sometimes as you had just now, for instance moments
when my caresses seem tiresome to you, I am sure that
it's just because you have a headache, or because you're
thinking about something else; but you don't love me
any less, do you ? "
A FAMIL Y INTERIOR 293
" No, of course I never love you any less. Did the
time seem long to you while I was away ? "
" Oh ! yes, mamma ! But luckily I have had a new
maid for three weeks. Father must have written you
that he discharged the other one, didn't he ? "
" Oh ! I like the new one ever so much better ! If
you knew how nice she is! and not a bit stupid, nor
vulgar! She speaks very correctly, and yet she came
right from her village; she has never lived out, but she
learned her duties instantly."
" Who brought her here ? "
" Comtois. He had excellent recommendations."
Madame de Noirmont smiled at the serious tone in
which her daughter spoke.
" My dear girl," she replied, " I know that we may
rely on Comtois. What is your new maid's name ? "
" Louise Louise Fre Frenet I never can remember
her other name. But no matter, she's a very nice girl,
I tell you, mamma ; I am sure that you will like her too.
I am going to call her, to show her to you. She's very
shy, that is why she hasn't come to pay her respects to
" Mon Dieu ! my dear love, I have plenty of time to
see your maid; there is no hurry about it."
" Oh, yes ! I want you to see her right away, mamma."
Ernestine rang a bell; in a moment the door opened
and Louise appeared in the doorway, timid and with
" Did madame ring for me ? " she murmured.
Madame de Noirmont scrutinized the girl, whom she
then saw for the first time ; she was struck by her beauty,
by the dignified expression of her features, by her modest
and reserved demeanor, by her whole aspect, which was
294 THE BASHFUL LOVER
not what one ordinarily sees in a lady's maid. She
could not tire of looking at her.
Ernestine leaned toward her mother and whispered:
" Well! what do you think of her? "
" Lovely, my child, lovely ; she has an air of distinc-
tion too; no one would think that she was a servant."
" I didn't flatter her, did I ? Mamma thinks that you
are lovely, Louise," continued the girl ; " she likes you
too. I told you that she would like you."
Louise made a curtsy and murmured:
" Madame is very kind ; I will do my best to satisfy
her, and mademoiselle too."
" I don't doubt it, my child," replied Madame de Noir-
mont ; " everything prepossesses me in your favor, and
I am convinced that my daughter is not mistaken in all
the good that she has told me of you."
While Ernestine's mother was speaking, Louise raised
her eyes and looked at her. At sight of that beautiful,
noble and stern face, of that pale and haughty brow, of
those great black eyes wherein one could always detect a
melancholy expression, the girl felt deeply moved and
impressed ; her heart beat violently, whether with pleas-
ure or fear she did not know; she could not define her
feelings, but she did not speak or move. For some mo-
ments after Madame de Noirmont ceased speaking, she
continued to listen ; they motioned to her that she might
retire, and she remained. At last Ernestine had to touch
her arm and say : " You may leave us, Louise," before
she came to herself and left the room, casting a last
furtive glance at Madame de Noirmont.
After a few more words concerning the new lady's
maid, Madame de Noirmont turned all her attention to
taking up the threads of her usual domestic occupations,
and to superintending her daughter's education and her
A FAMIL Y INTERIOR 295
studies with the different teachers who came to the house
to give her lessons.
Madame de Noirmont's life was very regular; she
rarely went out and received few visits; she devoted
herself to her daughter, overlooked her studies and read
a great deal: that was her greatest pleasure, her most
agreeable means of distraction.
Monsieur de Noirmont passed the whole day in his
study; his wife and daughter saw little of him before
dinner. At that repast they met, and not infrequently
some old friend of Monsieur de Noirmont dined with
them, but they very rarely had more than one guest.
During dinner Madame de Noirmont talked very little,
while her husband discussed politics or economic matters
with his guest. Ernestine alone did anything to enliven
the party. She succeeded very well; her childish sallies
and observations often made her mother smile ; and even
Monsieur de Noirmont, despite his gravity, could not
always keep a sober face. In the evening, the ladies
worked, made tapestry, or sang, and the men played chess
or backgammon. When there were no guests at dinner,
Monsieur de Noirmont often went out in the evening to
some party or reception; sometimes his wife and
daughter accompanied him, but rarely. Madame de Noir-
mont preferred to remain at home with Ernestine; and
when her husband was not there, she seemed less serious,
less pensive, and she manifested her affection for Ernes-
tine more freely.
