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Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 9/Eleanor's victory - Part 29

ELEANOR’S VICTORY.

BY THE AUTHOR OF “AURORA FLOYD,” “LADY AUDLEY’S SECRET,” &c.

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CHAPTER LV. VERY LONELY.

Eleanor had considerable difficulty in parrying Mrs. Lennard’s questions as to how she had come to know Gilbert Monckton and his ward; and she was obliged to confess that she had been musical governess to Laura at Hazlewood. “But I must beg you not to tell Mr. Monckton that I am with you, if you should happen to write to him,” Eleanor said; “I have a very particular reason for wishing him to remain in perfect ignorance of my present home.”

“To be sure, my dear,” answered Mrs. Lennard; “of course I won’t tell him if you don’t wish me to do so. And as to writing to him, I should no more think of doing so than of flying in the air, except just a civil note of a few lines to thank him for sending me news of Laura. He only writes to me once in six months or so, to tell me how my lost darling is, and though I’ve implored him again and again he won’t let me see her. ‘She is still little more than a child,’ he wrote in his last letter, ‘and I dread the effect of your influence upon her. It is out of no revengeful feeling that I keep your daughter apart from you. When her character is formed and her principles fixed, you shall know her.’ As if I was a wretch!” cried Mrs. Lennard in conclusion, “and should contaminate my own daughter.”

Eleanor smiled as she shook her head.

“Dear Mrs. Lennard,” she said, “your daughter is perhaps better off in the care of such a man as Gilbert Monckton. She is as kind-hearted and good-tempered as yourself, but she is rather weak, and—”

“And I’m weak, too. Yes, I quite understand you, Miss Villars. It is my misfortune to be weak-minded. I can’t say ‘no’ to people. The arguments of the person who talks to me last always seem so much stronger than those of the person who talked to me first. I take impressions quickly, and don’t take them deeply. I was touched to the heart by Gilbert Monckton’s kindness to my father, and I meant to marry him as I promised, and to be his true and obedient wife; and then when that poor silly Fred came all the way to Lausanne, and went on so about being ill-used and deserted, and wanted to commit suicide, I thought it was my duty to run away with Fred. I haven’t any opinions of my own you see, and I’m always ready to be influenced by the opinions of other people.”

Eleanor thought long and deeply over the story she had heard from Mrs. Lennard. This was the root of all Gilbert Monckton’s suspicions. He had been deceived, most cruelly, most unexpectedly, by a beautiful, childish creature in whose innocence he had implicitly believed. He had been fooled and hood-winked by a fair-haired angel whose candid azure eyes that seemed to beam upon him with all the brightness of truth. He had been deceived most egregiously, but he had not been deliberately betrayed; for up to the time of her treacherous desertion of her affianced lover, Margaret Ravenshaw had meant to be true to him. Unhappily Gilbert Monckton did not know this. It is difficult for the man who finds himself as cruelly jilted as he had been, not to believe that the false one has intended all along to turn traitor at the last. There had been no explanation between Margaret and the lawyer; and he was entirely ignorant of the manner of her flight. He only knew that she had left him; without a word to prepare him for the death-blow, without a line of regretful farewell to make his sorrow lighter to him. The frivolous, shallow woman had been unable to fathom the depth of the strong man’s love. Margaret Ravenshaw knew there was very little of the divine in her own nature, and she had never expected to inspire the mighty affection of a grand and noble soul. She was able to understand the love of Frederick Lennard, which was demonstrated by noisy protestations, and declared itself in long, schoolboy letters in which the young man’s doubtful orthography was blistered by his tears. But she could not understand the intensity of feelings that did not make themselves visible in any stereotyped fashion.

Unluckily for the harmony of creation, wise men do not always fall in love wisely. The wisest and the best are apt to be bound captive by some external charm, which they think must be the outward evidence of an inward grace; and Gilbert Monckton had loved this frivolous, capricious girl as truly as if she had been the noblest and greatest of womankind. So the blow that had fallen upon him was a very heavy one; and its most fatal effect was to transform a confiding nature into a suspicious one.

He argued as many men argue under the same circumstances. He had been deceived by one woman, ergo, all women were capable of deception. I don’t suppose the “Stranger” placed very much confidence in the Countess, or had by any means too high an opinion of Charlotte; and the best of men are apt to feel very much after the manner of Mrs. Haller’s husband.

It seemed very strange to Eleanor to be living with Gilbert Monckton’s first love. It was almost as if some one had arisen out of the grave; for she had looked upon that old story which she had heard hinted at by the Hazlewood gossips, as something so entirely belonging to the past, that the heroine of the romance must of necessity be dead.

