In the choir, which looked somewhat gloomy, the altar, laden with tapers, shed a yellow light, pale and humble in face of that of the main entrance.
People recognized one another, beckoned to one another, and gathered in groups.
The men of letters, less respectful than the men in society, chatted in low tones and looked at the ladies.
Norbert de Varenne, who was looking out for an acquaintance, perceived Jacques Rival near the center of the rows of chair, and joined him.
"Well," said he, "the race is for the cunning."
The other, who was not envious, replied:
"So much the better for him.
His career is safe."
And they began to point out the people they recognized.
"Do you know what became of his wife?" asked Rival.
The poet smiled.
"Yes, and no.
She is living in a very retired style, I am told, in the Montmartre district.
But--there is a but--I have noticed for some time past in the _Plume_ some political articles terribly like those of Forestier and Du Roy.
They are by Jean Le Dal, a handsome, intelligent young fellow, of the same breed as our friend George, and who has made the acquaintance of his late wife.
From whence I conclude that she had, and always will have, a fancy for beginners.
She is, besides, rich.
Vaudrec and Laroche-Mathieu were not assiduous visitors at the house for nothing."
Rival observed: "She is not bad looking, Madeleine.
Very clever and very sharp.
She must be charming on terms of intimacy.
But, tell me, how is it that Du Roy comes to be married in church after a divorce?"
Norbert replied: "He is married in church because, in the eyes of the Church, he was not married before."
"Our friend, Pretty-boy, from indifference or economy, thought the registrar sufficient when marrying Madeleine Forestier.
He therefore dispensed with the ecclesiastical benediction, which constituted in the eyes of Holy Mother Church a simple state of concubinage.
Consequently he comes before her to-day as a bachelor, and she lends him all her pomp and ceremony, which will cost Daddy Walter a pretty penny."
The murmur of the augmented throng swelled beneath the vaulted room.
Voices could be heard speaking almost out loud.
People pointed out to one another celebrities who attitudinized, pleased to be seen, and carefully maintained the bearing adopted by them towards the public accustomed to exhibit themselves thus at all such gatherings, of which they were, it seemed to them, the indispensable ornaments.
Rival resumed: "Tell me, my dear fellow, you who go so often to the governor's, is it true that Du Roy and Madame Walter no longer speak to one another?"
She did not want to give him the girl.
But he had a hold, it seems, on the father through skeletons in the house--skeletons connected with the Morocco business.
He threatened the old man with frightful revelations.
Walter recollected the example he made of Laroche-Mathieu, and gave in at once.
But the mother, obstinate like all women, swore that she would never again speak a word to her son-in-law.
She looks like a statue, a statue of Vengeance, and he is very uneasy at it, although he puts a good face on the matter, for he knows how to control himself, that fellow does."
Fellow-journalists came up and shook hands with them.
Bits of political conversation could be caught.
Vague as the sound of a distant sea, the noise of the crowd massed in front of the church entered the doorway with the sunlight, and rose up beneath the roof, above the more discreet murmur of the choicer public gathered within it.
All at once the beadle struck the pavement thrice with the butt of his halberd.
Every one turned round with a prolonged rustling of skirts and a moving of chairs.
The bride appeared on her father's arm in the bright light of the doorway.
She had still the air of a doll, a charming white doll crowned with orange flowers.
She stood for a few moments on the threshold, then, when she made her first step up the aisle, the organ gave forth a powerful note, announcing the entrance of the bride in loud metallic tones.
She advanced with bent head, but not timidly; vaguely moved, pretty, charming, a miniature bride.
The women smiled and murmured as they watched her pass.
The men muttered: "Exquisite! Adorable!"
Monsieur Walter walked with exaggerated dignity, somewhat pale, and with his spectacles straight on his nose.