The Clique of Gold
But, this confidence which Henrietta expressed was only apparent. In her heart she
suffered from the most terrible presentiments. A secret voice told her that this scene, no
doubt well prepared and carefully brought about, was but another step leading to the final
Days, however, passed by, and nothing unusual happened. It looked as if they had
resolved, after that crisis, to give her a short respite, and time to recover.
Even the watch kept upon her movements was not quite as strict as heretofore. The
countess kept out of her way. Mrs. Brian had given up the desire to frighten her by her
incessant remarks. Her father she saw but rarely; for he was entirely absorbed in the
preparations for the Pennsylvania Petroleum Society. Thus, a week later, all seemed to
have entirely forgotten the terrible explosion produced by the letter to the Duke of
All? By no means. There was one of the inmates of the palace who recalled it daily,--M.
On the very evening after the scene, his generous indignation had so far gotten the better
of his usual reserve, and his pledge of neutrality, that he had taken the Countess Sarah
aside, and overwhelmed her with sharp reproaches.
"You will have to eat your own words," he had told her, among other things, "if you use
such abominable means to gratify your hatred."
It is true, that, when he thus took his kinswoman aside, he also took pains to be overheard
by Henrietta. And besides, for fear, perhaps, that she might not fully appreciate his
sentiments, he had stealthily pressed her hand, and whispered into her ear,--
"Poor, dear girl! But I am here. I shall watch."
This sounded like a promise to afford her protection, which certainly would have been
efficient if it had been sincere. But was it sincere?
"No; most assuredly not!" said M. de Brevan when he was consulted. "It can be nothing
but vile hypocrisy and the beginning of an abominable farce. You will see, madam."
What Henrietta really saw was, that the Hon. M. Elgin suddenly underwent a complete
metamorphosis. A new Sir Thorn appeared, whom no one would have ever suspected
under the cloak of icy reserve which the former had worn. His sympathetic pity of former
days was succeeded by more tender sentiments. It was not pity now, which animated his
big, blue-china eyes, but the half-suppressed flame of a discreet passion. In public he did
not commit himself much; but there was no little attention which he did not pay Henrietta
by stealth. He never left the room before her; and, on the reception-evenings, he always
took a seat by her, and remained there till the end. The most direct result of these