"Yes, brother, here. He arrived at the very moment, when, baselyinsulted by M. Costeclar, I commanded him to withdraw, and, insteadof going, he was walking towards me with outstretched arms.""He dared to penetrate here!" murmured Mme. Favoral.

"Yes, mother: he came in just in time to seize M. Costeclar by hiscoat-collar, and to throw him at my feet, livid with fear, andbegging for mercy. He came, notwithstanding the terrible calamitythat has befallen us. Notwithstanding ruin, and notwithstandingshame, he came to offer me his name, and to tell me, that, in thecourse of the day, he would send a friend of his family to appriseyou of his intentions."Here she was interrupted by the servant, who, throwing open theparlor-door, announced,"The Count de Villegre."If it had occurred to the mind of Mme. Favoral or Maxence that Mlle.

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Gilberte might have been the victim of some base intrigue, the mereappearance of the man who now walked in must have been enough todisabuse them.

He was of a rather formidable aspect, with his military bearing, hisbluff manners, his huge white mustache, and the deep scar acrosshis forehead.

But in order to be re-assured, and to feel confident, it was enoughto look at his broad face, at once energetic and debonair, his cleareye, in which shone the loyalty of his soul, and his thick red lips,which had never opened to utter an untruth.

At this moment, however, he was hardly in possession of all hisfaculties.

That valiant man, that old soldier, was timid; and he would havefelt much more at ease under the fire of a battery than in thathumble parlor in the Rue St. Gilles, under the uneasy glance ofMaxence and Mme. Favoral.

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Having bowed, having made a little friendly sign to Mlle. Gilberte,he had stopped short, two steps from the door, his hat in his hand.

Eloquence was not his forte. He had prepared himself well inadvance; but though he kept coughing: hum! broum! though he keptrunning his finger around his shirt-collar to facilitate hisdelivery, the beginning of his speech stuck in his throat.

Seeing how urgent it was to come to his assistance,"I was expecting you, sir," said Mlle. Gilberte. With thisencouragement, he advanced towards Mme. Favoral, and, bowing low,"I see that my presence surprises you, madame," he began; "and Imust confess that - hum! - it does not surprise me less than it doesyou. But extraordinary circumstances require exceptional action.

On any other occasion, I would not fall upon you like a bombshell.

But we had no time to waste in ceremonious formalities. I will,therefore, ask your leave to introduce myself: I am General Countde Villegre."Maxence had brought him a chair.

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"I am ready to hear you, sir," said Mme. Favoral. He sat down, and,with a further effort,"I suppose, madame," he resumed, " that your daughter has explainedto you our singular situation, which, as I had the honor of tellingyou - hum! - is not strictly in accordance with social usage."Mlle. Gilberte interrupted him.

"When you came in, general, I was only just beginning to explainthe facts to my mother and brother."The old soldier made a gesture, and a face which showed plainly thathe did not much relish the prospect of a somewhat difficultexplanation - broum! Nevertheless, making up his mind bravely,"It is very simple," he said: "I come in behalf of M. de Tregars."Maxence fairly bounced upon his chair. That was the very name whichhe had just heard mentioned by the commissary of police.

"Tregars!" he repeated in a tone of immense surprise.

"Yes," said M. de Villegre. "Do you know him, by chance?"No, sir, no!""Marius de Tregars is the son of the most honest man I ever knew, ofthe best friend I ever had, - of the Marquis de Tregars, in a word,who died of grief a few years ago, after - hum! - some quiteinexplicable - broum! - reverses of fortune. Marius could not bedearer to me, if he were my own son. He has lost his parents: Ihave no relatives; and I have transferred to him all the feelingsof affection which still remained at the bottom of my old heart.

"And I can say that never was a man more worthy of affection. Iknow him. To the most legitimate pride and the most scrupulousintegrity, he unites a keen and supple mind, and wit enough to getthe better of the toughest rascal. He has no fortune for the reasonthat - hum! - he gave up all he had to certain pretended creditorsof his father. But whenever he wishes to be rich, he shall be; and- broum! - he may be so before long. I know his projects, his hopes,his resources.