“She complained of violent headaches, dimness of sight, and intolerable pains in her ears, she attributed all that though to megrims. Do not, however, conceal anything from me, Herve; is her complaint very serious?”
“So serious, my friend, so invariably fatal, that I am almost undertaking a hopeless task in attempting a cure.”
“Ah! good heaven!”
“You asked for the truth, and I have told it you. If I had that courage, it was because you told me this poor woman is not your mother. Nothing short of a miracle can save her; but this miracle we may hope and prepare for. And now to work!”
The clock of the St. Lazare terminus was striking eleven as old Tabaret, after shaking hands with Noel, left his house, still bewildered by what he had just heard. Obliged to restrain himself at the time, he now fully appreciated his liberty of action. It was with an unsteady gait that he took his first steps in the street, like the toper, who, after being shut up in a warm room, suddenly goes out into the open air. He was beaming with pleasure, but at the same time felt rather giddy, from that rapid succession of unexpected revelations, which, so he thought, had suddenly placed him in possession of the truth.
Notwithstanding his haste to arrive at M. Daburon’s he did not take a cab. He felt the necessity of walking. He was one of those who require exercise to see things clearly. When he moved about his ideas fitted and classified themselves in his brain, like grains of wheat when shaken in a bushel. Without hastening his pace, he reached the Rue de la Chaussee d’Antin, crossed the Boulevard with its resplendent cafes, and turned to the Rue Richelieu.
He walked along, unconscious of external objects, tripping and stumbling over the inequalities of the sidewalk, or slipping on the greasy pavement. If he followed the proper road, it was a purely mechanical impulse that guided him. His mind was wandering at random through the field of probabilities, and following in the darkness the mysterious thread, the almost imperceptible end of which he had seized at La Jonchere.
Like all persons labouring under strong emotion without knowing it, he talked aloud, little thinking into what indiscreet ears his exclamations and disjointed phrases might fall. At every step, we meet in Paris people babbling to themselves, and unconsciously confiding to the four winds of heaven their dearest secrets, like cracked vases that allow their contents to steal away. Often the passers-by mistake these eccentric monologuists for lunatics. Sometimes the curious follow them, and amuse themselves by receiving these strange confidences. It was an indiscretion of this kind which told the ruin of Riscara the rich banker. Lambreth, the assassin of the Rue de Venise, betrayed himself in a similar manner.