And here she was, alive and merry, knowing no greater uneasiness than a vague dread of increasing plumpness, induced by French dinners. Here she was, the very reverse of the image that Eleanor had conjured up in her mind in association with Gilbert’s false love; a good-tempered, common-place, pretty, middle-aged woman. Mrs. Monckton felt a little pang of jealousy at the thought that her husband had once loved this woman so dearly. Her husband! Had she still the right to call him by that name? Had he not severed the link between them of his own free will? Had he not outraged her honour, insulted her truth by his base and unfounded suspicions? Yes! he had done all this, and yet Eleanor loved him! She knew the strength of her love now that she was away from him, and might perhaps never see his face looking at her in kindness again. She knew it now that her scheme of vengeance against Launcelot Darrell had failed, and left a great blank in her mind. She thought of her husband seriously now for the first time, and she knew that she loved him.

“Richard was right,” she thought again and again; “the purpose of my life was cruel and unwomanly. I had no right to marry Gilbert Monckton while my mind was full of angry thoughts. Richard was right. My poor father’s rest would be no more peaceful if I had made Launcelot Darrell pay the penalty of his wickedness.”

She did not abandon her idea of vengeance all at once; but little by little, by very slow degrees, her mind became reconciled to the idea that she had failed in her scheme of retribution, and that there was nothing left her but to try and justify herself in the sight of the husband she loved.

She loved him; and the angry feelings which had prompted her to run away from Tolldale Priory, willingly abandoning all claim to his name and his protection, were beginning to give way now. Mrs. Lennard’s story had thrown new light upon the past, and Eleanor made all kinds of excuses for her husband’s conduct. It was his habit to bear all sorrows quietly. Who could tell what anguish he might have felt in the thought of his young wife’s falsehood?

“He would not pursue Margaret Ravenshaw,” Eleanor thought, “and he makes no attempt to find me. And yet he may love me as truly as he loved her. Surely if God refused to hear my prayers for revenge, He will grant me the power to justify myself.”

She could only blindly hope for some unknown chance that might bring about her justification; and that chance would perhaps never come. She was very unhappy when she thought of this; and it was only the perpetual confusion in which Major Lennard and his wife contrived to keep everybody belonging to them, that saved her from suffering very cruelly.

All this time she was quite ignorant of the appearance of an advertisement which had been repeated at the top of the second column of the “Times” supplement every day for nearly a month, and about which idle people hazarded all manner of conjectures—

ELEANOR, come back. I was rash and cruel. I will trust you. G. M.

Major Lennard was in the habit of seeing the “Times” every day at Galignani’s; but, as he was not a very acute observer or original thinker, he took no notice of the repetition of this advertisement beyond an occasional “By Jove! Haw! that poor dayv’l’s still advertising for El’ner!” nor did he ever make any allusion to the circumstance in his domestic circle.

So Eleanor hugged her sorrows secretly in the gayest city of the world, while Gilbert Monckton was rushing hither and thither, and breaking his heart about his lost wife.

I think that pitying angels must sometimes weep over the useless torments, the unnecessary anguish, which foolish mortals inflict upon themselves.

 

CHAPTER LVI. VICTOR BOURDON GOES OVER TO THE ENEMY.

Major and Mrs. Lennard and Eleanor Monckton had stayed for nearly two months at the Hôtel du Palais. April was fast melting into May, and the atmosphere in the City of Boulevards was very different to the chilling air of an English spring. Miniature strawberries were exposed in the windows of the cheap restaurants in the Palais Royal, side by side with monstrous asparagus, and green peas from Algeria; until the mind of the insular-bred stranger grew confused as to the succession of the months, and was beguiled into thinking that May must be omitted in the French almanack, and that capricious April skipped away in a farewell shower to give place at once to glowing June.

It was difficult for a thorough-bred Briton to believe that the Fête of the First Napoleon had not yet come to set the fountains playing at Versailles: for the asphalte on the Boulevards was unpleasantly warm, under one’s boots; airily-attired ladies were lounging upon the chairs in the gardens of the Tuileries; only the most fragile and vaporous bonnets were to be seen in the Bois de Boulogne; vanille and strawberry ices were in constant demand at Tortoni’s; idle Parisians spent the dusky spring evenings seated outside the lighted cafés, drinking iced lemonade; and a hundred other signs and tokens bore witness that the summer had come.

