QoO0s6

QoO0s6

"Some one called to see you last night," said Mme. Fortin, a largefat woman, whose nose was always besmeared with snuff, and whosehoneyed voice made a marked contrast with her bird-of-prey look.

"Who?""A gentleman of about fifty, tall and thin, with a long overcoat,coming down to his heels."Maxence imagined, from this description, that he recognized his ownfather. And yet it seemed impossible, after what had happened, thathe should dare to show himself on the Boulevard du Temple, whereeverybody knew him, within a step of the Caf Turc, of which hewas one of the oldest customers.

"At what o'clock was he here?" he inquired.

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"I really can't tell," answered the landlady. "I was half asleepat the time; but Fortin can tell us."M. Fortin, who looked about twenty years younger than his wife, wasone of those small men, blonde, with scanty beard, a suspiciousglance, and uneasy smile, such as the Madame Fortins know how, tofind, Heaven knows where.

"The confectioner had just put up his shutters," he replied:

"consequently, it must have been between eleven and a quarter-pasteleven.""And didn't he leave any word?" said Maxence.

"Nothing, except that he was very sorry not to find you in. And,in fact, he did look quite annoyed. We asked him to leave his name;but he said it wasn't worth while, and that he would call again."At the glance which the landlady was throwing toward him from thecorner of her eyes, Maxence understood that she had on the subjectof that late visitor the same suspicion as himself.

And, as if she had intended to make it more apparent still,"I ought, perhaps, to have given him your key," she said.

"And why so, pray?""Oh! I don't know, an idea of mine, that's all. Besides, Mlle.

Lucienne can probably tell you more about it; for she was therewhen the gentleman came, and I even think that they exchanged afew words in the yard."Maxence, seeing that they were only seeking a pretext to questionhim, took his key, and inquired,"Is - Mlle. Lucienne at home?""Can't tell. She has been going and coming all the morning, andI don't know whether she finally staid in or out. One thing issure, she waited for you last night until after twelve; and shedidn't like it much, I can tell you."Maxence started up the steep stairs; and, as he reached the upperstories, a woman's voice, fresh and beautifully toned, reached hisears more and more distinctly.

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She was singing a popular tune, - one of those songs which aremonthly put in circulation by the singing cafes"To hope! 0 charming word,Which, during all life,Husband and children and wifeRepeat in common accord!

When the moment of successFrom us ever further slips,'Tis Hope from its rosy lipsWhispers, To-morrow you will bless.

'Tis very nice to run,But to have is better fun.""She is in," murmured Maxence, breathing more freely.

Reaching the fourth story, he stopped before the door which facedthe stairs, and knocked lightly.

At once, the voice, which had just commenced another verse stoppedshort, and inquired, "Who's there?""I, Maxence!""At this hour!" replied the voice with an ironical laugh. "That'slucky. You have probably forgotten that we were to go to thetheatre last night, and start for St. Germain at seven o'clockthis morning.""Don't you know then?" Maxence began, as soon as he could put in aword.

"I know that you did not come home last night.""Quite true. But when I have told you -""What? the lie you have imagined? Save yourself the trouble.""Lucienne, I beg of you, open the door.""Impossible, I am dressing. Go to your own room: as soon as I amdressed, I'll join you."And, to cut short all these explanations, she took up her song again:

"Hope, I've waited but too longFor thy manna divine!