But the form still remained as motionless as a corpse.
Du Roy, who had advanced quickly, seized the bed-clothes, pulled them down, and tearing away the pillow, revealed the pale face of Monsieur Laroche-Mathieu.
He bent over him, and, quivering with the desire to seize him by the throat and strangle him, said, between his clenched teeth:
"Have at least the courage of your infamy."
The commissary again asked: "Who are you?"
The bewildered lover not replying, he continued:
"I am a commissary of police, and I summon you to tell me your name."
George, who was quivering with brutal wrath, shouted: "Answer, you coward, or I will tell your name myself."
Then the man in the bed stammered: "Mr. Commissary, you ought not to allow me to be insulted by this person.
Is it with you or with him that I have to do?
Is it to you or to him that I have to answer?"
His mouth seemed to be dried up as he spoke.
The commissary replied: "With me, sir; with me alone.
I ask you who you are?"
The other was silent.
He held the sheet close up to his neck, and rolled his startled eyes.
His little, curled-up moustache showed up black upon his blanched face.
The commissary continued: "You will not answer, eh?
Then I shall be forced to arrest you.
In any case, get up.
I will question you when you are dressed."
The body wriggled in the bed, and the head murmured:
"But I cannot, before you."
The commissary asked: "Why not?"
The other stammered: "Because I am--I am--quite naked."
Du Roy began to chuckle sneeringly, and picking up a shirt that had fallen onto the floor, threw it onto the bed, exclaiming:
"Come, get up.
Since you have undressed in my wife's presence, you can very well dress in mine."
Then he turned his back, and returned towards the fireplace.
Madeleine had recovered all her coolness, and seeing that all was lost, was ready to dare anything.
Her eyes glittered with bravado, and twisting up a piece of paper she lit, as though for a reception, the ten candles in the ugly candelabra, placed at the corners of the mantel-shelf.
Then, leaning against this, and holding out backwards to the dying fire one of her bare feet which she lifted up behind the petticoat, scarcely sticking to her hips, she took a cigarette from a pink paper case, lit it, and began to smoke.
The commissary had returned towards her, pending that her accomplice got up.
She inquired insolently: "Do you often have such jobs as these, sir?"
He replied gravely: "As seldom as possible, madame."
She smiled in his face, saying:
"I congratulate you; it is dirty work."
She affected not to look at or even to see her husband.
But the gentleman in the bed was dressing.
He had put on his trousers, pulled on his boots, and now approached putting on his waistcoat.
The commissary turned towards him, saying:
"Now, sir, will you tell me who you are?"
He made no reply, and the official said: "I find myself obliged to arrest you."
Then the man exclaimed suddenly: "Do not lay hands on me.
My person is inviolable."
Du Roy darted towards him as though to throw him down, and growled in his face: "Caught in the act, in the act.
I can have you arrested if I choose; yes, I can."
Then, in a ringing tone, he added: "This man is Laroche-Mathieu, Minister of Foreign Affairs."
The commissary drew back, stupefied, and stammered:
"Really, sir, will you tell me who you are?"