Upon one of these very warm April days, Major Lennard insisted upon taking his wife and her companion to dine at a restaurant not very far from the Bourse; where the pastorally-inclined epicure could take his dinner in a garden, a pleasant quadrangle, festooned with gay blossoms, and musical with the ripple of a fountain. Eleanor did not often accompany the Major and his wife in their pleasure excursions, the culminating attraction of which was generally a dinner; but this time Major Lennard insisted upon her joining them.

“It’s the last dinner I shall give Meg in Paris,” he said; “for we must start for Brussels on Saturday, and I mean it to be a good one.”

Eleanor submitted, for her new friends had been very kind to her, and she had no motive for opposing their wishes. It was much better for her to be with them in any scene of gaiety, however hollow and false that gaiety might be, than alone in the splendid salon at the Hôtel du Palais, brooding over her troubles in the dusky twilight, and thinking of the horrible night on which she had watched for her father’s coming in the Rue de l’Archevêque.

The restaurant near the Place de la Bourse was very much crowded upon this sunny April afternoon, and there was only one table vacant when the Major and his party entered the flowery little quadrangle, where the rippling of the fountain was unheard amidst the clattering of plates and the chinking of silver forks. It was seven o’clock, and the dinners were in high progress; the diners eating very fast, and talking a great deal faster.

The little arbour-like box to which Major Lennard conducted the two ladies was next to a similar arbour, in which there was a group of Frenchmen. Eleanor sat with her back to these men, who had very nearly finished dining, and who, from the style of their conversation, appeared to have taken plenty of wine. The man who was evidently the entertainer sat with his legs amongst a forest of empty bottles; and the jingling of glasses and the “cloop” of newly-drawn corks drowned a good deal of the conversation.

It was not very likely that Eleanor would listen to these men’s talk; or indeed, distinguish one voice from another, or one word from another amid the noise of the crowded garden. She had quite enough to do to attend to Mrs. Lennard, who chattered all dinner time, keeping up an uninterrupted babble, in which remarks upon the business of the dinner-table were blended with criticism upon the dress of ladies sitting in the other boxes.

“You should eat those little red things​—​baby-lobsters​—​écrivisses, I think they call them, dear; I always do. How do you like that bonnet; no, not that one—a little more St. Jacques, Major,—the black one, with the peach-coloured strings. I wonder why they call all the Clarets saints, and not the Burgundies? Do you think she’s pretty in the box opposite? No, you don’t think much of her, do you?—I don’t—I like the one in the blue silk, pretty well, if her eyebrows weren’t so heavy.”

The dinner was drawing to a close, the Major was up to his eyes in roast fowl and water-cress, and Mrs. Lennard was scraping the preserved fruit out of a shellwork of heavy pastry with the point of her spoon, trifling idly now that the grand business was done, when Eleanor rose suddenly from her seat, breathless and eager, as much startled by the sound of a voice in the next arbour as if a shell had just exploded amidst the debris of the dinner.

“After?” some one had said interrogatively.

“After,” answered a man whose voice had grown hoarser and thicker, as the empty bottles about the legs of the president had become more numerous, “my stripling has refused me a little bank-note of a thousand francs. Thou art too dear, my friend, he has said to me; that has been paid already, and enough largely. Besides, that was not great things. Ah! ha! I said, thou art there, my drole; you begin to fatigue yourself of your confederate. He is too much. Very well; he has his pride, he also. Thou art the last of men, and I say to you, adieu, Monsieur Launcelot Darrell.”

This was the name that struck upon Eleanor’s ear, and aroused the old feeling in all its strength. The snake had only been scotched after all. It reared its head at the sound of that name like a war-horse at the blast of a trumpet. Eleanor, starting to her feet, turned round and faced the party in the next box. The man who had spoken had risen also, and was leaning across the table to reach a bottle on the other side. Thus it was that the faces of the two were opposite to each other; and Victor Bourdon, the commercial traveller, recognised Gilbert Monckton’s missing wife.

He dropped the glass that he was filling, and poured some wine into the cuff of his coat, while he stared at Eleanor in drunken surprise.

“You are here, madame?” he cried, with a look in which astonishment was blended with intense delight, a sort of tipsy radiance that illuminated the Frenchman’s fat face. Even in the midst of her surprise at seeing him, Eleanor perceived that blending of expression, and wondered at it.

Before she could speak, Monsieur Bourdon had left his party and had deliberately seated himself in the empty chair next her. He seized her hand in both his own, and bent over her as she shrunk away from him.

