Blushing with shame, Mlle. Gilberte rose.
“But then,” said she, “it isn’t a wife that you are looking for: it is an accomplice.”
He was spared the embarrassment of an answer, by the servant, who came in, bringing in tea. He accepted a cup; and after two or three anecdotes, judging that he had done enough for a first visit, he withdrew, and a moment later they heard his carriage driving off at full gallop.
It was not without mature thought that M. Costeclar had determined to withdraw, despite M. Favoral’s pressing overtures. However infatuated he might be with his own merits, he had been compelled to surrender to evidence, and to acknowledge that he had not exactly succeeded with Mlle. Gilberte. But he also knew that he had the head of the house on his side; and he flattered himself that he had produced an excellent impression upon the guests of the house.
“Therefore,” had he said to himself, “if I leave first, they will sing my praise, lecture the young person, and make her listen to reason.”
He was not far from being right. Mme. Desclavettes had been completely subjugated by the grand manners of this pretender; and M. Desclavettes did not hesitate to affirm that he had rarely met any one who pleased him more.
The others, M. Chapelain and old Desormeaux, did not, doubtless, share this optimism; but M. Costeclar’s annual half-million obscured singularly their clear-sightedness.
They thought perhaps, they had discovered in him some alarming features; but they had full and entire confidence in their friend Favoral’s prudent sagacity.
The particular and methodic cashier of the Mutual Credit was not apt to be enthusiastic; and, if he opened the doors of his house to a young man, if he was so anxious to have him for his son-in-law, he must evidently have taken ample information.
Finally there are certain family matters from which sensible people keep away as they would from the plague; and, on the question of marriage especially, he is a bold man who would take side for or against.
Thus Mme. Desclavettes was the only one to raise her voice. Taking Mlle. Gilberte’s hands within hers:
“Let me scold you, my dear,” said she, “for having received thus a poor young man who was only trying to please you.”
Excepting her mother, too weak to take her defence, and her brother, who was debarred from interfering, the young girl understood readily, that, in that parlor, every one, overtly or tacitly, was against her. The idea came to her mind to repeat there boldly what she had already told her father that she was resolved not to marry, and that she would not marry, not being one of those weak girls, without energy, whom they dress in white, and drag to church against their will.
Such a bold declaration would be in keeping with her character. But she feared a terrible, and perhaps degrading scene. The most intimate friends of the family were ignorant of its most painful sores. In presence of his friends, M. Favoral dissembled, speaking in a mild voice, and assuming a kindly smile. Should she suddenly reveal the truth?