"Ah, great heavens!" he muttered in a smothered voice.

But M. de Tregars seemed not to notice his stupor. Quiteself-possessed, notwithstanding his emotion, he cast a rapid glanceover the Count de Villegre, Mme. Favoral and Mlle. Gilberte. Attheir attitude, and at the expression of their countenance, heeasily guessed the point to which things had come.

And, advancing towards Mme. Favoral, he bowed with an amount ofrespect which was certainly not put on.

"You have heard the Count de Villegre, madame," he said in aslightly altered tone of voice. " I am awaiting my fate."The poor woman had never before in all her life been so fearfullyperplexed. All these events, which succeeded each other so rapidly,had broken the feeble springs of her soul. She was utterly incapableof collecting her thoughts, or of taking a determination.

"At this moment, sir," she stammered, taken unawares, " it would beimpossible for me to answer you. Grant me a few days for reflection.

We have some old friends whom I ought to consult."But Maxence, who had got over his stupor, interrupted her.

"Friends mother!" he exclaimed. "And who are they? People in ourposition have no friends. What! when we are perishing, a man ofheart holds out his hand to us, and you ask to reflect? To mysister, who bears a name henceforth disgraced, the Marquis deTregar offers his name, and you think of consulting "The poor woman was shaking her head.

"I am not the mistress, my son," she murmured; "and your father - "My father! interrupted the young man, - "my father! What rightscan he have over us hereafter?" And without further discussion,without awaiting an answer, he took his sister's hand, and,placing it in M. de Tregar's hand,"Ah! take her, sir," he uttered. "Never, whatever she may do, willshe acquit the debt of eternal gratitude which we this day contracttowards you."A tremor that shook their frames, a long look which they exchanged,betrayed alone the feelings of Marius and Mlle. Gilberte. They hadof life a too cruel experience not to mistrust their joy.

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Returning to Mme. Favoral,"You do not understand, madame," he went on, "why I should haveselected for such a step the very moment when an irreparable calamitybefalls you. One word will explain all. Being in a position toserve you, I wished to acquire the right of doing so."Fixing upon him a look in which the gloomiest despair could be read,"Alas!" stammered the poor woman, "what can you do for me, sir? Mylife is ended. I have but one wish left, - that of knowing wheremy husband is hid. It is not for me to judge him. He has not givenme the happiness which I had, perhaps, the right to expect; but heis my husband, he is unhappy: my duty is to join him wherever he maybe, and to share his sufferings."She was interrupted by the servant, who was calling her at theparlor-door, "Madame, madame!""What is the matter?" inquired Maxence.

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"I must speak to madame at once.

Making an effort to rise and walk, Mme. Favoral went out. She wasgone but a minute; and, when she returned, her agitation had furtherincreased. "It is the hand of Providence, perhaps," she said. Theothers were all looking at her anxiously. She took a seat, and,addressing herself more especially to M. de Tregars,"This is what happens," she said in a feeble voice. "M. Favoralwas in the habit of always changing his coat as soon as he came home.

As usual, he did so last evening. When they came to arrest him, heforgot to change again, and went off with the coat he had on. Theother remained hanging in the room, where the girl took it just nowto brush it, and put it away; and this portfolio, which my husbandalways carries with him, fell from its pocket."It was an old Russia leather portfolio, which had once been red, butwhich time and use had turned black. It was full of papers.

"Perhaps, indeed," exclaimed Maxence, "we may find some informationthere."He opened it, and had already taken out three-fourths of its contentswithout finding any thing of any consequence, when suddenly heuttered an exclamation. He had just opened an anonymous note,evidently written in a disguised hand, and at one glance had read,"I cannot understand your negligence. You should get through thatVan Klopen matter. There is the danger.""What is that note?" inquired M. de Tregars.

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Maxence handed it to him.

"See!" said he, "but you will not understand the immense interestit has for me."But having read it,"You are mistaken," said Marius. "I understand perfectly; and I'llprove it to you."The next moment, Maxence took out of the portfolio, and read aloud,the following bill, dated two days before.