‘Susie says we must go,’ smiled Margaret.
He could not speak. He could not regain the conventional manner of polite society. Very pale, like a man suddenly awaked from deep sleep, he went out at Margaret’s side. They walked along the passage. Though the door was closed behind them and they were out of earshot, Margaret seemed not withstanding to hear Susie’s passionate sobbing. It gave her a horrible delight. The tavern to which they went was on the Boulevard des Italiens, and at this date the most frequented in Paris. It was crowded, but Arthur had reserved a table in the middle of the room. Her radiant loveliness made people stare at Margaret as she passed, and her consciousness of the admiration she excited increased her beauty. She was satisfied that amid that throng of the best-dressed women in the world she had cause to envy no one. The gaiety was charming. Shaded lights gave an opulent cosiness to the scene, and there were flowers everywhere. Innumerable mirrors reflected women of the world, admirably gowned, actresses of renown, and fashionable courtesans. The noise was very great. A Hungarian band played in a distant corner, but the music was drowned by the loud talking of excited men and the boisterous laughter of women. It was plain that people had come to spend their money with a lavish hand. The vivacious crowd was given over with all its heart to the pleasure of the fleeting moment. Everyone had put aside grave thoughts and sorrow.
Margaret had never been in better spirits. The champagne went quickly to her head, and she talked all manner of charming nonsense. Arthur was enchanted. He was very proud, very pleased, and very happy. They talked of all the things they would do when they were married. They talked of the places they must go to, of their home and of the beautiful things with which they would fill it. Margaret’s animation was extraordinary. Arthur was amused at her delight with the brightness of the place, with the good things they ate, and with the wine. Her laughter was like a rippling brook. Everything tended to take him out of his usual reserve. Life was very pleasing, at that moment, and he felt singularly joyful.
‘Let us drink to the happiness of our life,’ he said.
They touched glasses. He could not take his eyes away from her.
‘You’re simply wonderful tonight,’ he said. ’I’m almost afraid of my good fortune.’
‘What is there to be afraid of?’ she cried.
’I should like to lose something I valued in order to propitiate the fates. I am too happy now. Everything goes too well with me.’
She gave a soft, low laugh and stretched out her hand on the table. No sculptor could have modelled its exquisite delicacy. She wore only one ring, a large emerald which Arthur had given her on their engagement. He could not resist taking her hand.
‘Would you like to go on anywhere?’ he said, when they had finished dinner and were drinking their coffee.