On this occasion it was exclusively jocose; for du Bousquier, who chanced to march alone in front of the groups, was humming the well-known air,—little thinking of its appropriateness,—“Tender woman! hear the warble of the birds,” etc. To some, du Bousquier was a strong man and a misjudged man. Ever since he had been confirmed in his present office by a royal decree, Monsieur du Ronceret had been in favor of du Bousquier. To others the purveyor seemed dangerous,—a man of bad habits, capable of anything. In the provinces, as in Paris, men before the public eye are like that statue in the fine allegorical tale of Addison, for which two knights on arriving near it fought; for one saw it white, the other saw it black. Then, when they were both off their horses, they saw it was white one side and black the other. A third knight coming along declared it red.
When the chevalier went home that night, he made many reflections, as follows:—
“It is high time now to spread a rumor of my marriage with Mademoiselle Cormon. It will leak out from the d’Esgrignon salon, and go straight to the bishop at Seez, and so get round through the grand vicars to the curate of Saint-Leonard’s, who will be certain to tell it to the Abbe Couturier; and Mademoiselle Cormon will get the shot in her upper works. The old Marquis d’Esgrignon shall invite the Abbe de Sponde to dinner, so as to stop all gossip about Mademoiselle Cormon if I decide against her, or about me if she refuses me. The abbe shall be well cajoled; and Mademoiselle Cormon will certainly not hold out against a visit from Mademoiselle Armande, who will show her the grandeur and future chances of such an alliance. The abbe’s property is undoubtedly as much as three hundred thousand; her own savings must amount to more than two hundred thousand; she has her house and Prebaudet and fifteen thousand francs a year. A word to my friend the Comte de Fontaine, and I should be mayor of Alencon to-morrow, and deputy. Then, once seated on the Right benches, we shall reach the peerage, shouting, ‘Cloture!’ ‘Ordre!’”
As soon as she reached home Madame Granson had a lively argument with her son, who could not be made to see the connection which existed between his love and his political opinions. It was the first quarrel that had ever troubled that poor household.
FINAL DISAPPOINTMENT AND ITS FIRST RESULT
The next day, Mademoiselle Cormon, packed into the old carriole with Josette, and looking like a pyramid on a vast sea of parcels, drove up the rue Saint-Blaise on her way to Prebaudet, where she was overtaken by an event which hurried on her marriage,—an event entirely unlooked for by either Madame Granson, du Bousquier, Monsieur de Valois, or Mademoiselle Cormon himself. Chance is the greatest of all artificers.
The day after her arrival at Prebaudet, she was innocently employed, about eight o’clock in the morning, in listening, as she breakfasted, to the various reports of her keeper and her gardener, when Jacquelin made a violent irruption into the dining-room.