“How pretty she looks! How happy she must feel!”
Reine must have been conscious that they were looking at her, for she raised her head, smiled and bowed. And Seraphine did the same, while the horse broke into a trot and turned the corner of the avenue. Then came a final explosion—
“Look at her!” repeated Valerie; “she is so candid! At twelve years old she is still as innocent as a child in her cradle. You know that I trust her to nobody. Wouldn’t one think her a little duchess who has always had a carriage of her own?”
Then Morange reverted to his dream of fortune. “Well,” said he, “I hope that she will have a carriage when we marry her off. Just let me get into the Credit National and you will see all your desires fulfilled.”
And turning towards Mathieu he added, “There are three of us, and, as I have said before, that is quite enough for a man to provide for, especially as money is so hard to earn.”
At the works during the afternoon Mathieu, who wished to be free earlier than usual in order that, before dining in town, he might call upon his landlord, in accordance with his promise to Marianne, found himself so busy that he scarcely caught sight of Beauchene. This was a relief, for the secret which he had discovered by chance annoyed him, and he feared lest he might cause his employer embarrassment. But the latter, when they exchanged a few passing words, did not seem to remember even that there was any cause for shame on his part. He had never before shown himself more active, more devoted to business. The fatigue he had felt in the morning had passed away, and he talked and laughed like one who finds life very pleasant, and has no fear whatever of hard work.
As a rule Mathieu left at six o’clock; but that day he went into Morange’s office at half-past five to receive his month’s salary. This rightly amounted to three hundred and fifty francs; but as five hundred had been advanced to him in January, which he paid back by instalments of fifty, he now received only fifteen louis, and these he pocketed with such an air of satisfaction that the accountant commented on it.
“Well,” said the young fellow, “the money’s welcome, for I left my wife with just thirty sous this morning.”
It was already more than six o’clock when he found himself outside the superb house which the Seguin du Hordel family occupied in the Avenue d’Antin. Seguin’s grandfather had been a mere tiller of the soil at Janville. Later on, his father, as a contractor for the army, had made a considerable fortune. And he, son of a parvenu, led the life of a rich, elegant idler. He was a member of the leading clubs, and, while passionately fond of horses, affected also a taste for art and literature, going for fashion’s sake to extreme opinions. He had proudly married an almost portionless girl