The Du Roys had been in Paris two days and the journalist had resumed work; h_ad given up his own especial province to assume that of Forestier, and t_evote himself entirely to politics. On this particular evening he turned hi_teps toward home with a light heart. As he passed a florist's on Rue Notr_ame de Lorette he bought a bouquet of half-open roses for Madeleine. Havin_orgotten his key, on arriving at his door, he rang and the servant answere_is summons.
Georges asked: "Is Madame at home?"
In the dining-room he paused in astonishment to see covers laid for three: th_oor of the salon being ajar, he saw Madeleine arranging in a vase on th_antelpiece a bunch of roses similar to his.
He entered the room and asked: "Have you invited anyone to dinner?"
She replied without turning her head and continuing the arrangement of he_lowers: "Yes and no: it is my old friend, Count de Vaudrec, who is in th_abit of dining here every Monday and who will come now as he always has."
Georges murmured: "Very well."
He stopped behind her, the bouquet in his hand, the desire strong within hi_o conceal it—to throw it away. However, he said:
"Here, I have brought you some roses!"
She turned to him with a smile and said: "Ah, how thoughtful of you!" and sh_issed him with such evident affection that he felt consoled.
She took the flowers, inhaled their perfume, and put them in an empty vase.
Then she said as she noted the effect: "Now I am satisfied; my mantelpiec_ooks pretty," adding with an air of conviction:
"Vaudrec is charming; you will become intimate with him at once,"
A ring announced the Count. He entered as if he were at home. After gallantl_issing Mme. Du Roy's hand, he turned to her husband and cordially offered hi_and, saying: "How are you, my dear Du Roy?"
He had no longer that haughty air, but was very affable. One would hav_hought in the course of five minutes, that the two men had known one anothe_or ten years. Madeleine, whose face was radiant, said: "I will leave yo_ogether. I have work to superintend in the kitchen." The dinner was excellen_nd the Count remained very late. When he was gone, Madeleine said to he_usband: "Is he not nice? He improves, too, on acquaintance. He is a good,
true, faithful friend. Ah, without him—"
She did not complete her sentence and Georges replied: "Yes, he is ver_leasant, I think we shall understand each other well."
"You do not know," she said, "that we have work to do to-night befor_etiring. I did not have time to tell you before dinner, for Vaudrec came.
Laroche-Mathieu brought me important news of Morocco. We must make a fin_rticle of that. Let us set to work at once. Come, take the lamp."
He carried the lamp and they entered the study. Madeleine leaned, against th_antelpiece, and having lighted a cigarette, told him the news and gave hi_er plan of the article. He listened attentively, making notes as she spoke,
and when she had finished he raised objections, took up the question and, i_is turn, developed another plan. His wife ceased smoking, for her interes_as aroused in following Georges's line of thought. From time to time sh_urmured: "Yes, yes; very good—excellent—very forcible—" And when he ha_inished speaking, she said: "Now let us write."
It was always difficult for him to make a beginning and she would lean ove_is shoulder and whisper the phrases in his ear, then he would add a fe_ines; when their article was completed, Georges re-read it. Both he an_adeleine pronounced it admirable and kissed one another with passionat_dmiration.
The article appeared with the signature of "G. du Roy de Cantel," and made _reat sensation. M. Walter congratulated the author, who soon becam_elebrated in political circles. His wife, too, surprised him by th_ngenuousness of her mind, the cleverness of her wit, and the number of he_cquaintances. At almost any time upon returning home he found in his salon _enator, a deputy, a magistrate, or a general, who treated Madeleine wit_rave familiarity.
Deputy Laroche-Mathieu, who dined at Rue Fontaine every Tuesday, was one o_he largest stockholders of M. Walter's paper and the latter's colleague an_ssociate in many business transactions. Du Roy hoped, later on, that some o_he benefits promised by him to Forestier might fall to his share. They woul_e given to Madeleine's new husband—that was all—nothing was changed; even hi_ssociates sometimes called him Forestier, and it made Du Roy furious at th_ead. He grew to hate the very name; it was to him almost an insult. Even a_ome the obsession continued; the entire house reminded him of Charles.
One evening Du Roy, who liked sweetmeats, asked:
"Why do we never have sweets?"
His wife replied pleasantly: "I never think of it, because Charles dislike_hem."
He interrupted her with an impatient gesture: "Do you know I am getting tire_f Charles? It is Charles here, Charles there, Charles liked this, Charle_iked that. Since Charles is dead, let him rest in peace."
Madeleine ascribed her husband's burst of ill humor to puerile jealousy, bu_he was flattered and did not reply. On retiring, haunted by the same thought,
"Did Charles wear a cotton nightcap to keep the draft out of his ears?"
She replied pleasantly: "No, a lace one!"
Georges shrugged his shoulders and said scornfully: "What a bird!"
From that time Georges never called Charles anything but "poor Charles," wit_n accent of infinite pity. One evening as Du Roy was smoking a cigarette a_is window, toward the end of June, the heat awoke in him a desire for fres_ir. He asked:
"My little Made, would you like to go as far as the Bois?"
They took an open carriage and drove to the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne. It wa_ sultry evening; a host of cabs lined the drive, one behind another. When th_arriage containing Georges and Madeleine reached the turning which led to th_ortifications, they kissed one another and Madeleine stammered in confusion:
"We are as childish as we were at Rouen."
The road they followed was not so much frequented, a gentle breeze rustled th_eaves of the trees, the sky was studded with brilliant stars and George_urmured, as he pressed his wife to his breast: "Oh, my little Made."
She said to him: "Do you remember how gloomy the forest at Canteleu was? I_eemed to me that it was full of horrible beasts and that it was interminable,
while here it is charming. One can feel the caressing breezes, and I know tha_evres is on the other side."
He replied: "In our forests there are nothing but stags, foxes, roebucks, an_oars, with here and there a forester's house." He paused for a moment an_hen asked: "Did you come here in the evening with Charles occasionally?"
She replied: "Frequently."
He felt a desire to return home at once. Forestier's image haunted him,
however; he could think of nothing else. The carriage rolled on toward the Ar_e Triomphe and joined the stream of carriages returning home. As George_emained silent, his wife, who divined his thoughts, asked in her soft voice:
"Of what are you thinking? For half an hour you have not uttered a word."
He replied with a sneer: "I am thinking of all those fools who kiss on_nother, and I believe truly that there is something else to be done in life."
She whispered: "Yes, but it is nice sometimes! It is nice when one has nothin_etter to do."
Georges' thoughts were busy with the dead; he said to himself angrily: "I a_oolish to worry, to torment myself as I have done." After remonstrating thu_ith himself, he felt more reconciled to the thought of Forestier, and fel_ike exclaiming: "Good evening, old fellow!"
Madeleine, who was bored by his silence, asked: "Shall we go to Tortoni's fo_ces before returning home?"
He glanced at her from his corner and thought: "She is pretty; so much th_etter. Tit for tat, my comrade. But if they begin again to annoy me with you,
it will get somewhat hot at the North Pole!"
Then he replied: "Certainly, my darling," and before she had time to think h_issed her. It seemed to Madeleine that her husband's lips were icy. Howeve_e smiled as usual and gave her his hand to assist her to alight at the cafe.