"Oh, have pity on me, father!
Save me, in God's name, save me!"
She held him by his black gown lest he should escape, and he with uneasiness glanced around, lest some malevolent or devout eye should see this woman fallen at his feet.
Understanding at length that he could not escape, he said: "Get up; I have the key of the confessional with me."
And fumbling in his pocket he drew out a ring full of keys, selected one, and walked rapidly towards the little wooden cabin, dust holes of the soul into which believers cast their sins.
He entered the center door, which he closed behind him, and Madame Walter, throwing herself into the narrow recess at the side, stammered fervently, with a passionate burst of hope:
"Bless me father, for I have sinned."
Du Roy, having taken a turn round the choir, was passing down the left aisle.
He had got half-way when he met the stout, bald gentleman still walking quietly along, and said to himself:
"What the deuce is that customer doing here?"
The promenader had also slackened his pace, and was looking at George with an evident wish to speak to him.
When he came quite close he bowed, and said in a polite fashion:
"I beg your pardon, sir, for troubling you, but can you tell me when this church was built?"
Du Roy replied: "Really, I am not quite certain. I think within the last twenty or five-and-twenty years.
It is, besides, the first time I ever was inside it."
"It is the same with me.
I have never seen it."
The journalist, whose interest was awakened, remarked:
"It seems to me that you are going over it very carefully.
You are studying it in detail."
The other replied, with resignation: "I am not examining it; I am waiting for my wife, who made an appointment with me here, and who is very much behind time."
Then, after a few moments' silence, he added:
"It is fearfully hot outside."
Du Roy looked at him, and all at once fancied that he resembled Forestier.
"You are from the country?" said he, inquiringly.
"Yes, from Rennes.
And you, sir, is it out of curiosity that you entered this church?"
"No, I am expecting a lady," and bowing, the journalist walked away, with a smile on his lips.
Approaching the main entrance, he saw the poor woman still on her knees, and still praying.
He thought: "By Jove! she keeps hard at it."
He was no longer moved, and no longer pitied her.
He passed on, and began quietly to walk up the right-hand aisle to find Madame Walter again.
He marked the place where he had left her from a distance, astonished at not seeing her.
He thought he had made a mistake in the pillar; went on as far as the end one, and then returned.
She had gone, then.
He was surprised and enraged.
Then he thought she might be looking for him, and made the circuit of the church again.
Not finding her, he returned, and sat down on the chair she had occupied, hoping she would rejoin him there, and waited.
Soon a low murmur of voices aroused his attention.
He had not seen anyone in that part of the church.
Whence came this whispering?
He rose to see, and perceived in the adjacent chapel the doors of the confessional.
The skirt of a dress issuing from one of these trailed on the pavement.
He approached to examine the woman.
He recognized her.
She was confessing.
He felt a violent inclination to take her by the shoulders and to pull her out of the box.
Then he thought:
"Bah! it is the priest's turn now; it will be mine to-morrow."
And he sat down quietly in front of the confessional, biding his time, and chuckling now over the adventure.