Nevertheless, I did not at once express my opinion; but veiling the chagrin I naturally felt at the simple part I had been led to play--in the event I now thought probable--I sharply ordered Mademoiselle de Figeac to retire into the next room; and then I requested my wife to fetch her maid.
Mademoiselle de Mars had been three days in solitary confinement, and might be taken to have repented of her rash accusation were it baseless. I counted somewhat on this; and more on the effect of so sudden a summons to my presence. But at first sight it seemed that I did so without cause. Instead of the agitation which she had displayed when brought before me to confess, she now showed herself quiet and even sullen; nor did the gleam of passion, which I thought that I discerned smouldering in her dark eyes, seem to promise either weakness or repentance. However, I had too often observed the power of the unknown over a guilty conscience to despair of eliciting the truth.
"I want to ask you two or three questions," I said civilly. "First, was M. de Vilain with you when you placed the paper in the hollow of the tree? Or were you alone?"
I saw her eyelids quiver as with sudden fear, and her voice shook as she stammered, "When I placed the paper?"
"Yes," I said, "when you placed the paper. I have reason to know that you did it. I wish to learn whether he was present, or you did it merely under his orders?"
She looked at me, her face a shade paler, and I do not doubt that her mind was on the rack to divine how much I knew, and how far she might deny and how far confess. My tone seemed to encourage frankness, however, and in a moment she said, "I placed it under his directions."
"Yes," I said drily, my last doubt resolved by the admission; "but that being so, why did Vilain go to the spot?"
She grew still a shade paler, but in a moment she answered, "To meet the agent."
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