“Now, I hope you will reserve all your powers of charming for my daughter. No more flirting, eh? She loves you; she would be jealous, and you would get into hot water with me! Let Micheline’s life be happy, without a cloud-blue, always blue sky!”
“That will be easy,” said Serge. “To be unhappy I should have to seek misfortune; and I certainly shall not do that.”
He began to laugh.
“Besides, your good friends who criticised so when you gave me Micheline’s hand would be only too pleased. I will not give them the pleasure of posing as prophets and saying, ‘We knew it would be so!’”
“You must forgive them,” replied Madame Desvarennes. “You have made enemies. Without speaking of projects which I had formed, I may say that my daughter has had offers from the best folks in Paris; from first-rate firms! Our circle was rather indignant.
“People said: ’Oh, Madame Desvarennes wanted her daughter to be a Princess. We shall see how it will turn out. Her son-in-law will spend her money and spurn her.’ The gossip of disappointed people. Give them the lie; manage that we shall all live together, and we shall be right against the world.”
“Do you hope it will be so?”
“I am sure of it,” answered the mistress, affectionately pressing the hand of her future son-in-law.
Micheline entered, anxious at the long interview between Serge and her mother. She saw them hand in hand. She uttered a joyful cry, and threw her arms caressingly round her mother’s neck.
“Well! you are agreed?” she said, making a gracious sign to Serge.
“He has been charming,” replied Madame Desvarennes, whispering in her daughter’s ear. “He agrees to live in this house, and that quite gracefully. There, child, this is the happiest moment I’ve had since your engagement. I admit that I regret nothing.”
Then, resuming aloud:
“We will leave to-morrow for Cernay, where the marriage shall take place. I shall have to order the workmen in here to get ready for your reception. Besides the wedding will be more brilliant in the country. We shall have all the work-people there. We will throw the park open to the countryside; it will be a grand fete. For we are lords of the manor there,” added she, with pride.
“You are right, mamma; it will be far better,” exclaimed Micheline. And taking Serge by the hand:
“Come, let us go,” said she, and led him into the garden.
And amid the sweet-smelling shrubs they resumed their walk, always the same yet ever new, their arms twined round each other, the young girl clinging to him whom she loved, and he looking fondly at her, and with caressing voice telling her the oft-told tale of love which she was never tired of hearing, and which always filled her with thrills of joy.
THE DOUBLE MARRIAGE