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Indeed, his coarse voice could be distinctly heard behind the screen.

Soon he appeared, showing out an old gentleman, who seemed utterlyconfused at the scene, and to whom he was screaming,"No, sir, no! 'The Financial Pilot' does not take that sort ofbusiness; and I find you very bold to come and propose to me atwopenny rascality." But, noticing Maxence,"M. Favoral!" he said. "By Jove! it is your good star that hasbrought you here. Come into the private office, my dear sir: come,we'll have some fun now."Many of the people who were in the office had a word to say to M.

Saint Pavin, some advice to ask him, an order to transmit, or somenews to communicate. They had all stepped forward, and were holdingout their hands with a friendly smile. He set them aside with hisusual rudeness.

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"By and by. I am busy now: leave me alone."And pushing Maxence towards the office-door, which he had justopened," Come in, come in!" he said in a tone of extraordinary impatience.

But M. de Traggers was coming in too; and, as he did not know him,"What do you want, you?" he asked roughly.

"The gentleman is my best friend," said Maxence, turning to him;"and I have no secret from him.""Let him walk in, then; but, by Heaven, let us hurry!"Once very sumptuous, the private office of the editor of "TheFinancial Pilot" had fallen into a state of sordid dilapidation.

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If the janitor had received orders never to use a broom or a dusterthere, he obeyed them strictly. Disorder and dirt reigned supreme.

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Papers and manuscripts lay in all directions; and on the broadsofas the mud from the boots of all those who had lounged uponthem had been drying for months. On the mantel-piece, in themidst of some half-dozen dirty glasses, stood a bottle of Madeira,half empty. Finally, before the fireplace, on the carpet, andalong the furniture, cigar and cigarette stumps were heaped inprofusion.

As soon as he had bolted the door, coming straight to Maxence,"What has become of your father?" inquired M. Saint Pavin rudely.

Maxence started. That was the last question he expected to hear.

"I do not know," he replied.

The manager of "The Pilot" shrugged his shoulders. "That youshould say so to the commissary of police, to the judges, and toall Favoral's enemies, I understand: it is your duty. That theyshould believe you, I understand too; for, after all, what dothey care? But to me, a friend, though you may not think so, andwho has reasons not to be credulous""I swear to you that we have no idea where he has taken refuge."Maxence said this with such an accent of sincerity, that doubt wasno longer possible. M. Saint Pavin's features expressed the utmostsurprise.

"What!" he exclaimed, "your father has gone without securing themeans of hearing from his family?""Yes.""Without saying a word of his intentions to your mother, or yoursister, or yourself?""Without one word.

"Without leaving any money, perhaps?""We found only an insignificant sum after he left." The editor of"The Pilot" made a gesture of ironical admiration. "Well, thething is complete," he said; "and Vincent is a smarter fellow thanI gave him credit for; or else he must have cared more for thoseinfernal women of his than any one supposed."M. de Traggers, who had remained hitherto silent, now steppedforward.

"What women?" he asked.

"How do I know?" he replied roughly. "How could any one ever findout any thing about a man who was more hermetically shut up in hiscoat than a Jesuit in his gown?""M. Costeclar -""That's another nice bird! Still he may possibly have discoveredsomething of Vincent's life; for he led him a pretty dance.

Wasn't he about to marry Mlle. Favoral once?""Yes, in spite of herself even.""Then you are right: he had discovered something. But, if you relyon him to tell you anything whatever, you are reckoning withoutyour host.""Who knows?" murmured M. de Traggers.

But M. Saint Pavin heard him not. Prey to a violent agitation, hewas pacing up and down the room.