He watched Maurice as he disappeared, bewildered by the scene he had just witnessed, and stupefied by what he had just heard; and it was not until he saw that young d’Escorval was out of hearing that he turned to Martial.
“As I have had the honor of meeting you, Monsieur le Marquis,” said he, “I deem it my duty to inform you that Chupin and his sons are searching for you everywhere. It is at the instance of the duke, your father, who is anxious for you to repair at once to the Chateau de Courtornieu.”
He turned to Chanlouineau, and added:
“We will now proceed on our way.”
But Martial detained him with a gesture.
“I am much surprised to hear that they are seeking me,” said he. “My father knows very well where he sent me; I was going to your house, Monsieur, and at his request.”
“To my house?”
“To your house, yes, Monsieur, to express our sincere regret at the scene which took place at the presbytery last evening.”
And without waiting for any response, Martial, with wonderful cleverness and felicity of expression, began to repeat to the father the story which he had just related to the daughter.
According to his version, his father and himself were in despair. How could M. Lacheneur suppose them guilty of such black ingratitude? Why had he retired so precipitately? The Duc de Sairmeuse held at M. Lacheneur’s disposal any amount which it might please him to mention—sixty, a hundred thousand francs, even more.
But M. Lacheneur did not appear to be dazzled in the least; and when Martial had concluded, he replied, respectfully, but coldly, that he would consider the matter.
This coldness amazed Chanlouineai; he did not conceal the fact when the marquis, after many earnest protestations, at last wended his way homeward.
“We have misjudged these people,” he declared.
But M. Lacheneur shrugged his shoulders.
“And so you are foolish enough to suppose that it was to me that he offered all that money?”
“Zounds! I have ears.”
“Ah, well! my poor boy, you must not believe all they hear, if you have. The truth is, that these large sums were intended to win the favor of my daughter. She has pleased this coxcomb of a marquis; and—he wishes to make her his mistress——”
Chanlouineau stopped short, with eyes flashing, and hands clinched.
“Good God!” he exclaimed; “prove that, and I am yours, body and soul—to do anything you desire.”
“No, never in my whole life have I met a woman who can compare with this Marie-Anne! What grace and what dignity! Ah! her beauty is divine!”
So Martial was thinking while returning to Sairmeuse after his proposals to M. Lacheneur.
At the risk of losing his way he took the shortest course, which led across the fields and over ditches, which he leaped with the aid of his gun.