The band had again taken up the waltz in the Blonde Venus. Fauchery had begun by bowing to the countess, who was still smiling in ecstatic serenity. After which he had stood motionless a moment, waiting very calmly behind the count's back. That evening the count's deportment was one of lofty gravity: he held his head high, as became the official and the great dignitary. And when at last he lowered his gaze in the direction of the journalist he seemed still further to emphasize the majesty of his attitude. For some seconds the two men looked at one another. It was Fauchery who first stretched out his hand. Muffat gave him his. Their hands remained clasped, and the Countess Sabine with downcast eyes stood smiling before them, while the waltz continually beat out its mocking, vagabond rhythm.
"But the thing's going on wheels!" said Steiner.
"Are their hands glued together?" asked Foucarmont, surprised at this prolonged clasp. A memory he could not forget brought a faint glow to Fanchery's pale cheeks, and in his mind's eye he saw the property room bathed in greenish twilight and filled with dusty bric-a-brac. And Muffat was there, eggcup in hand, making a clever use of his suspicions. At this moment Muffat was no longer suspicious, and the last vestige of his dignity was crumbling in ruin. Fauchery's fears were assuaged, and when he saw the frank gaiety of the countess he was seized with a desire to laugh. The thing struck him as comic.
"Aha, here she is at last!" cried La Faloise, who did not abandon a
jest when he thought it a good one. "D'you see Nana coming in over