Paul was very much afraid that his sister had some inkling of the intended surprise. He said that if no men tion was made of the house, which had been talked so much of- before the war, in the letters written to Madame Marie, the very silence might appear to her suspicious.
"He is right,"said Madame de Gandelau."If Marie asks us what has become of the project and of the pro gramme she sent, if she asks us how we have been occupied during the past year, we shall be obliged to prevaricate considerably. We shall contradict each other, and I really am rather averse to anything of the sort. We shall not be able to keep up a mystification for two or three hours to gether. Besides, Lucie is sure to let out the secret." "Oh, no !"said Lucie;"I shall say nothing, you may be quite sure." "Your eyes will speak for you, my dear child. But I will manage the matter. Leave me alone for a few moments with Marie. I will tell her that Paul, for the sake of some occupation during his over long holiday, has been building a small house, with his cousin's assistance. I shall allow her to suppose it to be a mere schoolboy's fancy. She will think it is only done for amusement - a little building model, cleverly constructed. We can then talk to her about it without embarrassment, in a jocular way. Then after dinner we will propose to her to go and see Paul's house." And so matters were arranged.
Paul slept but little during this night, though he had started very early from Paris, and hid been using - in fact, over-using - his legs all day.
The i9th of May, 1872, at 9.40, Monsieur and Madame N - were getting out of the train at X--- Station, where Monsieur de Gandelau was awaiting them with a new chaise. Twenty minutes after they were entering the court of the chateau. We need not dwell upon the em braces, the transport mingled with tears, that occupied the first minutes of their return.
Madame de Gandelau had arranged their rooms with all possible care, as if they were going to make a long stay at the chateau.
Of course the mother.thought her daughter improved; Madame Marie considered Paul grown - almost a man, in fact, and Mademoiselle Lucie almost a young woman.
Thanks to Madame de Gandelau, Paul's house was referred to during breakfast only as a matter of no im portance. The adventures of travel and the war were talked of. After nearly 'two years' absence subjects of conversation could not be wanting. But Paul was agi tated and absent. His sister remarked it. Paul blushed
up to his very eyes.
"I think Paul has some scheme in his head,"said M. N - .
Monsieur and Madame de Gandelau looked at each other, smiling.
"What is in the wind, then,"said Madame Marie;"a conspiracy?" "Perhaps,"replied Madame de Gandelau;"but let us allow him the pleasure of carrying it out." "Conspire, dearest mother ! I will help you with all my heart,"said Madame de N - , with a smile that expressed archness as well as affection.
They could say nothing for the moment of the projected excursion, for they were on the point of betraying them selves. Madame de Gandelau wished her daughter to take some rest after her journey. M. N-- asked leave to despatch some letters that required immediate attention, and silence reigned again in the dui/eau. The day was hot, and nothing was heard but the buzzing of insects on the lawns. Paul, however, could not keep quiet.
"You are not a diplomatist yet,"his cousin said to him."Do, my dear fellow, remain still. There's nobody but you stirring in the house. You will let out the secret if you go on in this way. Go to your room, take a book - a dull one; you will get to sleep, and the time will pass away." "But what about all the people who have been invited and are waiting down at the house?" "Ah ! - yes - true. Well, mount your pony, go to the house and tell all the guests to admire the wonders of the new domain and to have patience. Say that Madame Marie is a little fatigued, and that she will not be able to have the pleasure of meeting them till the afternoon. Then return." Paul did not allow this to be repeated, so impossible did rest seem to him. He would have given at this moment ten years of his life to make his sister resolve to get into the carriage.
It is impossible to say what the pony thought of the pace Paul made him go, at a temperature of 770 Fahr. in the shade. He arrived in a foam at the new house, so that most of the persons already assembled suspected that some accident had happened. When Paul, quite out of breath, told them that Madame Marie had put off her visit for an hour or two because she wanted rest, they exclaimed, "If it is only that, there's no need of any great hurry; it is quite natural she should need rest after so long a journey." Then everyone wanted to hear news of the travellers, and then they asked Paul to see this and that. Paul was in a fever.