Recommend the most positive silence to him.
Tell him from me that the expedition to Tangiers is decided on, and that the French government will guarantee the debt of Morocco.
But do not let anything out about it.
It is a State secret that I am entrusting to you."
She listened to him seriously, and murmured: "Thank you, I will tell my husband this evening.
You can reckon on him; he will not talk.
He is a very safe man, and there is no danger."
But she had eaten all the sweetmeats.
She crushed up the bag between her hands and flung it into the fireplace.
Then she said, "Let us go to bed," and without getting up, began to unbutton George's waistcoat.
All at once she stopped, and pulling out between two fingers a long hair, caught in a buttonhole, began to laugh.
"There, you have brought away one of Madeleine's hairs.
There is a faithful husband for you."
Then, becoming once more serious, she carefully examined on her head the almost imperceptible thread she had found, and murmured: "It is not Madeleine's, it is too dark."
He smiled, saying:
"It is very likely one of the maid's."
But she was inspecting the waistcoat with the attention of a detective, and collected a second hair rolled round a button; then she perceived a third, and pale and somewhat trembling, exclaimed:
"Oh, you have been sleeping with a woman who has wrapped her hair round all your buttons."
He was astonished, and gasped out:
"No, you are mad."
All at once he remembered, understood it all, was uneasy at first, and then denied the charge with a chuckle, not vexed at the bottom that she should suspect him of other loves.
She kept on searching, and still found hairs, which she rapidly untwisted and threw on the carpet.
She had guessed matters with her artful woman's instinct, and stammered out, vexed, angry, and ready to cry:
"She loves you, she does--and she wanted you to take away something belonging to her. Oh, what a traitor you are!"
But all at once she gave a cry, a shrill cry of nervous joy.
"Oh! oh! it is an old woman--here is a white hair. Ah, you go in for old women now! Do they pay you, eh--do they pay you?
Ah, so you have come to old women, have you?
Then you have no longer any need of me.
Keep the other one."
She rose, ran to her bodice thrown onto a chair, and began hurriedly to put it on again.
He sought to retain her, stammering confusedly: "But, no, Clo, you are silly. I do not know anything about it. Listen now--stay here. Come, now--stay here."
She repeated: "Keep your old woman--keep her.
Have a ring made out of her hair--out of her white hair. You have enough of it for that."
With abrupt and swift movements she had dressed herself and put on her bonnet and veil, and when he sought to take hold of her, gave him a smack with all her strength. While he remained bewildered, she opened the door and fled.
As soon as he was alone he was seized with furious anger against that old hag of a Mother Walter.
Ah, he would send her about her business, and pretty roughly, too!
He bathed his reddened cheek and then went out, in turn meditating vengeance.
This time he would not forgive her.
He walked down as far as the boulevard, and sauntering along stopped in front of a jeweler's shop to look at a chronometer he had fancied for a long time back, and which was ticketed eighteen hundred francs.
He thought all at once, with a thrill of joy at his heart,
"If I gain my seventy thousand francs I can afford it."
And he began to think of all the things he would do with these seventy thousand francs.
In the first place, he would get elected deputy.
Then he would buy his chronometer, and would speculate on the Bourse, and would--
He did not want to go to the office, preferring to consult Madeleine before seeing Walter and writing his article, and started for home.
He had reached the Rue Druot, when he stopped short. He had forgotten to ask after the Count de Vaudrec, who lived in the Chaussee d'Antin.
He therefore turned back, still sauntering, thinking of a thousand things, mainly pleasant, of his coming fortune, and also of that scoundrel of a Laroche-Mathieu, and that old stickfast of a Madame Walter.
He was not uneasy about the wrath of Clotilde, knowing very well that she forgave quickly.
He asked the doorkeeper of the house in which the Count de Vaudrec resided: