Then she blushed still more as she murmured:
"One should never eat one's corn in the ear."
He chuckled, kindling at the double meanings from her pretty mouth, and made the sign of the cross, with a movement of the lips, as though murmuring a prayer, adding aloud:
"I have placed myself under the protection of St. Anthony, patron-saint of temptations.
Now I am adamant."
Night was stealing gently on, wrapping in its transparent shadow, like a fine gauze, the broad landscape stretching away to the right.
The train was running along the Seine, and the young couple began to watch the crimson reflections on the surface of the river, winding like a broad strip of polished metal alongside the line, patches fallen from the sky, which the departing sun had kindled into flame.
These reflections slowly died out, grew deeper, faded sadly.
The landscape became dark with that sinister thrill, that deathlike quiver, which each twilight causes to pass over the earth.
This evening gloom, entering the open window, penetrated the two souls, but lately so lively, of the now silent pair.
They had drawn more closely together to watch the dying day.
At Nantes the railway people had lit the little oil lamp, which shed its yellow, trembling light upon the drab cloth of the cushions.
Duroy passed his arms round the waist of his wife, and clasped her to him.
His recent keen desire had become a softened one, a longing for consoling little caresses, such as we lull children with.
He murmured softly: "I shall love you very dearly, my little Made."
The softness of his voice stirred the young wife, and caused a rapid thrill to run through her. She offered her mouth, bending towards him, for he was resting his cheek upon the warm pillow of her bosom, until the whistle of the train announced that they were nearing a station.
She remarked, flattening the ruffled locks about her forehead with the tips of her fingers: "It was very silly.
We are quite childish."
But he was kissing her hands in turn with feverish rapidity, and replied:
"I adore you, my little Made."
Until they reached Rouen they remained almost motionless, cheek against cheek, their eyes turned to the window, through which, from time to time, the lights of houses could be seen in the darkness, satisfied with feeling themselves so close to one another, and with the growing anticipation of a freer and more intimate embrace.
They put up at a hotel overlooking the quay, and went to bed after a very hurried supper.
The chambermaid aroused them next morning as it was striking eight.
When they had drank the cup of tea she had placed on the night-table, Duroy looked at his wife, then suddenly, with the joyful impulse of the fortunate man who has just found a treasure, he clasped her in his arms, exclaiming:
"My little Made, I am sure that I love you ever so much, ever so much, ever so much."
She smiled with her confident and satisfied smile, and murmured, as she returned his kisses:
"And I too--perhaps."
But he still felt uneasy about the visit of his parents.
He had already forewarned his wife, had prepared and lectured her, but he thought fit to do so again. "You know," he said, "they are only rustics--country rustics, not theatrical ones."
"But I know that: you have told me so often enough.
Come, get up and let me get up."
He jumped out of bed, and said, as he drew on his socks:
"We shall be very uncomfortable there, very uncomfortable.
There is only an old straw palliasse in my room.
Spring mattresses are unknown at Canteleu."
She seemed delighted.
"So much the better.
It will be delightful to sleep badly--beside--beside you, and to be woke up by the crowing of the cocks."
She had put on her dressing-gown--a white flannel dressing-gown--which Duroy at once recognized. The sight of it was unpleasant to him.
His wife had, he was aware, a round dozen of these morning garments.
She could not destroy her trousseau in order to buy a new one.
No matter, he would have preferred that her bed-linen, her night-linen, her under-clothing were not the same she had made use of with the other.
It seemed to him that the soft, warm stuff must have retained something from its contact with Forestier.
He walked to the window, lighting a cigarette.
The sight of the port, the broad stream covered with vessels with tapering spars, the steamers noisily unloading alongside the quay, stirred him, although he had been acquainted with it all for a long time past, and he exclaimed:
"By Jove! it is a fine sight."
Madeleine approached, and placing both hands on one of her husband's shoulders, leaned against him with careless grace, charmed and delighted.
She kept repeating: "Oh! how pretty, how pretty.