While Pauline waited to undress her, Therese walked to and fro impatiently. Then she stopped suddenly. In the obscure mirrors, wherein the reflections of the candles were drowned, she saw the corridor of the playhouse, and her beloved flying from her through it.
Where was he now? What was he saying to himself alone? It was torture for her not to be able to rejoin him and see him again at once.
She pressed her heart with her hands; she was smothering.
Pauline uttered a cry. She saw drops of blood on the white corsage of her mistress.
Therese, without knowing it, had pricked her hand with the red lily.
She detached the emblematic jewel which she had worn before all as the dazzling secret of her heart, and, holding it in her fingers, contemplated it for a long time. Then she saw again the days of Florence—the cell of San Marco, where her lover’s kiss weighed delicately on her mouth, while, through her lowered lashes, she vaguely perceived again the angels and the sky painted on the wall, and the dazzling fountain of the ice-vender against the bright cloth; the pavilion of the Via Alfieri, its nymphs, its goats, and the room where the shepherds and the masks on the screens listened to her sighs and noted her long silences.
No, all these things were not shadows of the past, spectres of ancient hours. They were the present reality of her love. And a word stupidly cast by a stranger would destroy these beautiful things! Happily, it was not possible. Her love, her lover, did not depend on such insignificant matters. If only she could run to his house! She would find him before the fire, his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands, sad. Then she would run her fingers through his hair, force him to lift his head, to see that she loved him, that she was his treasure, palpitating with joy and love.
She had dismissed her maid. In her bed she thought of only one thing.
It was an accident, an absurd accident. He would understand it; he would know that their love had nothing to do with anything so stupid. What folly for him to care about another! As if there were other men in the world!
M. Martin-Belleme half opened the bedroom door. Seeing a light he went in.
“You are not asleep, Therese?”
He had been at a conference with his colleagues. He wanted advice from his wife on certain points. He needed to hear sincere words.
“It is done,” he said. “You will help me, I am sure, in my situation, which is much envied, but very difficult and even perilous. I owe it to you somewhat, since it came to me through the powerful influence of your father.”
He consulted her on the choice of a Chief of Cabinet.
She advised him as best she could. She thought he was sensible, calm, and not sillier than many others.
He lost himself in reflections.
“I have to defend before the Senate the budget voted by the Chamber of Deputies. The budget contains innovations which I did not approve. When I was a deputy I fought against them. Now that I am a minister I must support them. I saw things from the outside formerly. I see them from the inside now, and their aspect is changed. And, then, I am free no longer.”