"He came to meet me," she answered, her voice trembling slightly. "He could have told you so, but he would not shame me."
"This is true?" I said, eyeing her closely.
"I swear it!" she answered, clasping her hands. And then, with a sudden flash of rage, "Will the other woman swear to her tale?" she cried.
"Ha!" I said, "what other woman?"
"The woman who sent you to that place," she answered. "He would not tell me her name, or I would go to her now and wring the truth from her. But he confessed to me that he had let a woman into the secret of our meeting; and this is her work."
I stood a moment pondering, with my eyes on the girl's excited face, and my thoughts, following this new clue through the maze of recent events; wherein I could not fail to see that it led to a very different conclusion from that at which I had arrived. If Vilain had been foolish enough to wind up his love-passages with Mademoiselle de Mars by confiding to her his passion for the Figeac, and even the place and time at which the latter was so imprudent as to meet him, I could fancy the deserted mistress laying this plot; and first placing the packet where we found it, and then punishing her lover by laying the theft at his door. True, he might be guilty; and it might be only confession and betrayal on which jealousy had thrust her. But the longer I considered the whole of the circumstances, as well as the young man's character, and the lengths to which I knew a woman's passion would carry her, the more probable seemed the explanation I had just received.
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.
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