Albert Savarus/Part 9
Next evening, as may well be supposed, by nine o'clock Madame la Baronne de Watteville's rooms were crowded by the aristocracy of Besancon in convocation extraordinary. They were discussing the exceptional step of going to the poll, to oblige the daughter of the Rupts. It was known that the former Master of Appeals, the secretary of one of the most faithful ministers under the Elder Branch, was to be presented that evening. Madame de Chavoncourt was there with her second daughter Sidonie, exquisitely dressed, while her elder sister, secure of her lover, had not indulged in any of the arts of the toilet. In country towns these little things are remarked. The Abbe de Grancey's fine and clever head was to be seen moving from group to group, listening to everything, seeming to be apart from it all, but uttering those incisive phrases which sum up a question and direct the issue.
"If the Elder Branch were to return," said he to an old statesman of seventy, "what politicians would they find?"—"Berryer, alone on his bench, does not know which way to turn; if he had sixty votes, he would often scotch the wheels of the Government and upset Ministries!"—"The Duc de Fitz-James is to be nominated at Toulouse."—"You will enable Monsieur de Watteville to win his lawsuit."—"If you vote for Monsieur Savarus, the Republicans will vote with you rather than with the Moderates!" etc., etc.
At nine o'clock Albert had not arrived. Madame de Watteville was disposed to regard such delay as an impertinence.
"My dear Baroness," said Madame de Chavoncourt, "do not let such serious issues turn on such a trifle. The varnish on his boots is not dry—or a consultation, perhaps, detains Monsieur de Savarus."
Rosalie shot a side glance at Madame de Chavoncourt.
"She is very lenient to Monsieur de Savarus," she whispered to her mother.
"You see," said the Baroness with a smile, "there is a question of a marriage between Sidonie and Monsieur de Savarus."
Mademoiselle de Watteville hastily went to a window looking out over the garden.
At ten o'clock Albert de Savarus had not yet appeared. The storm that threatened now burst. Some of the gentlemen sat down to cards, finding the thing intolerable. The Abbe de Grancey, who did not know what to think, went to the window where Rosalie was hidden, and exclaimed aloud in his amazement, "He must be dead!"
The Vicar-General stepped out into the garden, followed by Monsieur de Watteville and his daughter, and they all three went up to the kiosk. In Albert's rooms all was dark; not a light was to be seen.
"Jerome!" cried Rosalie, seeing the servant in the yard below. The Abbe looked at her with astonishment. "Where in the world is your master?" she asked the man, who came to the foot of the wall.
"Gone—in a post-chaise, mademoiselle."
"He is ruined!" exclaimed the Abbe de Grancey, "or he is happy!"
The joy of triumph was not so effectually concealed on Rosalie's face that the Vicar-General could not detect it. He affected to see nothing.
"What can this girl have had to do with this business?" he asked himself.
They all three returned to the drawing-room, where Monsieur de Watteville announced the strange, the extraordinary, the prodigious news of the lawyer's departure, without any reason assigned for his evasion. By half-past eleven only fifteen persons remained, among them Madame de Chavoncourt and the Abbe de Godenars, another Vicar-General, a man of about forty, who hoped for a bishopric, the two Chavoncourt girls, and Monsieur de Vauchelles, the Abbe de Grancey, Rosalie, Amedee de Soulas, and a retired magistrate, one of the most influential members of the upper circle of Besancon, who had been very eager for Albert's election. The Abbe de Grancey sat down by the Baroness in such a position as to watch Rosalie, whose face, usually pale, wore a feverish flush.
"What can have happened to Monsieur de Savarus?" said Madame de Chavoncourt.
At this moment a servant in livery brought in a letter for the Abbe de Grancey on a silver tray.
"Pray read it," said the Baroness.
The Vicar-General read the letter; he saw Rosalie suddenly turn as white as her kerchief.
"She recognizes the writing," said he to himself, after glancing at the girl over his spectacles. He folded up the letter, and calmly put it in his pocket without a word. In three minutes he had met three looks from Rosalie which were enough to make him guess everything.
"She is in love with Albert Savarus!" thought the Vicar-General.
He rose and took leave. He was going towards the door when, in the next room, he was overtaken by Rosalie, who said:
"Monsieur de Grancey, it was from Albert!"
"How do you know that it was his writing, to recognize it from so far?"
The girl's reply, caught as she was in the toils of her impatience and rage, seemed to the Abbe sublime.
"I love him!—What is the matter?" she said after a pause.
"He gives up the election."
Rosalie put her finger to her lip.
"I ask you to be as secret as if it were a confession," said she before returning to the drawing-room. "If there is an end of the election, there is an end of the marriage with Sidonie."