“I have the honor, etc.”
The next day he received the reply:
“Monsieur: I shall expect you to-morrow, Tuesday, at five o’clock.”
As he went up the staircase, Francois Tessier’s heart beat so violently that he had to stop several times. There was a dull and violent thumping noise in his breast, as of some animal galloping; and he could breathe only with difficulty, and had to hold on to the banisters, in order not to fall.
He rang the bell on the third floor, and when a maid servant had opened the door, he asked: “Does Monsieur Flamel live here?” “Yes, monsieur. Kindly come in.”
He was shown into the drawing-room; he was alone, and waited, feeling bewildered, as in the midst of a catastrophe, until a door opened, and a man came in. He was tall, serious and rather stout, and wore a black frock coat, and pointed to a chair with his hand. Francois Tessier sat down, and then said, with choking breath: “Monsieur—monsieur—I do not know whether you know my name—whether you know——”
Monsieur Flamel interrupted him. “You need not tell it me, monsieur, I know it. My wife has spoken to me about you.” He spoke in the dignified tone of voice of a good man who wishes to be severe, and with the commonplace stateliness of an honorable man, and Francois Tessier continued:
“Well, monsieur, I want to say this: I am dying of grief, of remorse, of shame, and I would like once, only once to kiss the child.”
Monsieur Flamel got up and rang the bell, and when the servant came in, he said: “Will you bring Louis here?” When she had gone out, they remained face to face, without speaking, as they had nothing more to say to one another, and waited. Then, suddenly, a little boy of ten rushed into the room and ran up to the man whom he believed to be his father, but he stopped when he saw the stranger, and Monsieur Flamel kissed him and said: “Now, go and kiss that gentleman, my dear.” And the child went up to the stranger and looked at him.
Francois Tessier had risen. He let his hat fall, and was ready to fall himself as he looked at his son, while Monsieur Flamel had turned away, from a feeling of delicacy, and was looking out of the window.
The child waited in surprise; but he picked up the hat and gave it to the stranger. Then Francois, taking the child up in his arms, began to kiss him wildly all over his face; on his eyes, his cheeks, his mouth, his hair; and the youngster, frightened at the shower of kisses, tried to avoid them, turned away his head, and pushed away the man’s face with his little hands. But suddenly Francois Tessier put him down and cried: “Good-by! good-by!” And he rushed out of the room as if he had been a thief.