“God grant that she does, sister!”
“Oh, I have already been praying! But it is important not to leave her alone a minute. I have arranged all with the servant. After the doctor has been, I shall lie down, and she will watch until one in the morning. I will then take her place and—”
“You shall both go to bed, sister,” interrupted Noel, sadly. “It is I, who could not sleep a wink, who will watch through this night.”
Old Tabaret did not consider himself defeated, because he had been repulsed by the investigating magistrate, already irritated by a long day’s examination. You may call it a fault, or an accomplishment; but the old man was more obstinate than a mule. To the excess of despair to which he succumbed in the passage outside the magistrate’s office, there soon succeeded that firm resolution which is the enthusiasm called forth by danger. The feeling of duty got the upper hand. Was it a time to yield to unworthy despair, when the life of a fellow-man depended on each minute? Inaction would be unpardonable. He had plunged an innocent man into the abyss; and he must draw him out, he alone, if no one would help him. Old Tabaret, as well as the magistrate, was greatly fatigued. On reaching the open air, he perceived that he, too, was in want of food. The emotions of the day had prevented him from feeling hungry; and, since the previous evening, he had not even taken a glass of water. He entered a restaurant on the Boulevard, and ordered dinner.
While eating, not only his courage, but also his confidence came insensibly back to him. It was with him, as with the rest of mankind; who knows how much one’s ideas may change, from the beginning to the end of a repast, be it ever so modest! A philosopher has plainly demonstrated that heroism is but an affair of the stomach.
The old fellow looked at the situation in a much less sombre light. He had plenty of time before him! A clever man could accomplish a great deal in a month! Would his usual penetration fail him now? Certainly not. His great regret was, his inability to let Albert know that some one was working for him.
He was entirely another man, as he rose from the table; and it was with a sprightly step that he walked towards the Rue St. Lazare. Nine o’clock struck as the concierge opened the door for him. He went at once up to the fourth floor to inquire after the health of his former friend, her whom he used to call the excellent, the worthy Madame Gerdy.
It was Noel who let him in, Noel, who had doubtless been thinking of the past, for he looked as sad as though the dying woman was really his mother.
In consequence of this unexpected circumstance, old Tabaret could not avoid going in for a few minutes, though he would much have preferred not doing so. He knew very well, that, being with the advocate, he would be unavoidably led to speak of the Lerouge case; and how could he do this, knowing, as he did, the particulars much better than his young friend himself, without betraying his secret? A single imprudent word might reveal the part he was playing in this sad drama. It was, above all others, from his dear Noel, now Viscount de Commarin, that he wished entirely to conceal his connection with the police.