“Certainly, certainly, I promise you.”
Jean paid but slight attention to the conversation of the Cure. He felt extremely impatient to see Mrs. Scott and Miss Percival again, but this impatience was mingled with very keen anxiety. Would he find them in the great salon at Longueval the same as he had seen them in the little dining-room at the vicarage? Perhaps, instead of those two women, so perfectly simple and familiar, amusing themselves with this little improvised dinner, and who, the very first day, had treated him with so much grace and cordiality, would he find two pretty dolls-worldly, elegant, cold, and correct? Would his first impression be effaced? Would it disappear? or, on the contrary, would the impression in his heart become still sweeter and deeper?
They ascended the six steps at the entrance, and were received in the hall by two tall footmen with the most dignified and imposing air. This hall had formerly been a vast, frigid apartment, with bare stone walls. These walls were now covered with admirable tapestry, representing mythological subjects. The Cure dared scarcely glance at this tapestry; it was enough for him to perceive that the goddesses who wandered through these shades wore costumes of antique simplicity.
One of the footmen opened wide the folding-doors of the salon. It was there that one had generally found the old Marquise, on the right of the high chimney-piece, and on the left had stood the brown velvet easy-chair.
No brown easy-chair now! That old relic of the Empire, which was the basis of the arrangement of the salon, had been replaced by a marvellous specimen of tapestry of the end of the last century. Then a crowd of little easy-chairs, and ottomans of all forms and all colors, were scattered here and there with an appearance of disorder which was the perfection of art.
As soon as Mrs. Scott saw the Cure and Jean enter, she rose, and going to meet them, said:
“How kind of you to come, Monsieur le Cure, and you, too, Monsieur Jean. How pleased I am to see you, my first, my only friends down here!”
Jean breathed again. It was the same woman.
“Will you allow me,” added Mrs. Scott, “to introduce my children to you? Harry and Bella, come here.”
Harry was a very pretty little boy of six, and Bella a very charming little girl, five years old. They had their mother’s large, dark eyes, and her golden hair.
After the Cure had kissed the two children, Harry, who was looking with admiration at Jean’s uniform, said to his mother:
“And the soldier, mamma, must we kiss him, too?”
“If you like,” replied Mrs. Scott, “and if he will allow it.”
A moment after, the two children were installed upon Jean’s knees, and overwhelming him with questions.
“Are you an officer?”
“Yes, I am an officer.”
“In the artillery.”