“My dear girl,” said I, in a voice of pleading, “it is terrible. Save me! Save me, I pray you!”
“Pooh! I do not care!”—with a gesture of indifference, “I am trying to save myself, that is all.”
“Another relative. Parbleu! I have enough.” She stamped her foot impatiently as she spoke. “I should be very terrible to you. I should say the meanest things. I should call you grandpapa and give you a new cane every Christmas.”
“And if you gave me also a smile, I should be content.”
More than once I was near declaring myself that day, but I had a mighty fear she was playing with me, and held my tongue. There was an odd light in her eyes. I knew not, then, what it meant.
“You are easily satisfied,” was her answer.
“I am to leave soon,” I said. “May I not see you here to-morrow?”
“Alas! I do not think you can,” was her answer.
“And why not?”
“Because it would not be proper,” said she, smiling as she looked up at me.
“Not proper! I should like to know why.”
“It would make me break another engagement,” she went on, laughing. “I am to go with the baroness to meet the count if he comes—she has commanded. The day after, in the morning, at ten o’clock, by the cascade—will that do? Good! I must leave you now. I must not return with you. Remember!” she commanded, pointing at me with her tapered forefinger. “Remember—ten o’clock in the morning.”
Then she took a bypath and went out of sight. I returned to the mansion as deep in love as a man could be. I went to dinner with the rest that evening. Louison came in after we were all seated.
“You are late, my dear,” said the baroness.
“Yes; I went away walking and lost something, and was not able to find it again.”
Next morning the baroness went away in her glittering caleche with Louison. Each shining spoke and golden turret flashed the sunlight back at me as I looked after them at the edge of the wood. The baroness had asked me to go with her, but I thought the journey too long. Louise came out and sat by me awhile as I lay in the hammock. She was all in white. A trifle taller and a bit more slender than her sister, I have sometimes thought her beauty was statelier, also, and more statuesque. The sight of her seemed to kindle in me the spirit of old chivalry. I would have fought and died for her with my best lance and plume. In all my life I had not seen a woman of sweeter graces of speech and manner, and, in truth, I have met some of the best born of her sex.
She had callers presently—the Sieur Michel and his daughter. I went away, then, for a walk, and, after a time, strolled into the north trail. Crossing a mossy glade, in a circle of fragrant cedar, I sat down to rest. The sound of falling water came to my ear through thickets of hazel and shadberry. Suddenly I heard a sweet voice singing a love-song of Provence—the same voice, the same song, I had heard the day I came half fainting on my horse. Somebody was coming near. In a moment I saw Louise before me.