One stockholder alone did not seem to share the general enthusiasm: he was no other than our old friend, M. Chapelain, the ex-lawyer.
“That fellow, Thaller, is just capable of getting himself out of the scrape,” he grumbled. “I must tell Maxence.”
We have every species of courage in France, and to a superior degree, except that of braving public opinion. Few men would have dared, like Marius de Tregars, to offer their name to the daughter of a wretch charged with embezzlement and forgery, and that at the very moment when the scandal of the crime was at its height. But, when Marius judged a thing good and just, he did it without troubling himself in the least about what others would think. And so his mere presence in the Rue. St. Gilles had brought back hope to its inmates. Of his designs he had said but a word,—“I have the means of helping you: I mean, by marrying Gilberte, to acquire the right of doing so.”
But that word had been enough. Mme. Favoral and Maxence had understood that the man who spoke thus was one of those cool and resolute men whom nothing disconcerts or discourages, and who knows how to make the best of the most perilous situations.
And, when he had retired with the Count de Villegre,
“I don’t know what he will do,” said Mlle. Gilberte to her mother and her brother: “but he will certainly do something; and, if it is humanly possible to succeed, he will succeed.”
And how proudly she spoke thus! The assistance of Marius was the justification of her conduct. She trembled with joy at the thought that it would, perhaps, be to the man whom she had alone and boldly selected, that her family would owe their salvation. Shaking his head, and making allusion to events of which he kept the secret,
“I really believe,” approved Maxence, “that, to reach the enemies of our father, M. de Tregars possesses some powerful means; and what they are we will doubtless soon know, since I have an appointment with him for to-morrow morning.”
It came at last, that morrow, which he had awaited with an impatience that neither his mother nor his sister could suspect. And towards half-past nine he was ready to go out, when M. Chapelain came in. Still irritated by the scenes he had just witnessed at the Mutual Credit office, the old lawyer had a most lugubrious countenance.
“I bring bad news,” he began. “I have just seen the Baron de Thaller.”
He had said so much the day before about having nothing more to do with it, that Maxence could not repress a gesture of surprise.
“Oh! it isn’t alone that I saw him,” added M. Chapelain, “but together with at least a hundred stockholders of the Mutual Credit.”
“They are going to do something, then?”
“No: they only came near doing something. You should have seen them this morning! They were furious; they threatened to break every thing; they wanted M. de Thaller’s blood. It was terrible. But M. de Thaller condescended to receive them; and they became at once as meek as lambs. It is perfectly simple. What do you suppose stockholders can do, no matter how exasperated they may be, when their manager tells them?