The Clique of Gold
It was a dark, freezing night; the sky was laden with clouds which hung so low, that they
nearly touched the roofs of the houses; and a furious wind was shaking the black
branches of the trees in the Champs Elysees, passing through the air like a fine dust of
Daniel rushed in feverish haste, like an escaped convict, headlong on, without aim or
purpose, solely bent upon escaping. But, when he had gone some distance, the motion,
the cold night-air, and the keen wind playing in his hair, restored him to consciousness.
Then he became aware that he was still in evening costume, bareheaded, and that he had
left his hat and his overcoat in Miss Brandon's house. Then he remembered that Count
Ville-Handry was waiting for him in the great reception-room, together with M. Elgin
and Mrs. Brian. What would they say and think? Unhappy man, in what a sad
predicament he found himself!
There might have been a way to escape from that hell; and he himself, in his madness,
had closed it forever.
Like one of those dissipated men who awake from the heavy sleep after a debauch, with
dry mouth and weary head, he felt as if he had just been aroused from a singular and
terrible dream. Like the drunkard, who, when he is sobered, tries to recall the foolish
things he may have done under the guidance of King Alcohol, Daniel conjured up one by
one all his emotions during the hour which he had just spent by Miss Brandon's side,--an
hour of madness which would weigh heavily upon his future fate, and which alone
contained in its sixty minutes more experiences than his whole life so far.
At no time had he been so near despair.
What! He had been warned, put on his guard, made fully aware of all of Miss Brandon's
tricks; they had told him of the weird charm of her eyes; he himself had caught her that
very evening in the open act of deceiving others.
And in spite of all this, feeble and helpless as he was, he had let himself be caught by the
fascinations of this strange girl. Her voice had made him forget every thing, every thing--
even his dear and beloved Henrietta, his sole thought for so many years.
"Fool!" he said to himself, "what have I done?"
Unmindful of the blast of the tempest, and of the snow which had begun to fall, he had
sat down on the steps of one of the grandest houses in Circus Street, and, with his elbows
on his knees, he pressed his brow with his hands, as if hoping that he might thus cause it
to suggest to him some plan of salvation. Conjuring up the whole energy of his will, he