M. Favoral refused to hear more.
“It’s because you have never seen people of the best society,” he exclaimed.
“Excuse me. Formerly, during my mother’s life—”
“Eh! Your mother never received but shop-keepers.”
The poor woman dropped her head.
“I beg of you, Vincent,” she insisted, “before doing any thing with these new friends, think well, consult—”
He burst out laughing.
“Are you not afraid that they will cheat me?” he said,—“people ten times as rich as we are. Here, don’t let us speak of it any more, and let us go to bed. You’ll see what this dinner will bring us, and whether I ever have reason to regret the money we have spent.”
When, on the morning after this dinner, which was to form an era in her life, Mme. Favoral woke up, her husband was already up, pencil in hand, and busy figuring.
The charm had vanished with the fumes of the champagne; and the clouds of the worst days were gathering upon his brow.
Noticing that his wife was looking at him,
“It’s expensive work,” he said in a bluff tone, “to set a business going; and it wouldn’t do to commence over again every day.”
To hear him speak, one would have thought that Mme. Favoral alone, by dint of hard begging, had persuaded him into that expense which he now seemed to regret so much. She quietly called his attention to the fact, reminding him that, far from urging, she had endeavored to hold him back; repeating that she augured ill of that business over which he was so enthusiastic, and that, if he would believe her, he would not venture.
“Do you even know what the project is?” he interrupted rudely.
“You have not told me.”
“Very well, then: leave me in peace with your presentiments. You dislike my friends; and I saw very well how you treated Mme. de Thaller. But I am the master; and what I have decided shall be. Besides, I have signed. Once for all, I forbid you ever speaking to me again on that subject.”
Whereupon, having dressed himself with much care, he started off, saying that he was expected at breakfast by Saint Pavin, the financial editor, and by M. Jottras, of the house of Jottras & Brother.
A shrewd woman would not have given it up so easy, and, in the end, would probably have mastered the despot, whose intellect was far from brilliant. But Mme. Favoral was too proud to be shrewd; and besides, the springs of her will had been broken by the successive oppression of an odious stepmother and a brutal master. Her abdication of all was complete. Wounded, she kept the secret of her wound, hung her head, and said nothing.
She did not, therefore, venture a single allusion; and nearly a week elapsed, during which the names of her late guests were not once mentioned.