The fire in the hearth had gone out; the rain lashed against the window-panes. Madame Arnoux sat motionless with her hands on the arms of her chair; the ribbons of her cap hung down like the head-bands of a sphinx;
Her clear-cut profile stood out in pale relief in the dusk.
He longed to throw himself on his knees. There was a creaking noise in the corridor; he did not dare.
Frédéric: (If she doesn’t want me, let her throw me out! If she wants me, let her give me some encouragement!)
Frédéric: Then you don’t agree that a man may love… a woman?
Madame Arnoux: If she is free, he marries her; if she belongs to another, he leaves her alone.
Frédéric:Then happiness is unattainable?
Madame Arnoux: No. But it is never to be found in falsehood, anxiety, and remorse.
Frédéric: What does that matter, if it affords sublime joys?
Madame Arnoux: The price of the experience is too high.
Frédéric: So virtue is nothing but cowardice?
Madame Arnoux: I should prefer to call it perspicacity. Even for women who forget duty or religion, mere common sense may be enough. Selfishness makes a solid foundation for good behavior.
Frédéric: Oh, what a collection of middle-class maxims!
Madame Arnoux: But I don’t claim to be a great lady.
Child Mamma, are you coming down to dinner?
Madame Arnoux: Yes, in a minute.
Frédéric got up; at the same time Marthe appeared. He could not make up his mind to go.
Frédéric: Then those women you were speaking of are utterly heartless?
Madame Arnoux: No, but they are deaf when necessary.
And she stood there, in the doorway of her room, with her two children at her sides. He bowed without a word. She acknowledged his bow in silence.