But we hardly give the event its right name. It was Capitaine Lemaitre who had disappeared; it was Monsieur Vignevielle who had come back. The pleasures, the haunts, the companions, that had once held out their charms to the impetuous youth, offered no enticements to Madame Delphine’s banker. There is this to be said even for the pride his grandfather had taught him, that it had always hald him above low indulgences; and though he had dallied with kings, queens, and knaves through all the mazes of Faro, Rondeau, and Craps, he had done it loftily; but now he maintained a peaceful estrangement from all. Evariste and Jean, themselves, found him only by seeking.
“It is the right way,” he said to Pere Jerome, the day we saw him there. “Ursin Lemaitre is dead. I have buried him. He left a will. I am his executor.”
“He is crazy,” said his lawyer brother-in-law, impatiently.
“On the contr-y,” replied the little priest, “’e ’as come ad hisse’f.”
“Look at his face, Jean. Men with that kind of face are the last to go crazy.”
“You have not proved that,” replied Jean, with an attorney’s obstinacy. “You should have heard him talk the other day about that newspaper paragraph I have taken Ursin Lemaitre’s head; I have it with me; I claim the reward, but I desire to commute it to citizenship.’ He is crazy.”
Of course Jean Thompson did not believe what he said; but he said it, and, in his vexation, repeated it, on the banquettes and at the clubs; and presently it took the shape of a sly rumor, that the returned rover was a trifle snarled in his top-hamper.
This whisper was helped into circulation by many trivial eccentricities of manner, and by the unaccountable oddness of some of his transactions in business.
“My dear sir!” cried his astounded lawyer, one day, “you are not running a charitable institution!”
“How do you know?” said Monsieur Vignevielle. There the conversation ceased.
“Why do you not found hospitals and asylums at once,” asked the attorney, at another time, with a vexed laugh, “and get the credit of it?”
“And make the end worse than the beginning,’ said the banker, with a gentle smile, turning away to a desk of books.
“Bah!” muttered Jean Thompson.
Monsieur Vignevielle betrayed one very bad symptom. Wherever he went he seemed looking for somebody. It may have been perceptible only to those who were sufficiently interested in him to study his movements; but those who saw it once saw it always. He never passed an open door or gate but he glanced in; and often, where it stood but slightly ajar, you might see him give it a gentle push with his hand or cane It was very singular.
He walked much alone after dark. The gurchinangoes (garroters, we might say), at those times the city’s particular terror by night, never crossed his path. He was one of those men for whom danger appears to stand aside.