“Then, Ninny Moulin,” said Rose-Pompon, more and more astonished, “on my word of honor, I can make nothing of it.
“Yet, ’tis all very simple, and I—”
“Oh! I’ve found it,” cried Rose-Pompon, interrupting Ninny Moulin; “it is some gentleman who offers me his hand, his heart, and all the rest of it. Could you not tell me that directly?”
“A marriage? oh, laws, yes!” said Dumoulin, shrugging his shoulders.
“What! is it not a marriage?” said Rose-Pompon, again much surprised.
“And the offers you make me are honest ones, my big apostle?”
“They could not be more so.” Here Dumoulin spoke the truth.
“I shall not have to be unfaithful to Philemon?”
“Or faithful to any one else?”
Rose-Pompon looked confounded. Then she rattled on: “Come, do not let us have any joking! I am not foolish enough to imagine that I am to live just like a duchess, just for nothing. What, therefore, must I give in return?”
“Nothing at all.”
“Not even that,” said Ninny Moulin, biting his nail-tip.
“But what am I to do, then?”
“Dress yourself as handsomely as possible, take your ease, amuse yourself, ride about in a carriage. You see, it is not very fatiguing —and you will, moreover, help to do a good action.”
“What! by living like a duchess?”
“Yes! so make up your mind. Do not ask me for any more details, for I cannot give them to you. For the rest, you will not be detained against your will. Just try the life I propose to you. If it suits you, go on with it; if not, return to your Philemonic household.”
“Only try it. What can you risk?”
“Nothing; but I can hardly believe that all you say is true. And then,” added she, with hesitation, “I do not know if I ought—”
Ninny Moulin went to the window, opened it, and said to Rose-Pompon, who ran up to it, “Look there! before the door of the house.”
“What a pretty carriage! How comfortable a body’d be inside of it!”
“That carriage is yours. It is waiting for you.”
“Waiting for me!” exclaimed Rose-Pompon; “am I to decide as short as that?”
“Or not at all.”
“On the instant.”
“But where will they take me?”
“How should I know?”
“You do not know where they will take me?”
“Not I,”—and Dumoulin still spoke the truth—“the coachman has his orders.”
“Do you know all this is very funny, Ninny Moulin?”
“I believe you. If it were not funny, where would be the pleasure?”
“You are right.”
“Then you accept the offer? That is well. I am delighted both for you and myself.”
“Yes; because, in accepting, you render me a great service.”