“Do not recoil from me, madame,” he said, always speaking in French that was considerably disguised by wine. “Ah, you do not know. I can be of the last service to you; and you can be of the last service to me also. I have embroiled myself with this Monsieur Long—cel—lotte, for always; after that which I have done for him, he is an ingrate, he is less than that;” Monsieur Bourdon struck the nail of his thumb upon his front tooth with a gesture of ineffable contempt. “But why do I tell you this, madame? You were in the garden when this poor old,—this Monsieur de Crespigny, was lying dead. You remember; you know. Never mind, I lose myself the head; I have dined a little generously. Will you find yourself to-morrow, madame, in the gardens of the Palais Royal, at five hours? There is music all the Tuesdays. Will you meet me? I have something of the last importance to tell you. Remember you that I know everything. I know that you hate this Long—cellotte. I will give you your revenge. You will come; is it not?”

“Yes,” Eleanor answered, quickly.

“Upon the five hours? I shall wait for you near to the fountain.”

“Yes.”

Monsieur Bourdon rose, took up his hat with a drunken flourish, and went back to his friends. The Major and Mrs. Lennard had been all this time staring aghast at the drunken Frenchman. He had spoken in a loud whisper to Eleanor, but neither Frederick Lennard nor his wife retained very much of that French which had been sedulously drilled into them during their school-days, and beyond ordering a dinner, or disputing with a landlord as to the unconscionable number of wax candles in a month’s hotel bill, their knowledge of the language was very limited; so Eleanor had only to explain to her friends that Monsieur Bourdon was a person whom she had known in England, and that he had brought her some news of importance which she was to hear the following day in the gardens of the Palais Royal.

Mrs. Lennard, who was the soul of good-nature, readily assented to accompany Eleanor to this rendezvous.

“Of course I’ll go, my dear, with pleasure; and really I think it’s quite funny, and indeed actually romantic, to go and meet a tipsy Frenchman—at least, of course he won’t be tipsy to-day—near a fountain, and it reminds me of a French novel I read once, in English, which shows how true it must have been to foreign manners; but as the Major knows we’re going, there’s no harm, you know,” Mrs. Lennard remarked, as they walked from the Hôtel du Palais to the gardens. The diners were hard at work already at the cheap restaurants, and the brass band was braying lively melodies amidst the dusty trees and flowers, the lukewarm fountain, the children, the nursemaids, and the rather seedy-looking Parisian loungers. It was a quarter past five, for Mrs. Lennard had mislaid her parasol at the last moment, and there had been ten minutes employed in skirmish and search. Monsieur Victor Bourdon was sitting upon a bench near the fountain, but he rose and darted forward as the two ladies approached.

“I’ll go and look in the jewellers’ shops, Miss Villars,” Mrs. Lennard said, “while you’re talking to your friend, and please come and look for me when you want me. The Major is to join us here, you know, at half-past six, and we’re to dine at Véfours. Good morning.”

Mrs. Lennard bestowed these final words upon the Frenchman, accompanied by a graceful curtsey, and departed. Victor Bourdon pointed to the bench which he had just left, and Eleanor sat down. The Frenchman seated himself next her, but at a respectful distance. Every trace of the tipsy excitement of the previous night had vanished. He was quite cool to-day; and there was a certain look of determination about his mouth, and a cold glitter in his light, greenish-grey eyes that did not promise well for any one against whom he might bear a grudge.

He spoke English to-day. He spoke it remarkably well, with only an occasional French locution.

“Madame,” he began, “I shall not waste time, but come at once to the point. You hate Launcelot Darrell?”

Eleanor hesitated. There is something terrible in that word “hate,” People entertain the deadly sentiment; but they shrink from its plain expression. The naked word is too appalling. It is half-sister of murder.

“I have good reason to dislike him—” she began.

The Frenchman shrugged his shoulders as he interrupted her.

“Yes, you hate him!” he said; “you do not like to say so, because the word is not nice. You are—what is it you call it?—you are shocked by the word. But it is so, nevertheless; you hate him, and you have cause to hate him. Yes, I know now who you are. I did not know when I first saw you in Berkshire; but I know now. Launcelot Darrell is one who cannot keep a secret, and he has told me. You are the daughter of that poor old man who killed himself in the Faubourg Saint Antoine, that is enough! You are a great heart; you would to avenge the death of your father. You saw us that night—the night the wills were change?”

“I did,” Eleanor answered, looking at the man with sovereign contempt. He had spoken of the transaction as coolly as if it had been the most honourable and common-place business.

