“Well, yes, then. But to-morrow I must write to Affrays: I must see her!”
“You have lost your mind, father,” said Mlle. Gilberte. “Come, do as I ask you.”
He drew himself up to his full height.
“And suppose I refuse?”
But it was the last effort of his will. He yielded, though not without an agonizing struggle and gave up to his daughter the money, the proofs and the arms. And as she was walking away, leaning on M. de Tregars’ arm,
“But send me your mother, at least,” he begged. “She will understand me: she will not be without pity. She is my wife: let her come quick. I will not, I can not remain alone.”
It was with convulsive haste that the Baroness de Thaller went over the distance that separated the Rue St. Lazare from the Rue de la Pepiniere. The sudden intervention of M. de Tregars had upset all her ideas. The most sinister presentiments agitated her mind. In the courtyard of her residence, all the servants, gathered in a group, were talking. They did not take the trouble to stand aside to let her pass; and she even noticed some smiles and ironical gigglings. This was a terrible blow to her. What was the matter? What had they heard? In the magnificent vestibule, a man was sitting as she came in. It was the same suspicious character that Marius de Tregars had seen in the grand parlor, in close conference with the baroness.
“Bad news,” he said with a sheepish look.
“That little Lucienne must have her soul riveted to her body. She is only wounded; and she’ll get over it.”
“Never mind Lucienne. What about M. de Tregars?”
“Oh! he is another sharp one. Instead of taking up our man’s provocation, he collared him, and took away from him the note I had sent him.”
Mme. de Thaller started violently.
“What is the meaning, then,” she asked, “of your letter of last night, in which you requested me to hand two thousand francs to the bearer?”
The man became pale as death.
“You received a letter from me,” he stammered, “last night?”
“Yes, from you; and I gave the money.”
The man struck his forehead.
“I understand it all!” he exclaimed.
“They wanted proofs. They imitated my handwriting, and you swallowed the bait. That’s the reason why I spent the night in the station-house; and, if they let me go this morning, it was to find out where I’d go. I have been followed, they are shadowing me. We are gone up, Mme. le Baronne. Sauve qui peut!”
And he ran out.
More agitated than ever Mme. de Thaller went up stairs. In the little red-and-gold parlor, the Baron de Thaller and Mlle. Cesarine were waiting for her. Stretched upon an arm-chair, her legs crossed, the tip of her boot on a level with her eye, Mlle. Cesarine, with a look of ironical curiosity, was watching her father, who, livid and trembling with nervous excitement, was walking up and down, like a wild beast in his cage. As soon as the baroness appeared,