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- Ten Years Later - 5/125 -
Malicorne was rolling his hat respectfully between his fingers; but, all at once, he let fall his hat, seized the young girl by the shoulders, pulled her towards him, and sealed her mouth with two lips that were very warm, for a man pretending to so much indifference. Aure would have cried out, but the cry was stifled in his kiss. Nervous and, apparently, angry, the young girl pushed Malicorne against the wall.
"Good!" said Malicorne, philosophically, "that's enough for six weeks. Adieu, mademoiselle, accept my very humble salutation." And he made three steps towards the door.
"Well! no, - you shall not go!" cried Montalais, stamping with her little foot. "Stay where you are! I order you!"
"You order me?"
"Yes; am I not mistress?"
"Of my heart and soul, without doubt."
"A pretty property! _ma foi!_ The soul is silly and the heart dry."
"Beware, Montalais, I know you," said Malicorne; "you are going to fall in love with your humble servant."
"Well, yes!" said she, hanging round his neck with childish indolence, rather than with loving abandonment. "Well, yes! for I must thank you at least."
"And for what?"
"For the commission; is it not my whole future?"
Montalais looked at him.
"It is frightful," said she, "that one can never guess whether you are speaking seriously or not."
"I cannot speak more seriously. I was going to Paris, - you are going there, - we are going there."
"And so it was for that motive only you have served me; selfish fellow!"
"What would you have me say, Aure? I cannot live without you."
"Well! in truth, it is just so with me; you are, nevertheless, it must be confessed, a very bad-hearted young man."
"Aure, my dear Aure, take care! if you take to calling me names again, you know the effect they produce upon me, and I shall adore you." And so saying, Malicorne drew the young girl a second time towards him. But at that instant a step resounded on the staircase. The young people were so close, that they would have been surprised in the arms of each other, if Montalais had not violently pushed Malicorne, with his back against the door, just then opening. A loud cry, followed by angry reproaches, immediately resounded. It was Madame de Saint-Remy who uttered the cry and the angry words. The unlucky Malicorne almost crushed her between the wall and the door she was coming in at.
"It is again that good-for-nothing!" cried the old lady. "Always here!"
"Ah, madame!" replied Malicorne, in a respectful tone; "it is eight long days since I was here."
Chapter III: In Which We at Length See the True Heroine of this History Appear.
Behind Madame de Saint-Remy stood Mademoiselle de la Valliere. She heard the explosion of maternal anger, and as she divined the cause of it, she entered the chamber trembling, and perceived the unlucky Malicorne, whose woeful countenance might have softened or set laughing whoever observed it coolly. He had promptly intrenched himself behind a large chair, as if to avoid the first attacks of Madame de Saint-Remy; he had no hopes of prevailing with words, for she spoke louder than he, and without stopping; but he reckoned upon the eloquence of his gestures. The old lady would neither listen to nor see anything; Malicorne had long been one of her antipathies. But her anger was too great not to overflow from Malicorne on his accomplice. Montalais had her turn.
"And you, mademoiselle; you may be certain I shall inform madame of what is going on in the apartment of one of her ladies of honor?"
"Oh, dear mother!" cried Mademoiselle de la Valliere, "for mercy's sake, spare - "
"Hold your tongue, mademoiselle, and do not uselessly trouble yourself to intercede for unworthy people; that a young maid of honor like you should be subjected to a bad example is, certes, a misfortune great enough; but that you should sanction it by your indulgence is what I will not allow."
"But in truth," said Montalais, rebelling again, "I do not know under what pretense you treat me thus. I am doing no harm, I suppose?"
"And that great good-for-nothing, mademoiselle," resumed Madame de Saint- Remy, pointing to Malicorne, "is he here to do any good, I ask you?"
"He is neither here for good nor harm, madame; he comes to see me, that is all."
"It is all very well! all very well!" said the old lady. "Her royal highness shall be informed of it, and she will judge."
"At all events, I do not see why," replied Montalais, "it should be forbidden M. Malicorne to have intentions towards me, if his intentions are honorable."
"Honorable intentions with such a face!" cried Madame de Saint-Remy.
"I thank you in the name of my face, madame," said Malicorne.
"Come, my daughter, come," continued Madame de Saint-Remy; "we will go and inform madame that at the very moment she is weeping for her husband, at the moment when we are all weeping for a master in this old castle of Blois, the abode of grief, there are people who amuse themselves with flirtations!"
"Oh!" cried both the accused, with one voice.
"A maid of honor! a maid of honor!" cried the old lady, lifting her hands towards heaven.
"Well! it is there you are mistaken, madame," said Montalais, highly exasperated; "I am no longer a maid of honor, of madame's at least."
"Have you given in your resignation, mademoiselle? That is well! I cannot but applaud such a determination, and I do applaud it."
"I do not give in my resignation, madame; I take another service, - that is all."
"In the _bourgeoisie_ or in the _robe?_" asked Madame de Saint-Remy, disdainfully.
"Please to learn, madame, that I am not a girl to serve either _bourgeoises_ or _robines_; and that instead of the miserable court at which you vegetate, I am going to reside in a court almost royal."
"Ha, ha! a royal court," said Madame de Saint-Remy, forcing a laugh; "a royal court! What do you think of that, my daughter?"
And she turned towards Mademoiselle de la Valliere, whom she would by main force have dragged away from Montalais, and who instead of obeying the impulse of Madame de Saint-Remy, looked first at her mother and then at Montalais with her beautiful conciliatory eyes.
"I did not say a royal court, madame," replied Montalais; "because Madame Henrietta of England, who is about to become the wife of S. A. R. Monsieur, is not a queen. I said almost royal, and I spoke correctly, since she will be sister-in-law to the king."
A thunderbolt falling upon the castle of Blois would not have astonished Madame de Saint-Remy more than the last sentence of Montalais.
"What do you say? of Son Altesse Royale Madame Henrietta?" stammered out the old lady.
"I say I am going to belong to her household, as maid of honor; that is what I say."
"As maid of honor!" cried, at the same time, Madame de Saint-Remy with despair, and Mademoiselle de la Valliere with delight.
"Yes, madame, as maid of honor."
The old lady's head sank down as if the blow had been too severe for her. But, almost immediately recovering herself, she launched a last projectile at her adversary.
"Oh! oh!" said she; "I have heard of many of these sorts of promises beforehand, which often lead people to flatter themselves with wild hopes, and at the last moment, when the time comes to keep the promises, and have the hopes realized, they are surprised to see the great credit upon which they reckoned vanish like smoke."
"Oh! madame, the credit of my protector is incontestable and his promises are as good as deeds."
"And would it be indiscreet to ask you the name of this powerful protector?"
"Oh! _mon Dieu!_ no! it is that gentleman there," said Montalais, pointing to Malicorne, who, during this scene, had preserved the most imperturbable coolness, and the most comic dignity.
"Monsieur!" cried Madame de Saint-Remy, with an explosion of hilarity, "monsieur is your protector! Is the man whose credit is so powerful, and whose promises are as good as deeds, Monsieur Malicorne!"
As to Montalais, as her sole reply, she drew the brevet from her pocket, and showed it to the old lady.
"Here is the _brevet_," said she.
At once all was over. As soon as she had cast a rapid glance over this fortunate _brevet_, the good lady clasped her hands, an unspeakable
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