“Oh! as to that, there are wolves in sheeps’ clothing, as the Bible tells us; but believe me, when such poor young things are in question, it is more often the sheep which has put on the appearance of a wolf—to seem in the fashion,” added the Abbe, “just to seem in the fashion. Fashion will authorize any kind of counterfeiting.”
“Well, you will say all that, will you not, to Madame d’Argy? It will be very good of you if you will. She will make no difficulties about money. All she wants is a quietly disposed daughter-in-law who will be willing to pass nine months of the year at Lizerolles, and Jacqueline is quite cured of her Paris fever.”
“A fever too often mortal,” murmured the Abbe; “oh, for the simplicity of nature! A priest whose lot is cast in the country is fortunate, Madame, but we can not choose our vocation. We may do good anywhere, especially in cities. Are you sure, however, that Jacqueline—”
“She loves Monsieur d’Argy.”
“Well, if that is so, we are all right. The great misfortune with many of these poor girls is that they have never learned to love anything; they know nothing but agitations, excitements, curiosities, and fancies. All that sort of thing runs through their heads.”
“You are speaking of a Jacqueline before the duel. I can assure you that ever since yesterday, if not before, she has loved Monsieur d’Argy, who on his part for a long time—a very long time—has been in love with her.”
Giselle spoke eagerly, as if she forced herself to say the words that cost her pain. Her cheeks were flushed under her veil. The Abbe, who was keen-sighted, observed these signs.
“But,” continued Giselle, “if he is forced to forget her he may try to expend elsewhere the affection he feels for her; he may trouble the peace of others, while deceiving himself. He might make in the world one of those attachments—Do not fail to represent all these dangers to Madame d’Argy when you plead the cause of Jacqueline.”
“Humph! You are evidently much attached, Madame, to Mademoiselle de Nailles.”
“Very much, indeed,” she answered, bravely, “very much attached to her, and still more to him; therefore you understand that this marriage must—absolutely must take place.”
She had risen and was folding her cloak round her, looking straight into the Abbe’s eyes. Small as she was, their height was almost the same; she wanted him to understand thoroughly why this marriage must take place.
He bowed. Up to that time he had not been quite sure that he had not to do with one of those wolves dressed in fleece whose appearance is as misleading as that of sheep disguised as wolves: now his opinion was settled.
“Mon Dieu! Madame,” he said, “your reasons seem to me excellent—a duel to be prevented, a son to be kept by the side of his sick mother, two young people who love each other to be married, the saving, possibly, of two souls—”