Louise's duties were very pleasant in that family, where
the ladies did not go to balls and received very little
company. Comtois alone waited at table. The young
lady's maid assisted the ladies to dress; then, during
almost all the remainder of the day, she worked in her
room, making dresses for mademoiselle or keeping the
20 THE BASHFUL LOVER
linen of the household in order. In the evening, she
served at tea, then looked to it that her mistresses had
everything in their room that they required. This was
not very wearisome, and Louise sometimes told Ernestine
that they did not give her enough work to do; but the
girl would reply, with a smile:
" What makes you work so fast ? We no sooner give
you a piece of sewing to do than it is done. Mamma says
that your activity and skill are most unusual. Other
lady's maids don't work so fast, I promise you ! "
Louise felt a thrill of pleasure whenever she was told
that Madame de Noirmont was pleased with her. And
although that lady always preserved a grave and serious
manner with her servants, which made the slightest ap-
proach to familiarity impossible, she felt drawn to love
her, and it seemed to her that it would be a source of
deep grief to her if she should now be compelled to
Meanwhile three months had passed since she came to
Paris, and she had not once seen Cherubin. But since
Madame de Noirmont's return, Louise, engrossed by the
desire to please her, had felt her love-pangs less sharply ;
although she still loved her old playmate as dearly as
ever, another sentiment had glided into her heart, to
distract her thoughts from her troubles.
Monsieur Gerondif had called several times to inquire
of Comtois what Louise's employers thought of her, and
each time the old servant put forth all his eloquence in
praise of the young lady's maid and begged the professor
to thank old Jasmin for the present he had sent them.
Monsieur Gerondif went away overjoyed that he had
brought Louise to Paris, although Cherubin, entirely ab-
sorbed by his bonnes fortunes, had forgotten about going
to see Nicole.
A FAMILY INTERIOR 297
One morning, when Monsieur Gerondif called at Mon-
sieur de Noirmont's to ask Comtois if they were still
content with Louise, the valet replied :
" Yes, indeed ; Mademoiselle Louise is a model of
virtue and industry. If you would like to see her, mon-
sieur, she is alone at this moment; the ladies have gone
out to do some shopping. She is working in her room,
and there is no reason why you should not go up and bid
Monsieur Gerondif joyfully accepted the proposition;
he followed Comtois, who led him to Louise's chamber
and left him with her.
Louise manifested the keenest delight at sight of the
tutor, for she would have an opportunity to talk with him
about all those who were dear to her. Monsieur Gerondif,
who was, like most pedants, a conceited fool, took to
himself a pleasure of which he was the pretext simply;
he believed that he had kindled a tender sentiment in the
breast of the pretty lady's maid, and he smiled as
if he would dislocate his jaw as he took his seat beside
Louise began by inquiring for her adopted mother.
" She is perfectly well, and she is overjoyed that you
are in such a fine position in Paris," replied the tutor,
lying with imperturbable coolness; for he had not been
to the village since Louise left it.
" And Monsieur Cherubin ? " continued Louise, " is he
pleased to know that I am in Paris as he wished ? Hasn't
he any desire to see me? Doesn't he ever speak to you
about me ? Did he send you here to-day ? "
The tutor scratched his nose, coughed, spat, wiped
his forehead, all of which operations required much time
with him, during which he considered what he should say.
Having made up his mind at last, he said to Louise :
298 THE BASHFUL LOVER
" My dear child, it rarely happens that childish loves
come to a good end. I might cite Paul and Virginie
and a thousand other examples ad hoc; I prefer to tell
you ex abrupto which means, without preamble that
you are making a mistake to give any further thought to
Monsieur le Marquis de Grandvilain, because that young
man never gives a thought to you. In the first place,
when you came to see him at his house when you came
to Paris with Nicole "
" Well, the young marquis was at home ; but as he
didn't want to see you, he gave his concierge orders to
tell you that he was away."
" O mon Dieu ! is it possible ? "
"Amid the debauchery in which he is plunged, how
do you expect him to remember a young country girl
with whom he used to play puss-in-the-corner, and other
more or less innocent games? He has become a great
rake, has my pupil; he has a lot of mistresses. It isn't
my fault. He receives so many billets-doux that it's per-
fectly scandalous, and I should have left his house before
this if my financial interests did not oblige me to close
my eyes, which however, does not prevent my seeing
Louise put her handkerchief to her eyes and faltered:
" So it's all over he doesn't love me at all ! Who
would have believed it of Cherubin ? "
" One must believe everything, expect everything from
a beardless youth," replied the tutor.
