I had thought of taking the name of my native place, as a literary pseudonym at first, then of adding it to my own by degrees, and then, later on, of even cutting my name in two, as you suggest."
"Your native place is Canteleu?" she queried.
She hesitated, saying:
"No, I do not like the termination.
Come, cannot we modify this word Canteleu a little?"
She had taken up a pen from the table, and was scribbling names and studying their physiognomy.
All at once she exclaimed: "There, there it is!" and held out to him a paper, on which read--"Madame Duroy de Cantel."
He reflected a few moments, and then said gravely: "Yes, that does very well."
She was delighted, and kept repeating "Duroy de Cantel, Duroy de Cantel, Madame Duroy de Cantel. It is capital, capital."
She went on with an air of conviction: "And you will see how easy it is to get everyone to accept it.
But one must know how to seize the opportunity, for it will be too late afterwards.
You must from to-morrow sign your descriptive articles D. de Cantel, and your 'Echoes' simply Duroy.
It is done every day in the press, and no one will be astonished to see you take a pseudonym.
At the moment of our marriage we can modify it yet a little more, and tell our friends that you had given up the 'Du' out of modesty on account of your position, or even say nothing about it.
What is your father's Christian name?"
She murmured: "Alexander, Alexander," two or three times, listening to the sonorous roll of the syllables, and then wrote on a blank sheet of paper:
"Monsieur and Madame Alexander Du Roy de Cantel have the honor to inform you of the marriage of Monsieur George Du Roy de Cantel, their son, to Madame Madeleine Forestier."
She looked at her writing, holding it at a distance, charmed by the effect, and said:
"With a little method we can manage whatever we wish."
When he found himself once more in the street, firmly resolved to call himself in future Du Roy, and even Du Roy de Cantel, it seemed to him that he had acquired fresh importance.
He walked with more swagger, his head higher, his moustache fiercer, as a gentleman should walk.
He felt in himself a species of joyous desire to say to the passers-by:
"My name is Du Roy de Cantel."
But scarcely had he got home than the thought of Madame de Marelle made him feel uneasy, and he wrote to her at once to ask her to make an appointment for the next day. "It will be a tough job," he thought. "I must look out for squalls."
Then he made up his mind for it, with the native carelessness which caused him to slur over the disagreeable side of life, and began to write a fancy article on the fresh taxes needed in order to make the Budget balance.
He set down in this the nobiliary "De" at a hundred francs a year, and titles, from baron to prince, at from five hundred to five thousand francs.
And he signed it
"D. de Cantel."
He received a telegram from his mistress next morning saying that she would call at one o'clock.
He waited for her somewhat feverishly, his mind made up to bring things to a point at once, to say everything right out, and then, when the first emotion had subsided, to argue cleverly in order to prove to her that he could not remain a bachelor for ever, and that as Monsieur de Marelle insisted on living, he had been obliged to think of another than herself as his legitimate companion.
He felt moved, though, and when he heard her ring his heart began to beat.
She threw herself into his arms, exclaiming:
"Good morning, Pretty-boy."
Then, finding his embrace cold, looked at him, and said: "What is the matter with you?"
"Sit down," he said, "we have to talk seriously."
She sat down without taking her bonnet off, only turning back her veil, and waited.
He had lowered his eyes, and was preparing the beginning of his speech.
He commenced in a low tone of voice: "My dear one, you see me very uneasy, very sad, and very much embarrassed at what I have to admit to you.
I love you dearly. I really love you from the bottom of my heart, so that the fear of causing you pain afflicts me more than even the news I am going to tell you."
She grew pale, felt herself tremble, and stammered out:
"What is the matter?
Tell me at once."
He said in sad but resolute tones, with that feigned dejection which we make use of to announce fortunate misfortunes:
"I am going to be married."
She gave the sigh of a woman who is about to faint, a painful sigh from the very depths of her bosom, and then began to choke and gasp without being able to speak.
Seeing that she did not say anything, he continued: "You cannot imagine how much I suffered before coming to this resolution.
But I have neither position nor money.
I am alone, lost in Paris.