George Voss, as he drove back to Colmar and thought of what had been done during the last twenty-four hours, did not find that he had much occasion for triumph. He had, indeed, the consolation of knowing that the girl loved him, and in that there was a certain amount of comfort. As he had ever been thinking about her since he had left Granpere, so also had she been thinking of him. His father had told him that they had been no more than children when they parted, and had ridiculed the idea that any affection formed so long back and at so early an age should have lasted. But it had lasted; and was now as strong in Marie’s breast as it was in his own. He had learned this at any rate by his journey to Granpere, and there was something of consolation in the knowledge. But, nevertheless, he did not find that he could triumph. Marie had been weak enough to yield to his father once, and would yield to him, he thought, yet again. Women in this respect — as he told himself — were different from men. They were taught by the whole tenor of their lives to submit — unless they could conquer by underhand unseen means, by little arts, by coaxing, and by tears. Marie, he did not doubt, had tried all these, and had failed. His father’s purpose had been too strong for her, and she had yielded. Having submitted once, of course she would submit again. There was about his father a spirit of masterfulness, which he was sure Marie would not be able to withstand. And then there would be — strong against his interests, George thought — that feeling so natural to a woman, that as all the world had been told of her coming marriage, she would be bound to go through with it. The idea of it had become familiar to her. She had conquered the repugnance which she must at first have felt, and had made herself accustomed to regard this man as her future husband. And then there would be Madame Voss against him, and M. le Cure — both of whom would think it infinitely better for Marie’s future welfare, that she should marry a Roman Catholic, as was Urmand, than a Protestant such as was he, George Voss. And then the money! Even if he could bring himself to believe that the money was nothing to Marie, it would be so much to all those by whom Marie would be surrounded, that it would be impossible that she should be preserved from its influence.
It is not often that young people really know each other; but George certainly did not know Marie Bromar. In the first place, though he had learned from her the secret of her heart, he had not taught himself to understand how his own sullen silence had acted upon her. He knew now that she had continued to love him; but he did not know how natural it had been that she should have believed that he had forgotten her. He could not, therefore, understand how different must now be her feelings in reference to this marriage with Adrian, from what they had been when she had believed herself to be utterly deserted. And then he did not comprehend how thoroughly unselfish she had been; — how she had struggled to do her duty to others, let the cost be what it might to herself. She had plighted herself to Adrian Urmand, not because there had seemed to her to be any brightness in the prospect which such a future promised to her, but because she did verily believe that, circumstanced as she was, it would be better that she should submit herself to her friends. All this George Voss did not understand. He had thrown his thunderbolt, and had seen that it had been efficacious. Its efficacy had been such that his wrath had been turned into tenderness. He had been so changed in his purpose, that he had been induced to make an appeal to his father at the cost of his father’s enmity. But that appeal had been in vain, and, as he thought of it all, he told himself that on the appointed day Marie Bromar would become the wife of Adrian Urmand. He knew well enough that a girl betrothed is a girl already half married.
He was very wretched as he drove his horse along. Though there was a solace in the thought that the memory of him had still remained in Marie’s heart, there was a feeling akin to despair in this also. His very tenderness towards her was more unendurable than would have been his wrath. The pity of it! The pity of it! It was that which made him sore of heart and faint of spirit. If he could have reproached her as cold, mercenary, unworthy, heartless, even though he had still loved her, he could have supported himself by his anger against her unworthiness. But as it was there was no such support for him. Though she had been in fault, her virtue towards him was greater than her fault. She still loved him. She still loved him,- -though she could not be his wife.
Then he thought of Adrian Urmand and of the man’s success and wealth, and general prosperity in the world. What if he should go over to Basle and take Adrian Urmand by the throat and choke him? What if he should at least half choke the successful man, and make it well understood that the other half would come unless the successful man would consent to relinquish his bride? George, though he did not expect success for himself, was fully purposed that Urmand should not succeed without some interference from him — by means of choking or otherwise. He would find some way of making himself disagreeable. If it were only by speaking his mind, he thought that he could speak it in such a way that the Basle merchant would not like it. He would tell Urmand in the first place that Marie was won not at all by affection, not in the least by any personal regard for her suitor, but altogether by a feeling of duty towards her uncle. And he would point out to this suitor how dastardly a thing it would be to take advantage of a girl so placed. He planned a speech or two as he drove along which he thought that even Urmand, thick-skinned as he believed him to be, would dislike to hear. ‘You may have her, perhaps,’ he would say to him, ‘as so much goods that you would buy, because she is, as a thing in her uncle’s hands, to be bought. She believes it to be her duty, as being altogether dependent, to be disposed of as her uncle may choose. And she will go to you, as she would to any other man who might make the purchase. But as for loving you, you don’t even believe that she loves you. She will keep your house for you; but she will never love you. She will keep your house for you — unless, indeed, she should find you to be so intolerable to her, that she should be forced to leave you. It is in that way that you will have her — if you are so low a thing as to be willing to take her so.’ He planned various speeches of such a nature — not intending to trust entirely to speeches, but to proceed to some attempt at choking afterwards if it should be necessary. Marie Bromar should not become Adrian Urmand’s wife without some effort on his part. So resolving, he drove into the yard of the hotel at Colmar.
As soon as he entered the house Madame Faragon began to ask him questions about the wedding. When was it to be? George thought for a moment, and then remembered that he had not even heard the day named.
