The other had made up his mind, and said in forcible tones:
"For once that scoundrel has not lied.
I am, indeed, Laroche-Mathieu, the minister."
Then, holding out his hand towards George's chest, in which a little bit of red ribbon showed itself, he added:
"And that rascal wears on his coat the cross of honor which I gave him."
Du Roy had become livid.
With a rapid movement he tore the bit of ribbon from his buttonhole, and, throwing it into the fireplace, exclaimed:
"That is all that is fit for a decoration coming from a swine like you."
They were quite close, face to face, exasperated, their fists clenched, the one lean, with a flowing moustache, the other stout, with a twisted one.
The commissary stepped rapidly between the pair, and pushing them apart with his hands, observed:
"Gentlemen, you are forgetting yourselves; you are lacking in self-respect."
They became quiet and turned on their heels.
Madeleine, motionless, was still smoking in silence.
The police official resumed:
"Sir, I have found you alone with Madame Du Roy here, you in bed, she almost naked, with your clothes scattered about the room.
This is legal evidence of adultery.
You cannot deny this evidence.
What have you to say for yourself?"
Laroche-Mathieu murmured: "I have nothing to say; do your duty."
The commissary addressed himself to Madeleine:
"Do you admit, madame, that this gentleman is your lover?"
She said with a certain swagger: "I do not deny it; he is my lover."
"That is enough."
The commissary made some notes as to the condition and arrangement of the rooms.
As he was finishing writing, the minister, who had finished dressing, and was waiting with his greatcoat over his arm and his hat in his hand, said:
"Have you still need of me, sir?
What am I to do?
Can I withdraw?"
Du Roy turned towards him, and smiling insolently, said:
We have finished.
You can go to bed again, sir; we will leave you alone."
And placing a finger on the official's arm, he continued: "Let us retire, Mr. Commissary, we have nothing more to do in this place."
Somewhat surprised, the commissary followed, but on the threshold of the room George stopped to allow him to pass.
The other declined, out of politeness.
Du Roy persisted, saying: "Pass first, sir."
"After you, sir," replied the commissary.
The journalist bowed, and in a tone of ironical politeness, said:
"It is your turn, sir; I am almost at home here."
Then he softly reclosed the door with an air of discretion.
An hour later George Du Roy entered the offices of the _Vie Francaise_.
Monsieur Walter was already there, for he continued to manage and supervise with solicitude his paper, which had enormously increased in circulation, and greatly helped the schemes of his bank.
The manager raised his head and said:
"Ah! here you are.
You look very strange.
Why did you not come to dinner with us?
What have you been up to?"
The young fellow, sure of his effect, said, emphasizing every word:
"I have just upset the Minister of Foreign Affairs."
The other thought he was joking, and said: