entered into with him? Yes, what was the
good? And Olivier remained leaning upon the windowsill, summoning up all
his dignity to keep from going to his friend's room while repeating that
it was impossible.

And then, at a certain moment, he thought he saw Pierre's profile as
some one crossed the garden of the hotel. This time he could resist no
longer. He felt compelled to go down and question the concierge. He
learned that Pierre had just gone out. A few minutes later he himself
took the direction of the Villa Helmholtz. He recognized his friend and
followed him. He saw him turn, listen, and go on again. Just as Pierre
was entering the garden, Olivier could not help making a step forward.
It was at this moment that Pierre heard him. Olivier drew back into the
darkness. His friend passed quite close to him. Indeed, he almost
touched him, and then began to run, most probably toward another
entrance with which he was familiar, and Olivier ceased to follow him.

He sank down on the slope and gave way to unutterable despair, in which
were reunited and collected all the sorrow and suffering he had gone
through during the last two weeks. He knew that at that very minute, in
the silent house so near him, Ely and Pierre were together. He knew that
they had forgiven each other, that they loved each other. And the
thought caused him a pang of agony so keen that he could not move. He
almost fainted under the emotions caused by his passionate love for this
woman and the sentiment that his friend, a friend so dear to him, had
trampled him under foot on his way to her, mingled with the tortures of
jealousy and the bitterness of betrayal. He ended by flinging himself,
face downward, upon the cold earth, the gentle earth that takes us all
into her embrace one day, whose weight, while crushing us down, also
crushes out the intolerable sufferings of our heart. There he lay, his
arms extended, his face buried in the grass, like a corpse, longing for
death, longing to be free, longing to love this woman no more, to never
again see his friend, to have finished with existence, to sleep the
sleep that is without dreams, without memory, a sleep in which Ely and
Pierre and himself would seem as though they had never been.

How long did he remain thus, face to the ground, a prey to the complete,
irremediable sorrow which ends by calming the heart through its very
intensity? A sound of voices behind the hedge which separated him from
the garden aroused him abruptly from the paroxysm of suffering which had
overwhelmed him. They came from some men walking without a light,
measuring their steps, speaking in muffled tones. They came so close to
Olivier that he could have touched them if he had risen to his feet.

"He entered here, and went out again by this place the other nights that
he came, monseigneur," said one of the voices, a whispering,
insinuating, almost inaudible voice. "We cannot possibly miss him."

"Are you certain that none of your men suspect the truth?" said another
easily recognizable voice.

"Not one, monseigneur. They think they have to do with a robber."

"Monsieur von Laubach," said a third voice, the voice of an inferior,
"the gardener says that the door of the hothouse is open."

"I will go and see," went on the first speaker, while the second
imperious voice uttered a "Verfluchter Esel."

This exclamation showed how disagreeable this detail of surveillance was
to him who had ordered this trap. A trap for whom? Knowing what he knew,
Olivier had not a moment's doubt: the Archduke had learned that a man
was with his wife, and he was preparing for his vengeance. He desired an
anonymous vengeance, as was shown by the question he had asked of his
aid-de-camp, and afterwards his wrath against the "cussed ass" who had
mentioned the hothouse door. The lover was to be killed like a common
burglar, "to spare Ely's honor," reflected Olivier, who now got up and,
leaning his head forward, listened to the voices dying out in the
distance. Doubtless the Archduke and his lieutenant were completing the
surrounding of the garden. Pierre was lost.

Pierre was lost! Olivier rose to his feet. The possibility of saving the
friend he loved so dearly flashed across his mind. Suppose he entered
the garden? Suppose he penetrated as far as the greenhouse door, of
which one of the watchers had spoken and whence it was evident the man
they were about to kill would issue? Suppose he then rushed out so as to
make them believe he was returning to town?

The idea of such a substitution with its self-sacrifice took possession,
with irresistible force, of the unhappy man who had so keen a longing
for death. He began to walk along, at first in the shades of the bank
and then of the wall, which he climbed at almost the same place as his
friend had done. Then he walked straight toward the villa, which stood
silent and still before him, not a ray of light issuing from the
interstices of the shuttered windows.

Olivier regarded it with a strange ardor shining in his eyes. How he
longed to be able to pierce the walls with his gaze, to penetrate there
in spirit, to appear before him for whom he was risking his life!

Alas! Would his courage for the sacrifice he was about to make have been
strong enough to withstand the sight of Ely's room as it was at that
moment? Could he have supported the picture presented, in the rays of a
pink-shaded lamp, of Ely's head nestling close to Pierre's on the same
pillow?

The beautiful arm of the young woman was wound round his neck, and she
was saying:--

"I believe I should have died before morning of love and grief if you
had not come. But I felt you would come; I felt you would pardon me.
When I touched your hand, before I could even see you, all my sufferings
were forgotten. And yet, how hard you were to me at first! What cruel
things you said! How you made me suffer! But it is all forgotten! Say
that all is forgotten! You have taken me to your heart again, you know
that I love you, and that you let me love you! Tell me that you love me!
Ah, tell me again that you love me as you did upon the boat when we
listened to the sighing of the sea! Do you remember, sweet?"

