He saw Mademoiselle Modeste at the time when he was staying with the Vilquins, and he regretted then as his notary, who came from Bayeux yesterday, tells me that she was not rich enough for him; for his father recovered nothing but the estate of Herouville on his return to France, and that is saddled with a sister. The young duke is thirty-three years old.
Friends of the Vilquins expressed surprise that the mother and daughter were willing to live on among the scenes of their former splendor. From her open window behind the closed blinds Modeste sometimes heard such insolence as this: "I am sure I can't think how they can live there," some one would say as he paced the villa lawn, perhaps to assist Vilquin in getting rid of his tenant.
You have not six millions. There is no concealment possible in Havre for a young lady who possesses such a fortune; you would be discovered at once by the pack of hounds of great families whom I see in Paris on the hunt after heiresses, and who have already sent one, the grand equerry, the young duke, among the Vilquins.
And there he remained, in Vilquin's pocket as it were; at the heart of Vilquin's family life, observing Vilquin, irritating Vilquin, in short, the gadfly of all the Vilquins.
She accepted his flowers and all the little proofs of tenderness with which it is proper to surround the lady of our choice; she even worked him a purse, believing in such ties, strong indeed to noble souls, but cobwebs for the Gobenheims, the Vilquins, and the Althors.
The grand equerry, a fair young man with blue eyes and a pallid face, was not without a certain dignity of thought; but his thin, undersized figure, and the follies of his aunt who had taken him to the Vilquins and elsewhere to pay his court, rendered him extremely diffident.
The high ambitions of her heart hidden within these romances were the real explanation of the prudent conduct which the good people who watched over Modeste so much admired; they might have brought her any number of young Althors or Vilquins, and she would never have stooped to such clowns.
Modeste had seen the duke during his fruitless visit to the Vilquins, and many of these reflections passed through her mind as she watched him come and go. But under the circumstances in which she now found herself, she saw plainly that the courtship of the Duc d'Herouville would save her from being at the mercy of either Canalis.
Some time during the spring which followed the removal of Madame Mignon and her daughter to the Chalet, Francisque Althor came to dine with the Vilquins. Happening to see Modeste over the wall at the foot of the lawn, he turned away his head. Six weeks later he married the eldest Mademoiselle Vilquin.
The last words were aimed at the Vilquins, with whom they had not been able to come to terms, after incurring the humiliation of staying in that bourgeois household.