Every morning he breakfasted with her, every Sunday and Feast-day he accompanied her to Mass, and occasionally he took her to drink a glass of Hydromel at the Cafe du Musee. He was a prosperous man in a small way, and considered attractive by the widows and elderly maidens of Falaise; but no one dreamed of disputing Madame Chalumeau’s sway over his heart. In time, Falaise thought, the two excellent people would become one. But time is long.
So Bathilde, that fifth of September, felt a little sad as she worked in her neat little shop. And so it is that Love is a troublesome little vagabond, who ought to have his wings clipped and his bow broken.
There were few customers, for although her wools and silks were of excellent quality, and her baby-linen most practical, the Rue Dessous l’Arche is, after all, not the Rue d’Argentin. A little girl with a bandage round her face came and bought six needles, and a Young Person, whom Madame Chalumeau did not approve, spent several moments selecting a pair of red stockings. Otherwise the shopkeeper’s solitude remained undisturbed until towards noon, when the door opened and a short, brown-faced man, carrying a long whip, came in with a good deal of noise, and waked her as she dozed over her knitting.
“Bonjour, Thildette! Frightened you, did I?”
“Oh, Colibris, it is you! And what brings you? You will breakfast with me? But I am glad to see you, dear brother? How is Marie?”
“Ta, ta, ta, ta!” laughed M. Colibris, who looked like nothing in the world less than he looked like a humming-bird, “so many questions, my excellent Thildette! Yes, I will breakfast—a cheese omelet, my dear, and a glass of cider—and Marie is as well as one could expect. Ah, these children, these children! It is a boy, of course. A boy with fists as big as his head.”
Madame Chalumeau had risen, and had led her guest through the sitting-room into her immaculate kitchen.
“And you have seen papa and maman?” she asked.
“Yes, I come from there. Papa is much pleased that it is a boy. His eleventh great-grandson! One would think,” continued the good man garrulously, “that it was his own son. Maman is looking much better, pas?”
“Mama is quite wonderful. But amazing! And the preparations are something splendid. I suppose this new boy will contribute his share to the wedding ring for maman?”
“But certainly. It is lucky there are no more of us men to contribute, or we should have had to have the ring studded with diamonds. A fine sight it will be, Bathilde. Think of papa and mama married at St. Gervais by the same cure that married them fifty years ago! And twenty grandchildren, to say nothing of their seven children, and counting this boy of my Marie’s, sixteen great-grandchildren. Falaise has certainly much to be proud of.”
Madame Chalumeau flopped her omelet again, slid it to a platter and set a carafe of cider on the table.