Had his mind not been so much occupied, this rhodomontade on Gaston’s part would have amused Andre very much, but now he asked himself what would be the quickest way to escape from him.
Just at this moment a servant emerged from the house.
“Sir,” said he, addressing Andre, “my master has seen you from his window, and begs that you will go up to him at once.”
“I will be with him immediately,” answered Andre; and, holding out his hand to Gaston, he took leave of him with a few words of encouragement.
A GENTLEMAN IN DIFFICULTIES.
When Andre had got rid of the young man, and had been ushered into M. Gandelu’s presence, the change in the gentleman’s appearance struck him with horror. His eyes were red and swollen as if he had been weeping, but as soon as he caught sight of Andre his face brightened, and he welcomed him warmly.
“Oh, it does me good to see you, and I bless the fortunate chance that has brought you here to-day.”
“It is not a very fortunate chance,” answered Andre, as he shook his head sadly.
For the first time Gandelu noticed the air of gravity which marked the young man, and the shade of sorrow upon his brow.
“What ails you, Andre?” asked he.
“A great misfortune is hanging over me.”
“What do you mean?”
“The naked truth and this misfortune may bring death and despair to me.”
“I am your friend, my dear boy,” said the old man, “and would gladly be of service to you. Tell me if I can be of any use?”
“I come to you to-day to ask a favor at your hands.”
“And you thought of the old man, then? I thank you for doing so. Give me your hand; I like to feel the grasp of an honest man’s hand; it warms my heart.”
“It is the secret of my life that I am going to confide to you,” said he, with some solemnity.
M. Gandelu made no reply, but struck his clenched fist upon his breast, as though to show that any secret confided to him would be locked up in the safe security of his heart.
Then Andre hesitated no longer, and, with the exception of giving names, told the whole story of his love, his ambitions, and his hopes, and gave a clear account of how matters stood.
“How can I help you?” asked M. Gandelu.
“Allow me,” said Andre, “to hand over the work with which you have intrusted me to one of my friends. I will retain the responsibility, but will merely act as one of the workmen. This, to a certain extent, will give me my liberty, while at the same time I shall be earning a little money, which is just now of vast importance to me.”
“Is that what you call a favor?”
“Certainly, and a very great one, too.”
Gandelu rose hastily, and, opening an iron safe which stood in one corner of the room, and taking from it a bundle of banknotes, he placed them on the table before Andre with an expressive look, which meant, “Take what you desire.”