Paul de Kock
THE FLOWER GIRL
THE JEFFERSON PRESS
BOSTON NEW YORK
Copyrighted, 1903-1904, by G. B. & Sons.
THE FLOWER GIRL
OF THE CHÂTEAU D'EAU
XXIV, XXV, XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX, XXX, XXXI, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXIV, XXXV, XXXVI, XXXVII, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XL, XLI, XLII, XLIII, XLIV, XLV
HOW IT HAPPENED
"I had fallen madly in love with Mademoiselle Lucienne Courtenay; you know as well as I that her beauty and her charm attracted every eye. I paid my addresses to her, she welcomed my homage. In short, I believed that she loved me as dearly as I loved her, and we were married.
"During the first year of our union, I was happy; but I began at last to discover that my wife was not, as I thought, a model of affection and sensibility. Lucienne was coquettish, extremely coquettish; accustomed very early to being flattered because of her beauty, she must needs always be surrounded with homage, with compliments, with admirers! Dress was her principal, I might even say her only, occupation. Amiable and playful when she had her little court about her, my wife yawned and was bored when we were alone. If I spoke to her of my love, she would reply by inquiring about some new fashion. Ah! Monsieur de Merval, if coquetry amuses and fascinates in a mistress, it becomes very dangerous in a wife, especially if a man is jealous, and I was.
"The second year of my marriage passed, and I had already ceased to be happy; my wife desired to pass her life in parties, dissipation, balls; if I ventured to remonstrate, if I seemed disposed to decline an invitation, she would make a scene, she would call me a tyrant! You may imagine that I always ended by giving way; when one is in love, one is very weak, and I was still in love with my wife; I did everything to please her; I said to myself: 'Her taste for dissipation will pass! With time she will become more sensible, and she will give a little more thought to her husband.'
"My greatest grief at that time was that I was not a father; I prayed constantly that Lucienne might give me a pledge of her love, but my prayers were not granted. Ah! many times since then, monsieur, I have thanked God because He did not listen to me; for it is a great misfortune to have children when one cannot set them the example of domestic peace and virtue!"
Here Monsieur de Merval turned his head away, with a singular expression; but the count, paying no heed, continued:
"Now I must mention a person whom you knew, De Roncherolle, with whom I was very intimate. We had been close friends at school. Roncherolle was a very handsome gallant, and his unfailingly high spirits, his effervescent, although slightly satirical wit, fascinated almost everybody who knew him. We had lost sight of each other on leaving school; when I met him again, after nine or ten years, he was a man of fashion, famous for his gallant adventures, for his success with the ladies. He was still as jovial and clever as before; his tendency to mockery often involved him in difficulty, but, being as brave as he was sarcastic, he had already fought several duels in which he had borne himself most honorably. He seemed so glad to see me again, and manifested so much affection for me, that I did not hesitate to give him mine, and we soon became inseparable. But there was a great difference in our dispositions, in our characters. Roncherolle made fun of everything; he often laughed at or turned to ridicule the most venerated customs, the sentiments most worthy of respect, and we sometimes had lively altercations on that subject; but Roncherolle always brought them to a close by some jocose remark, by some repartee so original, that it was impossible to take anything seriously with him.
"When I married, Roncherolle naturally became one of the habitués of my house; you will be surprised perhaps to learn that with my jealous temperament, I introduced into my domestic circle a fascinating man, especially renowned for his conquests; but I believed