At present you will only see my husband, two ladies who are almost widows, and a young lady" ... here Mad. de Lorgeville was seized with a new fit of laughter ... finally she continued: "A young lady whose name you will know later." "I know it already, madame." "Perhaps you do ... to-morrow our company will be increased by two persons, my brother." ... "The handsome Léon!"
In a few days the handsome Léon, on pretence of important business, will leave his Dulcinea, and, considering himself freed from an unlawful yoke, will come to the Château de Lorgeville to offer his innocent hand and pure homage to Mile. de Chateaudun. In whatever light the matter is viewed, I am a dupe a butt!
Is there a more thrilling sight? I stood with one foot forward on the gravel-path, and with folded arms and bowed head I waited. I saw the scarf fringe before seeing the face. I looked up, and there stood before me a lovely woman ... but it was not Irene!... It was Mad. de Lorgeville. She knew me and I recognised her, having known her before her marriage.
I made her believe that this mistake was entirely owing to a similarity of names, and that the age of Mile. de Chantverdun was an additional point of resemblance. This distinction was difficult to manage in its exquisite delicacy; my skilfulness won the approbation of Mad. de Lorgeville. We passed a charming afternoon.
The lady was seized with such a fit of gayety that she could scarcely speak, but managed to gasp out my name and title in broken syllables. Like a great many men, I can stand much from women that I am not in love with.... I stood with arms crossed and hat off, waiting for an explanation of this foolish reception. After several attempts, Mad. de Lorgeville succeeded in making her little speech.
Last winter she sang that beautiful duo from Norma, with the Countess Merlin, at a charity concert. I requested further details. Madame de Lorgeville is the sister of the handsome Léon de Varèzes. Oh! ray of light! glimmer of sun through a dark cloud! The handsome Léon de Varèzes! The ugly idea of troubadour beauty!
Our walls are diaphanous, our words are overheard; our steps are watched ... everything said and done reaches by secret informers and invisible threads the central office of Jerusalem street. It is enough to make one tremble!!! At the château of Mad. de Lorgeville! I walked along repeating this sentence to myself, with a thousand variations: At the château of Mad. de Lorgeville.
My mind was at rest for the police are infallible; everything will be explained at the Château de Lorgeville. I stopped my carriage some yards from the gate, got out and walked up the long avenue, being concealed by the large trees through which I caught glimpses of the château.
This fact is certain, the handsome Léon is at the waters of Ems enjoying his expiring hours of single-blessedness in the society of his painted friend, and his family are keeping Mile. de Chateaudun at the Château de Lorgeville till the season at Ems is over.
This oracle answers me thus: Mad. de Lorgeville is a very beautiful woman, between twenty-four and twenty-six years of age. She possesses a magnificent mezzo-soprano voice, and twenty thousand dollars income. She learnt miniature painting from Mad. Mirbel, and took singing lessons from Mad. Damoyeau.