Behind them four bridesmaids, all four dressed in pink, and all four pretty, formed the court of this gem of a queen.
The groomsmen, carefully chosen to match, stepped as though trained by a ballet master.
Madame Walter followed them, giving her arm to the father of her other son-in-law, the Marquis de Latour-Yvelin, aged seventy-two.
She did not walk, she dragged herself along, ready to faint at each forward movement.
It could be felt that her feet stuck to the flagstones, that her legs refused to advance, and that her heart was beating within her breast like an animal bounding to escape.
She had grown thin.
Her white hair made her face appear still more blanched and her cheeks hollower.
She looked straight before her in order not to see any one--in order not to recall, perhaps, that which was torturing her.
Then George Du Roy appeared with an old lady unknown.
He, too, kept his head up without turning aside his eyes, fixed and stern under his slightly bent brows.
His moustache seemed to bristle on his lip.
He was set down as a very good-looking fellow.
He had a proud bearing, a good figure, and a straight leg.
He wore his clothes well, the little red ribbon of the Legion of Honor showing like a drop of blood on his dress coat.
Then came the relations, Rose with the Senator Rissolin.
She had been married six weeks.
The Count de Latour-Yvelin accompanied by the Viscountess de Percemur.
Finally, there was a strange procession of the friends and allies of Du Roy, whom he introduced to his new family; people known in the Parisian world, who became at once the intimates, and, if need be, the distant cousins of rich parvenus; gentlemen ruined, blemished; married, in some cases, which is worse.
There were Monsieur de Belvigne, the Marquis de Banjolin, the Count and Countess de Ravenel, Prince Kravalow, the Chevalier, Valreali; then some guests of Walter's, the Prince de Guerche, the Duke and the Duchess de Ferracine, the beautiful Marchioness des Dunes.
Some of Madame Walter's relatives preserved a well-to-do, countrified appearance amidst the throng.
The organ was still playing, pouring forth through the immense building the sonorous and rhythmic accents of its glittering throats, which cry aloud unto heaven the joy or grief of mankind.
The great doors were closed, and all at once it became as gloomy as if the sun had just been turned out.
Now, George was kneeling beside his wife in the choir, before the lit-up altar.
The new Bishop of Tangiers, crozier in hand and miter on head, made his appearance from the vestry to join them together in the Eternal name.
He put the customary questions, exchanged the rings, uttered the words that bind like chains, and addressed the newly-wedded couple a Christian allocution.
He was a tall, stout man, one of those handsome prelates to whom a rounded belly lends dignity.
The sound of sobs caused several people to look round.
Madame Walter was weeping, with her face buried in her hands.
She had to give way.
What could she have done else?
But since the day when she had driven from her room her daughter on her return home, refusing to embrace her; since the day when she had said, in a low voice, to Du Roy, who had greeted her ceremoniously on again making his appearance:
"You are the vilest creature I know of; never speak to me again, for I shall not answer you," she had been suffering intolerable and unappeasable tortures.
She hated Susan with a keen hatred, made up of exasperated passion and heartrending jealousy, the strange jealousy of a mother and mistress--unacknowledgable, ferocious, burning like a new wound.
And now a bishop was marrying them--her lover and her daughter--in a church, in presence of two thousand people, and before her.
And she could say nothing.
She could not hinder it.
She could not cry out:
"But that man belongs to me; he is my lover.
This union you are blessing is infamous!"
Some ladies, touched at the sight, murmured:
"How deeply the poor mother feels it!"
The bishop was declaiming: "You are among the fortunate ones of this world, among the wealthiest and most respected.
You, sir, whom your talent raises above others; you who write, who teach, who advise, who guide the people, you who have a noble mission to fulfill, a noble example to set."
Du Roy listened, intoxicated with pride.
A prelate of the Roman Catholic Church was speaking thus to him.
And he felt behind him a crowd, an illustrious crowd, gathered on his account.
It seemed to him that some power impelled and lifted him up.
He was becoming one of the masters of the world--he, the son of two poor peasants at Canteleu.
He saw them all at once in their humble wayside inn, at the summit of the slope overlooking the broad valley of Rouen, his father and mother, serving the country-folk of the district with drink, He had sent them five thousand francs on inheriting from the Count de Vaudrec.
He would now send them fifty thousand, and they would buy a little estate.