The grey wig soon showed its dark side. Its possession, indeed, enabled Madame Valiere to loiter on the more lighted stairs, or dawdle in the hall with Madame la Proprietaire; but Madame Depine was not only debarred from these dignified domestic attitudes, but found a new awkwardness in bearing Madame Valiere company in their walks abroad. Instead of keeping each other in countenance—duoe contra mundum—they might now have served as an advertisement for the coiffeur and the convenable. Before the grey wig—after the grey wig.
Wherefore Madame Depine was not so very sorry when, after a few weeks of this discomforting contrast, the hour drew near of the “Princess’s” departure for the family wedding; especially as she was only losing her for two days. She had insisted, of course, that the savings for the second wig were not to commence till the return, so that Madame Valiere might carry with her a present worthy of her position and her port. They had anxious consultations over this present. Madame Depine was for a cheap but showy article from the Bon Marche; but Madame Valiere reminded her that the price-lists of this enterprising firm knocked at the doors of Tonnerre. Something distinguished (in silver) was her own idea. Madame Depine frequently wept during these discussions, reminded of her own wedding. Oh, the roundabouts at Robinson, and that delicious wedding-lunch up the tree! One was gay then, my dear.
At last they purchased a tiny metal Louis Quinze timepiece for eleven francs seventy-five centimes, congratulating themselves on the surplus of twenty-five centimes from their three weeks’ savings. Madame Valiere packed it with her impedimenta into the carpet-bag lent her by Madame la Proprietaire. She was going by a night train from the Gare de Lyon, and sternly refused to let Madame Depine see her off.
“And how would you go back—an old woman, alone in these dark November nights, with the papers all full of crimes of violence? It is not convenable, either.”
Madame Depine yielded to the latter consideration; but as Madame Valiere, carrying the bulging carpet-bag, was crying “La porte, s’il vous plait” to the concierge, she heard Madame Depine come tearing and puffing after her like the steam-tram, and, looking back, saw her breathlessly brandishing her gold brooch. “Tiens!” she panted, fastening the “Princess’s” cloak with it. “That will give thee an air.”
“But—it is too valuable. Thou must not.” They had never “thou’d” each other before, and this enhanced the tremulousness of the moment.
“I do not give it thee,” Madame Depine laughed through her tears. “Au revoir, mon amie.”
“Adieu, ma cherie! I will tell my dear ones of my Paris comrade.” And for the first time their lips met, and the brown wig brushed the grey.