When Edmond Greisse was back at Granpere he well remembered his message, but he had some doubt as to the expediency of delivering it. He had to reflect in the first place whether he was quite sure that matters were arranged between Marie and Adrian Urmand. The story had been told to him as being certainly true by Peter the waiter. And he had discussed the matter with other young men, his associates in the place, among all of whom it was believed that Urmand was certainly about to carry away the young woman with whom they were all more or less in love. But when, on his return to Granpere, he had asked a few more questions, and had found that even Peter was now in doubt on a point as to which he had before been so sure, he began to think that there would be some difficulty in giving his message. He was not without some little fear of Marie, and hesitated to tell her that he had spread the report about her marriage. So he contented himself with simply announcing to her that George Voss intended to visit his old home.
‘Does my uncle know?’ Marie asked.
‘No; — you are to tell him,’ said Greisse.
‘I am to tell him! Why should I tell him? You can tell him.’
‘But George said that I was to let you know, and that you would tell your uncle.’ This was quite unintelligible to Marie; but it was clear to her that she could make no such announcement, after the conversation which she had had with her uncle. It was quite out of the question that she should be the first to announce George’s return, when she had been twice warned on that Sunday afternoon not to think of him. ‘You had better let my uncle know yourself,’ she said, as she walked away. But young Greisse, knowing that he was already in trouble, and feeling that he might very probably make it worse, held his peace. When therefore one morning George Voss showed himself at the door of the inn, neither his father nor Madame Voss expected him.
But his father was kind to him, and his mother-inlaw hovered round him with demonstrations of love and gratitude, as though much were due to him for coming back at all. ‘But you expected me,’ said George.
‘No, indeed,’ said his father. ‘We did not expect you now any more than on any other day since you left us.’
‘I sent word by Edmond Greisse,’ said George. Edmond was interrogated, and declared that he had forgotten to give the message. George was too clever to pursue the matter any farther, and when he first met Marie Bromar, there was not a word said between them beyond what might have been said between any young persons so related, after an absence of twelve months. George Voss was very careful to make no demonstration of affection for a girl who had forgotten him, and who was now, as he believed, betrothed to another man; and Marie was determined that certainly no sign of the old love should first be shown by her. He had come back — perhaps just in time. He had returned just at the moment in which something must be decided. She had felt how much there was in the little word which she had spoken to her uncle. When a girl says that she will try to reconcile herself to a man’s overtures, she has almost yielded. The word had escaped her without any such meaning on her part — had been spoken because she had feared to continue to contradict her uncle in the full completeness of a positive refusal. She had regretted it as soon as it had been spoken, but she could not recall it. She had seen in her uncle’s eye and had heard in the tone of his voice for how much that word had been taken; — but it had gone forth from her mouth, and she could not now rob it of its meaning. Adrian Urmand was to be back at Granpere in a few days — in ten days Michel Voss had said; and there were those ten days for her in which to resolve what she would do. Now, as though sent from heaven, George had returned, in this very interval of time. Might it not be that he would help her out of her difficulty? If he would only tell her to remain single for his sake, she would certainly turn her back upon her Swiss lover, let her uncle say what he might. She would make no engagement with George unless with her uncle’s sanction; but a word, a look of love, would fortify her against that other marriage.
George, she thought, had come back a man more to be worshipped than ever, as far as appearance went. What woman could doubt for a moment between two such men? Adrian Urmand was no doubt a pretty man, with black hair, of which he was very careful, with white hands, with bright small dark eyes which were very close together, with a thin regular nose, a small mouth, and a black moustache, which he was always pointing with his fingers. It was impossible to deny that he was good-looking after a fashion; but Marie despised him in her heart. She was almost bigger than he was, certainly stronger, and had no aptitude for the city niceness and POINT-DEVICE fastidiousness of such a lover. George Voss had come back, not taller than when he had left them, but broader in the shoulders, and more of a man. And then he had in his eye, and in his beaked nose, and his large mouth, and well-developed chin, that look of command, which was the peculiar character of his father’s face, and which women, who judge of men by their feelings rather than their thoughts, always love to see. Marie, if she would consent to marry Adrian Urmand, might probably have her own way in the house in everything; whereas it was certain enough that George Voss, wherever he might be, would desire to have his way. But yet there needed not a moment, in Marie’s estimation, to choose between the two. George Voss was a real man; whereas Adrian Urmand, tried by such a comparison, was in her estimation simply a rich trader in want of a wife.
In a day or two the fatted calf was killed, and all went happily between George and his father. They walked together up into the mountains, and looked after the wood-cutting, and discussed the prospects of the inn at Colmar. Michel was disposed to think that George had better remain at Colmar, and accept Madame Faragon’s offer. ‘If you think that the house is worth anything, I will give you a few thousand francs to set it in order; and then you had better agree to allow her so much a year for her life.’ He probably felt himself to be nearly as young a man as his son; and then remember too that he had other sons coming up, who would be able to carry on the house at Granpere when he should be past his work. Michel was a loving, generous-hearted man, and all feeling of anger with his son was over before they had been together two days. ‘You can’t do better, George,’ he said. ‘You need not always stay away from us for twelve months, and I might take a turn over the mountain, and get a lesson as to how you do things at Colmar. If ten thousand francs will help you, you shall have them. Will that make things go straight with you?’ George Voss thought the sum named would make things go very straight; but as the reader knows, he had another matter near to his heart. He thanked his father; but not in the joyous thoroughly contented tone that Michel had expected. ‘Is there anything wrong about it?’ Michel said in that sharp tone which he used when something had suddenly displeased him.
