“It is here,” was the answer; “but he is not in.”
“That does not matter,” said the old lady simply.
She returned to the driver, who put her trunk in the porch, and paid him, returning her purse to her pocket at once with a gesture that said much for the caution of the provincial.
Since Jansoulet had been deputy for Corsica, the domestics had seen so many strange and exotic figures at his house, that they were not surprised at this sunburnt woman, with eyes glowing like coals, a true Corsican under her severe coif, but different from the ordinary provincial in the ease and tranquility of her manners.
“What, the master is not here?” said she, with an intonation which seemed better fitted for farm people in her part of the country, than for the insolent servants of a great Parisian mansion.
“No, the master is not here.”
“And the children?”
“They are at lessons. You cannot see them.”
“She is asleep. No one sees her before three o’clock.”
It seemed to astonish the good woman a little that any one could stay in bed so late; but the tact which guides a refined nature, even without education, prevented her from saying anything before the servants, and she asked for Paul de Gery.
“He is abroad.”
“Bompain Jean-Baptiste, then.”
“He is with monsieur at the sitting.”
Her great gray eyebrows wrinkled.
“It does not matter; take up my trunk just the same.”
And with a little malicious twinkle of her eye, a proud revenge for their insolent looks, she added: “I am his mother.”
The scullions and stable-boys drew back respectfully. M. Barreau raised his cap:
“I thought I had seen madame somewhere.”
“And I too, my lad,” answered Mme. Jansoulet, who shivered still at the remembrance of the Bey’s fete.
“My lad,” to M. Barreau, to a man of his importance! It raised her at once to a very high place in the esteem of the others.
Well! grandeur and splendour hardly dazzled this courageous old lady. She did not go into ecstasies over gilding and petty baubles, and as she walked up the grand staircase behind her trunk, the baskets of flowers on the landings, the lamps held by bronze statues, did not prevent her from noticing that there was an inch of dust on the balustrade, and holes in the carpet. She was taken to the rooms on the second floor belonging to the Levantine and her children; and there, in an apartment used as a linen-room, which seemed to be near the school-room (to judge by the murmur of children’s voices), she waited alone, her basket on her knees, for the return of her Bernard, perhaps the waking of her daughter-in-law, or the great joy of embracing her grandchildren. What she saw around her gave her an idea of the disorder of this house left to the care of the servants, without the oversight and