He rose softly to see who those strange burglars could be, who were leaving the house instead of entering it; and this is what he saw through the slats of his blind: A tall, slender young man, with Georges's figure and carriage, arm-in-arm with a woman in a lace mantilla. They stopped first at the bench by the Paulownia, which was in full bloom. It was a superb moonlight night.
Georges would look up at Christophe's grave eyes, which seemed to be gazing at him from far away. And he would feel like a little boy in his presence. He would see himself as he was, in that penetrating glance, which was shot with a gleam of malice: and he was not proud of it. Christophe hardly ever made use of Georges's confidences against him; it was often as though he had not heard them.
What joy to walk with her child over the greensward where she herself had walked as a child; to sit, a young mother, upon the shaded seats from which her own mother had looked on at her childish games years before; to go, leaning on Georges's arm, to seek out the nooks where they had played together.
He loved them equally; but he judged Georges more hardly: he knew his weakness: he idolized Aurora, and thought himself responsible for her happiness even more than for Georges's; for it seemed to him that Georges was as a son to him, a part of himself, and he wondered whether it was not wrong to give Aurora in her innocence a companion who was very far from sharing it.
For three months the leading wall-paper factory in Paris has been tied to the petticoats of that good-for-nothing. You should see how the money flies. All day long I do nothing but open my wicket to meet Monsieur Georges's calls. He always applies to me, because at his banker's too much notice would be taken of it, whereas in our office money comes and goes, comes in and goes out.
I laugh at anything they may say." "But I don't. And you must mind your own business." Thereafter Christophe lived on tenterhooks lest some fresh article might rouse Georges's susceptibilities. After a week he recovered his equanimity. The boy was right. His action had given the yelping curs food for a moment's reflection.
Receipts and expenditures balanced each other. The general expense account had eaten up everything, and, furthermore, Fromont Jeune was indebted to the firm in a large sum. You should have seen old Planus's air of consternation when, on the 31st of December, he went up to Georges's office to make report of his labors. Georges took a very cheerful view of the matter.
She could not forgive herself for having, in so poor a world, lost an affection like his. Her regrets, and her sorrow, grew less acute with time. There were left only a sort of mute suffering, a humiliated contempt for herself and others, and the love of her child. This affection, into which she poured all her need of love, disarmed her before him; she could not resist Georges's caprices.
Christophe went and sat in the chair he had left on Georges's arrival, near the window, with his head thrown back, looking at the roofs opposite and the reddening evening sky. He paid no attention to Georges. The young man pretended to look about on the table, while he stole glances at Christophe. His face was set: the beams of the setting sun lit up his cheek-bones and his forehead.
Her success completed Georges's intoxication; but as his advances became more pronounced, she showed more and more reserve. Thereupon he determined that she should be his wife. He swore it to himself, with the exaggerated emphasis of weak characters, who seem always to combat beforehand the difficulties to which they know that they must yield some day.