Floromond and Frisonnette, like foreigners more fashionable, " spent their honeymoon in Paris," for, of course, Frisonnette had to keep on selling Aureole's hats. Home was reached by a narrow staircase, which threatened never to leave off, and after business hours the sweethearts—as ridiculously enchanted with each other as if they had never been married—would exchange confidences and kisses at a little window that was like the upper half of a Punch and Judy show, popped among the chimney-pots of the slanting tiles as an afterthought.
"It is good to have so exalted a position," said Frisonnette; " there is no one nearer than the angels to overlook us. But I pray you not to mention it to the concierge, or our rent will soon be as high as our lodging. The faint object that you may discern below, my Floromond, is Paris, and the specks passing by are people".
" They must not pass us by too long, however, Beloved," said Floromond; " I am a married man and awake to my responsibilities. It would not suit me, by any manner of means, to share you with millinery all your dear little life. More than ever I have resolved to be eminent, and when the plate glass can never separate us again, you shall have dessert twice a day, and a bonne to wash the dishes".
" My child," murmured Frisonnette, " come and perch on my lap, while I talk wisdom to you, for you are very young, and you have been such a little while in Paradise that you have not learnt the ways of its habitants. It chagrins you that you cannot give me dessert, and domestics, and a cinema every Saturday night. But because I worship you, my little sugar husband, because every moment that I pass away from you, among the millinery, seems to me as long as the rue de Vaugirard, I do not think of such things when we are together. To be in your arms is enough. Life looks to me divine— and if I find anything at all lacking in our heaven^ it is merely a second cupboard. Now, since you are too heavy for me, you may jump down, and we will reverse the situation".
" I have strange tidings to reveal to you," said Floromond, squeezing the breath out of her— " I adore you, Frisonnette ! "
They remained so blissful that many people were of the opinion that Providence was neglecting its plain duty. Here was a thriftless painter daring to marry a girl without a franc, and finding the course of wedlock run as smooth as if he had been a prosperous grocer with branches in the suburbs ! The example set to the Youth of the quarter was shocking. And a year passed, and two years passed, and still the angels might see Floromond and Frisonnette kissing at the attic window.
Then one afternoon it happened that a French beauty, hastening along the rue La Fayette with tiny, toppling steps, as if her bust were too heavy for her feet, found herself arrested by a toque on view at Aureole's—and entering with condescension, was still more charmed by the assistant who attended to her. The chance customer was no one less important than the wife of Finot— Finot the dressmaker, Finot the Famous—and at dinner that night, when they had reached the cheese, she said to the great man :
" My little cabbage, at a milliner's of no distinction I have come across a blonde who could wipe the floor with every mannequin we boast. She is as chic as a model, and as bright as a sequin; she is just the height to do justice to a manteau ; her neck would go beautifully with an evening gown; and she has hips that were created for next season's skirt".
" Let her call ! " said the great man, adding a few drops of kirsch to his petit Suisse.
" She would be good business, I assure you," declared the lady ; " she talked me into taking a toque more than twice the price of the one I went in for—me ! Well, I shall have to find a pretext for speaking to her—I must go back and see if there is another hat that I care to buy".
" It is not necessary," replied her husband ; " go back and complain of the one you bought".
So the lady talked to Frisonnette in undertones, and Frisonnette listened to her in bewilderment, not quite certain whether she was twirling to the top of her ladder, or being victimised by a diabolical hoax. And the following forenoon she passed by appointment through imposing portals that often she had eyed with awe. And Finot, having satisfied himself that she had brains as well as grace— for they are very wide of the mark who think of his pampered mannequins as elegant mechanical toys—signified his august approval.
Frisonnette went home and described the splendours of the place to Floromond, who congratulated her, with a misgiving that he tried to stifle. And later on she told him of the dazzling déjeuners that were provided, repasts which she vowed stuck in her throat, because he was not there to share them. And, not least, she sought to picture to him the gowns that she wore and sold. O visions of another world ! There are things for which the vocabulary of the Académie Française would be inadequate. Such clothes looked too celestial to be touched. But she was a woman. Though her head was spinning, as Finot's mirrors reflected her magnificence, though she was admiring herself illimitably, she accomplished so casual an air that one might have thought she had never put on anything cheaper in her life.
And, being a woman, she did not suffer from a spinning head very long; she soon became acclimatised.
In the daytime, Frisonnette ate delicate food, and sauntered through stately show-rooms, robed like a queen—and in the evening she turned slowly to her little old frock, and supped on scraps in the garret. And now her laughter sounded seldom there. Gradually the contentment that had found a heaven under the tiles changed to a petulance that found beneath them nothing to commend. Her gaze was sombre, and often she sighed. And the misgiving that Floromond had tried to stifle knocked louder at his heart.
By and by the little old frock was discarded and thrust out of view, and she wore costumes that made the garret look gaunter still, for with her increased salary, and commissions, she could afford such things. Floromond knew no regret when she ceased to speak of bettering their abode instead—his pride had revolted at the thought of astonishing their neighbours on his wife's money— but the smart costumes made her seem somebody different in his eyes, and moodily he felt that it was presumption for a fellow in such a threadbare coat to try to kiss her.