He rang the bell, and as the door opened, said, tremblingly:
"When shall I see you again?"
She murmured so softly that he scarcely heard it: "Come and lunch with me to-morrow." And she disappeared in the entry, pushed to the heavy door, which closed with a noise like that of a cannon.
He gave the driver five francs, and began to walk along with rapid and triumphant steps, and heart overflowing with joy.
He had won at last--a married woman, a lady.
How easy and unexpected it had all been.
He had fancied up till then that to assail and conquer one of these so greatly longed-for beings, infinite pains, interminable expectations, a skillful siege carried on by means of gallant attentions, words of love, sighs, and gifts were needed.
And, lo! suddenly, at the faintest attack, the first whom he had encountered had yielded to him so quickly that he was stupefied at it.
"She was tipsy," he thought; "to-morrow it will be another story.
She will meet me with tears."
This notion disturbed him, but he added:
"Well, so much the worse.
Now I have her, I mean to keep her."
He was somewhat agitated the next day as he ascended Madame de Marelle's staircase.
How would she receive him?
And suppose she would not receive him at all?
Suppose she had forbidden them to admit him?
Suppose she had said--but, no, she could not have said anything without letting the whole truth be guessed.
So he was master of the situation.
The little servant opened the door.
She wore her usual expression.
He felt reassured, as if he had anticipated her displaying a troubled countenance, and asked:
"Is your mistress quite well?"
She replied: "Oh! yes, sir, the same as usual," and showed him into the drawing-room.
He went straight to the chimney-glass to ascertain the state of his hair and his toilet, and was arranging his necktie before it, when he saw in it the young woman watching him as she stood at the door leading from her room.
He pretended not to have noticed her, and the pair looked at one another for a few moments in the glass, observing and watching before finding themselves face to face.
He turned round.
She had not moved, and seemed to be waiting.
He darted forward, stammering:
"My darling! my darling!"
She opened her arms and fell upon his breast; then having lifted her head towards him, their lips met in a long kiss.
He thought: "It is easier than I should have imagined.
It is all going on very well."
And their lips separating, he smiled without saying a word, while striving to throw a world of love into his looks.
She, too, smiled, with that smile by which women show their desire, their consent, their wish to yield themselves, and murmured:
"We are alone. I have sent Laurine to lunch with one of her young friends."
He sighed as he kissed her. "Thanks, I will worship you."
Then she took his arm, as if he had been her husband, to go to the sofa, on which they sat down side by side.
He wanted to start a clever and attractive chat, but not being able to do so to his liking, stammered:
"Then you are not too angry with me?"
She put her hand on his mouth, saying
They sat in silence, looking into one another's eyes, with burning fingers interlaced.
"How I did long for you!" said he.
She repeated: "Be quiet."
They heard the servant arranging the table in the adjoining dining-room, and he rose, saying:
"I must not remain so close to you.
I shall lose my head."
The door opened, and the servant announced that lunch was ready.
Duroy gravely offered his arm.