“I beg your pardon, this news completely changes my opinion. From the moment Maitre Quennebert becomes your husband I shall not have a word to say against him. My suspicions were unjust, I confess it frankly, and I hope that in consideration of the motives which prompted me you will forget the warmth of my attacks. I shall make no protestations, but shall let the future show how sincere is my devotion to your interests.”
Madame Rapally was too happy, too certain of being loved, not to pardon easily. With the self-complacency and factitious generosity of a woman who feels herself the object of two violent passions, she was so good as to feel pity for the lover who was left out in the cold, and offered him her hand. Trumeau kissed it with every outward mark of respect, while his lips curled unseen in a smite of mockery. The cousins parted, apparently the best of friends, and on the understanding that Trumeau would be present at the nuptial benediction, which was to be given in a church beyond the town hall, near the house in which the newly-married couple were to live; the house on the Pont Saint-Michel having lately been sold to great advantage.
“On my word,” said Trumeau, as he went off, “it would have been a great mistake to have spoken. I have got that wretch of a Quennebert into my clutches at last; and there is nobody but himself to blame. He is taking the plunge of his own free will, there is no need for me to shove him off the precipice.”
The ceremony took place next day. Quennebert conducted his interesting bride to the altar, she hung with ornaments like the shrine of a saint, and, beaming all over with smiles, looked so ridiculous that the handsome bridegroom reddened to the roots of his hair with shame. Just as they entered the church, a coffin, on which lay a sword, and which was followed by a single mourner, who from his manners and dress seemed to belong to the class of nobles, was carried in by the same door. The wedding guests drew back to let the funeral pass on, the living giving precedence to the dead. The solitary mourner glanced by chance at Quennebert, and started as if the sight of him was painful.
“What an unlucky meeting!” murmured Madame Rapally; “it is sure to be a bad omen.”
“It’s sure to be the exact opposite,” said Quennebert smiling.
The two ceremonies took place simultaneously in two adjoining chapels; the funeral dirges which fell on the widow’s ear full of sinister prediction seemed to have quite another meaning for Quennebert, for his features lost their look of care, his wrinkles smoothed themselves out, till the guests, among whom was Trumeau, who did not suspect the secret of his relief from suspense, began to believe, despite their surprise, that he was really rejoiced at obtaining legal possession of the charming Madame Rapally.
As for her, she fleeted the daylight hours by anticipating the joyful moment when she would have her husband all to herself. When night came, hardly had she entered the nuptial chamber than she uttered a piercing shriek. She had just found and read a paper left on the bed by Trumeau, who before leaving had contrived to glide into the room unseen. Its contents were of terrible import, so terrible that the new-made wife fell unconscious to the ground.