“By the way, what is your invention?”
“Aunt, it is a threshing machine,” answered the young man, gravely.
“Rather a machine for coining money,” said the incorrigible Marechal, in an undertone.
“Well; bring me your plans,” resumed Madame Desvarennes, after having reflected a moment. “Perchance you may have hit upon something.”
The mistress had been generous, and now the woman of business reasserted herself and she thought of reaping the benefit.
Savinien seemed very confused at this demand, and as his aunt gave him an interrogative look, he confessed:
“There are no drawings made as yet.”
“No drawings as yet?” cried the mistress. “Where then is your invention?”
“It is here,” replied Savinien, and with an inspired gesture he struck his narrow forehead.
Madame Desvarennes and Marechal could not resist breaking out into a laugh.
“And you were already talking of issuing shares?” said the mistress. “Do you think people would have paid their money with your brain as sole guarantee? You! Get along; I am the only one to make bargains like that, and you are the only one with whom I make them. Go, Marechal, give him his money; I won’t gainsay it. But you are a trickster, as usual!”
By a wave of her hand she dismissed Savinien, who, abashed, went out with Marechal. Left alone, she seated herself at her secretary’s desk, and taking the pile of letters she signed them. The pen flew in her fingers, and on the paper was displayed her name, written in large letters in a man’s handwriting.
She had been occupied thus for about a quarter of an hour when Marechal reappeared. Behind him came a stout thickset man of heavy build, and gorgeously dressed. His face, surrounded by a bristly dark brown beard, and his eyes overhung by bushy eyebrows, gave him, at the first glance, a harsh appearance. But his mouth promptly banished this impression. His thick and sensual lips betrayed voluptuous tastes. A disciple of Lavater or Gall would have found the bump of amativeness largely developed.
Marechal stepped aside to allow him to pass.
“Good-morning, mistress,” said he familiarly, approaching Madame Desvarennes.
The mistress raised her head quickly, and said:
“Ah! it’s you, Cayrol! That’s capital! I was just going to send for you.”
Jean Cayrol, a native of Cantal, had been brought up amid the wild mountains of Auvergne. His father was a small farmer in the neighborhood of Saint-Flour, scraping a miserable pittance from the ground for the maintenance of his family. From the age of eight years Cayrol had been a shepherd-boy. Alone in the quiet and remote country, the child had given way to ambitious dreams. He was very intelligent, and felt that he was born to another sphere than that of farming.