"You have not told me.""Very well, then: leave me in peace with your presentiments. Youdislike my friends; and I saw very well how you treated Mme. deThaller. But I am the master; and what I have decided shall be.

Besides, I have signed. Once for all, I forbid you ever speakingto me again on that subject."Whereupon, having dressed himself with much care, he started off,saying that he was expected at breakfast by Saint Pavin, thefinancial editor, and by M. Jottras, of the house of Jottras& Brother.

A shrewd woman would not have given it up so easy, and, in the end,would probably have mastered the despot, whose intellect was farfrom brilliant. But Mme. Favoral was too proud to be shrewd; andbesides, the springs of her will had been broken by the successiveoppression of an odious stepmother and a brutal master. Herabdication of all was complete. Wounded, she kept the secret ofher wound, hung her head, and said nothing.

She did not, therefore, venture a single allusion; and nearly aweek elapsed, during which the names of her late guests were notonce mentioned.

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It was through a newspaper, which M. Favoral had forgotten in theparlor, that she learned that the Baron de Thaller had just foundeda new stock company, the Mutual Credit Society, with a capital ofseveral millions.

Below the advertisement, which was printed in enormous letters,came a long article, in which it was demonstrated that the newcompany was, at the same time, a patriotic undertaking and aninstitution of credit of the first class; that it supplied a greatpublic want; that it would be of inestimable benefit to industry;that its profits were assured; and that to subscribe to its stockwas simply to draw short bills upon fortune.

Already somewhat re-assured by the reading of this article, Mme.

Favoral became quite so when she read the names of the board ofdirectors. Nearly all were titled, and decorated with many foreignorders; and the remainder were bankers, office-holders, and evensome exministers.

"I must have been mistaken," she thought, yielding unconsciously tothe influence of printed evidence.

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And no objection occurred to her, when, a few days later, herhusband told her,"I have the situation I wanted. I am head cashier of the companyof which M. de Thaller is manager."That was all. Of the nature of this society, of the advantageswhich it offered him, not one word.

Only by the way in which he expressed himself did Mme. Favoral judgethat he must have been well treated; and he further confirmed her inthat opinion by granting her, of his own accord, a few additionalfrancs for the daily expenses of the house.

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"We must," he declared on this memorable occasion, "do honor to oursocial position, whatever it may cost."For the first time in his life, he seemed heedful of public opinion.

He recommended his wife to be careful of her dress and of that ofthe children, and re-engaged a servant. He expressed the wish ofenlarging their circle of acquaintances, and inaugurated his Saturdaydinners, to which came assiduously, M. and Mme. Desclavettes, M.

Chapelain the attorney, the old man Desormeaux, and a few others.

As to himself he gradually settled down into those habits fromwhich he was nevermore to depart, and the chronometric regularityof which had secured him the nickname of Old Punctuality, of whichhe was proud.

In all other respects never did a man, to such a degree, become soutterly indifferent to his wife and children. His house was for himbut a mere hotel, where he slept, and took his evening meal. Henever thought of questioning his wife as to the use of her time, andwhat she did in his absence. Provided she did not ask him for money,and was there when he came home, he was satisfied.

Many women, at Mme. Favoral's age, might have made a strange use ofthat insulting indifference and of that absolute freedom.