‘So your cousin Marie is to be married to Adrian Urmand, the young linen-merchant at Basle,’ said Madame Faragon one morning to George Voss. In this manner were the first assured tidings of the coming marriage conveyed to the rival lover. This occurred a day or two after the betrothal, when Adrian was back at Basle. No one at Granpere had thought of writing an express letter to George on the subject. George’s father might have done so, had the writing of letters been a customary thing with him; but his correspondence was not numerous, and such letters as he did write were short, and always confined to matters concerning his trade. Madame Voss had, however, sent a special message to Madame Faragon, as soon as Adrian had gone, thinking that it would be well that in this way George should learn the truth.
It had been fully arranged by this time that George Voss was to be the landlord of the hotel at Colmar on and from the first day of the following year. Madame Faragon was to be allowed to sit in the little room downstairs, to scold the servants, and to make the strangers from a distance believe that her authority was unimpaired. She was also to receive a moderate annual pension in money in addition to her board and lodging. For these considerations, and on condition that George Voss should expend a certain sum of money in renewing the faded glories of the house, he was to be the landlord in full enjoyment of all real power on the first of January following. Madame Faragon, when she had expressed her agreement to the arrangement, which was indeed almost in all respects one of her own creation, wept and wheezed and groaned bitterly. She declared that she would soon be dead, and so trouble him no more. Nevertheless, she especially stipulated that she should have a new arm-chair for her own use, and that the feather bed in her own chamber should be renewed.
‘So your cousin Marie is to be married to Adrian Urmand, the young linen-merchant at Basle,’ said Madame Faragon.
‘Who says so?’ demanded George. He asked his question in a quiet voice; but, though the news had reached him thus suddenly, he had sufficient control over himself to prevent any plain expression of his feelings. The thing which had been told him had gone into his heart like a knife; but he did not intend that Madame Faragon should know that he had been wounded.
‘It is quite true. There is no doubt about it. Stodel’s man with the roulage brought me word direct from your step-mother.’ George immediately began to inquire within himself why Stodel’s man with the roulage had not brought some word direct to him, and answered the question to himself not altogether incorrectly. ‘O, yes,’ continued Madame Faragon, ‘it is quite true — on the 15th of October. I suppose you will be going over to the wedding.’ This she said in her usual whining tone of small complaint, signifying thereby how great would be the grievance to herself to be left alone at that special time.
‘I shall not go to the wedding,’ said George. ‘They can be married, if they are to be married, without me.’
‘They are to be married; you may be quite sure of that.’ Madame Faragon’s grievance now consisted in the amount of doubt which was being thrown on the tidings which had been sent direct to her. ‘Of course you will choose to have a doubt, because it is I who tell you.’
‘I do not doubt it at all. I think it is very likely. I was well aware before that my father wished it.’
‘Of course he would wish it, George. How should he not wish it? Marie Bromar never had a franc of her own in her life, and it is not to be expected that he, with a family of young children at his heels, is to give her a dot.’
‘He will give her something. He will treat her as though she were a daughter.’
‘Then I think he ought not. But your father was always a romantic, headstrong man. At any rate, there she is — bar-maid, as we may say, in the hotel — much the same as our Floschen here; and, of course, such a marriage as this is a great thing; a very great thing, indeed. How should they not wish it?’
‘O, if she likes him —!’
‘Like him? Of course, she will like him. Why should she not like him? Young, and good-looking, with a fine business, doesn’t owe a sou, I’ll be bound, and with a houseful of furniture. Of course, she’ll like him. I don’t suppose there is so much difficulty about that.’
‘I daresay not,’ said George. ‘I believe that women’s likings go after that fashion, for the most part.’
Madame Faragon, not understanding this general sarcasm against her sex, continued the expression of her opinion about the coming marriage. ‘I don’t suppose anybody will think of blaming Marie Bromar for accepting the match when it was proposed to her. Of course, she would do as she was bidden, and could hardly be expected to say that the man was above her.’
‘He is not above her,’ said George in a hoarse voice.
‘Marie Bromar is nothing to you, George; nothing in blood; nothing beyond a most distant cousin. They do say that she has grown up good-looking.’
‘Yes; — she is a handsome girl.’
‘When I remember her as a child she was broad and dumpy, and they always come back at last to what they were as children. But of course M. Urmand only looks to what she is now. She makes her hay while the sun shines; but I hope the people won’t say that your father has caught him at the Lion d’Or, and taken him in.’
‘My father is not the man to care very much what anybody says about such things.’
‘Perhaps not so much as he ought, George,’ said Madame Faragon, shaking her head.
After that George Voss went about the house for some hours, doing his work, giving his orders, and going through the usual routine of his day’s business. As he did so, no one guessed that his mind was disturbed. Madame Faragon had not the slightest suspicion that the matter of Marie’s marriage was a cause of sorrow to him. She had felt the not unnatural envy of a woman’s mind in such an affair, and could not help expressing it, although Marie Bromar was in some sort connected with herself. But she was sure that such an arrangement would be regarded as a family triumph by George — unless, indeed, he should be inclined to quarrel with his father for over-generosity in that matter of the dot. ‘It is lucky that you got your little bit of money before this affair was settled,’ said she.