‘There is nothing wrong; nothing wrong at all,’ said George slowly. ‘The money is much more than I could have expected. Indeed I did not expect any.’
‘What is it then?’
‘I was thinking of something else. Tell me, father; is it true that Marie is going to be married to Adrian Urmand?’
‘What makes you ask?’
‘I heard a report of it,’ said George. ‘Is it true?’
The father reflected a moment what answer he should give. It did not seem to him that George spoke of such a marriage as though the rumour of it had made him unhappy. The question had been asked almost with indifference. And then the young man’s manner to Marie, and Marie’s manner to him, during the last two days had made him certain that he had been right in supposing that they had both forgotten the little tenderness of a year ago. And Michel had thoroughly made up his mind that it would be well that Marie should marry Adrian. He believed that he had already vanquished Marie’s scruples. She had promised ‘to try and think better of it,’ before George’s return; and therefore was he not justified in regarding the matter as almost settled? ‘I think that they will be married,’ said he to his son.
‘Then there is something in it?’
‘O, yes; there is a great deal in it. Urmand is very eager for it, and has asked me and her aunt, and we have consented.’
‘But has he asked her?’
‘Yes; he has done that too,’ said Michel.
‘And what answer did he get?’
‘Well; — I don’t know that it would be fair to tell that. Marie is not a girl likely to jump into a man’s arms at the first word. But I think there is no doubt that they will be betrothed before Sunday week. He is to be here again on Wednesday.’
‘She likes him, then?’
‘O, yes; of course she likes him.’ Michel Voss had not intended to say a word that was false. He was anxious to do the best in his power for both his son and his niece. He thoroughly understood that it was his duty as a father and a guardian to start them well in the world, to do all that he could for their prosperity, to feed their wants with his money, as a pelican feeds her young with blood from her bosom. Had he known the hearts of each of them, could he have understood Marie’s constancy, or the obstinate silent strength of his son’s disposition, he would have let Adrian Urmand, with his business and his house at Basle, seek a wife in any other quarter where he listed, and would have joined together the hands of these two whom he loved, with a paternal blessing. But he did not understand. He thought that he saw everything when he saw nothing;- -and now he was deceiving his son; for it was untrue that Marie had any such ‘liking’ for Adrian Urmand as that of which George had spoken.
‘It is as good as settled, then?’ said George, not showing by any tone of his voice the anxiety with which the question was asked.
‘I think it is as good as settled,’ Michel answered. Before they got back to the inn, George had thanked his father for his liberal offer, had declared that he would accede to Madame Faragon’s proposition, and had made his father understand that he must return to Colmar on the next Monday — two days before that on which Urmand was expected at Granpere.
The Monday came, and hitherto there had been no word of explanation between George and Marie. Every one in the house knew that he was about to return to Colmar, and every one in the house knew that he had been entirely reconciled to his father. Madame Voss had asked some question about him and Marie, and had been assured by her husband that there was nothing in that suspicion. ‘I told you from the beginning,’ said he, ‘that there was nothing of that sort. I only wish that George would think of marrying some one, now that he is to have a large house of his own over his head.’
George had determined a dozen times that he would, and a dozen times that he would not, speak to Marie about her coming marriage, changing his mind as often as it was formed. Of what use was it to speak to her? he would say to himself. Then again he would resolve that he would scorch her false heart by one withering word before he went. Chance at last arranged it for him. Before he started he found himself alone with her for a moment, and it was almost impossible that he should not say something. Then he did speak.
‘They tell me you are going to be married, Marie. I hope you will be happy and prosperous.’
‘Who tells you so?’
‘It is true at any rate, I suppose.’
‘Not that I know of. If my uncle and aunt choose to dispose of me, I cannot help it.’
‘It is well for girls to be disposed of sometimes. It saves them a world of trouble.’
‘I don’t know what you mean by that, George; — whether it is intended to be ill-natured.’
‘No, indeed. Why should I be ill-natured to you? I heartily wish you to be well and happy. I daresay M. Urmand will make you a good husband. Good-bye, Marie. I shall be off in a few minutes. Will you not say farewell to me?’
‘We used to be friends, Marie.’
‘Yes; — we used to be friends.’
‘And I have never forgotten the old days. I will not promise to come to your marriage, because it would not make either of us happy, but I shall wish you well. God bless you, Marie.’ Then he put his arm round her and kissed her, as he might have done to a sister — as it was natural that he should do to Marie Bromar, regarding her as a cousin. She did not speak a word more, and then he was gone!
She had been quite unable to tell him the truth. The manner in which he had first addressed her made it impossible for her to tell him that she was not engaged to marry Adrian Urmand — that she was determined, if possible, to avoid the marriage, and that she had no love for Adrian Urmand. Had she done so, she would in so doing have asked him to come back to her. That she should do this was impossible. And yet as he left her, some suspicion of the truth, some half-formed idea of the real state of the man’s mind in reference to her, flashed across her own. She seemed to feel that she was specially unfortunate, but she felt at the same time that there was no means within her reach of setting things right. And she was as convinced as ever she had been, that her uncle would never give his consent to a marriage between her and George Voss. As for George himself, he left her with an assured conviction that she was the promised bride of Adrian Urmand.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01