What does it matter?
It would be very comical to admit that you had deceived him, to me."
He was indeed quivering with hope and desire that Charles, the hateful Charles, the detested dead, had borne this shameful ridicule.
And yet--yet--another emotion, less definite.
"My dear little Made, tell me, I beg of you.
He deserved it.
You would have been wrong not to have given him a pair of horns.
Come, Made, confess."
She now, no doubt, found this persistence amusing, for she was laughing a series of short, jerky laughs.
He had put his lips close to his wife's ear and whispered:
"Come, come, confess."
She jerked herself away, and said, abruptly:
"You are crazy.
As if one answered such questions."
She said this in so singular a tone that a cold shiver ran through her husband's veins, and he remained dumbfounded, scared, almost breathless, as though from some mental shock.
The carriage was now passing along the lake, on which the sky seemed to have scattered its stars.
Two swans, vaguely outlined, were swimming slowly, scarcely visible in the shadow.
George called out to the driver:
"Turn back!" and the carriage returned, meeting the others going at a walk, with their lanterns gleaming like eyes in the night.
What a strange manner in which she had said it.
Was it a confession? Du Roy kept asking himself.
And the almost certainty that she had deceived her first husband now drove him wild with rage.
He longed to beat her, to strangle her, to tear her hair out.
Oh, if she had only replied:
"But darling, if I had deceived him, it would have been with yourself," how he would have kissed, clasped, worshiped her.
He sat still, his arms crossed, his eyes turned skyward, his mind too agitated to think as yet.
He only felt within him the rancor fermenting and the anger swelling which lurk at the heart of all mankind in presence of the caprices of feminine desire.
He felt for the first time that vague anguish of the husband who suspects.
He was jealous at last, jealous on behalf of the dead, jealous on Forestier's account, jealous in a strange and poignant fashion, into which there suddenly entered a hatred of Madeleine.
Since she had deceived the other, how could he have confidence in her himself?
Then by degrees his mind became calmer, and bearing up against his pain, he thought:
"All women are prostitutes. We must make use of them, and not give them anything of ourselves."
The bitterness in his heart rose to his lips in words of contempt and disgust.
He repeated to himself:
"The victory in this world is to the strong.
One must be strong.
One must be above all prejudices."
The carriage was going faster.
It repassed the fortifications.
Du Roy saw before him a reddish light in the sky like the glow of an immense forge, and heard a vast, confused, continuous rumor, made up of countless different sounds, the breath of Paris panting this summer night like an exhausted giant.
George reflected: "I should be very stupid to fret about it.
Everyone for himself.
Fortune favors the bold.
Egotism is everything.
Egotism as regards ambition and fortune is better than egotism as regards woman and love."
The Arc de Triomphe appeared at the entrance to the city on its two tall supports like a species of shapeless giant ready to start off and march down the broad avenue open before him.
George and Madeleine found themselves once more in the stream of carriages bearing homeward and bedwards the same silent and interlaced couples.
It seemed that the whole of humanity was passing by intoxicated with joy, pleasure, and happiness.
The young wife, who had divined something of what was passing through her husband's mind, said, in her soft voice: "What are you thinking of, dear?
You have not said a word for the last half hour."