“I was sure of it!” said old Gardinois, recognizing them. Indeed, what need had he to recognize them? Did not the silence of the dogs, the aspect of the sleeping house, tell him more clearly than anything else could, what species of impudent crime, unknown and unpunished, haunted the avenues in his park by night? Be that as it may, the old peasant was overjoyed by his discovery. He returned to bed without a light, chuckling to himself, and in the little cabinet filled with hunting-implements, whence he had watched them, thinking at first that he had to do with burglars, the moon’s rays shone upon naught save the fowling-pieces hanging on the wall and the boxes of cartridges of all sizes.
Sidonie and Georges had taken up the thread of their love at the corner of the same avenue. The year that had passed, marked by hesitation, by vague struggles, by fruitless resistance, seemed to have been only a preparation for their meeting. And it must be said that, when once the fatal step was taken, they were surprised at nothing so much as the fact that they had postponed it so long. Georges Fromont especially was seized by a mad passion. He was false to his wife, his best friend; he was false to Risler, his partner, the faithful companion of his every hour.
He felt a constant renewal, a sort of overflow of remorse, wherein his passion was intensified by the magnitude of his sin. Sidonie became his one engrossing thought, and he discovered that until then he had not lived. As for her, her love was made up of vanity and spite. The thing that she relished above all else was Claire’s degradation in her eyes. Ah! if she could only have said to her, “Your husband loves me—he is false to you with me,” her pleasure would have been even greater. As for Risler, in her view he richly deserved what had happened to him. In her old apprentice’s jargon, in which she still thought, even if she did not speak it, the poor man was only “an old fool,” whom she had taken as a stepping-stone to fortune. “An old fool” is made to be deceived!
During the day Savigny belonged to Claire, to the child who ran about upon the gravel, laughing at the birds and the clouds, and who grew apace. The mother and child had for their own the daylight, the paths filled with sunbeams. But the blue nights were given over to sin, to that sin firmly installed in the chateau, which spoke in undertones, crept noiselessly behind the closed blinds, and in face of which the sleeping house became dumb and blind, and resumed its stony impassibility, as if it were ashamed to see and hear.
SIGISMOND PLANUS TREMBLES FOR HIS CASH-BOX
“Carriage, my dear Chorche?—I—have a carriage? What for?”
“I assure you, my dear Risler, that it is quite essential for you. Our business, our relations, are extending every day; the coupe is no longer enough for us. Besides, it doesn’t look well to see one of the partners always in his carriage and the other on foot. Believe me, it is a necessary outlay, and of course it will go into the general expenses of the firm. Come, resign yourself to the inevitable.”