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- The Golden Lion of Granpere - 5/36 -
'Ah! it is because you cannot love me.'
'I don't suppose I shall ever love any one, not in that way. I must go away now, M. Urmand, because I am wanted below.'
She did go, and Adrian Urmand spoke no farther word of love to her on that occasion.
'I will speak to her about it myself,' said Michel Voss, when he heard his young friend's story that evening, seated again upon the bench outside the door, and smoking another cigar.
'It will be of no use,' said Adrian.
'One never knows,' said Michel. 'Young women are queer cattle to take to market. One can never be quite certain which way they want to go. After you are off to-morrow, I will have a few words with her. She does not quite understand as yet that she must make her hay while the sun shines. Some of 'em are all in a hurry to get married, and some of 'em again are all for hanging back, when their friends wish it. It's natural, I believe, that they should be contrary. But Marie is as good as the best of them, and when I speak to her, she'll hear reason.'
Adrian Urmand had no alternative but to assent to the innkeeper's proposition. The idea of making love second-hand was not pleasant to him; but he could not hinder the uncle from speaking his mind to the niece. One little suggestion he did make before he took his departure. 'It can't be, I suppose, that there is any one else that she likes better?' To this Michel Voss made no answer in words, but shook his head in a fashion that made Adrian feel assured that there was no danger on that head.
But Michel Voss, though he had shaken his head in a manner so satisfactory, had feared that there was such danger. He had considered himself justified in shaking his head, but would not be so false as to give in words the assurance which Adrian had asked. That night he discussed the matter with his wife, declaring it as his purpose that Marie Bromar should marry Adrian Urmand. 'It is impossible that she should do better,' said Michel.
'It would be very well,' said Madame Voss.
'Very well! Why, he is worth thirty thousand francs, and is as steady at his business as his father was before him.'
'He is a dandy.'
'Psha! that is nothing!' said Michel.
'And he is too fond of money.'
'It is a fault on the right side,' said Michel. 'His wife and children will not come to want.'
Madame Voss paused a moment before she made her last and grand objection to the match. 'It is my belief,' said she, 'that Marie is always thinking of George.'
'Then she had better cease to think of him,' said Michel; 'for George is not thinking of her.' He said nothing farther, but resolved to speak his own mind freely to Marie Bromar.
The old-fashioned inn at Colmar, at which George Voss was acting as assistant and chief manager to his father's distant cousin, Madame Faragon, was a house very different in all its belongings from the Lion d'Or at Granpere. It was very much larger, and had much higher pretensions. It assumed to itself the character of a first-class hotel; and when Colmar was without a railway, and was a great posting-station on the high road from Strasbourg to Lyons, there was some real business at the Hotel de la Poste in that town. At present, though Colmar may probably have been benefited by the railway, the inn has faded, and is in its yellow leaf. Travellers who desire to see the statue which a grateful city has erected to the memory of its most illustrious citizen, General Rapp, are not sufficient in number to keep a first-class hotel in the glories of fresh paint and smart waiters; and when you have done with General Rapp, there is not much to interest you in Colmar. But there is the hotel; and poor fat, unwieldy Madame Faragon, though she grumbles much, and declares that there is not a sou to be made, still keeps it up, and bears with as much bravery as she can the buffets of a world which seems to her to be becoming less prosperous and less comfortable and more exacting every day. In her younger years, a posting-house in such a town was a posting-house; and when M. Faragon married her, the heiress of the then owner of the business, he was supposed to have done uncommonly well for himself. Madame Faragon is now a childless widow, and sometimes declares that she will shut the house up and have done with it. Why maintain a business without a profit, simply that there may be an Hotel de la Poste at Colmar? But there are old servants whom she has not the heart to send away; and she has at any rate a roof of her own over her head; and though she herself is unconscious that it is so, she has many ties to the old business; and now, since her young cousin George Voss has been with her, things go a little better. She is not robbed so much, and the people of the town, finding that they can get a fair bottle of wine and a good supper, come to the inn; and at length an omnibus has been established, and there is a little glimmer of returning prosperity.
