“As you wish. But I should prefer that you keep the blue room for Paul Vence, who wishes to come. It is possible, too, that Choulette may come without warning. It is his habit. We shall see him some morning ringing like a beggar at the gate. You know my husband is mistaken when he thinks Le Menil pleases me. And then I must go to Paris next week for two or three days.”
Twenty-four hours after writing her letter, Therese went from Dinard to the little house in the Ternes. It had not been difficult for her to find a pretext to go to Paris. She had made the trip with her husband, who wanted to see his electors whom the Socialists were working over. She surprised Jacques in the morning, at the studio, while he was sketching a tall figure of Florence weeping on the shore of the Arno.
The model, seated on a very high stool, kept her pose. She was a long, dark girl. The harsh light which fell from the skylight gave precision to the pure lines of her hip and thighs, accentuated her harsh visage, her dark neck, her marble chest, the lines of her knees and feet, the toes of which were set one over the other. Therese looked at her curiously, divining her exquisite form under the miseries of her flesh, poorly fed and badly cared for.
Dechartre came toward Therese with an air of painful tenderness which moved her. Then, placing his clay and the instrument near the easel, and covering the figure with a wet cloth, he said to the model:
“That is enough for to-day.”
She rose, picked up awkwardly her clothing, a handful of dark wool and soiled linen, and went to dress behind the screen.
Meanwhile the sculptor, having dipped in the water of a green bowl his hands, which the tenacious clay made white, went out of the studio with Therese.
They passed under the tree which studded the sand of the courtyard with the shells of its flayed bark. She said:
“You have no more faith, have you?”
He led her to his room.
The letter written from Dinard had already softened his painful impressions. She had come at the moment when, tired of suffering, he felt the need of calm and of tenderness. A few lines of handwriting had appeased his mind, fed on images, less susceptible to things than to the signs of things; but he felt a pain in his heart.
In the room where everything spoke of her, where the furniture, the curtains, and the carpets told of their love, she murmured soft words:
“You could believe—do you not know what you are?—it was folly! How can a woman who has known you care for another after you?”
“Before, I was waiting for you.”
“And he did not attend the races at Dinard?”
She did not think he had, and it was very certain she did not attend them herself. Horses and horsey men bored her.