“Dear old Tim” (short for Timon),—“I am off, you see—gone like a shot. Alfred and I intended to be married in this way almost from the first; we never meant to be spliced in the humdrum way of other people. Alfred has too much spirit for that, and so have I—Dieu merci! Do you know, Alfred, who used to call you ‘the dragon,’ has seen so much of you during the last few months that he begins to feel quite friendly towards you. He hopes you won’t miss him, now that he has gone; he begs to apologize for any little trouble he may have given you. He is afraid he rather inconvenienced you once when he came upon you in the grenier, just as you were reading a letter seemingly of the most special interest; but he could not resist the temptation to give you a start, you appeared so wonderfully taken up with your correspondent. En revanche, he says you once frightened him by rushing in for a dress or a shawl, or some other chiffon, at the moment when he had struck a light, and was going to take a quiet whiff of his cigar while waiting for me.

“Do you begin to comprehend by this time that M. le Comte de Hamal was the nun of the attic, and that he came to see your humble servant? I will tell you how he managed it. You know he has the entrée of the Athénée, where two or three of his nephews, the sons of his eldest sister, Madame de Melcy, are students. You know the court of the Athénée is on the other side of the high wall bounding your walk, the allée défendue. Alfred can climb as well as he can dance or fence. His amusement was to make the escalade of our pensionnat by mounting, first, the wall; then—by the aid of that high tree overspreading the grand berceau, and resting some of its boughs on the roof of the lower buildings of our premises—he managed to scale the first classe and the grande salle. One night, by the way, he fell out of this tree, tore down some of the branches, nearly broke his own neck, and after all, in running away, got a terrible fright, and was nearly caught by two people, Madame Beck and M. Emanuel, he thinks, walking in the alley. From the grande salle the ascent is not difficult to the highest block of building, finishing in the great garret. The skylight, you know, is, day and night, left half open for air; by the skylight he entered. Nearly a year ago I chanced to tell him our legend of the nun. That suggested his romantic idea of the spectral disguise, which I think you must allow he has very cleverly carried out.

“But for the nun’s black gown and white veil he would have been caught again and again both by you and that tiger-Jesuit M. Paul. He thinks you both capital ghost-seers, and very brave. What I wonder at is rather your secretiveness than your courage. How could you endure the visitations of that long spectre, time after time, without crying out, telling everybody, and rousing the whole house and neighbourhood?

“Oh, and how did you like the nun as a bedfellow? I dressed her up. Didn’t I do it well? Did you shriek when you saw her? I should have gone mad; but then you have such nerves—real iron and bend leather! I believe you feel nothing. You haven’t the same sensitiveness that a person of my constitution has. You seem to me insensible both to pain and fear and grief. You are a real old Diogenes.

“Well, dear grandmother, and are you not mightily angry at my moonlight flitting and runaway match? I assure you it is excellent fun, and I did it partly to spite that minx Paulina, and that bear Dr. John—to show them that, with all their airs, I could get married as well as they. M. de Bassompierre was at first in a strange fume with Alfred; he threatened a prosecution for détournement de mineur, and I know not what. He was so abominably in earnest that I found myself forced to do a little bit of the melodramatic—go down on my knees, sob, cry, drench three pocket-handkerchiefs. Of course mon oncle soon gave in; indeed, where was the use of making a fuss? I am married, and that’s all about it. He still says our marriage is not legal, because I am not of age, forsooth! As if that made any difference! I am just as much married as if I were a hundred. However, we are to be married again, and I am to have a trousseau, and Mrs. Cholmondeley is going to superintend it; and there are some hopes that M. de Bassompierre will give me a decent portion, which will be very convenient, as dear Alfred has nothing but his nobility, native and hereditary, and his pay. I only wish uncle would do things unconditionally, in a generous, gentlemanlike fashion; he is so disagreeable as to make the dowry depend on Alfred’s giving his written promise that he will never touch cards or dice from the day it is paid down. They accuse my angel of a tendency to play. I don’t know anything about that, but I do know he is a dear, adorable creature.

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