It is a large old rambling house, built round an irregularly-shaped court, with another court behind it; and in both courts the stables and coach-houses seem to be so mixed with the kitchens and entrances, that one hardly knows what part of the building is equine and what part human. Judging from the smell which pervades the lower quarters, and, alas, also too frequently the upper rooms, one would be inclined to say that the horses had the best of it. The defect had been pointed out to Madame Faragon more than once; but that lady, though in most of the affairs of life her temper is gentle and kindly, cannot hear with equanimity an insinuation that any portion of her house is either dirty or unsweet. Complaints have reached her that the beds were--well, inhabited--but no servant now dares to hint at anything wrong in this particular. If this traveller or that says a word to her personally in complaint, she looks as sour as death, and declines to open her mouth in reply; but when that traveller's back is turned, the things that Madame Faragon can say about the upstart coxcombry of the wretch, and as to the want of all real comforts which she is sure prevails in the home quarters of that ill-starred complaining traveller, are proof to those who hear them that the old landlady has not as yet lost all her energy. It need not be doubted that she herself religiously believes that no foul perfume has ever pervaded the sanctity of her chambers, and that no living thing has ever been seen inside the sheets of her beds, except those guests whom she has allocated to the different rooms.
Matters had not gone very easily with George Voss in all the changes he had made during the last year. Some things he was obliged to do without consulting Madame Faragon at all. Then she would discover what was going on, and there would be a 'few words.' At other times he would consult her, and carry his purpose only after much perseverance. Twice or thrice he had told her that he must go away, and then with many groans she had acceded to his propositions. It had been necessary to expend two thousand francs in establishing the omnibus, and in that affair the appearance of things had been at one time quite hopeless. And then when George had declared that the altered habits of the people required that the hour of the morning table-d'hote should be changed from noon to one, she had sworn that she would not give way. She would never lend her assent to such vile idleness. It was already robbing the business portion of the day of an hour. She would wrap her colours round her and die upon the ground sooner than yield. 'Then they won't come,' said George, 'and it's no use you having the table then. They will all go to the Hotel de l'Imperatrice.' This was a new house, the very mention of which was a dagger-thrust into the bosom of Madame Faragon. 'Then they will be poisoned,' she said. 'And let them! It is what they are fit for.' But the change was made, and for the first three days she would not come out of her room. When the bell was rung at the obnoxious hour, she stopped her ears with her two hands.
But though there had been these contests, Madame Faragon had made more than one effort to induce George Voss to become her partner and successor in the house. If he would only bring in a small sum of money--a sum which must be easily within his father's reach--he should have half the business now, and all of it when Madame Faragon had gone to her rest. Or if he would prefer to give Madame Faragon a pension--a moderate pension--she would give up the house at once. At these tender moments she used to say that he probably would not begrudge her a room in which to die. But George Voss would always say that he had no money, that he could not ask his father for money, and that he had not made up his mind to settle at Colmar. Madame Faragon, who was naturally much interested in the matter, and was moreover not without curiosity, could never quite learn how matters stood at Granpere. A word or two she had heard in a circuitous way of Marie Bromar, but from George himself she could never learn anything of his affairs at home. She had asked him once or twice whether it would not be well that he should marry, but he had always replied that he did not think of such a thing--at any rate as yet. He was a steady young man, given more to work than to play, and apparently not inclined to amuse himself with the girls of the neighbourhood.
One day Edmond Greisse was over at Colmar--Edmond Greisse, the lad whose untidy appearance at the supper-table at the Lion d'Or had called down the rebuke of Marie Bromar. He had been sent over on some business by his employer, and had come to get his supper and bed at Madame Faragon's hotel. He was a modest, unassuming lad, and had been hardly more than a boy when George Voss had left Granpere. From time to time George had seen some friend from the village, and had thus heard tidings from home. Once, as has been said, Madame Voss had made a pilgrimage to Madame Faragon's establishment to visit him; but letters between the houses had not been frequent. Though postage in France--or shall we say Germany?--is now almost as low as in England, these people of Alsace have not yet fallen into the way of writing to each other when it occurs to any of them that a word may be said. Young Greisse had seen the landlady, who now never went upstairs among her guests, and had had his chamber allotted to him, and was seated at the supper-table, before he met George Voss. It was from Madame Faragon that George heard of his arrival.
'There is a neighbour of yours from Granpere in the house,' said she.
'From Granpere? And who is he?'
'I forget the lad's name; but he says that your father is well, and
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