Mlle. Henriette and her sister are asked to retire, which they immediately do, the one with a dignified and annoyed air, like a true daughter of the Saint-Amands, the other, the young Chinese Yaia, hardly hiding a wild desire to laugh.
Thereupon a great silence; after which, the lover begins his little story.
I quite believe that Mlle. Elise has some suspicion in her mind, for as soon as their young neighbour spoke of a communication, she drew her Ansart et Rendu from her pocket and plunged precipitately into the adventures of somebody surnamed the Hutin, thrilling reading which makes the book tremble in her hands. There is reason for trembling, certainly, before the bewilderment, the indignant stupefaction into which M. Joyeuse receives this request for his daughter’s hand.
“Is it possible? How has it happened? What an extraordinary event! Who could ever have suspected such a thing?”
And suddenly the good old man burst into a great roar of laughter. Well, no, it is not true. He had heard of the affair; knew about it, a long time ago.
Her father knew all about it! Bonne Maman had betrayed them then! And before the reproachful glances cast in her direction, the culprit comes forward smiling:
“Yes, my dears, it is I. The secret was too much for me. I found I could not keep it to myself alone. And then, father is so kind—one cannot hide anything from him.”
As she says this she throws her arms round the little man’s neck; but there is room enough for two, and when Mlle. Elise in her turn takes refuge there, there is still an affectionate, fatherly hand stretched out towards him whom M. Joyeuse considers thenceforward as his son. Silent embraces, long looks meeting each other full of emotion, blessed moments that one would like to hold forever by the fragile tips of their wings. There is chat, and gentle laughter when certain details are recalled. M. Joyeuse tells how the secret was revealed to him in the first instance by tapping spirits, one day when he was alone in Andre’s apartment. “How is business going, M. Maranne?” the spirits had inquired, and he himself had replied in Maranne’s absence: “Fairly well, for the season, Sir Spirit.” The little man repeats, “Fairly well for the season,” in a mischievous way, while Mlle. Elise, quite confused at the thought that it was with her father that she talked that day, disappears under her fair curls.
After the first stress of emotion they talk more seriously. It is certain that Mme. Joyeuse, nee de Saint-Amand, would never have consented to this marriage. Andre Maranne is not rich, still less noble; but the old accountant, luckily, has not the same ideas of grandeur that his wife possessed. They love each other; they are young, healthy, and good-looking—qualities that in themselves constitute fine dowries, without involving any heavy registration fees at the notary’s.