'Lily Fingers!' and I imagined her young like yourself.
So that is 'Lily Fingers.'
That is very funny, very funny."
A servant appeared in the doorway and announced dinner.
The dinner was commonplace and lively, one of those dinners at which people talk about everything, without saying anything.
Duroy found himself between the elder daughter of the master of the house, the ugly one, Mademoiselle Rose and Madame de Marelle.
The neighborhood of the latter made him feel very ill at ease, although she seemed very much at her ease, and chatted with her usual vivacity.
He was troubled at first, constrained, hesitating, like a musician who has lost the keynote.
By degrees, however, he recovered his assurance, and their eyes continually meeting questioned one another, exchanging looks in an intimate, almost sensual, fashion as of old.
All at once he thought he felt something brush against his foot under the table.
He softly pushed forward his leg and encountered that of his neighbor, which did not shrink from the contact.
They did not speak, each being at that moment turned towards their neighbor.
Duroy, his heart beating, pushed a little harder with his knee.
A slight pressure replied to him.
Then he understood that their loves were beginning anew.
What did they say then?
Not much, but their lips quivered every time that they looked at one another.
The young fellow, however, wishing to do the amiable to his employer's daughter, spoke to her from time to time.
She replied as the mother would have done, never hesitating as to what she should say.
On the right of Monsieur Walter the Viscomtesse de Percemur gave herself the airs of a princess, and Duroy, amused at watching her, said in a low voice to Madame de Marelle. "Do you know the other, the one who signs herself 'Pink Domino'?"
"Yes, very well, the Baroness de Livar."
"Is she of the same breed?"
"No, but quite as funny.
A tall, dried-up woman of sixty, false curls, projecting teeth, ideas dating from the Restoration, and toilets of the same epoch."
"Where did they unearth these literary phenomena?"
"The scattered waifs of the nobility are always sheltered by enriched cits."
"No other reason?"
Then a political discussion began between the master of the house, the two deputies, Norbert de Varenne, and Jacques Rival, and lasted till dessert.
When they returned to the drawing-room, Duroy again approached Madame de Marelle, and looking her in the eyes, said:
"Shall I see you home to-night?"
"Because Monsieur Laroche Mathieu, who is my neighbor, drops me at my door every time I dine here."
"When shall I see you?"
"Come and lunch with me to-morrow."
And they separated without saying anything more.
Duroy did not remain late, finding the evening dull.
As he went downstairs he overtook Norbert de Varenne, who was also leaving.
The old poet took him by the arm.
No longer having to fear any rivalry as regards the paper, their work being essentially different, he now manifested a fatherly kindness towards the young fellow.
"Well, will you walk home a bit of my way with me?" said he.
"With pleasure, my dear master," replied Duroy.
And they went out, walking slowly along the Boulevard Malesherbes.
Paris was almost deserted that night--a cold night--one of those nights that seem vaster, as it were, than others, when the stars seem higher above, and the air seems to bear on its icy breath something coming from further than even the stars.
The two men did not speak at first.
Then Duroy, in order to say something, remarked: "Monsieur Laroche Mathieu seems very intelligent and well informed."
The old poet murmured: "Do you think so?"
The young fellow, surprised at this remark, hesitated in replying: "Yes; besides, he passes for one of the most capable men in the Chamber."