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He soon came to take to the letter what his mother had told him, andto prove to his own satisfaction that to deprive himself of apleasure was to deprive her. He asked for ten francs one day, thenten francs another, and gradually resumed his old habits.

He was at this time about leaving school.

"The moment has come," said M. Favoral, "for him to select a career,and support himself."

It was after four o'clock when M. de Tregars was at last permittedto return home. He had minutely, and at length, arranged everything with the commissary: he had endeavored to anticipate everyeventuality. His line of conduct was perfectly well marked out,and he carried with him the certainty that on the day which wasabout to dawn the strange game that he was playing must be finallywon or lost. When he reached home,"At last, here you are, sir!" exclaimed his faithful servant.

It was doubtless anxiety that had kept up the old man all night; butso absorbed was Marius's mind, that he scarcely noticed the fact.

"Did any one call in my absence?" he asked.

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"Yes, sir. A gentleman called during the evening, M. Costeclar, whoappeared very much vexed not to find you in. He stated that he cameon a very important matter that you would know all about: and herequested me to ask you to wait for him to-morrow, that is to-day,by twelve o'clock."Was M. Costeclar sent by M. de Thaller? Had the manager of theMutual Credit changed his mind? and had he decided to accept theconditions which he had at first rejected? In that case, it wastoo late. It was no longer in the power of any human being tosuspend the action of justice. Without giving any further thoughtto that visit,"I am worn out with fatigue," said M. de Tregars, "and I am goingto lie down. At eight o'clock precisely you will call me."But it was in vain that he tried to find a short respite in sleep.

For forty-eight hours his mind had been taxed beyond measure, hisnerves had been wrought up to an almost intolerable degree ofexaltation.

As soon as he closed his eyes, it was with a merciless precisionthat his imagination presented to him all the events which had takenplace since that afternoon in the Place-Royale when he had venturedto declare his love to Mlle. Gilberte. Who could have told him then,that he would engage in that struggle, the issue of which mustcertainly be some abominable scandal in which his name would bemixed? Who could have told him, that gradually, and by the veryforce of circumstances, he would be led to overcome his repugnance,and to rival the ruses and the tortuous combinations of the wretcheshe was trying to reach?

But he was not of those who, once engaged, regret, hesitate, anddraw hack. His conscience reproached him for nothing. It was forjustice and right that he was battling; and Mlle. Gilberte was theprize that would reward him.

Eight o'clock struck; and his servant came in.

"Run for a cab," he said: 'I'll be ready in a moment."He was ready, in fact, when the old servant returned; and, as hehad in his pocket some of those arguments that lend wings to thepoorest cab-horses, in less than ten minutes he had reached theHotel des Folies.

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"How is Mlle. Lucienne?" he inquired first of all of the worthyhostess.

The intervention of the commissary of police had made M. Fortin andhis wife more supple than gloves, and more gentle than doves.