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then Robert posed as an inconsolable, prostrating himself at the
feet of Madame Ratignolle for whatever crumbs of sympathy and
comfort she might be pleased to vouchsafe.
Mrs. Pontellier liked to sit and gaze at her fair companion as
she might look upon a faultless Madonna.
"Could any one fathom the cruelty beneath that fair exterior?"
murmured Robert. "She knew that I adored her once, and she let me
adore her. It was `Robert, come; go; stand up; sit down; do this;
do that; see if the baby sleeps; my thimble, please, that I left
God knows where. Come and read Daudet to me while I sew.'"
"Par exemple! I never had to ask. You were always there
under my feet, like a troublesome cat."
"You mean like an adoring dog. And just as soon as Ratignolle
appeared on the scene, then it WAS like a dog. `Passez! Adieu!
"Perhaps I feared to make Alphonse jealous," she interjoined, with
excessive naivete. That made them all laugh. The right hand
jealous of the left! The heart jealous of the soul! But for that
matter, the Creole husband is never jealous; with him the gangrene
passion is one which has become dwarfed by disuse.
Meanwhile Robert, addressing Mrs Pontellier, continued to tell
of his one time hopeless passion for Madame Ratignolle; of
sleepless nights, of consuming flames till the very sea sizzled
when he took his daily plunge. While the lady at the needle kept
up a little running, contemptuous comment:
"Blagueur--farceur--gros bete, va!"
He never assumed this seriocomic tone when alone with Mrs.
Pontellier. She never knew precisely what to make of it; at that
moment it was impossible for her to guess how much of it was jest
and what proportion was earnest. It was understood that he had
often spoken words of love to Madame Ratignolle, without any
thought of being taken seriously. Mrs. Pontellier was glad he had
not assumed a similar role toward herself. It would have been
unacceptable and annoying.
Mrs. Pontellier had brought her sketching materials, which she
sometimes dabbled with in an unprofessional way. She liked the