Then, drawing his chair close to the girl's, and laying
his hand on her knee, Monsieur Gerondif tried to assume
a mellifluous voice and began, weighing his words :
" I have made the wound, and it is for me to apply the
balsam, otherwise called the remedy. Lovely Louise,
A FAMILY INTERIOR 299
although young Cherubin has not been true to your
charms, there are others who will be too happy to offer
incense to them, to cultivate them. I go straight to the
point: I love you, divine maiden! and I am not fickle,
because, thank heaven, I am a grown man. I have not
come to make any base propositions to you retro, Sa-
tanasl which means: I have only honorable views. I
offer you my hand, my heart, my name, my rank and
my title; but we will wait two years before we marry.
I will try to restrain my passions for that length of time,
which I require in order to amass a tidy sum of money.
You will contribute your wages, your savings ; they are
much pleased with you here, and it is probable that you
will receive a handsome present at New Year's. We will
put it all together and buy a little house in the outskirts
of Paris; I will take a few pupils to keep my hand in;
we will have a dog, a cat, chickens, all the pleasant things
of life, and our days will be blended of honey and hip-
During this harangue, Louise had pushed away the
hand that Monsieur Gerondif had laid on her knee, and
had moved her chair away; and as soon as he had fin-
ished speaking, she rose and said to him in a courteous
but determined tone :
" I thank you, monsieur, for condescending to offer
me, a poor village girl, without name or family, the title
of your wife ; but I cannot accept it. Monsieur Cherubin
no longer loves me; I can understand that, monsieur,
and indeed I was mad to imagine that, in Paris, in the
midst of pleasures, living in the whirl of society, he would
remember me. But it is altogether different with me ! I
have not become a great lady, and the image of the man
I love can never be effaced from my heart. I love
Cherubin; I feel that I shall never love anybody else!
300 THE BASHFUL LOVER
So, monsieur, it would be very wicked of me to marry
another man, as I could not give that other my love."
Monsieur Gerondif was greatly surprised by this
speech; he recovered himself, however, and replied:
" My sweet Louise, varium et niutabile semper femina;
or, if you prefer : ' souvent femme varie, bien fol est qui
s'y fie.' Woman changes ever; he is a great fool who
trusts her. The latter lines are by Frangois I ; I prefer
Beranger's. Tiresias declares that men have only three
ounces of love, while women have nine, which enables
them to change oftener than we do; and yet, with only
three ounces, we do pretty well."
" What does all this mean, monsieur ? "
" It means, my dear love, that you will do like the
others: you will change; your love will pass away."
" Never, monsieur."
" Never is a word that means nothing at all in love.
However, you will have plenty of time to think about it,
as I give you two years for reflection. Until then, allow
me to hope."
" Oh ! it is useless, monsieur."
" I beg pardon ; by hoping one lives content, and I
cling to my hope. Adieu, fair Louise; continue to be-
have becomingly; your remuneration will be increased
doubtless, and I shall continue to put mine aside; and,
as a very trivial but very shrewd popular proverb says:
' Let's let the mutton boil ! ' I lay my homage at your
Monsieur Gerondif took his leave, and Louise was
at liberty to weep without restraint. She did not bestow
a thought on the tutor's offers, she thought only of
Cherubin, who no longer loved her, who had ceased to
think of her, and who had mistresses. She had been
afraid for a long time that he had forgotten her; but
A FAMILY INTERIOR 301
now she was certain of it, and it is a far cry from fear
to certainty, in love.
The return of Madame de Noirmont and her daughter
forced Louise to conceal her tears. She hastily wiped
her eyes and tried to dissemble her depression, for she
felt that she must not betray the secret of her heart.
On that day Monsieur de Noirmont went out after
dinner. Ernestine remained with her mother, to whom,
as they worked, she said whatever came into her head,
especially as she saw that it was one of her moments of
good humor. When Madame de Noirmont smiled at her
daughter's speeches, the latter was so delighted that she
often laid her work aside to throw her arms about her
mother's neck, who sometimes held her lovingly to her
heart for some moments.
