There was no further question of authority between us;，
"A respected woman, Lia. You will go to England, install yourself in some pretty cottage near London, and create a new identity for yourself. The proceeds of your sale will supply your wants and Wilkie's for more than a year. Before that time has elapsed you will have succeeded in accumulating the necessary proofs of your identity, and then you can assert your claims and take possession of your brother's estate."
Madame d'Argeles sprang to her feet. "Never never!" she exclaimed, vehemently.
The baron evidently thought he must have misunderstood her. "What!" he stammered; "you will relinquish the millions that are legally yours, to the government?"
"Yes--I am resolved--it must be so."
"Will you sacrifice your son's future in this style?"
"No, it isn't in my power to do that; but Wilkie will do so, later, on, I'm sure of it."
A feverish agitation had now succeeded Madame d'Argeles's torpor; there was an expression of scorn and anger on her rigid features, and her eyes, usually so dull and lifeless, fairly blazed. "It is not folly," she exclaimed, "but vengeance!" And as the astonished baron opened his lips to question her: "Let me finish," she said imperiously, "and then you shall judge me. I have told you with perfect frankness everything concerning my past life, save this-- this--that I am married, Monsieur le Baron, legally married. I am bound by a chain that nothing can break, and my husband is a scoundrel. You would be frightened if you knew half the extent of his villainy. Oh! do not shake your head. I ought not to be suspected of exaggeration when I speak in this style of a man whom I once loved so devotedly. For I loved him, alas!--even to madness--loved him so much that I forgot self, family, honor, and all the most sacred duties. I loved him so madly that I was willing to follow him, while his hands were still wet with my brother's blood. Ah! chastisement could not fail to come, and it was terrible, like the sin. This man for whom I had abandoned everything--whom I had made my idol--do you know what he said to me the third day after my flight from home? 'You must be more stupid than an owl to have forgotten to take your jewels.' Yes, those were the very words he said to me, with a furious air. And then I could measure the depths of the abyss into which I had plunged. This man, with whom I had been so infatuated, did not love me at all, he had never loved me. It had only been cold calculation on his part. He had devoted months to the task of winning my heart, just as he would have devoted them to some business transaction. He only saw in me the fortune that I was to inherit. Oh! he didn't conceal it from me. 'If your parents are not monsters,' he was always saying, 'they will finally become reconciled to our marriage. They will give you a handsome fortune and we will divide it. I will give you back your liberty, and then we can each of us be happy in our own way.' It was for this reason that he wished to marry me. I consented on account of my unborn child. My father and mother had died, and he hoped to prevail upon me to claim my share of the paternal fortune. As for claiming it himself, he dared not. He was a coward, and he was afraid of my brother. But I took a solemn oath that he should never have a farthing of the wealth he coveted, and neither threats nor BLOWS could compel me to assert my claim. God only knows how much I had suffered from his brutality when I at last succeeded in making my escape with Wilkie. He has sought us everywhere for fifteen years, but he has not yet succeeded in finding a trace of us. Still he has not ceased to watch my brother. I am sure of that, my presentiments never deceive me. So, if I followed your advice--if I claimed possession of my brother's fortune--my husband would instantly appear with our marriage contract in his hands, and demand everything. Shall I enrich him? No, never, never! I would rather die of want! I would rather see Wilkie die of starvation before my very eyes!"
Madame d'Argeles spoke in that tone of concentrated rage which betrays years of repressed passion and unflinching resolution. One could scarcely hope to modify her views even by the wisest and most practical advice. The baron did not even think of attempting to do so. He had known Madame d'Argeles for years; he had seen so many proofs of her invincible energy and determination. She possessed the distinguishing characteristic of her family in a remarkable degree--that proverbial Chalusse obstinacy which Madame Vantrasson had alluded to in her conversation with M. Fortunat.
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