“I am sure he must have the letter about him,” he said to the people who surrounded him.
And in fact he did take from the side-pocket of the villain a letter, which he unfolded, and commenced reading aloud,
“I am waiting for you, my dear major, come quick, for the thing is pressing,—a troublesome gentleman who is to be made to keep quiet. It will be for you the matter of a sword-thrust, and for us the occasion to divide a round amount.”
“And, that’s why he picked a quarrel with me,” added M. de Tregars.
Two waiters had taken hold of the villain, who was struggling furiously, and wanted to surrender him to the police.
“What’s the use?” said Marius. “I have his letter: that’s enough. The police will find him when they want him.”
And, getting back into his cab,
“Rue St. Gilles,” he ordered, “and lively, if possible.”
In the Rue St. Gilles the hours were dragging, slow and gloomy. After Maxence had left to go and meet M. de Tregars, Mme. Favoral and her daughter had remained alone with M. Chapelain, and had been compelled to bear the brunt of his wrath, and to hear his interminable complaints.
He was certainly an excellent man, that old lawyer, and too just to hold Mlle. Gilberte or her mother responsible for Vincent Favoral’s acts. He spoke the truth when he assured them that he had for them a sincere affection, and that they might rely upon his devotion. But he was losing a hundred and sixty thousand francs; and a man who loses such a large sum is naturally in bad humor, and not much disposed to optimism.
The cruellest enemies of the poor women would not have tortured them so mercilessly as this devoted friend.
He spared them not one sad detail of that meeting at the Mutual Credit office, from which he had just come. He exaggerated the proud assurance of the manager, and the confiding simplicity of the stockholders. “That Baron de Thaller,” he said to them, “is certainly the most impudent scoundrel and the cleverest rascal I have ever seen. You’ll see that he’ll get out of it with clean hands and full pockets. Whether or not he has accomplices, Vincent will be the scapegoat. We must make up our mind to that.”
His positive intention was to console Mme. Favoral and Gilberte. Had he sworn to drive them to distraction, he could not have succeeded better.
“Poor woman!” he said, “what is to become of you? Maxence is a good and honest fellow, I am sure, but so weak, so thoughtless, so fond of pleasure! He finds it difficult enough to get along by himself. Of what assistance will he be to you?”
Then came advice.
Mme. Favoral, he declared, should not hesitate to ask for a separation, which the tribunal would certainly grant. For want of this precaution, she would remain all her life under the burden of her husband’s debts, and constantly exposed to the annoyances of the creditors.