“It is undeniable that the Chantelouves have no income and that they live in style. Catholic publishing houses and magazines pay even worse than the secular, so in spite of his established reputation in the clerical world, Chantelouve cannot possibly maintain such a standard of living on his royalties.
“There simply is no telling what these people are up to. That this woman’s home life is unhappy, and that she does not love the sneaky sacristan to whom she is married, is quite possible, but what is her real role in that household? Is she accessory to Chantelouve’s pecuniary dodges? If that is the case I don’t see why she should pick on me. If she is in connivance with her husband, she certainly ought to have sense enough to seek an influential or wealthy lover, and she is perfectly aware that I fulfil neither the one nor the other condition. Chantelouve knows very well that I am incapable of paying for her gowns and thus contributing to the upkeep of their establishment. I make about three thousand livres, and I can hardly contrive to keep myself going.
“So that is not her game. I don’t know that I want to have anything to do with their kind of people,” he concluded, somewhat chilled by these reflections. “But I am a big fool. What I know about them proves that my unknown beloved is not Chantelouve’s wife, and, all things considered, I am glad she isn’t.”
Next day his ferment had subsided. The unknown never left him, but she kept her distance. Her less certain features were effaced in mist, her fascination became feebler, and she no longer was his sole preoccupation.
The idea, suddenly formed on a word of Des Hermies, that the unknown must be Chantelouve’s wife, had, in fashion, checked his fever. If it was she—and his contrary conclusions of the evening before seemed hardly valid when he took up one by one the arguments by which he had arrived at them—then her reasons for wanting him were obscure, dangerous, and he was on his guard, no longer letting himself go in complete self-abandon.
And yet, there was another phenomenon taking place within him. He had never paid any especial attention to Hyacinthe Chantelouve, he had never been in love with her. She interested him by the mystery of her person and her life, but outside her drawing-room he had never given her a thought. Now ruminating about her he began almost to desire her.
Suddenly she benefited by the face of the unknown, for when Durtal evoked her she came confused to his sight, her physiognomy mingled with that which he had visualized when the first letters came.
Though the sneaking scoundrelism of her husband displeased him, he did not think her the less attractive, but his desires were no longer beyond control. In spite of the distrust which she aroused, she might be an interesting mistress, making up for her barefaced vices by her good grace, but she was no longer the non-existent, the chimera raised in a moment of uncertainty.