The Two Brothers, by Honoré de Balzac

Chapter V

In spite of the coolness and discretion with which Philippe played his trifling game every night, it happened every now and then that he was what gamblers call “cleaned out.” Driven by the irresistible necessity of having his evening stake of ten francs, he plundered the household, and laid hands on his brother’s money and on all that Madame Descoings or Agathe left about. Already the poor mother had had a dreadful vision in her first sleep: Philippe entered the room and took from the pockets of her gown all the money he could find. Agathe pretended to sleep, but she passed the rest of the night in tears. She saw the truth only too clearly. “One wrong act is not a vice,” Madame Descoings had declared; but after so many repetitions, vice was unmistakable. Agathe could doubt no longer; her best-beloved son had neither delicacy nor honor.

On the morrow of that frightful vision, before Philippe left the house after breakfast, she drew him into her chamber and begged him, in a tone of entreaty, to ask her for what money he needed. After that, the applications were so numerous that in two weeks Agathe was drained of all her savings. She was literally without a penny, and began to think of finding work. The means of earning money had been discussed in the evenings between herself and Madame Descoings, and she had already taken patterns of worsted work to fill in, from a shop called the “Pere de Famille,”— an employment which pays about twenty sous a day. Notwithstanding Agathe’s silence on the subject, Madame Descoings had guessed the motive of this desire to earn money by women’s-work. The change in her appearance was eloquent: her fresh face had withered, the skin clung to the temples and the cheek-bones, and the forehead showed deep lines; her eyes lost their clearness; an inward fire was evidently consuming her; she wept the greater part of the night. A chief cause of these outward ravages was the necessity of hiding her anguish, her sufferings, her apprehensions. She never went to sleep until Philippe came in; she listened for his step, she had learned the inflections of his voice, the variations of his walk, the very language of his cane as it touched the pavement. Nothing escaped her. She knew the degree of drunkenness he had reached, she trembled as she heard him stumble on the stairs; one night she picked up some pieces of gold at the spot where he had fallen. When he had drunk and won, his voice was gruff and his cane dragged; but when he had lost, his step had something sharp, short and angry about it; he hummed in a clear voice, and carried his cane in the air as if presenting arms. At breakfast, if he had won, his behavior was gay and even affectionate; he joked roughly, but still he joked, with Madame Descoings, with Joseph, and with his mother; gloomy, on the contrary, when he had lost, his brusque, rough speech, his hard glance, and his depression, frightened them. A life of debauch and the abuse of liquors debased, day by day, a countenance that was once so handsome. The veins of the face were swollen with blood, the features became coarse, the eyes lost their lashes and grew hard and dry. No longer careful of his person, Philippe exhaled the miasmas of a tavern and the smell of muddy boots, which, to an observer, stamped him with debauchery.

“You ought,” said Madame Descoings to Philippe during the last days of December, “you ought to get yourself new-clothed from head to foot.”

“And who is to pay for it?” he answered sharply. “My poor mother hasn’t a sou; and I have five hundred francs a year. It would take my whole year’s pension to pay for the clothes; besides I have mortgaged it for three years —”

“What for?” asked Joseph.

“A debt of honor. Giroudeau borrowed a thousand francs from Florentine to lend me. I am not gorgeous, that’s a fact; but when one thinks that Napoleon is at Saint Helena, and has sold his plate for the means of living, his faithful soldiers can manage to walk on their bare feet,” he said, showing his boots without heels, as he marched away.

“He is not bad,” said Agathe, “he has good feelings.”

“You can love the Emperor and yet dress yourself properly,” said Joseph. “If he would take any care of himself and his clothes, he wouldn’t look so like a vagabond.”

“Joseph! you ought to have some indulgence for your brother,” cried Agathe. “You do the things you like, while he is certainly not in his right place.”

“What did he leave it for?” demanded Joseph. “What can it matter to him whether Louis the Eighteenth’s bugs or Napoleon’s cuckoos are on the flag, if it is the flag of his country? France is France! For my part, I’d paint for the devil. A soldier ought to fight, if he is a soldier, for the love of his art. If he had stayed quietly in the army, he would have been a general by this time.”

