Tears of shame and anger started from Mlle. Gilberte’s eyes.
“What you are saying is abominable, sir!” she exclaimed.
He seemed much surprised at this outburst of violence.
“Why so?” he answered. “In Vincent’s place, I should not have hesitated to do what he has certainly done. And I am an honest man too. I was in business for twenty years; and I dare any one to prove that a note signed Desclavettes ever went to protest. And so, my dear friends, I beseech you, consent to serve your old friend, and, when you see your father—”
The old man’s tone of voice exasperated even Mme. Favoral herself.
“We never expect to see my husband again,” she uttered.
He shrugged his shoulders, and, in a tone of paternal reproach,
“You just give up all such ugly ideas,” he said. “You will see him again, that dear Vincent; for he is much too sharp to allow himself to be caught. Of course, he’ll stay away as long as it may be necessary; but, as soon as he can return without danger, he will do so. The Statute of Limitations has not been invented for the Grand Turk. Why, the Boulevard is crowded with people who have all had their little difficulty, and who have spent five or ten years abroad for their health. Does any one think any thing of it? Not in the least; and no one hesitates to shake hands with them. Besides, those things are so soon forgotten.”
He kept on as if he never intended to stop; and it was not without trouble that Maxence and Gilberte succeeded in sending him off, very much dissatisfied to see his request so ill received. It was after twelve o’clock. Maxence was anxious to return to his own home; but, at the pressing instances of his mother, he consented to remain, and threw himself, without undressing, on the bed in his old room.
“What will the morrow bring forth?” he thought.
After a few hours of that leaden sleep which follows great catastrophes, Mme. Favoral and her children were awakened on the morning of the next day, which was Sunday, by the furious clamors of an exasperated crowd. Each one, from his own room, understood that the apartment had just been invaded. Loud blows upon the door were mingled with the noise of feet, the oaths of men, and the screams of women. And, above this confused and continuous tumult, such vociferations as these could be heard:
“I tell you they must be at home!”
“Canailles, swindlers, thieves!”
“We want to go in: we will go in!”
“Let the woman come, then: we want to see her, to speak to her!”
Occasionally there were moments of silence, during which the plaintive voice of the servant could be heard; but almost at once the cries and the threats commenced again, louder than ever. Maxence, being ready first, ran to the parlor, where his mother and sister joined him directly, their eyes swollen by sleep and by tears. Mme. Favoral was trembling so much that she could not succeed in fastening her dress.