For he had come to the end of his passionate phrases. For some moments past the regular footsteps of the promenader had been coming nearer.
He had gone the round of the altars, and was now, for the second time at least, coming down the little aisle on the right.
When Madame Walter heard him close to the pillar which hid her, she snatched her fingers from George's grasp, and again hid her face.
And both remained motionless, kneeling as though they had been addressing fervent supplications to heaven together.
The stout gentleman passed close to them, cast an indifferent look upon them, and walked away to the lower end of the church, still holding his hat behind his back.
Du Roy, who was thinking of obtaining an appointment elsewhere than at the Church of the Trinity, murmured:
"Where shall I see you to-morrow?"
She did not answer.
She seemed lifeless--turned into a statue of prayer.
He went on: "To-morrow, will you let me meet you in the Parc Monseau?"
She turned towards him her again uncovered face, a livid face, contracted by fearful suffering, and in a jerky voice ejaculated: "Leave me, leave me now; go away, go away, only for five minutes! I suffer too much beside you. I want to pray, and I cannot. Go away, let me pray alone for five minutes. I cannot. Let me implore God to pardon me--to save me. Leave me for five minutes."
Her face was so upset, so full of pain, that he rose without saying a word, and then, after a little hesitation, asked:
"Shall I come back presently?"
She gave a nod, which meant, "Yes, presently," and he walked away towards the choir.
Then she strove to pray.
She made a superhuman effort to invoke the Deity, and with quivering frame and bewildering soul appealed for mercy to heaven.
She closed her eyes with rage, in order no longer to see him who just left her.
She sought to drive him from her mind, she struggled against him, but instead of the celestial apparition awaited in the distress of her heart, she still perceived the young fellow's curly moustache.
For a year past she had been struggling thus every day, every night, against the growing possession, against this image which haunted her dreams, haunted her flesh, and disturbed her nights.
She felt caught like a beast in a net, bound, thrown into the arms of this man, who had vanquished, conquered her, simply by the hair on his lip and the color of his eyes.
And now in this church, close to God, she felt still weaker, more abandoned, and more lost than at home.
She could no longer pray, she could only think of him.
She suffered already that he had quitted her.
She struggled, however, despairingly, resisted, implored help with all the strength of her soul.
She would liked to have died rather than fall thus, she who had never faltered in her duty.
She murmured wild words of supplication, but she was listening to George's footsteps dying away in the distance.
She understood that it was all over, that the struggle was a useless one.
She would not yield, however; and she was seized by one of those nervous crises that hurl women quivering, yelling, and writhing on the ground.
She trembled in every limb, feeling that she was going to fall and roll among the chairs, uttering shrill cries.
Someone approached with rapid steps.
It was a priest.
She rose and rushed towards him, holding out her clasped hands, and stammering:
"Oh! save me, save me!"
He halted in surprise, saying:
"What is it you wish, madame?"
"I want you to save me.
Have pity on me.
If you do not come to my assistance, I am lost."
He looked at her, asking himself whether she was not mad, and then said:
"What can I do for you?"
He was a tall, and somewhat stout young man, with full, pendulous cheeks, dark, with a carefully shaven face, a good-looking city curate belonging to a wealthy district, and accustomed to rich penitents.
"Hear my confession, and advise me, sustain me, tell me what I am to do."
He replied: "I hear confessions every Saturday, from three to six o'clock."
Having seized his arm, she gripped it tightly as she repeated: "No, no, no; at once, at once!
He is here, in the church.
He is waiting for me."
"Who is waiting for you?" asked the priest.
"A man who will ruin me, who will carry me off, if you do not save me. I cannot flee from him. I am too weak--too weak! Oh, so weak, so weak!"
She fell at his feet sobbing: