This was a clever diversion. It turned Jeanne’s thoughts at once away from Willan Blaycke, but it did not save Mademoiselle Victorine from a catechising quite as sharp as she was in danger of on the other subject.
“And what wert thou doing talking with a priest in the garden at night?” cried Jeanne, fiercely. “Is that the way maidens are trained in a convent! Shame on thee, Victorine! what hast thou revealed?”
“The Virgin forbid,” answered Victorine, piously, racking her brains meanwhile for a ready escape from this dilemma, and trying in her fright to recall precisely what she had just said. “I said not that he told it to me in the garden; it was in the confessional that he said it. I had confessed to him the grievous sin of a horrible rage I had been in when one of the bees had stung me on the lip as I was gathering the cool vine leaves to lay on the good Sister Clarice’s forehead, who was ill with a fever.”
“Eh, eh!” said Jeanne, relieved; “was that it? I thought it could not be thou wert in the garden in the evening hours, and with a priest.”
“Oh no,” said Victorine, demurely. “It was not permitted to converse with the priests except in the chapel.” And choking back an amused little laugh she bounded to the ladder-like stairway and climbed up into her own room.
“Saints! what an ankle the girl has, to be sure!” thought Jeanne, as she watched Victorine’s shapely legs slowly vanishing up the stair. “What has filled her head so full of that upstart Willan, I wonder!”
A thought struck Jeanne; the only wonder was it had never struck her before. In her sudden excitement she sprung from her chair, and began to walk rapidly up and down the floor. She pressed her hand to her forehead; she tore open the handkerchief which was crossed on her bosom; her eyes flashed; her cheeks grew red; she breathed quicker.
“The girl’s handsome enough to turn any man’s head, and twice as clever as I ever was,” she thought.
She sat down in her chair again. The idea which had occurred to her was over-whelming. She spoke aloud and was unconscious of it.
“Ah, but that would be a triumph!” she said. “Who knows? who knows?”
“Victorine!” she called; “Victorine!”
“Yes, aunt,” replied Victorine.
“There’s plenty of honey left in the flowers to keep pears sweet after the bees are dead,” said Jeanne, mischievously, and went downstairs chuckling over her new secret thought. “I’ll never let the child know I’ve thought of such a thing,” she mused, as she took her accustomed seat in the bar. “I’ll bide my time. Strange things have happened, and may happen again.”
“What a queer speech of Aunt Jeanne’s!” thought Victorine at her casement window. “What a fool I was to have said anything about Father Anselmo! Poor fellow! I wonder why he doesn’t run away from the monastery!”