Positively the commissary was moved.
“You see, then, madame,” he said, “that you cannot hesitate: you must live.”
Maxence stepped forward.
“Am I not here, sir?” he said.
The commissary looked at him keenly, and in a grave tone,
“I believe indeed, sir,” he replied, “that you will not suffer your mother and sister to want for any thing. But resources are not created in a day. Yours, if I have not been deceived, are more than limited just now.”
And as the young man blushed, and did not answer, he handed the seven hundred francs to Mlle. Gilberte, saying,
“Take this, mademoiselle: your mother permits it.” His work was done. To place his seals upon M. Favoral’s study was the work of a moment.
Beckoning, then, to his agents to withdraw, and being ready to leave himself,
“Let not the seals cause you any uneasiness, madame,” said the commissary of police to Mme. Favoral. “Before forty-eight hours, some one will come to remove these papers, and restore to you the free use of that room.”
He went out; and, as soon as the door had closed behind him,
“Well?” exclaimed M. Desormeaux;
But no one had any thing to say. The guests of that house where misfortune had just entered were making haste to leave. The catastrophe was certainly terrible and unforeseen; but did it not reach them too? Did they not lose among them more than three hundred thousand francs?
Thus, after a few commonplace protestations, and some of those promises which mean nothing, they withdrew; and, as they were going down the stairs,
“The commissary took Vincent’s escape too easy,” remarked M. Desormeaux. “He must know some way to catch him again.”
At last Mme. Favoral found herself alone with her children and free to give herself up to the most frightful despair.
She dropped heavily upon a seat; and, drawing to her bosom Maxence and Gilberte,
“O my children!” she sobbed, covering them with her kisses and her tears,—“my children, we are most unfortunate.”
Not less distressed than herself, they strove, nevertheless, to mitigate her anguish, to inspire her with sufficient courage to bear this crushing trial; and kneeling at her feet, and kissing her hands,
“Are we not with you still, mother?” they kept repeating.
But she seemed not to hear them.
“It is not for myself that I weep,” she went on. “I! what had I still to wait or hope for in life? Whilst you, Maxence, you, my poor Gilberte!—If, at least, I could feel myself free from blame! But no. It is my weakness and my want of courage that have brought on this catastrophe. I shrank from the struggle. I purchased my domestic peace at the cost of your future in the world. I forgot that a mother has sacred duties towards her children.”