“He will not be so an hour longer,” replied the magistrate; “a moment before your arrival, I had made arrangements to have him released. We must now occupy ourselves with the other one.”
Neither old Tabaret nor M. Daburon had noticed the disappearance of the Count de Commarin. On hearing Noel’s name mentioned, he gained the door quietly, and rushed out into the passage.
Noel had promised to use every effort, to attempt even the impossible, to obtain Albert’s release. He in fact did interview the Public Prosecutor and some members of the bar, but managed to be repulsed everywhere. At four o’clock, he called at the Count de Commarin’s house, to inform his father of the ill success of his efforts.
“The Count has gone out,” said Denis; “but if you will take the trouble to wait——”
“I will wait,” answered Noel.
“Then,” replied the valet, “will you please follow me? I have the count’s orders to show you into his private room.”
This confidence gave Noel an idea of his new power. He was at home, henceforth, in that magnificent house, he was the master, the heir! His glance, which wandered over the entire room, noticed the genealogical tree, hanging on the wall. He approached it, and read.
It was like a page, and one of the most illustrious, taken from the golden book of French nobility. Every name which has a place in our history was there. The Commarins had mingled their blood with all the great families; two of them had even married daughters of royalty. A warm glow of pride filled the advocate’s heart, his pulse beat quicker, he raised his head haughtily, as he murmured, “Viscount de Commarin!”
The door opened. He turned, and saw the count entering. As Noel was about to bow respectfully, he was petrified by the look of hatred, anger, and contempt on his father’s face.
A shiver ran through his veins; his teeth chattered; he felt that he was lost.
“Wretch!” cried the count.
And, dreading his own violence, the old nobleman threw his cane into a corner. He was unwilling to strike his son; he considered him unworthy of being struck by his hand. Then there was a moment of mortal silence, which seemed to both of them a century.
At the same time their minds were filled with thoughts, which would require a volume to transcribe.
Noel had the courage to speak first.
“Sir,” he began.
“Silence!” exclaimed the count hoarsely; “be silent! Can it be, heaven forgive me! that you are my son? Alas, I cannot doubt it now! Wretch! you knew well that you were Madame Gerdy’s son. Infamous villain! you not only committed this murder, but you did everything to cause an innocent man to be charged with your crime! Parricide! you have also killed your mother.”
The advocate attempted to stammer forth a protest.