They lunched face to face, looking at one another and constantly smiling, solely taken up by themselves, and enveloped in the sweet enchantment of a growing love.
They ate, without knowing what.
He felt a foot, a little foot, straying under the table.
He took it between his own and kept it there, squeezing it with all his might.
The servant came and went, bringing and taking away the dishes with a careless air, without seeming to notice anything.
When they had finished they returned to the drawing-room, and resumed their place on the sofa, side by side.
Little by little he pressed up against her, striving to take her in his arms.
But she calmly repulsed him, saying:
"Take care; someone may come in."
He murmured: "When can I see you quite alone, to tell you how I love you?"
She leant over towards him and whispered:
"I will come and pay you a visit one of these days."
He felt himself redden.
"You know--you know--my place is very small."
"That does not matter.
It is you I shall call to see, and not your rooms."
Then he pressed her to know when she would come.
She named a day in the latter half of the week. He begged of her to advance the date in broken sentences, playing with and squeezing her hands, with glittering eyes, and flushed face, heated and torn by desire, that imperious desire which follows _tete-a-tete_ repasts.
She was amazed to see him implore her with such ardor, and yielded a day from time to time.
But he kept repeating:
"To-morrow, only say to-morrow."
She consented at length.
"Yes, to-morrow; at five o'clock."
He gave a long sigh of joy, and they then chatted almost quietly with an air of intimacy, as though they had known one another twenty years.
The sound of the door bell made them start, and with a bound they separated to a distance.
She murmured: "It must be Laurine."
The child made her appearance, stopped short in amazement, and then ran to Duroy, clapping her hands with pleasure at seeing him, and exclaiming:
"Ah! pretty boy."
Madame de Marelle began to laugh.
Laurine has baptized you.
It's a nice little nickname for you, and I will call you Pretty-boy, too."
He had taken the little girl on his knee, and he had to play with her at all the games he had taught her.
He rose to take his leave at twenty minutes to three to go to the office of the paper, and on the staircase, through the half-closed door, he still whispered:
"To-morrow, at five."
She answered "Yes," with a smile, and disappeared.
As soon as he had got through his day's work, he speculated how he should arrange his room to receive his mistress, and hide as far as possible the poverty of the place.
He was struck by the idea of pinning
a lot of Japanese trifles on the walls, and he bought for five francs quite a collection of little fans and screens, with which he hid the most obvious of the marks on the wall paper.
He pasted on the window panes transparent pictures representing boats floating down rivers, flocks of birds flying across rosy skies, multi-colored ladies on balconies, and processions of little black men over plains covered with snow.
His room, just big enough to sleep and sit down in, soon looked like the inside of a Chinese lantern.
He thought the effect satisfactory, and passed the evening in pasting on the ceiling birds that he had cut from the colored sheets remaining over.
Then he went to bed, lulled by the whistle of the trains.
He went home early the next day, carrying a paper bag of cakes and a bottle of Madeira, purchased at the grocer's.
He had to go out again to buy two plates and two glasses, and arranged this collation on his dressing-table, the dirty wood of which was covered by a napkin, the jug and basin being hidden away beneath it.
Then he waited.
She came at about a quarter-past five; and, attracted by the bright colors of the pictures, exclaimed:
"Dear me, yours is a nice place.