“Pardieu!” he said to himself, “it looks as if this good man were really going to let himself be taken in and done for. It is singular how very clear-sighted we can be about things that don’t touch us. This poor fly is going to let himself be caught by a very clever spider, or I’m much mistaken. Very likely my widow is quite of my opinion, and yet in what concerns herself she will remain stone-blind. Well, such is life! We have only two parts to choose between: we must be either knave or fool. What’s Madame Rapally doing, I wonder?”
At this moment he heard a stifled whisper from the opposite corner of the room, but, protected by the distance and the darkness, he let the widow murmur on, and applied his eye once more to his peephole. What he saw confirmed his opinion. The damsel was springing up and down, laughing, gesticulating, and congratulating herself on her unexpected good fortune.
“Just imagine! He loves me like that!” she was saying to herself. “Poor Jeannin! When I remember how I used to hesitate. How fortunate that Commander de Jars, one of the most vain and indiscreet of men, never babbled about me! Yes, we must leave town to-morrow without fail. I must not give him time to be enlightened by a chance word. But the Duc de Vitry? I am really sorry for him. However, why did he go away, and send no word? And then, he’s a married man. Ah! if I could only get back again to court some day!... Who would ever have expected such a thing? Good God! I must keep talking to myself, to be sure I’m not dreaming. Yes, he was there, just now, at my feet, saying to me, ’Angelique, you are going to become my wife.’ One thing is sure, he may safely entrust his honour to my care. It would be infamous to betray a man who loves me as he does, who will give me his name. Never, no, never will I give him cause to reproach me! I would rather——”
A loud and confused noise on the stairs interrupted this soliloquy. At one moment bursts of laughter were heard, and the next angry voices. Then a loud exclamation, followed by a short silence. Being alarmed at this disturbance in a house which was usually so quiet, Mademoiselle de Guerchi approached the door of her room, intending either to call for protection or to lock herself in, when suddenly it was violently pushed open. She recoiled with fright, exclaiming—
“Commander de Jars!”
“On my word!” said Quennebert behind the arras, “’tis as amusing as a play! Is the commander also going to offer to make an honest woman of her? But what do I see?”