“You are unjust to him,” said Agathe, “your father, who adored the Emperor, would have approved of his conduct. However, he has consented to re-enter the army. God knows the grief it has caused your brother to do a thing he considers treachery.”

Joseph rose to return to his studio, but his mother took his hand and said:—

“Be good to your brother; he is so unfortunate.”

When the artist got back to his painting-room, followed by Madame Descoings, who begged him to humor his mother’s feelings, and pointed out to him how changed she was, and what inward suffering the change revealed, they found Philippe there, to their great amazement.

“Joseph, my boy,” he said, in an off-hand way, “I want some money. Confound it! I owe thirty francs for cigars at my tobacconist’s, and I dare not pass the cursed shop till I’ve paid it. I’ve promised to pay it a dozen times.”

“Well, I like your present way best,” said Joseph; “take what you want out of the skull.”

“I took all there was last night, after dinner.”

“There was forty-five francs.”

“Yes, that’s what I made it,” replied Philippe. “I took them; is there any objection?”

“No, my friend, no,” said Joseph. “If you were rich, I should do the same by you; only, before taking what I wanted, I should ask you if it were convenient.”

“It is very humiliating to ask,” remarked Philippe; “I would rather see you taking as I do, without a word; it shows more confidence. In the army, if a comrade dies, and has a good pair of boots, and you have a bad pair, you change, that’s all.”

“Yes, but you don’t take them while he is living.”

“Oh, what meanness!” said Philippe, shrugging his shoulders. “Well, so you haven’t got any money?”

“No,” said Joseph, who was determined not to show his hiding-place.

“In a few days we shall be rich,” said Madame Descoings.

“Yes, you; you think your trey is going to turn up on the 25th at the Paris drawing. You must have put in a fine stake if you think you can make us all rich.”

“A paid-up trey of two hundred francs will give three millions, without counting the couplets and the singles.”

“At fifteen thousand times the stake — yes, you are right; it is just two hundred you must pay up!” cried Philippe.

Madame Descoings bit her lips; she knew she had spoken imprudently. In fact, Philippe was asking himself as he went downstairs:—

“That old witch! where does she keep her money? It is as good as lost; I can make a better use of it. With four pools at fifty francs each, I could win two hundred thousand francs, and that’s much surer than the turning up of a trey.”

He tried to think where the old woman was likely to have hid the money. On the days preceding festivals, Agathe went to church and stayed there a long time; no doubt she confessed and prepared for the communion. It was now the day before Christmas; Madame Descoings would certainly go out to buy some dainties for the “reveillon,” the midnight meal; and she might also take occasion to pay up her stake. The lottery was drawn every five days in different localities, at Bordeaux, Lyons, Lille, Strasburg, and Paris. The Paris lottery was drawn on the twenty-fifth of each month, and the lists closed on the twenty-fourth, at midnight. Philippe studied all these points and set himself to watch. He came home at midday; the Descoings had gone out, and had taken the key of the appartement. But that was no difficulty. Philippe pretended to have forgotten something, and asked the concierge to go herself and get a locksmith, who lived close by, and who came at once and opened the door. The villain’s first thought was the bed; he uncovered it, passed his hands over the mattress before he examined the bedstead, and at the lower end felt the pieces wrapped up in paper. He at once ripped the ticking, picked out twenty napoleons, and then, without taking time to sew up the mattress, re-made the bed neatly enough, so that Madame Descoings could suspect nothing.

The gambler stole off with a light foot, resolving to play at three different times, three hours apart, and each time for only ten minutes. Thorough-going players, ever since 1786, the time at which public gaming-houses were established — the true players whom the government dreaded, and who ate up, to use a gambling term, the money of the bank — never played in any other way. But before attaining this measure of experience they lost fortunes. The whole science of gambling-houses and their gains rests upon three things: the impassibility of the bank; the even results called “drawn games,” when half the money goes to the bank; and the notorious bad faith authorized by the government, in refusing to hold or pay the player’s stakes except optionally. In a word, the gambling-house, which refuses the game of a rich and cool player, devours the fortune of the foolish and obstinate one, who is carried away by the rapid movement of the machinery of the game. The croupiers at “trente et quarante” move nearly as fast as the ball.

