Old Champigny could not get over it that he had never seen her before. But he must have seen her, and, with his abstraction and old age, not have noticed her, for he found out from the negroes that she had been teaching four or five years there. And he found out also—how, is not important—that she was Idalie Sainte Foy Mortemart des Islets. La grande demoiselle! He had never known her in the old days, owing to his uncomplimentary attitude toward women, but he knew of her, of course, and of her family. It should have been said that his plantation was about fifty miles higher up the river, and on the opposite bank to Reine Sainte Foy. It seemed terrible. The old gentleman had had reverses of his own, which would bear the telling, but nothing was more shocking to him than this—that Idalie Sainte Foy Mortemart des Islets should be teaching a public colored school for—it makes one blush to name it—seven dollars and a half a month. For seven dollars and a half a month to teach a set of—well! He found out where she lived, a little cabin—not so much worse than his own, for that matter—in the corner of a field; no companion, no servant, nothing but food and shelter. Her clothes have been described.
Only the good God himself knows what passed in Champigny’s mind on the subject. We know only the results. He went and married la grande demoiselle. How? Only the good God knows that too. Every first of the month, when he goes to the city to buy provisions, he takes her with him—in fact, he takes her everywhere with him.
Passengers on the railroad know them well, and they always have a chance to see her face. When she passes her old plantation la grande demoiselle always lifts her veil for one instant—the inevitable green barege veil. What a face! Thin, long, sallow, petrified! And the neck! If she would only tie something around the neck! And her plain, coarse cottonade gown! The negro women about her were better dressed than she.
Poor old Champignon! It was not an act of charity to himself, no doubt cross and disagreeable, besides being ugly. And as for love, gratitude!
This how she told about it, sitting in her little room,—her bridal chamber,—not larger, really not larger than sufficed for the bed there, the armoire here, the bureau opposite, and the washstand behind the door, the corners all touching. But a nice set of furniture, quite comme il faut,—handsome, in fact,—as a bride of good family should have. And she was dressed very prettily, too, in her long white negligee, with plenty of lace and ruffles and blue ribbons,—such as only the Creole girls can make, and brides, alas! wear,—the pretty honeymoon costume that suggests, that suggests—well! to proceed. “The poor little cat!” as one could not help calling her, so mignonne, so blond, with the pretty black eyes, and the rosebud of a mouth,—whenever she closed it,—a perfect kiss.