He arrived at the Boulevard Malesherbes about two, and was shown into the drawing-room, where he waited till Madame Walter made her appearance, her hand outstretched with pleased eagerness, saying:
"What good wind brings you hither?"
"No good wind, but the wish to see you.
Some power has brought me here, I do not know why, for I have nothing to say to you.
I came, here I am; will you forgive me this early visit and the frankness of this explanation?"
He uttered this in a gallant and jesting tone, with a smile on his lips.
She was astonished, and colored somewhat, stammering:
"But really--I do not understand--you surprise me."
He observed: "It is a declaration made to a lively tune, in order not to alarm you."
They had sat down in front of one another.
She took the matter pleasantly, saying:
"A serious declaration?"
For a long time I have been wanting to utter it--for a very long time.
But I dared not.
They say you are so strict, so rigid."
She had recovered her assurance, and observed: "Why to-day, then?"
"I do not know." Then lowering his voice he added: "Or rather, because I have been thinking of nothing but you since yesterday."
She stammered, growing suddenly pale:
"Come, enough of nonsense; let us speak of something else."
But he had fallen at her feet so suddenly that she was frightened.
She tried to rise, but he kept her seated by the strength of his arms passed round her waist, and repeated in a voice of passion: "Yes, it is true that I have loved you madly for a long time past.
Do not answer me.
What would you have? I am mad.
I love you. Oh! if you knew how I love you!"
She was suffocating, gasping, and strove to speak, without being able to utter a word.
She pushed him away with her two hands, having seized him by the hair to hinder the approach of the mouth that she felt coming towards her own.
She kept turning her head from right to left and from left to right with a rapid motion, closing her eyes, in order no longer to see him.
He touched her through her dress, handled her, pressed her, and she almost fainted under his strong and rude caress.
He rose suddenly and sought to clasp her to him, but, free for a moment, she had managed to escape by throwing herself back, and she now fled from behind one chair to another.
He felt that pursuit was ridiculous, and he fell into a chair, his face hidden by his hands, feigning convulsive sobs.
Then he got up, exclaimed
"Farewell, farewell," and rushed away.
He quietly took his stick in the hall and gained the street, saying to himself:
"By Jove, I believe it is all right there." And he went into a telegraph office to send a wire to Clotilde, making an appointment for the next day.
On returning home at his usual time, he said to his wife:
"Well, have you secured all the people for your dinner?"
She answered: "Yes, there is only Madame Walter, who is not quite sure whether she will be free to come.
She hesitated and talked about I don't know what--an engagement, her conscience.
In short, she seemed very strange.
No matter, I hope she will come all the same."
He shrugged his shoulders, saying:
"Oh, yes, she'll come."
He was not certain, however, and remained anxious until the day of the dinner.
That very morning Madeleine received a note from her:
"I have managed to get free from my engagements with great difficulty, and shall be with you this evening.
But my husband cannot accompany me."
Du Roy thought: "I did very well indeed not to go back.
She has calmed down.