After supper they talked of Charlotte Corday.
Juliette clung to the vision of that heroine, and liked to talk of her. She appeared as a justification of her own actions, which somehow seemed to require justification.
She loved to hear Paul Déroulède talk; liked to provoke his enthusiasm and to see his stern, dark face light up with the inward fire of the enthusiast.
She had openly avowed herself as the daughter of the Duc de Marny. When she actually named her father, and her brother killed in duel, she saw Déroulède looking long and searchingly at her. Evidently he wondered if she knew everything: but she returned his gaze fearlessly and frankly, and he apparently was satisfied.
Madame Déroulède seemed to know nothing of the circumstances of that duel. Déroulède tried to draw Juliette out, to make her speak of her brother. She replied to his questions quite openly, but there was nothing in what she said suggestive of the fact that she knew who killed her brother.
She wanted him to know who she was. If he feared an enemy in her, there was yet time enough for him to close his doors against her.
But less than a minute later, he had renewed his warmest offers of hospitality.
"Until we can arrange for your journey to England," he added with a short sigh, as if reluctant to part from her.
To Juliette his attitude seemed one of complete indifference for the wrong he had done to her and to her father: feeling that she was an avenging spirit, with flaming sword in hand, pursuing her brother's murderer like a relentless Nemesis, she would have preferred to see him cowed before her, even afraid of her, though she was only a young and delicate girl.
She did not understand that in the simplicity of his heart he only wished to make amends. The quarrel wiith the young Vicomte de Marny had been forced upon him, the fight had been honourable and fair, and on his side fought with every desire to spare the young man. He had merely been the instrument of Fate, but he felt happy that Fate once more used him as her tool, this time to save the sister.
Whilst Déroulède and Juliette talked together Anne Mie cleared the supper-table, then came and sat on a low stool at madame's feet. She took no part in the conversation, but every now and then Juliette felt the girl's melancholy eyes fixed almost reproachfully upon her.
When Juliette had retired with Pétronelle, Déroulède took Anne Mie's hand in his.
"You will be kind to my guest, Anne Mie, won't you? She seems very lonely, and has gone through a great deal."
"Not more than I have," murmured the young girl involuntarily.
"You are not happy, Anne Mie? I thought--"
"Is a wretched, deformed creature ever happy?" she said with sudden vehemence, as tears of mortification rushed to her eyes in spite of herself.
"I did not think that you were wretched," he replied with some sadness, "and neither in my eyes, nor in my mother's, are you in any way deformed."
Her mood changed at once. She clung to him, pressing his hand between her own.
"Forgive me! I--I don't know what's the matter with me to-night," she said with a nervous little laugh. "Let me see, you asked me to be kind to Mademoiselle Marny, did you not?"
He nodded with a smile.
"Of course I'll be kind to her. Isn't every one kind to one who is young and beautiful, and had great appealing eyes, and soft, curly hair? Ah me! how easy is the path in life for some people! What do you want me to do, Paul? Wait on her? Be her little maid? Soothe her nerves or what? I'll do it all, though in her eyes I shall remain both wretched and deformed, a creature to pity, the harmless, necessary house-dog--"
She paused a moment: said "Good night" to him and turned to go, candle in hand, looking pathetic and fragile, with that ugly contour of shoulder which Déroulède assured her he could not see.
The candle flickered in the draught, illuminating the thin, pinched face, the large melancholy eyes of the faithful house-dog.
"Who can watch and bite!" she said
half-audibly as she slipped out of the room. "For I do not
trust you, my fine madam, and there was something about that comedy
this afternoon which somehow I don't quite understand."