Philippe had ended by acquiring the sang-froid of a commanding general, which enables him to keep his eye clear and his mind prompt in the midst of tumult. He had reached that statesmanship of gambling which in Paris, let us say in passing, is the livelihood of thousands who are strong enough to look every night into an abyss without getting a vertigo. With his four hundred francs, Philippe resolved to make his fortune that day. He put aside, in his boots, two hundred francs, and kept the other two hundred in his pocket. At three o’clock he went to the gambling-house (which is now turned into the theatre of the Palais–Royal), where the bank accepted the largest sums. He came out half an hour later with seven thousand francs in his pocket. Then he went to see Florentine, paid the five hundred francs which he owed to her, and proposed a supper at the Rocher de Cancale after the theatre. Returning to his game, along the rue de Sentier, he stopped at Giroudeau’s newspaper-office to notify him of the gala. By six o’clock Philippe had won twenty-five thousand francs, and stopped playing at the end of ten minutes as he had promised himself to do. That night, by ten o’clock, he had won seventy-five thousand francs. After the supper, which was magnificent, Philippe, by that time drunk and confident, went back to his play at midnight. In defiance of the rule he had imposed upon himself, he played for an hour and doubled his fortune. The bankers, from whom, by his system of playing, he had extracted one hundred and fifty thousand francs, looked at him with curiosity.

“Will he go away now, or will he stay?” they said to each other by a glance. “If he stays he is lost.”

Philippe thought he had struck a vein of luck, and stayed. Towards three in the morning, the hundred and fifty thousand francs had gone back to the bank. The colonel, who had imbibed a considerable quantity of grog while playing, left the place in a drunken state, which the cold of the outer air only increased. A waiter from the gambling-house followed him, picked him up, and took him to one of those horrible houses at the door of which, on a hanging lamp, are the words: “Lodgings for the night.” The waiter paid for the ruined gambler, who was put to bed, where he remained till Christmas night. The managers of gambling-houses have some consideration for their customers, especially for high players. Philippe awoke about seven o’clock in the evening, his mouth parched, his face swollen, and he himself in the grip of a nervous fever. The strength of his constitution enabled him to get home on foot, where meanwhile he had, without willing it, brought mourning, desolation, poverty, and death.

The evening before, when dinner was ready, Madame Descoings and Agathe expected Philippe. They waited dinner till seven o’clock. Agathe always went to bed at ten; but as, on this occasion, she wished to be present at the midnight mass, she went to lie down as soon as dinner was over. Madame Descoings and Joseph remained alone by the fire in the little salon, which served for all, and the old woman asked the painter to add up the amount of her great stake, her monstrous stake, on the famous trey, which she was to pay that evening at the Lottery office. She wished to put in for the doubles and singles as well, so as to seize all chances. After feasting on the poetry of her hopes, and pouring the two horns of plenty at the feet of her adopted son, and relating to him her dreams which demonstrated the certainty of success, she felt no other uneasiness than the difficulty of bearing such joy, and waiting from mid-night until ten o’clock of the morrow, when the winning numbers were declared. Joseph, who saw nothing of the four hundred francs necessary to pay up the stakes, asked about them. The old woman smiled, and led him into the former salon, which was now her bed-chamber.

“You shall see,” she said.

Madame Descoings hastily unmade the bed, and searched for her scissors to rip the mattress; she put on her spectacles, looked at the ticking, saw the hole, and let fall the mattress. Hearing a sigh from the depths of the old woman’s breast, as though she were strangled by a rush of blood to the heart, Joseph instinctively held out his arms to catch the poor creature, and placed her fainting in a chair, calling to his mother to come to them. Agathe rose, slipped on her dressing-gown, and ran in. By the light of a candle, she applied the ordinary remedies — eau-decologne to the temples, cold water to the forehead, a burnt feather under the nose — and presently her aunt revived.

