“They know it! oh, do they know it?” she exclaimed, throwing up her arms. “There! my poor abbe, you have let your coffee get cold! Tiennette, Tiennette!”
Tiennette, an old Breton servant sixty years of age, wearing a short gown and a Breton cap, came quickly in and took the abbe’s coffee to warm it.
“Let be, Monsieur le recteur,” she said, seeing that the abbe meant to drink it, “I’ll just put it into the bain-marie, it won’t spoil it.”
“Well,” said the abbe to Madame de Portenduere in his most insinuating voice, “I shall go and tell the doctor of your visit, and you will come—”
The old mother did not yield till after an hour’s discussion, during which the abbe was forced to repeat his arguments at least ten times. And even then the proud Kergarouet was not vanquished until he used the words, “Savinien would go.”
“It is better that I should go than he,” she said.
The clock was striking nine when the little door made in the large door of Madame de Portenduere’s house closed on the abbe, who immediately crossed the road and hastily rang the bell at the doctor’s gate. He fell from Tiennette to La Bougival; the one said to him, “Why do you come so late, Monsieur l’abbe?” as the other had said, “Why do you leave Madame so early when she is in trouble?”
The abbe found a numerous company assembled in the green and brown salon; for Dionis had stopped at Massin’s on his way home to re-assure the heirs by repeating their uncle’s words.
“I believe Ursula has a love-affair,” said he, “which will be nothing but pain and trouble to her; she seems romantic” (extreme sensibility is so called by notaries), “and, you’ll see, she won’t marry soon. Therefore, don’t show her any distrust; be very attentive to her and very respectful to your uncle, for he is slyer than fifty Goupils,” added the notary—without being aware that Goupil is a corruption of the word vulpes, a fox.
So Mesdames Massin and Cremiere with their husbands, the post master and Desire, together with the Nemours doctor and Bongrand, made an unusual and noisy party in the doctor’s salon. As the abbe entered he heard the sound of the piano. Poor Ursula was just finishing a sonata of Beethoven’s. With girlish mischief she had chosen that grand music, which must be studied to be understood, for the purpose of disgusting these women with the thing they coveted. The finer the music the less ignorant persons like it. So, when the door opened and the abbe’s venerable head appeared they all cried out: “Ah! here’s Monsieur l’abbe!” in a tone of relief, delighted to jump up and put an end to their torture.
The exclamation was echoed at the card-table, where Bongrand, the Nemours doctor, and old Minoret were victims to the presumption with which the collector, in order to propitiate his great-uncle, had proposed to take the fourth hand at whist. Ursula left the piano. The doctor rose as if to receive the abbe, but really to put an end to the game. After many compliments to their uncle on the wonderful proficiency of his goddaughter, the heirs made their bow and retired.