Dinner was served, and in the course of the meal we talked of almost everything--except marriage. The happy pair only caught each other's eyes by chance, and did not speak to one another. After dinner Mdlle. de la Meure went to her room, and the aunt went into her closet with the banker and the merchant, and they were in close conversation for two hours. At the end of that time the gentlemen were obliged to return to Paris, and Madame, after summoning her niece, told the merchant she would expect him to dinner on the day following, and that she was sure that her niece would be glad to see him again.
"Won't you, my dear?"
"Yes, aunt, I shall be very glad to see the gentleman again."
If she had not answered thus, the merchant would have gone away without hearing his future bride speak.
"Well," said the aunt, "what do you think of your husband?"
"Allow me to put off my answer till to-morrow; but be good enough, when we are at table, to draw me into the conversation, for it is very possible that my face has not repelled him, but so far he knows nothing of my mental powers; possibly my want of wit may destroy any slight impression my face may have made."
"Yes, I am afraid you will begin to talk nonsense, and make him lose the good opinion he seems to have formed of you."
"It is not right to deceive anybody. If he is disabused of his fictitious ideas by the appearance of the truth, so much the better for him; and so much the worse for both of us, if we decide on marrying without the slightest knowledge of each other's habits and ways of thought."
"What do you think of him?"
"I think he is rather nice-looking, and his manners are kind and polite; but let us wait till to-morrow."
"Perhaps he will have nothing more to say to me; I am so stupid."
"I know very well that you think yourself very clever, and that's where your fault lies; it's your self-conceit which makes you stupid, although M. Casanova takes you for a wit."
"Perhaps he may know what he is talking about."
"My poor dear, he is only laughing at you."
"I have good reasons for thinking otherwise, aunt."
"There you go; you will never get any sense."
"Pardon me, madam, if I cannot be of your opinion. Mademoiselle is quite right in saying that I do not laugh at her. I dare to say that to-morrow she will shine in the conversation."
"You think so? I am glad to hear it. Now let us have a game at piquet, and I will play against you and my niece, for she must learn the game."
Tiretta asked leave of his darling to go to the play, and we played on till supper-time. On his return, Tiretta made us almost die of laughing with his attempts to tell us in his broken French the plot of the play he had seen.
I had been in my bedroom for a quarter of an hour, expecting to see my sweetheart in some pretty kind of undress, when all of a sudden I saw her come in with all her clothes on. I was surprised at this circumstance, and it seemed to me of evil omen.
"You are astonished to see me thus," said she, "but I want to speak to you for a moment, and then I will take off my clothes. Tell me plainly whether I am to consent to this marriage or no?"
"How do you like him?"
"Very good; farewell! From this moment our love ends, and our friendship begins. Get you to bed, and I will go and do the same. Farewell!"
"No, stay, and let our friendship begin to-morrow."
"Not so, were my refusal to cost the lives of both of us. You know what it must cost me to speak thus, but it is my irrevocable determination. If I am to become another's wife, I must take care to be worthy of him; perhaps I may be happy. Do not hold me, let me go. You know how well I love you."
"At least, let us have one final embrace."
"You are weeping."
"No, I am not. In God's name let me go."
"Dear heart, you go but to weep in your chamber; stay here. I will marry you."
"Nay, no more of that."
With these words she made an effort, escaped from my hands, and fled from the room.