It was necessary to persuade Martial to remove to the capital. Aided by the Duc de Sairmeuse, she did not find this a very difficult task; and one morning, Mme. Blanche, with a radiant face, announced to Aunt Medea:
“Aunt, we leave just one week from to-day.”
Beset by a thousand fears and anxieties, Blanche had failed to notice that Aunt Medea was no longer the same.
The change, it is true, had been gradual; it had not struck the servants, but it was none the less positive and real, and it betrayed itself in numberless trifles.
For example, though the poor dependent still retained her humble, resigned manner; she had lost, little by little, the servile fear that had showed itself in her every movement. She no longer trembled when anyone addressed her, and there was occasionally a ring of independence in her voice.
If visitors were present, she no longer kept herself modestly in the background, but drew forward her chair and took part in the conversation. At table, she allowed her preferences and her dislikes to appear. On two or three occasions she had ventured to differ from her niece in opinion, and had even been so bold as to question the propriety of some of her orders.
Once Mme. Blanche, on going out, asked Aunt Medea to accompany her; but the latter declared she had a cold, and remained at home.
And, on the following Sunday, although Blanche did not wish to attend vespers, Aunt Medea declared her intention of going; and as it rained, she requested the coachman to harness the horses to the carriage, which was done.
All this was nothing, in appearance; in reality, it was monstrous, amazing. It was quite plain that the humble relative was becoming bold, even audacious, in her demands.
As this departure, which her niece had just announced so gayly, had never been discussed before her, she was greatly surprised.
“What! you are going away,” she repeated; “you are leaving Courtornieu?”
“And without regret.”
“To go where, pray?”
“To Paris. We shall reside there; that is decided. That is the place for my husband. His name, his fortune, his talents, the favor of the King, assure him a high position there. He will repurchase the Hotel de Sairmeuse, and furnish it magnificently. We shall have a princely establishment.”
All the torments of envy were visible upon Aunt Medea’s countenance.
“’And what is to become of me?” she asked, in plaintive tones.
“You, aunt! You will remain here; you will be mistress of the chateau. A trustworthy person must remain to watch over my poor father. You will be happy and contented here, I hope.”
But no; Aunt Medea did not seem satisfied.
“I shall never have courage to stay all alone in this great chateau,” she whined.