In the anteroom was a noise of overthrown chairs. It was Schmoll coming back. He had learned that M. Martin-Belleme had recently been appointed Minister. At once he claimed the cross of Commander of the Legion of Honor and a larger apartment at the Institute. His apartment was small, narrow, insufficient for his wife and his five daughters. He had been forced to put his workshop under the roof. He made long complaints, and consented to go only after Madame Martin had promised that she would speak to her husband.
“Monsieur Le Menil,” asked Miss Bell, “shall you go yachting next year?”
Le Menil thought not. He did not intend to keep the Rosebud. The water was tiresome.
And calm, energetic, determined, he looked at Therese.
On the stage, in Marguerite’s prison, Mephistopheles sang, and the orchestra imitated the gallop of horses. Therese murmured:
“I have a headache. It is too warm here.”
Le Menil opened the door.
The clear phrase of Marguerite calling the angels ascended to heaven in white sparks.
“Darling, I will tell you that poor Marguerite does not wish to be saved according to the flesh, and for that reason she is saved in spirit and in truth. I believe one thing, darling, I believe firmly we shall all be saved. Oh, yes, I believe in the final purification of sinners.”
Therese rose, tall and white, with the red flower at her breast. Miss Bell, immovable, listened to the music. Le Menil, in the anteroom, took Madame Martin’s cloak, and, while he held it unfolded, she traversed the box, the anteroom, and stopped before the mirror of the half-open door. He placed on her bare shoulders the cape of red velvet embroidered with gold and lined with ermine, and said, in a low tone, but distinctly:
“Therese, I love you. Remember what I asked you the day before yesterday. I shall be every day, at three o’clock, at our home, in the Rue Spontini.”
At this moment, as she made a motion with her head to receive the cloak, she saw Dechartre with his hand on the knob of the door. He had heard. He looked at her with all the reproach and suffering that human eyes can contain. Then he went into the dim corridor. She felt hammers of fire beating in her chest and remained immovable on the threshold.
“You were waiting for me?” said Montessuy. “You are left alone to-day. I will escort you and Miss Bell.”
A WHITE NIGHT
In the carriage, and in her room, she saw again the look of her lover, that cruel and dolorous look. She knew with what facility he fell into despair, the promptness of his will not to will. She had seen him run away thus on the shore of the Arno. Happy then in her sadness and in her anguish, she could run after him and say, “Come.” Now, again surrounded, watched, she should have found something to say, and not have let him go from her dumb and desolate. She had remained surprised, stunned. The accident had been so absurd and so rapid! She had against Le Menil the sentiment of simple anger which malicious things cause. She reproached herself bitterly for having permitted her lover to go without a word, without a glance, wherein she could have placed her soul.