“What are your hopes, then, and what are your prospects?”
“Extraordinary as it may seem to you, I must confess that I know nothing about it. My friend the commissary has his plan, I am certain; and he is following it with an indefatigable obstinacy. I am but an instrument in his hands. I never do any thing without consulting him; and what he advises me to do I do.”
Maxence started upon his chair.
“Was it he, then,” he said in a tone of bitter irony, “who suggested to you the idea of our fraternal association?”
A frown appeared upon the girl’s countenance. She evidently felt hurt by the tone of this species of interrogatory.
“At least he did not disapprove of it,” she replied.
But that answer was just evasive enough to excite Maxence’s anxiety.
“Was it from him too,” he went on, “that came the lovely idea of having me enter the Mutual Credit?”
“Yes, it was from him.”
“For what purpose?”
“He did not explain.”
“Why did you not tell me?”
“Because he requested me not to do so.”
From being red at the start, Maxence had now become very pale.
“And so,” he resumed, “it is that man, that police-agent, who is the real arbiter of my fate; and if to-morrow he commanded you to break off with me—”
Mlle. Lucienne drew herself up.
“Enough!” she interrupted in a brief tone, “enough! There is not in my whole existence a single act which would give to my bitterest enemy the right to suspect my loyalty; and now you accuse me of the basest treason. What have you to reproach me with? Have I not been faithful to the pact sworn between us. Have I not always been for you the best of comrades and the most devoted of friends? I remained silent, because the man in whom I have the fullest confidence requested me to do so; but he knew, that, if you questioned me, I would speak. Did you question me? And now what more do you want? That I should stoop to quiet the suspicions of your morbid mind? That I do not mean to do.”
She was not, perhaps, entirely right; but Maxence was certainly wrong. He acknowledged it, wept, implored her pardon, which was granted; and this explanation only served to rivet more closely the fetters that bound him.
It is true, that, availing himself of the permission that had been granted him, he kept himself constantly informed of Mlle. Lucienne’s doings. He learnt from her that her friend the commissary had held a most minute investigation at Louveciennes, and that the footman who went to the bois with her was now, in reality, a detective. And at last, one day,
“My friend the commissary,” she said, “thinks he is on the right track now.”
Such was the exact situation of Maxence and Mlle. Lucienne on that eventful Saturday evening in the month of April, 1872, when the police came to arrest M. Vincent Favoral, on the charge of embezzlement and forgery.