‘Why don’t you answer me, George?’ said the old woman angrily. ‘You must know when it’s going to be.’
‘I don’t know that it’s going to be at all,’ said George.
‘Not going to be at all! Why not? There is not anything wrong, is there? Were they not betrothed? Why don’t you tell me, George?’
‘Yes; they were betrothed.’
‘And is he crying off? I should have thought Michel Voss was the man to strangle him if he did that.’
‘And I am the man to strangle him if he don’t,’ said George, walking out of the room.
He knew that he had been silly and absurd, but he knew also that he was so moved as to have hardly any control over himself. In the few words that he had now said to Madame Faragon he had, as he felt, told the story of his own disappointment; and yet he had not in the least intended to take the old woman into his confidence. He had not meant to have said a word about the quarrel between himself and his father, and now he had told everything.
When she saw him again in the evening, of course she asked him some farther questions.
‘George,’ she said, ‘I am afraid things are not going pleasantly at Granpere.’
‘Not altogether,’ he answered.
‘But I suppose the marriage will go on?’ To this he made no answer, but shook his head, showing how impatient he was at being thus questioned. ‘You ought to tell me,’ said Madame Faragon plaintively, ‘considering how interested I must be in all that concerns you.’
‘I have nothing to tell.’
‘But is the marriage to be put off?’ again demanded Madame Faragon, with extreme anxiety.
‘Not that I know of, Madame Faragon: they will not ask me whether it is to be put off or not.’
‘But have they quarrelled with M. Urmand?’
‘No; nobody has quarrelled with M. Urmand.’
‘Was he there, George?’
‘What, with me! No; he was not there with me. I have never seen the man since I first left Granpere to come here.’ And then George Voss began to think what might have happened had Adrian Urmand been at the hotel while he was there himself. After all, what could he have said to Adrian Urmand? or what could he have done to him?
‘He hasn’t written, has he, to say that he is off his bargain?’ Poor Madame Faragon was almost pathetic in her anxiety to learn what had really occurred at the Lion d’Or.
‘Certainly not. He has not written at all.’
‘Then what is it, George?’
‘I suppose it is this — that Marie Bromar cares nothing for him.’
‘But so rich as he is! And they say, too, such a good-looking young man.’
‘It is wonderful, is it not? It is next to a miracle that there should be a girl deaf and blind to such charms. But, nevertheless, I believe it is so. They will probably make her marry him, whether she likes it or not.’
‘But she is betrothed to him. Of course she will marry him.’
‘Then there will be an end of it,’ said George.
There was one other question which Madame Faragon longed to ask; but she was almost too much afraid of her young friend to put it into words. At last she plucked up courage, and did ask her question after an ambiguous way.
‘But I suppose it is nothing to you, George?’
‘Nothing at all. Nothing on earth,’ said he. ‘How should it be anything to me?’ Then he hesitated for a while, pausing to think whether or not he would tell the truth to Madame Faragon. He knew that there was no one on earth, setting aside his father and Marie Bromar, to whom he was really so dear as he was to this old woman. She would probably do more for him, if it might possibly be in her power to do anything, than any other of his friends. And, moreover, he did not like the idea of being false to her, even on such a subject as this. ‘It is only this to me,’ he said, ‘that she had promised to be my wife, before they had ever mentioned Urmand’s name to her.’
‘And why should she not have promised?’
‘But, George; — during all this time you have never mentioned it.’
‘There are some things, Madame Faragon, which one doesn’t mention. And I do not know why I should have mentioned it at all. But you understand all about it now. Of course she will marry the man. It is not likely that my father should fail to have his own way with a girl who is dependent on him.’
‘But he — M. Urmand; he would give her up if he knew it all, would he not?’
To this George made no instant answer; but the idea was there, in his mind — that the linen merchant might perhaps be induced to abandon his purpose, if he could be made to understand that Marie wished it. ‘If he have any touch of manhood about him he would do so,’ said he.
‘And what will you do, George?’
‘Do! I shall do nothing. What should I do? My father has turned me out of the house. That is the whole of it. I do not know that there is anything to be done.’ Then he went out, and there was nothing more said upon the question. For the next three or four days there was nothing said. As he went in and out Madame Faragon would look at him with anxious eyes, questioning herself how far such a feeling of love might in truth make this young man forlorn and wretched. As far as she could judge by his manner he was very forlorn and very wretched. He did his work indeed, and was busy about the place, as was his wont. But there was a look of pain in his face, which made her old heart grieve, and by degrees her good wishes for the object, which seemed to be so much to him, became eager and hot.
‘Is there nothing to be done?’ she asked at last, putting out her fat hand to take hold of his in sympathy.
‘There is nothing to be done,’ said George, who, however, hated himself because he was doing nothing, and still thought occasionally of that plan of choking his rival.
‘If you were to go to Basle and see the man?’
‘What could I say to him, if I did see him? After all, it is not him that I can blame. I have no just ground of quarrel with him. He has done nothing that is not fair. Why should he not love her if it suits him? Unless he were to fight me, indeed —’
‘O, George! let there be no fighting.’
‘It would do no good, I fear.’
‘None, none, none,’ said she.
‘If I were to kill him, she could not be my wife then.’
‘No, no; certainly not.’
‘And if I wounded him, it would make her like him perhaps. If he were to kill me, indeed, there might be some comfort in that.’
After this Madame Faragon made no farther suggestions that her young friend should go to Basle.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01