Eleven o’clock struck. Mlle. Gilberte started.
“Dear me!” she exclaimed, “mother will be home directly.”
M. de Tregars might as well have waited for her. Henceforth he had nothing to conceal. Yet, after duly deliberating with the young girl, they decided that he should withdraw, and that he would send M. de Villegre to declare his intentions. He then left, and, five minutes later, Mme. Favoral and M. Chapelain appeared.
The ex-attorney was furious; and he threw the package of bank-notes upon the table with a movement of rage.
“In order to return them to M. de Thaller,” he exclaimed, “it was at least necessary to see him. But the gentleman is invisible; keeps himself under lock and key, guarded by a perfect cloud of servants in livery.”
Meantime, Mme. Favoral had approached her daughter.
“Your brother?” she asked in a whisper.
“He has not yet come home.”
“Dear me!” sighed the poor mother: “at such a time he forsakes us, and for whose sake?”
Mme. Favoral, usually so indulgent, was too severe this time; and it was very unjustly that she accused her son. She forgot, and what mother does not forget, that he was twenty-five years of age, that he was a man, and that, outside of the family and of herself, he must have his own interests and his passions, his affections and his duties. Because he happened to leave the house for a few hours, Maxence was surely not forsaking either his mother or his sister. It was not without a severe internal struggle that he had made up his mind to go out, and, as he was going down the steps,
“Poor mother,” he thought. “I am sure I am making her very unhappy; but how can I help it?”
This was the first time that he had been in the street since his farther’s disaster had been known; and the impression produced upon him was painful in the extreme. Formerly, when he walked through the Rue St. Gilles, that street where he was born, and where he used to play as a boy, every one met him with a friendly nod or a familiar smile. True he was then the son of a man rich and highly esteemed; whereas this morning not a hand was extended, not a hat raised, on his passage. People whispered among themselves, and pointed him out with looks of hatred and irony. That was because he was now the son of the dishonest cashier tracked by the police, of the man whose crime brought disaster upon so many innocent parties.
Mortified and ashamed, Maxence was hurrying on, his head down, his cheek burning, his throat parched, when, in front of a wine-shop,
“Halloo!” said a man; “that’s the son. What cheek!”
And farther on, in front of the grocer’s.
“I tell you what,” said a woman in the midst of a group, “they still have more than we have.”
Then, for the first time, he understood with what crushing weight his father’s crime would weigh upon his whole life; and, whilst going up the Rue Turenne: