The Clique of Gold
"Well, I am sure the count can boast that he has had a curious wedding-day."
This was the way the servants spoke at the moment when Henrietta left the reception-
room. She heard it; and without knowing whether they approved her conduct, or laughed
at it, she felt gratified, so eager is passion for encouragement from anywhere.
But she had not yet gone half-way up the stairs which led to her own rooms, when she
was held at the place by the sound of all the bells of the house, which had been set in
motion by a furious hand. She bent over the balusters to listen. The servants were rushing
about; the vestibule resounded with hurried steps; and she distinguished the imperious
voice of M. Ernest, the count's valet, who called out,--
"Salts, quick! Fresh water. The countess has a nervous attack."
A bitter smile curled Henrietta's lips.
"At least," she said to herself, "I shall have poisoned this woman's joy." And, fearing to
be caught thus listening, she went up stairs.
But, when she was alone once more, the poor girl failed not to recognize the utter futility
of her fancied triumph. Whom had she wounded, after all? Her father.
However unwell the countess might be to-night,--and perhaps she was not really unwell,-
-she would certainly be well again in the morning; and then what would be the advantage
of the scandal she had attempted in order to ruin her? Now Henrietta saw it very clearly,--
now, when it was too late.
Worse than that! She fancied that what she had done to-day pledged her for the future.
The road upon which she had started evidently led nowhere. Never mind, it seemed to her
miserable cowardice to shrink from going on.
Rising with the sun, she was deliberating on what weak point she might make her next
attack, when there came a knock at the door, and Clarissa, her own maid, entered.
"Here is a letter for you, miss," she said. "I have received it this moment, in an envelope
addressed to me."
Henrietta examined the letter for a long time before opening it, studying the handwriting,
which she did not know. Who could write to her, and in this way, unless it was Maxime
de Brevan, to whom Daniel had begged her to intrust herself, and who, so far, had given
no sign of life of himself?
It was M. de Brevan who wrote thus,--