“Oh, how silly I am!” said Montalais; “have I not the robe-of-ceremony closet? It looks as if it were made on purpose.”
It was quite time to act; Madame de Saint-Remy was coming up at a quicker pace than usual. She gained the landing at the moment when Montalais, as in all scenes of surprises, shut the closet by leaning with her back against the door.
“Ah!” cried Madame de Saint-Remy, “you are here, are you, Louise?”
“Yes, madame,” replied she, more pale than if she had committed a great crime.
“Pray be seated, madame,” said Montalais, offering her a chair, which she placed so that the back was towards the closet.
“Thank you, Mademoiselle Aure — thank you. Come, my child, be quick.”
“Where do you wish me to go, madame?”
“Why, home, to be sure; have you not to prepare your toilette?”
“What did you say?” cried Montalais, hastening to affect surprise, so fearful was she that Louise would in some way commit herself.
“You don’t know the news, then?” said Madame de Saint-Remy.
“What news, madame, is it possible for two girls to learn up in this dove-cote?”
“What! have you seen nobody?”
“Madame, you talk in enigmas, and you torment us at a slow fire!” cried Montalais, who, terrified at seeing Louise become paler and paler, did not know to what saint to put up her vows.
At length she caught an eloquent look of her companion’s, one of those looks which would convey intelligence to a brick wall. Louise directed her attention to a hat — Raoul’s unlucky hat, which was set out in all its feathery splendor upon the table.
Montalais sprang towards it, and, seizing it with her left hand, passed it behind her into the right, concealing it as she was speaking.
“Well,” said Madame de Saint-Remy, “a courier has arrived, announcing the approach of the king. There, mesdemoiselles; there is something to make you put on your best looks.”
“Quick, quick!” cried Montalais. “Follow Madame your mother, Louise; and leave me to get ready my dress of ceremony.”
Louise arose; her mother took her by the hand, and led her out on to the landing.
“Come along,” said she; then adding in a low voice, “When I forbid you to come the apartment of Montalais, why do you do so?”
“Madame, she is my friend. Besides, I had but just come.”
“Did you see nobody concealed while you were there?”
“I saw a man’s hat, I tell you — the hat of that fellow, that good-for-nothing!”
“Madame!” repeated Louise.
“Of that do-nothing Malicorne! A maid of honor to have such company — fie! fie!” and their voices were lost in the depths of the narrow staircase.
Montalais had not missed a word of this conversation, which echo conveyed to her as if through a tunnel. She shrugged her shoulders on seeing Raoul, who had listened likewise, issue from the closet.