Expect me two o'clock, Rue de Constantinople.
Can render you a great service.
He thought, "What does this old screech-owl want with me now?
I wager she has nothing to tell me.
She will only repeat that she adores me.
Yet I must see what it means.
She speaks of an important affair and a great service; perhaps it is so.
And Clotilde, who is coming at four o'clock!
I must get the first of the pair off by three at the latest.
By Jove, provided they don't run up against one another!
What bothers women are."
And he reflected that, after all, his own wife was the only one who never bothered him at all.
She lived in her own way, and seemed to be very fond of him during the hours destined to love, for she would not admit that the unchangeable order of the ordinary occupations of life should be interfered with.
He walked slowly towards the rendezvous, mentally working himself up against Madame Walter.
"Ah! I will just receive her nicely if she has nothing to tell me.
Cambronne's language will be academical compared to mine.
I will tell her that I will never set foot in her house again, to begin with."
He went in to wait for Madame Walter.
She arrived almost immediately, and as soon as she caught sight of him, she exclaimed,
"Ah, you have had my telegram!
He put on a grumpy expression, saying:
"By Jove, yes; I found it at the office just as I was going to start off to the Chamber.
What is it you want now?"
She had raised her veil to kiss him, and drew nearer with the timid and submissive air of an oft-beaten dog.
"How cruel you are towards me! How harshly you speak to me! What have I done to you?
You cannot imagine how I suffer through you."
He growled: "Don't go on again in that style."
She was standing close to him, only waiting for a smile, a gesture, to throw herself into his arms, and murmured:
"You should not have taken me to treat me thus, you should have left me sober-minded and happy as I was.
Do you remember what you said to me in the church, and how you forced me into this house?
And now, how do you speak to me? how do you receive me?
Oh, God! oh, God! what pain you give me!"
He stamped his foot, and exclaimed, violently:
That's enough of it!
I can't see you a moment without hearing all that foolery.
One would really think that I had carried you off at twelve years of age, and that you were as ignorant as an angel.
No, my dear, let us put things in their proper light; there was no seduction of a young girl in the business.
You gave yourself to me at full years of discretion.
I thank you. I am infinitely grateful to you, but I am not bound to be tied till death to your petticoat strings.
You have a husband and I a wife.
We are neither of us free.
We indulged in a mutual caprice, and it is over."
"Oh, you are brutal, coarse, shameless," she said;
"I was indeed no longer a young girl, but I had never loved, never faltered."
He cut her short with:
"I know it. You have told me so twenty times.
But you had had two children."