Georges took a very cheerful view of the matter. Everything would go better next year. And to restore the cashier’s good humor he gave him an extraordinary bonus of a thousand francs, instead of the five hundred his uncle used always to give. Everybody felt the effects of that generous impulse, and, in the universal satisfaction, the deplorable results of the yearly accounting were very soon forgotten. As for Risler, Georges chose to take it upon himself to inform him as to the situation.
When he entered his partner’s little closet, which was lighted from above by a window in the ceiling, so that the light fell directly upon the subject of the inventor’s meditations, Fromont hesitated a moment, filled with shame and remorse for what he was about to do.
The other, when he heard the door, turned joyfully toward his partner.
“Chorche, Chorche, my dear fellow—I have got it, our press. There are still a few little things to think out. But no matter! I am sure now of my invention: you will see—you will see! Ah! the Prochassons can experiment all they choose. With the Risler Press we will crush all rivalry.”
“Bravo, my comrade!” replied Fromont Jeune. “So much for the future; but you don’t seem to think about the present. What about this inventory?”
“Ah, yes! to be sure. I had forgotten all about it. It isn’t very satisfactory, is it?”
He said that because of the somewhat disturbed and embarrassed expression on Georges’s face.
“Why, yes, on the contrary, it is very satisfactory indeed,” was the reply. “We have every reason to be satisfied, especially as this is our first year together. We have forty thousand francs each for our share of the profits; and as I thought you might need a little money to give your wife a New Year’s present—”
Ashamed to meet the eyes of the honest man whose confidence he was betraying, Fromont jeune placed a bundle of cheques and notes on the table.
Risler was deeply moved for a moment. So much money at one time for him! His mind dwelt upon the generosity of these Fromonts, who had made him what he was; then he thought of his little Sidonie, of the longing which she had so often expressed and which he would now be able to gratify.
With tears in his eyes and a happy smile on his lips, he held out both hands to his partner.
“I am very happy! I am very happy!”
That was his favorite phrase on great occasions. Then he pointed to the bundles of bank notes spread out before him in the narrow bands which are used to confine those fugitive documents, always ready to fly away.
“Do you know what that is?” he said to Georges, with an air of triumph. “That is Sidonie’s house in the country!”
“To M. Frantz Risler,
“Engineer of the Compagnie