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"This afternoon," returned Robert, with a shade of annoyance.
"At what time this afternoon?" persisted the old gentleman,
with nagging determination, as if he were cross-questioning a
criminal in a court of justice.
"At four o'clock this afternoon, Monsieur Farival," Robert
replied, in a high voice and with a lofty air, which reminded Edna
of some gentleman on the stage.
She had forced herself to eat most of her soup, and now she
was picking the flaky bits of a court bouillon with her fork.
The lovers were profiting by the general conversation on
Mexico to speak in whispers of matters which they rightly
considered were interesting to no one but themselves. The lady in
black had once received a pair of prayer-beads of curious
workmanship from Mexico, with very special indulgence attached to
them, but she had never been able to ascertain whether the
indulgence extended outside the Mexican border. Father Fochel of
the Cathedral had attempted to explain it; but he had not done so
to her satisfaction. And she begged that Robert would interest
himself, and discover, if possible, whether she was entitled to
the indulgence accompanying the remarkably curious Mexican prayer-beads.
Madame Ratignolle hoped that Robert would exercise extreme
caution in dealing with the Mexicans, who, she considered, were a
treacherous people, unscrupulous and revengeful. She trusted she
did them no injustice in thus condemning them as a race. She had
known personally but one Mexican, who made and sold excellent
tamales, and whom she would have trusted implicitly, so softspoken
was he. One day he was arrested for stabbing his wife. She never
knew whether he had been hanged or not.
Victor had grown hilarious, and was attempting to tell an
anecdote about a Mexican girl who served chocolate one winter in a
restaurant in Dauphine Street. No one would listen to him but old
Monsieur Farival, who went into convulsions over the droll story.
Edna wondered if they had all gone mad, to be talking and
clamoring at that rate. She herself could think of nothing to say
about Mexico or the Mexicans.
"At what time do you leave?" she asked Robert.