At these words she stood up grave, generous, resigned, conquered also in her turn.
“My dear, I insist no longer.”
“Then we won’t have a religious marriage. It will be better, much better not.”
“Very well, but be guided by me. I am going to try and arrange everything both to your satisfaction and mine.”
She sought the Reverend Father Douillard and explained the situation. He showed himself even more accommodating and yielding than she had hoped.
“Your husband is an intelligent man, a man of order and reason; he will come over to us. You will sanctify him. It is not in vain that God has granted him the blessing of a Christian wife. The Church needs no pomp and ceremonial display for her benedictions. Now that she is persecuted, the shadow of the crypts and the recesses of the catacombs are in better accord with her festivals. Mademoiselle, when you have performed the civil formalities come here to my private chapel in costume with M. Ceres. I will marry you, a observe the most absolute discretion. I will obtain the necessary dispensations from the Archbishop as well as all facilities regarding the banns, confession-tickets, etc.”
Hippolyte, although he thought the combination a little dangerous, agreed to it, a good deal flattered, at bottom.
“I will go in a short coat,” he said.
He went in a frock coat with white gloves and varnished shoes, and he genuflected.
“Politeness demands. . . .”
The Ceres household was established with modest decency in a pretty flat situated in a new building. Ceres loved his wife in a calm and tranquil fashion. He was often kept late from home by the Commission on the Budget and he worked more than three nights a week at a report on the postal finances of which he hoped to make a masterpiece. Eveline thought she could twist him round her finger, and this did not displease him. The bad side of their situation was that they had not much money; in truth they had very little. The servants of the Republic do not grow rich in her service as easily as people think. Since the sovereign is no longer there to distribute favours, each of them takes what he can, and his depredations, limited by the depredations of all the others, are reduced to modest proportions. Hence that austerity of morals that is noticed in democratic leaders. They can only grow rich during periods of great business activity and then they find themselves exposed to the envy of their less favoured colleagues. Hippolyte Ceres had for a long time foreseen such a period. He was one of those who had made preparations for its arrival. Whilst waiting for it he endured his poverty with dignity, and Eveline shared that poverty without suffering as much as one might have thought. She was in close intimacy with the Reverend Father Douillard and frequented the chapel of St. Orberosia, where she met with serious society and people in a position to render her useful services. She knew how to choose among them and gave her confidence to none but those who deserved it. She had gained experience since her motor excursions with Viscount Clena, and above all she had now acquired the value of a married woman.