“I am sorry, mon cher, but I have not a place to offer you.”
No place in a carriage that was as big as a house, and which five of them had come in!
Moessard gazed at him in stupefaction.
“I had, however, a few words to say to you which are very urgent. With regard to the subject of my note—you received it, did you not?”
“Certainly; and M. de Gery should have sent you a reply this very morning. What you ask is impossible. Twenty thousand francs! Tonnerre de Dieu! You go at a fine rate!”
“Still, it seems to me that my services—” stammered the beauty-man.
“Have been amply paid for. That is how it seems to me also. Two hundred thousand francs in five months! We will draw the line there, if you please. Your teeth are long, young man; you will have to file them down a little.”
They exchanged these words as they walked, pushed forward by the surging wave of the people going out. Moessard stopped:
“That is your last word?”
The Nabob hesitated for a moment, seized by a presentiment as he looked at that pale, evil mouth; then he remembered the promise which he had given to his friend:
“That is my last word.”
“Very well! We shall see,” said the handsome Moessard, whose switch-cane cut the air with the hiss of a viper; and, turning on his heel, he made off with great strides, like a man who is expected somewhere on very urgent business.
Jansoulet continued his triumphal progress. That day much more would have been required to upset the equilibrium of his happiness; on the contrary, he felt himself relieved by the so-quickly achieved fulfilment of his purpose.
The immense vestibule was thronged by a dense crowd of people whom the approach of the hour of closing was bringing out, but whom one of those sudden showers, which seem inseparable from the opening of the Salon, kept waiting beneath the porch, with its floor beaten down and sandy like the entrance to the circus where the young dandies strut about. The scene that met the eye was curious, and very Parisian.
Outside, great rays of sunshine traversing the rain, attaching to its limpid beads those sharp and brilliant blades which justify the proverbial saying, “It rains halberds”; the young greenery of the Champs-Elysees, the clumps of rhododendrons, rustling and wet, the carriages ranged in the avenue, the mackintosh capes of the coachmen, all the splendid harness-trappings of the horses receiving from the rain and the sunbeams an added richness and effect, and blue everywhere looming out, the blue of a sky which is about to smile in the interval between two downpours.
Within, laughter, gossip, greetings, impatience, skirts held up, satins bulging out above the delicate folds of frills, of lace, of flounces gathered up in the hands of their wearers in heavy, terribly frayed bundles. Then, to unite the two sides of the picture, these prisoners framed in by the vaulted ceiling of the porch and in the gloom of its shadow, with the immense background in brilliant light, footmen running beneath umbrellas, crying out names of coachmen or of masters, broughams coming up at walking pace, and flustered couples getting into them.