Mme. Favoral was hesitating.

"These early spring days are treacherous," she objected: "youcaught cold yesterday.""My dress was too thin. To-day I have taken my precautions."They started, taking their work with them, and came to occupy theiraccustomed seats.

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Before they had even passed the gates, Mlle. Gilberte had recognizedMarius de Tregars and the Count de Villegre, walking in one of theside alleys. Soon, as on the day before, they took two chairs, andsettled themselves within hearing.

Never had the young girl's heart beat with such violence. It iseasy enough to take a resolution; but it is not always quite so easyto execute it, and she was asking herself if she would have strengthenough to articulate a word. At last, gathering her whole courage:

"You don't believe in dreams, do you mother?" she asked.

Upon this subject, as well as upon many others, Mme. Favoral had noparticular opinion.

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"Why do you ask the question?" said she.

"Because I have had such a strange one.""Oh!""It seemed to me that suddenly a young man, whom I did not know,stood before me. He would have been most happy, said he to me, toask my hand, but he dared not, being very poor. And he begged meto wait three years, during which he would make his fortune."Mme. Favoral smiled.

"Why it's quite a romance," said she.

"But it wasn't a romance in my dream," interrupted Mlle. Gilberte.

"This young man spoke in a tone of such profound conviction, thatit was impossible for me, as it were, to doubt him. I thought tomyself that he would be incapable of such an odious villainy as toabuse the confiding credulity of a poor girl.""And what did you answer him?"Moving her seat almost imperceptibly, Mlle. Gilberte could, fromthe corner of her eye, have a glimpse of M. de Tregars. Evidentlyhe was not missing a single one of the words which she was addressingto her mother. He was whiter than a sheet; and his face betrayed themost intense anxiety.

This gave her the energy to curb the last revolts of her conscience.

"To answer was painful," she uttered; "and yet I - dared to answerhim. I said to him, 'I believe you, and I have faith in you.

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Loyally and faithfully I shall await your success; but until thenwe must be strangers to one another. To resort to ruse, deceit,and falsehood would be unworthy of us. You surely would not exposeto a suspicion her who is to be your wife.'""Very well," approved Mme. Favoral; "only I did not know you wereso romantic."She was laughing, the good lady, but not loud enough to preventGilberte from hearing M. de Tregar's answer.

"Count de Villegre," said he, "my old friend, receive the oath whichI take to devote my life to her who has not doubted me. It is to-daythe 4th of May, 1870 - on the 4th of May, 1873, I shall havesucceeded: I feel it, I will it, it must be!"

It was done: Gilberte Favoral had just irrevocably disposed ofherself. Prosperous or wretched, her destiny henceforth was linkedwith another. She had set the wheel in motion; and she could nolonger hope to control its direction, any more than the will canpretend to alter the course of the ivory ball upon the surface ofthe roulette-table. At the outset of this great storm of passionwhich had suddenly surrounded her, she felt an immense surprise,mingled with unexplained apprehensions and vague terrors.

Around her, apparently, nothing was changed. Father, mother,brother, friends, gravitated mechanically in their accustomed orbits.