When they reached the village, the widow stopped to wait for them. She was determined to make her entry with her whole suite; but Germain, refusing to afford her that satisfaction, left Pere Leonard, spoke with several people of his acquaintance, and entered the church by another door. The widow was vexed with him.
After the Mass, she made her appearance in triumph on the greensward where dancing was in progress, and opened three successive dances with her three lovers. Germain watched her, and concluded that she danced well, but with affectation.
“Well!” said Leonard, clapping him on the shoulder, “so you don’t ask my daughter to dance? You are altogether too bashful!”
“I don’t dance since I lost my wife,” the ploughman replied.
“Oh! but when you’re looking for another, mourning’s at an end in your heart as well as in your clothes.”
“That’s no argument, Pere Leonard; besides, I feel too old, I don’t care for dancing any more.”
“Hark ye,” rejoined Leonard, leading him apart, “you took offence when you entered my house, because you found the citadel already surrounded by besiegers, and I see that you’re very proud; but that isn’t reasonable, my boy. My daughter’s used to being courted, especially these last two years since her mourning came to an end, and it isn’t her place to make advances to you.”
“Your daughter has been free to marry again for two years, you say, and hasn’t made up her mind yet?” said Germain.
“She doesn’t choose to hurry, and she’s right. Although she has rather a lively way with her, and you may think she doesn’t reflect much, she’s a woman of great good sense and one who knows very well what she’s about.”
“I don’t see how that can be,” said Germain ingenuously, “for she has three gallants in her train, and if she knew what she wanted, at least two of them would seem to her to be in the way and she would request them to stay at home.”
“Why so? you don’t know anything about it, Germain. She doesn’t want either the old man or the one-eyed one or the young one, I’m almost certain of it; but if she should turn them away, people would say she meant to remain a widow and no others would come.”
“Ah, yes! they act as a sign-post for her!”
“As you say. Where’s the harm if they like it?”
“Every one to his taste!” said Germain.
“That wouldn’t be to your taste, I see. But come, now, we can come to an understanding: supposing that she prefers you, the field could be left clear for you.”
“Yes, supposing! And how long must I stand with my nose in the air before I can find out?”