‘I love my things,’ said Mr Rosier as he sat there flushed with all his recognitions. ‘But it’s not about them, nor about yours, that I came to talk to you.’ He paused a moment and then, with greater softness: ‘I care more for Miss Osmond than for all the bibelots in Europe!’

Madame Merle opened wide eyes. ‘Did you come to tell me that?’

‘I came to ask your advice.’

She looked at him with a friendly frown, stroking her chin with her large white hand. ‘A man in love, you know, doesn’t ask advice.’

‘Why not, if he’s in a difficult position? That’s often the case with a man in love. I’ve been in love before, and I know. But never so much as this time—really never so much. I should like particularly to know what you think of my prospects. I’m afraid that for Mr Osmond I’m not—well, a real collector’s piece.’

‘Do you wish me to intercede?’ Madame Merle asked with her fine arms folded and her handsome mouth drawn up to the left.

‘If you could say a good word for me I should be greatly obliged. There will be no use in my troubling Miss Osmond unless I have good reason to believe her father will consent.’

‘You’re very considerate; that’s in your favour. But you assume in rather an off-hand way that I think you a prize.’

‘You’ve been very kind to me,’ said the young man. ‘That’s why I came.’

‘I’m always kind to people who have good Louis Quatorze. It’s very rare now, and there’s no telling what one may get by it.’ With which the left-hand corner of Madame Merle’s mouth gave expression to the joke.

But he looked, in spite of it, literally apprehensive and consistently strenuous. ‘Ah, I thought you liked me for myself!’

‘I like you very much; but, if you please, we won’t analyse. Pardon me if I seem patronizing, but I think you a perfect little gentleman. I must tell you, however, that I’ve not the marrying of Pansy Osmond.’

‘I didn’t suppose that. But you’ve seemed to me intimate with her family, and I thought you might have influence.’

Madame Merle considered. ‘Whom do you call her family?’

‘Why, her father; and—how do you say it in English?—her belle-mère.’2

‘Mr Osmond’s her father, certainly; but his wife can scarcely be termed a member of her family. Mrs Osmond has nothing to do with marrying her.’

‘I’m sorry for that,’ said Rosier with an amiable sigh of good faith. ‘I think Mrs Osmond would favour me.’

‘Very likely—if her husband doesn’t.’

He raised his eyebrows. ‘Does she take the opposite line from him?’

‘In everything. They think quite differently.’

‘Well,’ said Rosier, ‘I’m sorry for that; but it’s none of my business. She’s very fond of Pansy.’

‘Yes, she’s very fond of Pansy.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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