Three years later I learned—in a way she probably little expected, and then did not much care about—what really occurred there. I learned even phrases and looks—for the story was related by one who had heard it told—and therefore I venture to narrate what at the moment I neither saw nor suspected. While I sat, flushed and nervous, upon a flat stone by the bank of the little stream, Madame looked over her shoulder, and perceiving that I was out of sight, she abated her pace, and turned sharply towards the ruin which lay at her left. It was her first visit, and she was merely exploring; but now, with a perfectly shrewd and businesslike air, turning the corner of the building, she saw, seated upon the edge of a grave-stone, a rather fat and flashily-equipped young man, with large, light whiskers, a jerry hat, green cutaway coat with gilt buttons, and waistcoat and trousers rather striking than elegant in pattern. He was smoking a short pipe, and made a nod to Madame, without either removing it from his lips or rising, but with his brown and rather good-looking face turned up, he eyed her with something of the impudent and sulky expression that was habitual to it.
‘Ha, Deedle, you are there! an’ look so well. I am here, too, quite alon; but my friend, she wait outside the churchyard, by-side the leetle river, for she must not think I know you—so I am come alon.’
‘You’re a quarter late, and I lost a fight by you, old girl, this morning,’ said the gay man, and spat on the ground; ’and I wish you would not call me Diddle. I’ll call you Granny if you do.’
’Eh bien! Dud, then. She is vary nice—wat you like. Slim waist, wite teeth, vary nice eyes—dark—wat you say is best—and nice leetle foot and ankle.’
Madame smiled leeringly.
Dud smoked on.
‘Go on,’ said Dud, with a nod of command.
’I am teach her to sing and play—she has such sweet voice!
There was another interval here.
‘Well, that isn’t much good. I hate women’s screechin’ about fairies and flowers. Hang her! there’s a scarecrow as sings at Curl’s Divan. Such a caterwauling upon a stage! I’d like to put my two barrels into her.’
By this time Dud’s pipe was out, and he could afford to converse.
’You shall see her and decide. You will walk down the river, and pass her by.’
’That’s as may be; howsoever, it would not do, nohow, to buy a pig in a poke, you know. And s’pose I shouldn’t like her, arter all?’
Madame sneered, with a patois ejaculation of derision.
’Vary good! Then some one else will not be so ’ard to please—as you will soon find.’
‘Some one’s bin a-lookin’ arter her, you mean?’ said the young man, with a shrewd uneasy glance on the cunning face of the French lady.
‘I mean precisely—that which I mean,’ replied the lady, with a teazing pause at the break I have marked.