For a long time Mme. Favoral and Gilberte fairly dragged themselves at his feet, before he consented to recall his determination.
“He will disgrace us all!” he kept repeating, seeming unable to understand that it was himself who had, as it were, driven Maxence on to the fatal road which he was pursuing, forgetting that the absurd severities of the father prepared the way for the perilous indulgence of the mother, unwilling to own that the head of a family has other duties besides providing food and shelter for his wife and children, and that a father has but little right to complain who has not known how to make himself the friend and the adviser of his son.
At last, after the most violent recriminations, he forgave, in appearance at least.
But the scales had dropped from his eyes. He started in quest of information, and discovered startling enormities.
He heard from M. Chapelain that Maxence remained whole weeks at a time without appearing at the office. If he had not complained before, it was because he had yielded to the urgent entreaties of Mme. Favoral; and he was now glad, he added, of an opportunity to relieve his conscience by a full confession.
Thus the cashier discovered, one by one, all his son’s tricks. He heard that he was almost unknown at the law-school, that he spent his days in the cafes, and that, in the evening, when he believed him in bed and asleep, he was in fact running out to theatres and to balls.
“Ah! that’s the way, is it?” he thought. “Ah, my wife and children are in league against me,—me, the master. Very well, we’ll see.”
From that morning war was declared.
From that day commenced in the Rue St. Gilles one of those domestic dramas which are still awaiting their Moliere,—a drama of distressing vulgarity and sickening realism, but poignant, nevertheless; for it brought into action tears, blood, and a savage energy.
M. Favoral thought himself sure to win; for did he not have the key of the cash, and is not the key of the cash the most formidable weapon in an age where every thing begins and ends with money?
Nevertheless, he was filled with irritating anxieties.
He who had just discovered so many things which he did not even suspect a few days before, he could not discover the source whence his son drew the money which flowed like water from his prodigal hands.
He had made sure that Maxence had no debts; and yet it could not be with M. Chapelain’s monthly twenty francs that he fed his frolics.
Mme. Favoral and Gilberte, subjected separately to a skillful interrogatory, had managed to keep inviolate the secret of their mercenary labor. The servant, shrewdly questioned, had said nothing that could in any way cause the truth to be suspected.
Here was, then, a mystery; and M. Favoral’s constant anxiety could be read upon his knitted brows during his brief visits to the house; that is, during dinner.