“You are there in the darkness, and you see us,” exclaimed Monsieur Bourdon, bending over Eleanor and speaking in a confidential whisper, “you watch, you look, you listen, and after, when you go into the-house, you denounce Launcelot. You declare the will is forge. The will is change. You were witness, you say; you tell all that you saw! But they do not believe you. But why? Because when you say you have the true will in your pocket, you cannot find it; it is gone.”

The Frenchman said this in a tone of triumph, and then paused suddenly, looking earnestly at Eleanor.

As she returned that look, a new light flashed upon her mind. She began to understand the mystery of the lost will.

“It is gone,” cried Monsieur Bourdon, “no trace, no vestige of it remains. You say, search the garden; the garden is search; but no result. Then the despair seizes itself of you. Launcelot mocks himself of you; he laughs at your nose. You find yourself unhappy; they do not believe you; they look coldly at you; they are harsh to you, and you fly from them. That is so; is it not?”

“Yes,” Eleanor answered.

Her breath came and went quickly, she never removed her eyes from the man’s face. She began to think that her justification was perhaps only to be obtained by the agency of this disreputable Frenchman.

“What then of the lost will? It was not swallowed up by the earth. It could not fly itself away into the space! What became of it?”

You took it from me!” cried Eleanor. “Yes, I remember how closely you brushed against me. The paper was too big to go altogether into the pocket of my dress. The ends were sticking out, and you—”

“I did all my possible to teach you a lesson! Ah, when young and beautiful ladies mix themselves with such matters, it is no wonder they make mistakes. I was watching you all the time, dear madame. I saw you change the papers, and I drew the will out of your pocket as easily as I could rob you of that handkerchief.”

The corner of a lace-bordered handkerchief was visible amid the folds of Eleanor’s dress. The Frenchman took the scrap of lace between his fingers, and snatched the handkerchief away with an airy lightness of touch that might have done credit to a professional adept in the art of picking pockets. He laughed as he returned the handkerchief to Eleanor. She scarcely noticed the action, so deeply was she absorbed in the thought of the missing will.

“You have the will, then?”

“Si, madame.”

“Why did you take it from me?”

“But why, madame? For many reasons. First, because it is always good to seize upon anything that other people do not know how to keep. Again, because it is always well to have a strong hand, and a card that one’s adversary does not know of. An extra king in one’s coat-cuff is a good thing to have when one plays écarté, madame. That will is my extra king.”

The Frenchman was silent for some little time after having made what he evidently considered rather a startling coup. He sat watching Eleanor with a sidelong glance, and with a cunning twinkle in his small eyes.

“Is it that we are to be friends and allies, madame?” he asked, presently.

“Friends!” cried Eleanor. “Do you forget who I am? Do you forget whose daughter I am? If Launcelot Darrell’s was the only name written in my father’s last letter, you were not the less an accomplice in the villany that led to his death. The pupil was no doubt worthy of the master.”

“You reject my friendship, then, madame? You wish to know nothing of the document that is in my hands? You treat me from high to low? You refuse to ally yourself with me? Hein?”

“I will use you as an instrument against Launcelot Darrell, if you please,” Eleanor answered, “since it seems that you have quarrelled with your fast friend.”

“But, yes, madame. When pussy has pulled the chestnuts out of the fire, she is henceforward the most unuseful of animals, and they chase her. Do you understand, madame?” cried the Frenchman, with a sudden transformation from the monkey to the tiger phase of his character, that was scarcely agreeable. “Do you understand?” he hissed. “Monsieur Launcelot has ennuied himself of me. I am chased! Me!”

He struck his gloved fingers upon his breast to give emphasis to this last word.

“It is of the last canaille, this young man,” he continued, with a shrug of disgust. “Ingrate, poltroon, scoundrel! When the forge will, forge at my suggestion by the clerk of the avoué de Vindsor, has been read, and all is finish, and no one dispute his possession, and he enter his new domain as master, the real nature of the man reveal itself. The genuine will is burn, he think. He is so close with his dear friend, this poor Bourdon, that he will not even tell him who would have benefit by that genuine will. It is burn! Did he not see it scorch and blaze with his own eyes? There is nothing to fear; and for this poor comrade who has helped my gentleman to a great fortune, he is less than that!”

Monsieur Bourdon snapped his fingers derisively, and stared fiercely at Eleanor. Then he relapsed into a sardonic smile, and went on.

