“Left us there in the woods,” I answered. “She was afraid of you.”
“Afraid of me! Why?”
“Well, I understand that you boxed her ears shamefully.”
A merry peal of laughter greeted my words.
“It was too bad; you were very harsh,” said Louise, soberly.
“I could not help it; she was an ugly, awkward thing,” said Louison. “I could have pulled her nose’”
“And it seems you called her a geante also,” I said. “She was quite offended.”
“It was a compliment,” said the girl. “She was an Amazon—like the count’s statue of Jeanne d’Arc.”
“Poor thing! she could not help it,” said Louise.
“Well,” said Louison, with a sigh of regret, “if I ever see her again I shall give her a five-franc piece.”
There was a moment of silence, and she broke it.
“I hope, this afternoon, you will let me ride that horse,” said she.
“On one condition,” was my reply.
“And it is—?”
“That you will let me ride yours at the same time.”
“Agreed,” was her answer. “Shall we go at three?”
“With the consent of the baroness and—and your father,” I said.
“Father!” exclaimed the two girls. /
“Your father,” I repeated. “He is now at the chateau.”
“Heavens!” said Louison.
“What will he say?” said the baroness.
“I am so glad—my dear papa!” said Louise, clapping her hands.
We were out of the woods now, and could see the chateau in the uplands.
There was a dignity in the manners of M. de Lambert to me formidable and oppressive. It showed in his tall, erect figure, his deep tone, his silvered hair and mustache. There was a merry word between the kisses of one daughter; between those of the other only tears and a broken murmur.
“Oh, papa,” said Louison, as she greeted him, “I do love you—but I dread that—tickly old mustache. Mon Dieu! what a lover—you must have been!”
Then she presented me, and put her hand upon my arm, looking proudly at her father.
“My captain!” said she. “Did you ever see a handsomer Frenchman?”
“There are many, and here is one,” said he, turning to the young count, who stood behind him—a fine youth, tall, strong-built, well-spoken, with blond hair and dark, keen eyes. I admit frankly I had not seen a better figure of a man. I assure you, he had the form of Hercules, the eye of Mars. It was an eye to command—women; for I had small reason to admire his courage when I knew him better. He took a hand of each young lady, and kissed it with admirable gallantry.
“Dieu! it is not so easy always to agree with one’s father,” said Louison.