Louise, for whom they rang to order tea, entered the
salon at one of the times when Madame de Noirmont's
arms were about her daughter; and the sweet child, in
her joy at being so fondled, cried out:
" See how happy I am, Louise ! see what a dear, good
mother I have ! "
Louise stood still in the middle of the salon ; she was
glad for Ernestine's happiness, and yet, in the touching
picture before her eyes, there was something that hurt
her, she did not understand why. Two great tears
escaped from her eyes; but she turned quickly, so that
they might not see her weeping.
Meanwhile Madame de Noirmont had resumed her
grave demeanor, and Ernestine had had to return to
her seat. Louise served the tea as quickly as possible, then
left the room, fearing that her sadness would be noticed.
Despite all her efforts to be calm, Louise was still cry-
ing when Ernestine entered her room to ask her some
question, before going to bed. Seeing that Louise's face
302 THE BASHFUL LOVER
was wet with tears, her young mistress ran to her, and
said with the most touching interest:
" Mon Dieu ! crying, Louise ! What's the matter ? "
" Oh ! excuse me, mademoiselle. I know that I should
not weep here, where everyone is so kind to me; but I
could not help it ! "
" Have you some reason for being unhappy ? You
would not cry like this for nothing. Louise, I insist
on knowing why you were crying."
" Well, mademoiselle, it is because, when I saw you
in your mother's arms to-night, the picture of the hap-
piness you enjoy made me feel more keenly than ever
the misery of my position. Oh ! mademoiselle, it isn't
envy that makes me say it! I bless Heaven for making
you so happy; but I could not help crying when I re-
membered that my mother never kissed me, that I shall
never be able to throw my arms about her ! "
" What's that you say, my poor Louise ? Doesn't
your mother love you ? "
" It isn't that, mademoiselle. But listen, I am going
to tell you the truth, for I don't know how to lie. And
then, I don't understand why I should make a mystery of
it; you won't be any less kind to me when you know
that I am a poor girl, abandoned by her parents."
" Is it possible ? you haven't any parents ? "
" At all events, mademoiselle, I don't know them."
Thereupon Louise proceeded to tell Ernestine the story
of how Nicole had been employed to take care of her,
and of the kindness of the village people, who had kept
her and treated her like their daughter, when they found
that she was abandoned by her mother.
Ernestine listened to the story with the deepest interest.
When Louise had ceased to speak, she kissed her affec-
A FAMIL Y INTERIOR 303
" Poor Louise ! Oh ! how glad I am you have told
me that ! It seems to me that I love you even more since
I know that your parents have abandoned you. And
that dear, good Nicole ! those kind peasants ! Ah ! what
splendid people they are ! I will tell mamma all about it
to-morrow ! I am sure that it will interest her too."
" Oh ! that isn't worth while, mademoiselle ; Madame
de Noirmont may not like it because I have told you about
" I assure you, on the contrary, that, for all her
serious manner, mamma is kind and good; and, besides,
she likes you very much. She has said to me several
times that your manners were just what they should be,
and that is great praise from her, I tell you! Well,
good-night, Louise, sleep soundly, and don't cry any
more. If you haven't any parents, you have some people
here who love you dearly and who will take good care
Ernestine left Louise, to go to bed, and the latter felt
less unhappy when she saw her young mistress's affection
for her an affection which she shared with all the sin-
cerity of her soul.
The next morning the Noirmont family met at the
breakfast table. Ernestine had not seen her mother since
the preceding night, because a headache had kept Ma-
dame de Noirmont in bed later than usual; but her
father, who rarely appeared at breakfast, had just taken
his seat, when Ernestine, after kissing her mother, said
in a mysterious tone:
" I have something very interesting to tell you this
morning, and I am glad papa came to breakfast, to hear
what I am going to say."
" Really ? " said Monsieur de Noirmont, smiling, and
in a tone of mild raillery. " From the way in which you
304 THE BASHFUL LOVER
say that, I imagine that it must really be something most
" Why, yes, papa, it's very serious ! Oh ! you look as
if you were laughing at me, but when you know what
it is, I'll bet that you will be as touched as I was last
night when I found poor Louise crying ! "
" What ! is it something about Louise ? " asked Ma-
dame de Noirmont, with an air of deep interest ; " can it
be that anything has gone wrong with her? I should
be extremely sorry, for the girl is a very good girl in-
deed, and seems to deserve our kindness."
