He was from that time forward very discreet as regards the visits he paid her, and did not ask for any more definite consent on her part, for she had a way of speaking of the future, of saying "by-and-by," and of shaping plans in which these two lives were blended, which answered him better and more delicately than a formal acceptation.
Duroy worked hard and spent little, trying to save money so as not to be without a penny at the date fixed for his marriage, and becoming as close as he had been prodigal.
The summer went by, and then the autumn, without anyone suspecting anything, for they met very little, and only in the most natural way in the world.
One evening, Madeleine, looking him straight in the eyes said:
"You have not yet announced our intentions to Madame de Marelle?"
"No, dear, having promised you to be secret, I have not opened my mouth to a living soul."
"Well, it is about time to tell her.
I will undertake to inform the Walters.
You will do so this week, will you not?"
He blushed as he said: "Yes, to-morrow."
She had turned away her eyes in order not to notice his confusion, and said: "If you like we will be married in the beginning of May.
That will be a very good time."
"I obey you in all things with joy."
"The tenth of May, which is a Saturday, will suit me very nicely, for it is my birthday."
"Very well, the tenth of May."
"Your parents live near Rouen, do they not?
You have told me so, at least."
"Yes, near Rouen, at Canteleu."
"What are they?"
"They are--they are small annuitants."
I should very much like to know them."
He hesitated, greatly perplexed, and said:
"But, you see, they are--" Then making up his mind, like a really clever man, he went on:
"My dear, they are mere country folk, innkeepers, who have pinched themselves to the utmost to enable me to pursue my studies.
For my part, I am not ashamed of them, but their--simplicity--their rustic manners--might, perhaps, render you uncomfortable."
She smiled, delightfully, her face lit up with gentle kindness as she replied:
I shall be very fond of them.
We will go and see them.
I want to.
I will speak of this to you again.
I, too, am a daughter of poor people, but I have lost my parents.
I have no longer anyone in the world." She held out her hand to him as she added: "But you."
He felt softened, moved, overcome, as he had been by no other woman.
"I had thought about one matter," she continued, "but it is rather difficult to explain."
"What is it?" he asked.
"Well, it is this, my dear boy, I am like all women, I have my weaknesses, my pettinesses. I love all that glitters, that catches the ear.
I should have so delighted to have borne a noble name.
Could you not, on the occasion of your marriage, ennoble yourself a little?"
She had blushed in her turn, as if she had proposed something indelicate.
He replied simply enough: "I have often thought about it, but it did not seem to me so easy."
He began to laugh, saying:
"Because I was afraid of making myself look ridiculous."
She shrugged her shoulders.
"Not at all, not at all Every one does it, and nobody laughs.
Separate your name in two--Du Roy.
That looks very well."
He replied at once like a man who understands the matter in question: "No, that will not do at all. It is too simple, too common, too well-known.