He answered, sneeringly: "I was thinking of all these fools cuddling one another, and saying to myself that there is something else to do in life."
She murmured: "Yes, but it is nice sometimes."
"It is nice--when one has nothing better to do."
George's thoughts were still hard at it, stripping life of its poesy in a kind of spiteful anger.
"I should be very foolish to trouble myself, to deprive myself of anything whatever, to worry as I have done for some time past."
Forestier's image crossed his mind without causing any irritation.
It seemed to him that they had just been reconciled, that they had become friends again.
He wanted to cry out:
"Good evening, old fellow."
Madeleine, to whom this silence was irksome, said:
"Suppose we have an ice at Tortoni's before we go in."
He glanced at her sideways.
Her fine profile was lit up by the bright light from the row of gas jets of a cafe.
He thought, "She is pretty.
Well, so much the better.
Jack is as good as his master, my dear.
But if ever they catch me worrying again about you, it will be hot at the North Pole."
Then he replied aloud:
"Certainly, my dear," and in order that she should not guess anything, he kissed her.
It seemed to the young wife that her husband's lips were frozen.
He smiled, however, with his wonted smile, as he gave her his hand to alight in front of the cafe.
On reaching the office next day, Du Roy sought out Boisrenard.
"My dear fellow," said he, "I have a service to ask of you.
It has been thought funny for some time past to call me Forestier.
I begin to find it very stupid.
Will you have the kindness to quietly let our friends know that I will smack the face of the first that starts the joke again?
It will be for them to reflect whether it is worth risking a sword thrust for.
I address myself to you because you are a calm-minded fellow, who can hinder matters from coming to painful extremities, and also because you were my second."
Boisrenard undertook the commission.
Du Roy went out on business, and returned an hour later.
No one called him Forestier.
When he reached home he heard ladies' voices in the drawing-room, and asked,
"Who is there?"
"Madame Walter and Madame de Marelle," replied the servant.
His heart beat fast for a moment, and then he said to himself,
"Well, let's see," and opened the door.
Clotilde was beside the fireplace, full in a ray of light from the window.
It seemed to George that she grew slightly paler on perceiving him.
Having first bowed to Madame Walter and her two daughters, seated like two sentinels on each side of their mother, he turned towards his late mistress.
She held out her hand, and he took it and pressed it meaningly, as though to say,
"I still love you."
She responded to this pressure.
He inquired: "How have you been during the century that has elapsed since our last meeting?"
She replied with perfect ease: "Quite well; and you, Pretty-boy?" and turning to Madeleine, added: "You will allow me to call him Pretty-boy still?"
"Certainly, dear; I will allow whatever you please."
A shade of irony seemed hidden in these words.
Madame Walter spoke of an entertainment that was going to be given by Jacques Rival at his residence, a grand assault-at-arms, at which ladies of fashion were to be present, saying:
"It will be very interesting.
But I am so vexed we have no one to take us there, my husband being obliged to be away at that time."