She did not insist. She was poking her hair under her veil. “Heavens! what a fright I look!”
He took her hands and kissed them. “When shall I see you again?”
“I thought I wasn’t to come here any more.”
“Oh, now, you know I love you as a good friend. Tell me, when will you come again?”
“Tomorrow night, unless it is inconvenient for you.”
“Not at all.”
“Then, au revoir.”
Their lips met.
“And above all, don’t think about Canon Docre,” she said, turning and shaking her finger at him threateningly as she went out.
“Devil take you and your reticence,” he said to himself, closing the door after her.
“When I think,” said Durtal to himself the next morning, “that in bed, at the moment when the most pertinacious will succumbs, I held firm and refused to yield to the instances of Hyacinthe wishing to establish a footing here, and that after the carnal decline, at that instant when annihilated man recovers—alas!—his reason, I supplicated her, myself, to continue her visits, why, I simply cannot understand myself. Deep down, I have not got over my firm resolution of breaking with her, but I could not dismiss her like a cocotte. And,” to justify his inconsistency, “I hoped to get some information about the canon. Oh, on that subject I am not through with her. She’s got to make up her mind to speak out and quit answering me by monosyllables and guarded phrases as she did yesterday.
“Indeed, what can she have been up to with that abbe who was her confessor and who, by her own admission, launched her into incubacy? She has been his mistress, that is certain. And how many other of these priests she has gone around with have been her lovers also? For she confessed, in a cry, that those are the men she loves. Ah, if one went about much in the clerical world one would doubtless learn remarkable things concerning her and her husband. It is strange, all the same that Chantelouve, who plays a singular role in that household, has acquired a deplorable reputation, and she hasn’t. Never have I heard anybody speak of her dodges—but, oh, what a fool I am! It isn’t strange. Her husband doesn’t confine himself to religious and polite circles. He hobnobs with men of letters, and in consequence exposes himself to every sort of slander, while she, if she takes a lover, chooses him out of a pious society in which not one of us would ever be received. And then, abbes are discreet. But how explain her infatuation with me? By the simple fact that she is surfeited of priests and a layman serves as a change of diet.
“Just the same, she is quite singular, and the more I see her the less I understand her. There are in her three distinct beings.
“First the woman seated or standing up, whom I knew in her drawing-room, reserved, almost haughty, who becomes a good companion in private, affectionate and even tender.