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THE SECRETARY AND THE DUKE

"That is your affair," the woman replied, without a shade of concern.

I thought I could perceive a growing embarrassment in her manner as de Valence came closer to her, remembering, for so she must, that we could hear every word through the portiere. She collected herself bravely; de Valence must not suspect.

"Come, I'll pay you," and she put her lips upward so coolly I wondered he should care to touch them. Jerome raged silently, for I confess we were both guilty of looking as well as listening. De Valence leaned over her, but lifted his head again.

"Celeste—Madame, so cold. I'd as lief kiss the marble lips of Diana in the park."

"Oh, as you please; you may kiss them, too, if you like," she shrugged her shoulders, and was not pretty for the instant. "I pay as I promise; it is a mere barter of commodities. You may take or leave it as you choose."

The man's attitude of dejection touched even me, but the woman gave no sign of feeling or compassion, only intense impatience.

"Well, Monsieur, am I to sit waiting an hour? Are you come to be a sordid huckster to wrangle over your price?"

De Valence bent over her again, touched the lips lightly, and strode away, gathering up his papers from the table as he went. Two only were left, and those Madame held listlessly in her hand.

We felt thoroughly conscious of our guilt, Jerome and I, when we put aside the screen and re-entered the