“At first things go on charmingly. Monsieur Launcelot is more sweet than the honey. It is new to him to be rich, and for the first month he scatters his money with full hands. Then suddenly he stops. He cries out that he is on the road to ruin; that his friend’s claims are monstrous. Faith of a gentleman, I was, perhaps, extravagant; for I am a little gamester, and I like to see life en grand seigneur. A bas la moutarde, I said. My friend is millionaire. I am no more commercial traveller. Imagine, then, when mon garçon shuts up his—what is it you call it, then—cheque-book, and refuse me a paltry sum of a thousand francs. I smile in his face,” said Monsieur Bourdon, nodding his head slowly, with half-closed eyes, “and I say, ‘Bon jour, Monsieur Darrell; you shall hear more of me before I am much older.

“You did not tell him that the will was in your possession?”

“A thousand thunders! No!” exclaimed the Frenchman. “I was not so much foolish as to show him the beneath the cards. I come over here to consult a friend, an avoué.”

“And he tells you—?”

“No matter. You are better than the avoué, madame. You hate Launcelot Darrell; this will is all you want to prove him a cheat and a blacksmith,—pardon, a forger.”

“But to whom does M. de Crespigny leave his estate in this genuine will?” asked Mrs. Monckton.

The Frenchman smiled, and looked at Eleanor thoughtfully for a moment before he answered her.

“Wait a little, madame,” he said; “that is my little secret. Nothing for nothing is the rule here below. I have told you too much already. If you want to know more you must pay me.”

“Prove that I spoke the truth upon that night,” exclaimed Eleanor, “and I promise you that my husband, Gilbert Monckton, shall reward you handsomely.”

“But if monsieur should repudiate your promise, madame, since he has not authorised you to give it? I am not very wise in your English law, and I would rather not mix myself in this affair. I do not want to be produced as witness or accomplice. I want, all simply, to get a price for this document. I have something to sell. You wish to buy it. Name your price.”

“I cannot,” answered Eleanor; “I have no money. But I might get some, perhaps. Tell me, how much do you want?”

“A thousand pounds.”

Eleanor shook her head despondently.

“Impossible!” she said; “there is no one, except my husband, from whom I could get such an amount, and I could not ask him for money, until I had proved Launcelot Darrell’s infamy.”

The Frenchman watched her closely. He saw that she had spoken the truth.

“You do not know how much this will is worth to you, madame,” he said. “Remember, I could make terms with Launcelot Darrell, and sell it to him for perhaps ten times the sum I ask of you. But Monsieur Darrell was insolent to me; he struck me once with the butt-end of his hunting-whip; I do not forget. I could get more money from him; but I can get my revenge through you.”

He hissed out these words between his teeth, and glared vindictively at the fountain, as if the phantom of Launcelot Darrell had been looking at him out of the sparkling water-drops. Revenge was not a beautiful thing, as represented by Victor Bourdon. Perhaps Eleanor may have thought of this as she looked at him.

“I want my revenge,” he repeated, “after all, gold is a villain thing. Revenge is more dear—to gentlemen. Besides, I do not think you would pay me ungenerously if I helped you to crush this scoundrel, and helped you to something else, by the market, Hein?”

“I tell you again, that you shall be well rewarded,” Mrs. Monckton said gravely.

“Very well, then, listen to me. It is to-day, Tuesday. In a week I shall have time to think. In a week you will have leisure to gather together a little money—all you can get; at the end of that time come to me at my apartment—bring with you any friend you like. I do not think that you are traitor—or ingrate—and you see I trust you. I will have my friend, the—what you call him—attorney, with me—and we may come to an arrangement. You shall sign a contract—well ruled—for to pay me in the future, and then the will is to you. You return to England; you say, Aha, Monsieur Launcelot, walk out of that. It is your turn to be chased.”

Victor Bourdon grinned ferociously, then took a memorandum-book from his pocket, wrote a few words in pencil, tore out the leaf upon which they were written, and handed it to Mrs. Monckton.

“That is my address,” he said. “On Tuesday, at seven o’clock in the evening, I shall expect to see you there, and your friend. But if you think to betray me, I am not the man to forget. I have the honour to salute you, Madame. Bon jour.”

He took off his hat with a flourish, and walked away. Eleanor sat for some minutes where he had left her, thinking over what had happened, before she went off to look for Mrs. Lennard.

That night she told the Lennards who she was, and all her story. She felt that it was better to do so. She must have freedom now to act, and to act promptly. She could not do this and yet preserve her secret. Her old ally, Richard Thornton, would be indispensable to her in this crisis, and she wrote to him early in the morning after her interview with Monsieur Bourdon, imploring him to come to her immediately.