“It’s the truth, though, she does refuse me.”
“What reasons does she give you?”
“That you have always been kind to her, that her family owes a great deal to yours, and that she doesn’t want to displease you by turning me away from a wealthy marriage.”
“If she says that, she shows good feeling, and it’s very honest on her part. But when she tells you that, Germain, she doesn’t cure you, for she tells you she loves you, I don’t doubt, and that she’d marry you if we were willing.”
“That’s the worst of it! she says that her heart isn’t drawn toward me.”
“If she says what she doesn’t mean, the better to keep you away from her, she’s a child who deserves to have us love her and to have us overlook her youth because of her great common-sense.”
“Yes,” said Germain, struck with a hope he had not before conceived; “it would be very good and very comme il faut on her part! but if she’s so sensible, I am very much afraid it’s because she doesn’t like me.”
“Germain,” said Mere Maurice, “you must promise to keep quiet the whole week and not worry, but eat and sleep, and be gay as you used to be. I’ll speak to my old man, and if I bring him round, then you can find out the girl’s real feeling with regard to you.”
Germain promised, and the week passed without Pere Maurice saying a word to him in private or giving any sign that he suspected anything. The ploughman tried hard to seem tranquil, but he was paler and more perturbed than ever.
At last, on Sunday morning as they came out from Mass, his mother-in-law asked him what he had obtained from his sweetheart since their interview in the orchard.
“Why, nothing at all,” he replied. “I haven’t spoken to her.”
“How do you expect to persuade her, pray, if you don’t speak to her?”
“I have never spoken to her but once,” said Germain. “That was when we went to Fourche together; and since then I haven’t said a single word to her. Her refusal hurt me so, that I prefer not to hear her tell me again that she doesn’t love me.”
“Well, my son, you must speak to her now; your father-in-law authorizes you to do it. Come, make up your mind! I tell you to do it, and, if necessary, I insist on it; for you can’t remain in this state of doubt.”
Germain obeyed. He went to Mere Guillette’s, with downcast eyes and an air of profound depression. Little Marie was alone in the chimney-corner, musing so deeply that she did not hear Germain come in. When she saw him before her, she leaped from her chair in surprise and her face flushed.
“Little Marie,” he said, sitting beside her, “I have pained you and wearied you, I know; but the man and the woman at our house”—so designating the heads of the family in accordance with custom—“want me to speak to you and ask you to marry me. You won’t be willing to do it, I expect that.”