And her eyes sought those of her lover, trying to find in them the light
of complete happiness, of which her letter had spoken. Alas! it was not
there. An expression of settled sadness and remorse dwelt in their
depths.

And this was soon to change to one of terror. At the very instant that
Ely pressed her more tender, more caressing, more loving lips on the
young man's eyelids, trying to drive away the melancholy she read in his
gaze, a report rang out in the garden, then a second, then a third, shot
after shot. A cry rent the air.

Then all was still again. A terrifying silence now reigned. The two
lovers looked at each other. The same idea flashed through their minds
at the same moment.

"Hide yourself behind the curtains," said Ely. "I will find out what has
happened."

She threw a dressing-gown over her shoulders and drew one of the
curtains of the alcove before the young man. Then, lamp in hand, she
walked toward the window, opened it, and asked in a loud voice:--

"Who is there? What is the matter?"

"Do not be alarmed, my dear," replied a voice whose sinister irony made
her shiver. "It was only a robber trying to break into the villa.--He
must have two or three bullets in him. We are just looking for him.
Don't be frightened. _He will never come back again_! Laubach fired at
him point-blank."

Ely closed the window. When she turned she saw that Pierre was already
more than half dressed. He was very pale, and his hands were trembling.

"You are not thinking of going?" she cried. "The garden is crowded with
men!"

"I must go!" he replied. "They were shooting at Olivier!"

"At Olivier?" she repeated. "You are mad!"

"Yes, at Olivier," he said with an agonized energy; "they took him for
me. He must have seen me leave the hotel and he followed me. They were
his steps that I heard."

"No, I cannot, I will not let you go," she said, standing in front of
the door. "Stop here for a few moments, I implore you. It was not
Olivier, it could not be he! They will kill you. Oh, my love, I pray you
to stay! Do not go, do not leave me!"

He had now finished dressing. He thrust her rudely to one side, and
said: "Let me go! Let me go!" without a look, without a word of adieu.

He had descended the stairs, passed through the hothouse into the
garden, before she could move. She remained leaning against the wall
where he had thrown her, listening, her head bent forward, listening
with an anguish that was maddening.--But there was no further report.
Pierre did not meet either the Prince or his men, for they were occupied
in hunting for some traces of the first fugitive.

"Ah" she moaned, "he is safe!--If the other has only escaped!"

Pierre's terror had taken possession of her. Yes, the unknown visitor at
whom the men had shot could be no one but Olivier. She had understood
too well the Prince's tone. Her husband had learned that she was with
her lover. He had laid a trap for him. Who, then, could have fallen into
it instead of Pierre?--For the first time in many years this woman, so
broad-minded, so permeated with the spirit of fatalism and nihilism,
this woman felt an impulse to appeal to a higher power. She was blinded
with terror at what she foresaw if she and Pierre had really brought
about the death of the man who had been her lover, of the man who had
been Pierre's sole friend; she was so overwhelmed that she fell upon her
knees and prayed that this punishment might be spared them.

Vain prayer! As fruitless as the mad flight of her guilty accomplice who
tore along the road, halting at intervals to cry, "Olivier! Olivier!"

He received no reply to his calls. At last he arrived at the hotel. He
would soon know whether he was not under the influence of some evil
dream. What were his feelings when the porter said in answer to his
inquiries:--

"Monsieur du Prat? He went out immediately after you had left, sir!"

"Did he ask if I had gone out?"

"Yes, sir. I'm surprised that you did not meet him, sir. He went along
the same road immediately after you."

So his presentiments had not deceived him! Olivier had really followed
him. Olivier had been taken by surprise in the garden. Was he dead? Was
he wounded? Where was he lying helpless?

All night long Hautefeuille wandered about the roads, searching in the
ditches, among the hedges, the stones, feeling about on the ground at
the foot of the trees. In the morning he was returning, literally mad
after his useless researches, when, going toward the hotel by another
road, he met two gardeners pushing a handcart. In it was laid a human
form. He walked up to it and recognized his friend.

Olivier had received two balls in the chest. Upon his face, soiled with
the sand of the road, was an expression of infinite sadness. Judging
from the place where the gardeners had found him, he must have walked
for a quarter of an hour after being wounded. Then his strength had
failed him; he had fainted and had died--probably without ever coming to
himself again--of a hemorrhage caused by his wounds and the effort he
had made.


Where are the dead, our dead? Where go those who have loved us, whom we
have loved, those to whom we have been gentle, kind, helpful, those
towards whom we have been guilty of inexplicable wrongs, those who have
left us before we have ever known if we have been pardoned?

But whether this life of the invisible dead which surround our
terrestrial existence be a dream or a reality, it is certain that Ely
has never dared to see Pierre or to write to him since that terrible
night. Whenever she takes up the pen to draw near him again, once more
something prevents her. And something always stays Pierre's hand when he
tries to give her a sign of his existence.

The dead stands between the living, the dead who will never, never
disappear.



THE END



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