She said this in such a tone, that the light suddenly flashed upon Mme. Favoral's mind.
"Heavens!" she murmured. "Gilberte, my darling child, have you then a secret which your mother does not know?"
Yes, Mlle. Gilberte had her secret - a very simple one, though, chaste, like herself, and one of those which, as the old women say, must cause the angels to rejoice.
The spring of that year having been unusually mild, Mlle. Favoral and her daughter had taken the habit of going daily to breathe the fresh air in the Place Royale. They took their work with them, crotchet or knitting; so that this salutary exercise did not in any way diminish the earnings of the week. It was during these walks that Mlle. Gilberte had at last noticed a young man, unknown to her, whom she met every day at the same place.
Tall and robust, he had a grand look, notwithstanding his modest clothes, the exquisite neatness of which betrayed a sort of respectable poverty. He wore his full beard; and his proud and intelligent features were lighted up by a pair of large black eyes, of those eyes whose straight and clear look disconcerts hypocrites and knaves.
He never failed, as he passed by Mlle. Gilberte, to look down, or turn his head slightly away; and in spite of this, in spite of the expression of respect which she had detected upon his face, she could not help blushing.
"Which is absurd," she thought; "for after all, what on earth do I care for that young man?"
The infallible instinct, which is the experience of inexperienced young girls, told her that it was not chance alone that brought this stranger in her way. But she wished to make sure of it. She managed so well, that each day of the following week, the hour of their walk was changed. Sometimes they went out at noon, sometimes after four o'clock.