“Besides, what would you say to him in that short time?” said Madame de Lescure.
“Say to him! I don’t know what I’d say to him. I don’t think I’d say one word, but I’d give him such a look, so full of affection and gratitude, and admiration, and—and—and downright real true love; that, if he had any heart in him at all, I don’t think he’d be so base as to go away from me when the ten minutes were over.”
“That’s what you call borrowing a lover for ten minutes, is it?” said Marie; “and if, as you say, this young gentleman is my property, what am I to do for a lover the while?”
“I was only wishing, Mademoiselle, and you know there’s no harm in wishing. Besides, the finest lady in the world couldn’t rob you of your lover, let alone a poor girl like me. He is so true, and so noble, and so good.”
“And have not you a lover of your own, Annot?”
“Oh, indeed I have, and a very good one. For all my talking in that way, I was never badly off for lovers, and now I’ve chosen one for good and all; and I love him dearly, Madame; dote on him, and so does he on me, but for all that there was a time when I really would have eaten his heart, if I could have got at it.”
“But that was before you had accepted each other.”
“Not at all, Mademoiselle; not long since. I loved then as dearly as I do now, but he let me walk home by myself three long leagues without speaking a word to me, and all because I said that a man in a picture had fine whiskers.”
“A man in a picture! why this lover of yours must be a very jealous man, or else he must be very badly off for whiskers himself?”
“No he’s not, Mademoiselle; he’s as nice a pair as you’d wish to see; that is, begging your pardon, as nice a pair as I’d wish to see; and he’s not a jealous man either about other things.”
“And when do you mean to marry him, Annot?”
“Oh, Mademoiselle, we are only waiting for you.”
“Waiting for me, child! What on earth do you mean? who told you I was going to be married at all?”
It was no wonder that Marie should be astonished at finding her wedding so confidently spoken of by a stranger in Echanbroignes, considering that it was not yet twenty-four hours since Henri had declared his love for her at Clisson.
“But you are going to be married to M. Henri, are you not, Mademoiselle?”
“Who told you all this? how is it you come to know so much about this young lady and M. Henri?” said Madame de Lescure.
“Why, Jacques Chapeau told me. My own husband, that is, as is to be.”
“Oh! that explains the mystery,” said Marie; “and so Chapeau is your lover is he? Chapeau is the man who couldn’t bear the mention of the fine pair of whiskers you saw in the picture? and did he tell you that his master was going to be married immediately?” and Marie blushed as she asked the question.
“Indeed he did, Mademoiselle, and he said besides—”