The dinner was delightful, so intimate and cordial, and the Count stayed on quite late, so comfortable did he feel in this nice little new household.
As soon as he had left Madeleine said to her husband:
"Is he not perfect?
He gains in every way by being known.
He is a true friend--safe, devoted, faithful.
Ah, without him--"
She did not finish the sentence, and George replied:
"Yes, I find him very agreeable.
I think that we shall get on very well together."
She resumed: "You do not know, but we have some work to do together before going to bed.
I had not time to speak to you about it before dinner, because Vaudrec came in at once.
I have had some important news, news from Morocco.
It was Laroche-Mathieu, the deputy, the future minister, who brought it to me.
We must work up an important article, a sensational one.
I have the facts and figures.
We will set to work at once.
Bring the lamp."
He took it, and they passed into the study.
The same books were ranged in the bookcase, which now bore on its summit the three vases bought at the Golfe Juan by Forestier on the eve of his death.
Under the table the dead man's mat awaited the feet of Du Roy, who, on sitting down, took up an ivory penholder slightly gnawed at the end by the other's teeth.
Madeleine leant against the mantelpiece, and having lit a cigarette related her news, and then explained her notions and the plan of the article she meditated.
He listened attentively, scribbling notes as he did so, and when she had finished, raised objections, took up the question again, enlarged its bearing, and sketched in turn, not the plan of an article, but of a campaign against the existing Ministry.
This attack would be its commencement.
His wife had left off smoking, so strongly was her interest aroused, so vast was the vision that opened before her as she followed out George's train of thought.
She murmured, from time to time: "Yes, yes; that is very good. That is capital. That is very clever."
And when he had finished speaking in turn, she said:
"Now let us write."
But he always found it hard to make a start, and with difficulty sought his expressions.
Then she came gently, and, leaning over his shoulder, began to whisper sentences in his ear.
From time to time she would hesitate, and ask:
"Is that what you want to say?"
He answered: "Yes, exactly."
She had piercing shafts, the poisoned shafts of a woman, to wound the head of the Cabinet, and she blended jests about his face with others respecting his policy in a curious fashion, that made one laugh, and, at the same time, impressed one by their truth of observation.
Du Roy from time to time added a few lines which widened and strengthened the range of attack.
He understood, too, the art of perfidious insinuation, which he had learned in sharpening up his "Echoes"; and when a fact put forward as certain by Madeleine appeared doubtful or compromising, he excelled in allowing it to be divined and in impressing it upon the mind more strongly than if he had affirmed it.
When their article was finished, George read it aloud.
They both thought it excellent, and smiled, delighted and surprised, as if they had just mutually revealed themselves to one another.
They gazed into the depths of one another's eyes with yearnings of love and admiration, and they embraced one another with an ardor communicated from their minds to their bodies.
Du Roy took up the lamp again.
"And now to bye-bye," said he, with a kindling glance.
She replied: "Go first, sir, since you light the way."
He went first, and she followed him into their bedroom, tickling his neck to make him go quicker, for he could not stand that.
The article appeared with the signature of George Duroy de Cantel, and caused a great sensation.
There was an excitement about it in the Chamber.
Daddy Walter congratulated the author, and entrusted him with the political editorship of the _Vie Francaise_.
The "Echoes" fell again to Boisrenard.
Then there began in the paper a violent and cleverly conducted campaign against the Ministry.
The attack, now ironical, now serious, now jesting, and now virulent, but always skillful and based on facts, was delivered with a certitude and continuity which astonished everyone.
Other papers continually cited the _Vie Francaise_, taking whole passages from it, and those in office asked themselves whether they could not gag this unknown and inveterate foe with the gift of a prefecture.
Du Roy became a political celebrity.