" This is what it is ; listen. Louise didn't want me
to tell you; but I am very sure that you won't blame
her for it; it isn't her fault."
Monsieur de Noirmont, whose interest was aroused by
this exordium, said impatiently:
" Come, my child, go on, explain yourself."
" Well, papa, last evening, when Louise came to the
salon to serve the tea, she found me in mamma's arms,
and we were kissing each other."
" That is well, my daughter ; what next ? "
" At night, when I went up to bed, as I couldn't find
a fichu that I wanted, I went to Louise's room to ask her
where she had put it. I found her crying hard, and I
asked her why she was crying. She replied, sobbing:
' Oh ! mademoiselle, because, when I saw you in your
mother's arms to-night, I felt more keenly than ever my
misfortune in never having been kissed by my mother,
and in being only an abandoned child.' "
" An abandoned child ! " murmured Madame de Noir-
mont, whose face instantly became deathly pale.
" But," said Monsieur de Noirmont, " if I am not mis-
taken, Comtois told us that the girl's parents lived in the
outskirts of Paris I don't remember in what village."
A FAMILY INTERIOR 305
" Yes, papa, that is what Comtois was told when
Louise was brought here; but that was a lie that her
friends thought they ought to tell. Louise thought it
was better to tell the truth."
" She is right. But call your maid, Ernestine ; I want
to hear the whole story from her own lips. It has roused
my curiosity. And you, madame are not you curious
to hear this girl's story ? "
Madame de Noirmont replied with a few almost unin-
telligible words ; it was as if she were oppressed by some
secret suffering, which she was doing her utmost to con-
Meanwhile, Ernestine had not waited for her father
to repeat his request ; she had run off to call Louise, who
soon appeared before the assembled family.
Monsieur de Noirmont looked at her with more inter-
est than he had previously displayed; Ernestine smiled
at her affectionately ; Madame de Noirmont lowered her
eyes and became paler than ever. From the disquietude
that had taken possession of her, from the anxiety that
could be read upon her features, one would have taken
her for a criminal awaiting judgment.
" Come, Louise, come nearer," said Monsieur de Noir-
mont, motioning to her ; " my daughter has told us of
what you told her last evening. Do not tremble, my
child ; we shall not reproach you for telling us what was
not true when you entered our service."
" Oh ! it was not I, monsieur ! " murmured Louise.
" I know it, it was the person who obtained the situa-
tion for you, who thought it his duty to tell that false-
hood. So you do not know your parents, my poor girl ? "
" No, monsieur."
" Where were you brought up ? "
" At Gagny, monsieur."
306 THE BASHFUL LOVER
" At Gagny. Ah ! that's it ; I had forgotten the name
of the village that you told me when you came here.
And the people who brought you up?"
" A kindhearted peasant woman, Nicole Frimousset.
She was nursing Monsieur Cherubin de Grandvilain at
" Indeed ! so this woman was the young Marquis de
Grandvilain's nurse ? "
" Yes, monsieur, he is my foster-brother, and in my
childhood we played together all the time."
" Very good ! But that doesn't tell us how you went
" Mon Dieu ! monsieur, it was a lady my mother,
I suppose who carried me to dear Nicole's, and begged
her to take me to nurse. I was then a year old ; she left
some money with Nicole and went away, saying that she
would come again. The next year she sent a little more
money by a messenger from Paris ; but she didn't come
to see me, and no one ever after came to inquire for me."
" But what was the lady's name ; where did she live ? "
" Nicole didn't think to ask her any of those questions ;
for she could not dream that she would abandon me,
that she would never come again. The messenger from
Paris did not know who the lady was who hired him
on the street, he could not tell my good nurse anything."
" But was no paper, no mark found on you or on
your clothing ? "
" Nothing, monsieur, absolutely nothing."
" That is very strange. Don't you agree with me,
madame ? "
As he asked this question Monsieur de Noirmont
turned to his wife, whom he had not looked at while
questioning Louise; Ernestine, whose eyes followed her
father's, uttered a piercing shriek.
A FAMIL Y INTERIOR 307
" Oh dear ! " she cried, " mamma has fainted ! "
Madame de Noirmont's head had fallen against the
back of her chair; she had in fact lost consciousness,
and the livid pallor of her face made her condition seem
They hastened to her assistance; Ernestine wept and
lamented as she kissed her mother again and again.
Louise shared her distress; she lost her head, did not