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by [?]

“There’s only one thing you may not like. She is not a white slip.”

They did not understand, and he had to explain at some length and very cautiously, to avoid shocking them, that she belonged to the dusky race of which they had only seen samples in pictures at Epinal. Then they became restless, perplexed, alarmed, as if he had proposed a union with the devil.

The mother said: “Black? How much of her is black? Is the whole of her?”

He replied: “Certainly. Everywhere, just as you are white everywhere.”

The father interposed: “Black? Is it as black as the pot?”

The son answered: “Perhaps a little less than that. She is black, but not disgustingly black. The cure’s cassock is black, but it is not uglier than a surplice which is white.”

The father said: “Are there more black people besides her in her country?”

And the son, with an air of conviction, exclaimed: “Certainly!”

But the old man shook his head.

“That must be unpleasant.”

And the son:

“It isn’t more disagreeable than anything else when you get accustomed to it.”

The mother asked:

“It doesn’t soil the underwear more than other skins, this black skin?”

“Not more than your own, as it is her proper color.”

Then, after many other questions, it was agreed that the parents should see this girl before coming; to any decision, and that the young fellow, whose, term of military service would be over in a month, should bring her to the house in order that they might examine her and decide by talking the matter over whether or not she was too dark to enter the Boitelle family.

Antoine accordingly announced that on Sunday, the 22d of May, the day of his discharge, he would start for Tourteville with his sweetheart.

She had put on, for this journey to the house of her lover’s parents, her most beautiful and most gaudy clothes, in which yellow, red and blue were the prevailing colors, so that she looked as if she were adorned for a national festival.

At the terminus, as they were leaving Havre, people stared at her, and Boitelle was proud of giving his arm to a person who commanded so much attention. Then, in the third-class carriage, in which she took a seat by his side, she aroused so much astonishment among the country folks that the people in the adjoining compartments stood up on their benches to look at her over the wooden partition which divides the compartments. A child, at sight of her, began to cry with terror, another concealed his face in his mother’s apron. Everything went off well, however, up to their arrival at their destination. But when the train slackened its rate of motion as they drew near Yvetot, Antoine felt: ill at ease, as he would have done at a review when; he did not know his drill practice. Then, as he; leaned his head out, he recognized in the distance: his father, holding the bridle of the horse harnessed to a carryall, and his mother, who had come forward to the grating, behind which stood those who were expecting friends.

He alighted first, gave his hand to his sweetheart, and holding himself erect, as if he were escorting a general, he went to meet his family.

The mother, on seeing this black lady in variegated costume in her son’s company, remained so stupefied that she could not open her mouth; and the father found it hard to hold the horse, which the engine or the negress caused to rear continuously. But Antoine, suddenly filled with unmixed joy at seeing once more the old people, rushed forward with open arms, embraced his mother, embraced his father, in spite of the nag’s fright, and then turning toward his companion, at whom the passengers on the platform stopped to stare with amazement, he proceeded to explain:

“Here she is! I told you that, at first sight, she is not attractive; but as soon as you know her, I can assure you there’s not a better sort in the whole world. Say good-morning to her so that she may not feel badly.”