To be sure, there was nothing heroic in tramping through the mud,in receiving the rain or the snow upon the back, in sleeping on theground or on dirty straw, in remaining on guard with the thermometertwenty degrees below the freezing-point. But people die of pleurisyquite as certainly as of a Prussian bullet; and many died of it.

Maxence showed himself but rarely at Rue St. Gilles: enlisted in abattalion of sharpshooters, he did duty at the advanced posts. And,as to Mme. Favoral and Mlle. Gilberte, they spent the day trying toget something to live on. Rising before daylight, through rain orsnow, they took their stand before the butcher's stall, and, afterwaiting for hours, received a small slice of horse-meat.

Alone in the evening, by the side of the hearth where a few piecesof green wood smoked without burning, they started at each of thedistant reports of the cannon. At each detonation that shook thewindow-panes, Mme. Favoral thought that it was, perhaps, the onethat had killed her son.

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And Mlle. Gilberte was thinking of Marius de Tregars. The accurseddays of November and December had come. There were constant rumorsof bloody battles around Orleans. She imagined Marius, mortallywounded, expiring on the snow, alone, without help, and without afriend to receive his supreme will and his last breath.

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One evening the vision was so clear, and the impression so strong,that she started up with a loud cry.

"What is it?" asked Mme. Favoral, alarmed. "What is the matter?"With a little perspicacity, the worthy woman could easily haveobtained her daughter's secret; for Mlle. Gilberte was not incondition to deny anything. But she contented herself with anexplanation which meant nothing, and had not a suspicion, whenthe girl answered with a forced smile,"It's nothing, dear mother, nothing but an absurd idea that crossedmy mind."Strange to say, never had the cashier of the Mutual Credit been forhis family what he was during these months of trials.

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During the first weeks of the siege he had been anxious, agitated,nervous; he wandered through the house like a soul in trouble; hehad moments of inconceivable prostration, during which tears couldbe seen rolling down upon his cheeks, and then fits of angerwithout motive.

But each day that elapsed had seemed to bring calm to his soul.

Little by little, he had become to his wife so indulgent and soaffectionate, that the poor helot felt her heart touched. He hadfor his daughter attentions which caused her to wonder.

Often, when the weather was fine, he took them out walking, leadingthem along the quays towards a part of the walls occupied by thebattalion of their ward. Twice he took them to St. Onen, where thesharp-shooters were encamped to which Maxence belonged.

Another day he wished to take them to visit M. de Thaller's house,of which he had charge. They refused, and instead of getting angry,as he certainly would have done formerly, he commenced describing tohem the splendors of the apartments, the magnificent furniture, thecarpets and the hangings, the paintings by the great masters, theobjects of arts, the bronzes, in a word, all that dazzling luxuryof which financiers make use, somewhat as hunters do of the mirrorwith which larks are caught.

Of business, nothing was ever said.