‘It would not have made the difference of a copper sou,’ said George Voss, as he walked angrily out of the old woman’s room. This was in the evening, after supper, and the greater part of the day had passed since he had first heard the news. Up to the present moment he had endeavoured to shake the matter off from him, declaring to himself that grief — or at least any outward show of grief — would be unmanly and unworthy of him. With a strong resolve he had fixed his mind upon the affairs of his house, and had allowed himself to meditate as little as might be possible. But the misery, the agony, had been then present with him during all those hours — and had been made the sharper by his endeavours to keep it down and banish it from his thoughts. Now, as he went out from Madame Faragon’s room, having finished all that it was his duty to do, he strolled into the town, and at once began to give way to his thoughts. Of course he must think about it. He acknowledged that it was useless for him to attempt to get rid of the matter and let it be as though there were no such persons in the world as Marie Bromar and Adrian Urmand. He must think about it; but he might so give play to his feelings that no one should see him in the moments of his wretchedness. He went out, therefore, among the dark walks in the town garden, and there, as he paced one alley after another in the gloom, he revelled in the agony which a passionate man feels when the woman whom he loves is to be given into the arms of another.
As he thought of his own life during the past year or fifteen months, he could not but tell himself that his present suffering was due in some degree to his own fault. If he really loved this girl, and if it had been his intention to try and win her for himself, why had he taken his father at his word and gone away from Granpere? And why, having left Granpere, had he taken no trouble to let her know that he still loved her? As he asked himself these questions, he was hardly able himself to understand the pride which had driven him away from his old home, and which had kept him silent so long. She had promised him that she would be true to him. Then had come those few words from his father’s mouth, words which he thought his father should never have spoken to him, and he had gone away, telling himself that he would come back and fetch her as soon as he could offer her a home independently of his father. If, after the promises she had made to him, she would not wait for him without farther words and farther vows, she would not be worth the having. In going, he had not precisely told himself that there should be no intercourse between them for twelve months; but the silence which he had maintained, and his continued absence, had been the consequence of the mood of his mind and the tenor of his purpose. The longer he had been away from Granpere without tidings from any one there, the less possible had it been that he should send tidings from himself to his old home. He had not expected messages. He had not expected any letter. But when nothing came, he told himself over and over again that he too would be silent, and would bide his time. Then Edmond Greisse had come to Colmar, and brought the first rumour of Adrian Urmand’s proposal of marriage.
The reader will perhaps remember that George, when he heard this first rumour, had at once made up his mind to go over to Granpere, and that he went. He went to Granpere partly believing, and partly disbelieving Edmond’s story. If it were untrue, perhaps she might say a word to him that would comfort him and give him new hope. If it were true, she would have to tell him so; and then he would say a word to her that should tear her heart, if her heart was to be reached. But he would never let her know that she had torn his own to rags! That was the pride of his manliness; and yet he was so boyish as not to know that it should have been for him to make those overtures for a renewal of love, which he hoped that Marie would make to him. He had gone over to Granpere, and the reader will perhaps again remember what had passed then between him and Marie. Just as he was leaving her he had asked her whether she was to be married to this man. He had made no objection to such a marriage. He had spoken no word of the constancy of his own affection. In his heart there had been anger against her because she had spoken no such word to him — as of course there was also in her heart against him, very bitter and very hot. If he wished her to be true to him, why did he not say so? If he had given her up, why did he come there at all? Why did he ask any questions about her marriage, if on his own behalf he had no statement to make — no assurance to give? What was her marriage, or her refusal to be married, to him? Was she to tell him that, as he had deserted her, and as she could not busy herself to overcome her love, therefore she was minded to wear the willow for ever? ‘If my uncle and aunt choose to dispose of me, I cannot help it,’ she had said. Then he had left her, and she had been sure that for him that early game of love was a game altogether played out. Now, as he walked along the dark paths of the town garden, something of the truth came upon him. He made no excuse for Marie Bromar. She had given him a vow, and should have been true to her vow, so he said to himself a dozen times. He had never been false. He had shown no sign of falseness. True of heart, he had remained away from her only till he might come and claim her, and bring her to a house that he could call his own. This also he told himself a dozen times. But, nevertheless, there was a very agony of remorse, a weight of repentance, in that he had not striven to make sure of his prize when he had been at Granpere before the marriage was settled. Had she loved him as she ought to have loved him, had she loved him as he loved her, there should have been no question possible to her of marriage with another man. But still he repented, in that he had lost that which he desired, and might perhaps have then obtained it for himself.
But the strong feeling of his breast, the strongest next to his love, was a desire to be revenged. He cared little now for his father, little for that personal dignity which he had intended to return by his silence, little for pecuniary advantages and prudential motives, in comparison with his strong desire to punish Marie for her perfidy. He would go over to Granpere, and fall among them like a thunderbolt. Like a thunderbolt, at any rate, he would fall upon the head of Marie Bromar. The very words of her love-promises were still firm in his memory, and he would see if she also could be made to remember them.
‘I shall go over to Granpere the day after tomorrow,’ he said to Madame Faragon, as he caught her just before she retired for the night.
‘To Granpere the day after tomorrow? And why?’
‘Well, I don’t know that I can say exactly why. I shall not be at the marriage, but I should like to see them first. I shall go the day after tomorrow.’
And he went to Granpere on the day he fixed.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01