It is astonishing how he is showing off this place."
They went on quietly among the crowd.
People turned round to look at this good-looking fellow and this charming little doll.
A well-known painter said: "What a pretty pair. They go capitally together."
George thought: "If I had been really clever, this is the girl I should have married.
It was possible.
How is it I did not think of it?
How did I come to take that other one?
What a piece of stupidity.
We always act too impetuously, and never reflect sufficiently."
And envy, bitter envy, sank drop by drop into his mind like a gall, embittering all his pleasures, and rendering existence hateful.
Susan was saying: "Oh! do come often, Pretty-boy; we will go in for all manner of things now, papa is so rich.
We will amuse ourselves like madcaps."
He answered, still following up his idea:
"Oh! you will marry now.
You will marry some prince, a ruined one, and we shall scarcely see one another."
She exclaimed, frankly: "Oh! no, not yet.
I want someone who pleases me, who pleases me a great deal, who pleases me altogether.
I am rich enough for two."
He smiled with a haughty and ironical smile, and began to point out to her people that were passing, very noble folk who had sold their rusty titles to the daughters of financiers like herself, and who now lived with or away from their wives, but free, impudent, known, and respected.
He concluded with: "I will not give you six months before you are caught with that same bait.
You will be a marchioness, a duchess or a princess, and will look down on me from a very great height, miss."
She grew indignant, tapped him on the arm with her fan, and vowed that she would marry according to the dictates of her heart.
He sneered: "We shall see about all that, you are too rich."
She remarked: "But you, too, have come in for an inheritance."
He uttered in a tone of contempt: "Oh! not worth speaking about.
Scarcely twenty thousand francs a year, not much in these days."
"But your wife has also inherited."
A million between us.
Forty thousand francs' income.
We cannot even keep a carriage on it."
They had reached the last of the reception-rooms, and before them lay the conservatory--a huge winter garden full of tall, tropical trees, sheltering clumps of rare flowers.
Penetrating beneath this somber greenery, through which the light streamed like a flood of silver, they breathed the warm odor of damp earth, and an air heavy with perfumes.
It was a strange sensation, at once sweet, unwholesome, and pleasant, of a nature that was artificial, soft, and enervating.
They walked on carpets exactly like moss, between two thick clumps of shrubs.
All at once Du Roy noticed on his left, under a wide dome of palms, a broad basin of white marble, large enough to bathe in, and on the edge of which four large Delft swans poured forth water through their open beaks.
The bottom of the basin was strewn with golden sand, and swimming about in it were some enormous goldfish, quaint Chinese monsters, with projecting eyes and scales edged with blue, mandarins of the waters, who recalled, thus suspended above this gold-colored ground, the embroideries of the Flowery Land.
The journalist halted with beating heart.
He said to himself: "Here is luxury.
These are the houses in which one ought to live.
Others have arrived at it.
Why should not I?"
He thought of means of doing so; did not find them at once, and grew irritated at his powerlessness.
His companion, somewhat thoughtful, did not speak.
He looked at her in sidelong fashion, and again thought:
"To marry this little puppet would suffice."
But Susan all at once seemed to wake up.
"Attention!" said she; and pushing George through a group which barred their way, she made him turn sharply to the right.
In the midst of a thicket of strange plants, which extended in the air their quivering leaves, opening like hands with slender fingers, was seen the motionless figure of a man standing on the sea.