Page:Harris Dickson--The black wolf's breed.djvu/174

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caller. The maid withdrew, in the slow hurry of a truant on his way to school, but hastened at a sign of annoyance from Madame.

"Monsieur de Valence, you are full ten minutes early. You know I bade you be always exactly punctual," was Madame's petulant greeting of the handsome man who bore himself so meekly in her presence.

No tone was ever colder, no demeanor more haughty than hers, and this proud man who bent before no storm, who held the fortunes of many within his grasp, bowed like an obedient child to her whim.

"Yes, Celeste, I know, but—"

"Madame de Chartrain," she corrected. (I use the name de Chartrain, though it was not her own.)

"Yes—Madame, I know, but, it is so hard to wait; do you not understand how I count the minutes every day until—"

"Yes, yes, I've heard all those fine excuses before. To your business. The other can wait, business first, then—"

"Pleasure?" he supplemented with an eagerness strangely at variance with the rigid self-control he had hitherto shown.

"I did not say pleasure," she gravely broke in, "your business."

The man submitted with the patience of one quite accustomed, yet not wholly resigned to such a reception, and spread numerous papers upon the table before her. Selecting one he began to explain:

"Your wishes in regard to this matter have been car-