The terrible storm which rages without renders still more agreeable the picture of this peaceful interior. A rousing fire burns in a broad chimney-place faced with white marble, and throws its joyous light on the carefully polished floor; nothing can be more cheerful than the old fashioned chintz hangings and curtains with red Chinese figures upon a white ground, and the panels over the door painted with pastoral scenes in the style of Watteau. A clock of Sevres china, and rosewood furniture inlaid with green—quaint and portly furniture, twisted into all sorts of grotesque shapes—complete the decorations of this apartment.
Out-doors, the gale continued to howl furiously, and sometimes a gust of wind would rush down the chimney, or shake the fastenings of the windows. The man who was occupied in sorting the samples of grain was M. Dupont, bailiff of Cardoville manor.
“Holy Virgin!” said his wife; “what dreadful weather, my dear! This M. Rodin, who is to come here this morning, as the Princess de Saint Dizier’s steward announced to us, picked out a very bad day for it.”
“Why, in truth, I have rarely heard such a hurricane. If M. Rodin has never seen the sea in its fury, he may feast his eyes to-day with the sight.”
“What can it be that brings this M. Rodin, my dear?”
“Faith! I know nothing about it. The steward tells me in his letter to show M. Rodin the greatest attention, and to obey him as if he were my master. It will be for him to explain himself, and for me to execute his orders, since he comes on the part of the princess.”
“By rights he should come from Mademoiselle Adrienne, as the land belongs to her since the death of the duke her father.”
“Yes; but the princess being aunt to the young lady, her steward manages Mademoiselle Adrienne’s affairs—so whether one or the other, it amounts to the same thing.”
“May be M. Rodin means to buy the estate. Though, to be sure, that stout lady who came from Paris last week on purpose to see the chateau appeared to have a great wish for it.”
At these words the bailiff began to laugh with a sly look.
“What is there to laugh at, Dupont?” asked his wife, a very good creature, but not famous for intelligence or penetration.
“I laugh,” answered Dupont, “to think of the face and figure of that enormous woman: with such a look, who the devil would call themselves Madame de la Sainte-Colombe—Mrs. Holy Dove? A pretty saint, and a pretty dove, truly! She is round as a hogshead, with the voice of a town-crier; has gray moustachios like an old grenadier, and without her knowing it, I heard her say to her servant: ’Stir your stumps, my hearty!’—and yet she calls herself Sainte-Colombe!”
“How hard on her you are, Dupont; a body don’t choose one’s name. And, if she has a beard, it is not the lady’s fault.”
“No—but it is her fault to call herself Sainte-Colombe. Do you imagine it her true name? Ah, my poor Catherine, you are yet very green in some things.”