Floromond and Frisonnette, who were giddy with a sense of wealth when they acquired three rooms, and had flowers growing on their own balcony, and sat upon chairs that they had actually bought and paid for, held a reception one fine day. The occasion was a christening. Floromond and Frisonnette were, of course, monsieur and madame Jolicoeur, and they dwelt in the part of Paris that was nearest to Arcadia. Among those present were monsieur Tricotrin, the unadmired poet, monsieur Pitou, the composer of no repute, monsieur Lajeunie, whose stirring romances so rarely reached a printing office, and monsieur Sanquereau, the equally distinguished sculptor.
Though the company were poor in pocket, they were rich in benevolence, and since the dearth of coppers forbade silver mugs, they modelled their gifts upon the example of the good fairies. Advancing graciously to the cradle, the bard bestowed upon the female infant the genius of poesy : " Epics, and odes," he declared, " shall fall from her lips like the gentle dew from Heaven." " And, symphonies," said the musician, " she shall drop as nimbly as the newly rich drop needy friends." That she might be equipped more fully yet for the stress of modern life, the novelist endowed her with the power of surpassing narrative, while the sculptor, in his turn, contributed to her quiver the pre-eminence of Praxiteles.
Then Frisonnette hung over her baby, saying, " And one boon, besides : let her marry her sweetheart and always remember that a husband's love is better than an ermine cloak ! "—an allusion which moved Floromond to such tenderness that he forthwith took his wife in his arms, regardless of us all; and which reminded your obedient servant of their story.
When Floromond beheld her first, she was in a shop window—the most tempting exhibit that a shop window had displayed to him, in all his five-and-twenty years. If he had stayed in the quarter where he belonged, it would not have happened. It was early on a spring morning, and she was posing a hat, for the enticement of ladies who would tread the rue La Fayette later in the day. Floromond, sunning himself like a lord, though he was nothing better than a painter, went on to the Garden of the Tuileries, noting how nicely the birds sang, and thinking foolish thoughts. " Had I a thousand-franc note in my pocket, instead of an importunate note from a washerwoman," ran his reverie, " I would go back and buy that hat; and when she asked me where it was to be sent, I would say, ' I do not know your name and address, mademoiselle.' Then, having departed, without another word, leaving her speechless with amazement and delight, I should never see her any more—until, not too long afterwards, we found ourselves, by accident, in the same omnibus. Ciel! how blue her eyes were".
And, though he did not omit to reprove himself, in the most conscientious manner, and the weather changed for the worse, his admiration drew him to the rue La Fayette, at the same hour, every day.
Frisonnette's demeanour, behind the plate glass, was propriety itself. But she could not be unconscious that the young man's pace always slackened in the downpour, as he approached madame Aureole's—she could not be insensible of the homage of his gaze. That Tuesday morning, when, dripping, he bowed, his salutation was so respectful that she felt she would be inhuman to ignore it.
So the time came when they trod the rue La Fayette together, making confessions to each other, after the shop shut.
" I used to wonder at first whether you noticed me as I went by," he told her wistfully.
" I noticed you from the beginning," she owned, " you have such a funny walk. The day that you were late-"
" My watch was in pawn. Sapristi, how I raced! It makes me perspire to think of it".
" I took five minutes longer than usual to dress the window, waiting for you".
"If I had guessed! And you didn't divine that I came on purpose? "
She shook her head. " I used to think you must be employed somewhere about".
" What! you took me for a clerk? " asked the artist, horrified.
" Only at the start. I soon saw you couldn't be that—your clothes were too shabby, and your hair was so long".
" I could have wished you to correct the impression by reason of my air of intellect. However, to talk sensibly, could the prettiest girl in France ever care for a man who had shabby clothes, and a funny walk ? "
" Well, when she was beside him, she would not remark them much," said Frisonnette shyly. " But I do not think you should ask me conundrums until you have talked politics with my aunt; I feel sure she would consider it premature".
" Mademoiselle," said Floromond, " I am rejoiced to hear that your aunt has such excellent judgment. Few things would give me greater pleasure than to agree with her politics as soon as you can procure me the invitation".
And one day Floromond and Frisonnette descended the steps of a certain mairie arm in arm— Frisonnette in a white frock and a nutter—and the elderly gentleman in the salle des mariages, to whom brides were more commonplace than blackberries, looked after this bride with something like sentiment behind his pince-nez. A policeman at the gate was distinctly heard to murmur, " What eyes ! " And so rapidly had the rumour of her fairness flown, that there were nearly as many spectators on the sidewalk as if it had been a marriage of money, with vehicles from the livery stables.
The bride's aunt wore her moire antique, with coral bracelets, and at breakfast in the restaurant she wept. But, as was announced on the menu, Wedding couples and their parties were offered free admission to the Zoological Gardens; pianos were at the disposal of the ladies; and an admirable photographer executed gratuitously portraits of the couples, or a group of their guests. At the promise of being photographed in the moire antique, a thing that had not occurred to her for thirty years, the old lady recovered her spirits; and if Tricotrin, in proposing the health of the happy pair, had not digressed into tearful reminiscences of a blighted love-story of his own, there would have been no further pathetic incident.