“You are mistaken,” said Susie to Bettina; “there is some one.”
“A peasant; they don’t count; they won’t ask me to marry them.”
“It is not a peasant at all. Look!”
Paul de Lavardens, while passing the carriage, made the two sisters a highly correct bow, from which one at once scented the Parisian.
The ponies were going at such a rate that the meeting was over like a flash of lightning.
“Who is that gentleman who has just bowed to us?”
“I had scarcely time to see, but I seemed to recognize him.”
“You recognized him?”
“Yes, and I would wager that I have seen him at our house this winter.”
“Heavens! if it should be one of the thirty-four! Is all that going to begin again?”
A LITTLE DINNER FOR FOUR
That same day, at half-past seven, Jean went to fetch the Cure, and the two walked together up to the house. During the last month a perfect army of workmen had taken possession of Longueval; all the inns in the village were making their fortunes.
Enormous furniture wagons brought cargoes of furniture and decorations from Paris. Forty-eight hours before the arrival of Mrs. Scott, Mademoiselle Marbeau, the postmistress, and Madame Lormier, the mayoress, had wormed themselves into the castle, and the account they gave of the interior turned every one’s head. The old furniture had disappeared, banished to the attics; one moved among a perfect accumulation of wonders. And the stables! and the coach-houses! A special train had brought from Paris, under the high superintendence of Edwards, a dozen carriages—and such carriages! Twenty horses—and such horses!
The Abbe Constantin thought that he knew what luxury was. Once a year he dined with his bishop, Monseigneur Faubert, a rich and amiable prelate, who entertained rather largely. The Cure, till now, had, thought that there was nothing in the world more sumptuous than the Episcopal palace of Souvigny, or the castles of Lavardens and Longueval.
He began to understand, from what he was told of the new splendors of Longueval, that the luxury of the great houses of the present day must surpass to a singular degree the sober and severe luxury of the great houses of former times.
As soon as the Cure and Jean had entered the avenue in the park, which led to the house:
“Look! Jean,” said the Cure; “what a change! All this part of the park used to be quite neglected, and now all the paths are gravelled and raked. I shall not be able to feel myself at home as I used to do: it will be too grand. I shall not find again my old brown velvet easy-chair, in which I so often fell asleep after dinner, and if I fall asleep this evening what will become of me? You will think of it, Jean, and if you see that I begin to forget myself, you will come behind me and pinch my arm gently, won’t you? You promise me?”