He only became lenient and sociable when he wanted to get a picture accepted, on those occasions showing himself extremely fertile in devices, intriguing and carrying the vote with all the supple deftness of a conjurer. The committee work was really a hard task, and even Bongrand's strong legs grew tired of it. It was cut out every day by the assistants.
One could see Bongrand's back shake, as if his irritation were increasing at each sentence. He curtly interrupted the dealer. 'Too late; it's sold. 'Sold, you say. And you cannot annul your bargain? Tell me, at any rate, to whom it's sold? I'll do everything, I'll give anything. Ah! What a horrible blow! Sold, are you quite sure of it? Suppose you were offered double the sum?
You'll see, it's stunning. Claude grew pale. A great joy choked him, while he pretended to receive the news with composure. Bongrand's words came back to him. He began to believe that he possessed genius. 'Hallo, how are you? continued Jory, shaking hands with the others. And, without more ado, he, Fagerolles and Gagniere surrounded Irma, who smiled on them in a good-natured way.
Moire-like shadows darted along the walls, all the paintings became dim, the spectators themselves were blended in obscurity until the cloud was carried away, whereupon the painter saw the heads again emerge from the twilight, ever agape with idiotic rapture. But there was another cup of bitterness in reserve for Claude. On the left-hand panel, facing Fagerolles', he perceived Bongrand's picture.
"No," said the notary, who had that morning drawn out a deed of sale at Bongrand's request. "Ursula has just bought the house she is living in." "That cursed fool does everything she can to annoy me!" cried the post master imprudently. "What does it signify to you whether she lives in Nemours or not?" asked Goupil, surprised at the annoyance which the colossus betrayed.
"Oh, monsieur," cried La Bougival, catching Bongrand's blue overcoat, "let me kiss you for what you've just said." "Explain, explain! don't give us false hopes," said the abbe. "If I bring trouble on others by becoming rich," said Ursula, forseeing a criminal trial, "I " "Remember," said the justice, interrupting her, "the happiness you will give to Savinien." "Are you mad?" said the abbe.
She begged Monsieur Bongrand's pardon for leaving him alone in the salon, but he smiled at her and said, "Go! go!" Ursula went down the steps of the portico which led to the pagoda at the foot of the garden. She stood for some minutes slowly arranging the blinds and watching the sunset.
And in front of that painting there was no crush whatever; the visitors walked by with an air of indifference. Yet it was Bongrand's supreme effort, the thrust he had been trying to give for years, a last work conceived in his obstinate craving to prove the virility of his decline.