“They were there is morning; HE has taken them, the monster!” she said.

“Taken what?” asked Joseph.

“I had twenty louis in my mattress; my savings for two years; no one but Philippe could have taken them.”

“But when?” cried the poor mother, overwhelmed, “he has not been in since breakfast.”

“I wish I might be mistaken,” said the old woman. “But this morning in Joseph’s studio, when I spoke before Philippe of my stakes, I had a presentiment. I did wrong not to go down and take my little all and pay for my stakes at once. I meant to, and I don’t know what prevented me. Oh, yes! — my God! I went out to buy him some cigars.”

“But,” said Joseph, “you left the door locked. Besides, it is so infamous. I can’t believe it. Philippe couldn’t have watched you, cut open the mattress, done it deliberately — no, no!”

“I felt them this morning, when I made my bed after breakfast,” repeated Madame Descoings.

Agathe, horrified, went down stairs and asked if Philippe had come in during the day. The concierge related the tale of his return and the locksmith. The mother, heart-stricken, went back a changed woman. White as the linen of her chemise, she walked as we might fancy a spectre walks, slowly, noiselessly, moved by some superhuman power, and yet mechanically. She held a candle in her hand, whose light fell full upon her face and showed her eyes, fixed with horror. Unconsciously, her hands by a desperate movement had dishevelled the hair about her brow; and this made her so beautiful with anguish that Joseph stood rooted in awe at the apparition of that remorse, the vision of that statue of terror and despair.

“My aunt,” she said, “take my silver forks and spoons. I have enough to make up the sum; I took your money for Philippe’s sake; I thought I could put it back before you missed it. Oh! I have suffered much.”

She sat down. Her dry, fixed eyes wandered a little.

“It was he who did it,” whispered the old woman to Joseph.

“No, no,” cried Agathe; “take my silver plate, sell it; it is useless to me; we can eat with yours.”

She went to her room, took the box which contained the plate, felt its light weight, opened it, and saw a pawnbroker’s ticket. The poor mother uttered a dreadful cry. Joseph and the Descoings ran to her, saw the empty box, and her noble falsehood was of no avail. All three were silent, and avoided looking at each other; but the next moment, by an almost frantic gesture, Agathe laid her finger on her lips as if to entreat a secrecy no one desired to break. They returned to the salon, and sat beside the fire.

“Ah! my children,” cried Madame Descoings, “I am stabbed to the heart: my trey will turn up, I am certain of it. I am not thinking of myself, but of you two. Philippe is a monster,” she continued, addressing her niece; “he does not love you after all that you have done for him. If you do not protect yourself against him he will bring you to beggary. Promise me to sell out your Funds and buy a life-annuity. Joseph has a good profession and he can live. If you will do this, dear Agathe, you will never be an expense to Joseph. Monsieur Desroches has just started his son as a notary; he would take your twelve thousand francs and pay you an annuity.”

Joseph seized his mother’s candlestick, rushed up to his studio, and came down with three hundred francs.

“Here, Madame Descoings!” he cried, giving her his little store, “it is no business of ours what you do with your money; we owe you what you have lost, and here it is, almost in full.”

“Take your poor little all? — the fruit of those privations that have made me so unhappy! are you mad, Joseph?” cried the old woman, visibly torn between her dogged faith in the coming trey, and the sacrilege of accepting such a sacrifice.

“Oh! take it if you like,” said Agathe, who was moved to tears by this action of her true son.

Madame Descoings took Joseph by the head, and kissed him on the forehead:—

“My child,” she said, “don’t tempt me. I might only lose it. The lottery, you see, is all folly.”

No more heroic words were ever uttered in the hidden dramas of domestic life. It was, indeed, affection triumphant over inveterate vice. At this instant, the clocks struck midnight.

“It is too late now,” said Madame Descoings.

“Oh!” cried Joseph, “here are your cabalistic numbers.”

The artist sprang at the paper, and rushed headlong down the staircase to pay the stakes. When he was no longer present, Agathe and Madame Descoings burst into tears.

“He has gone, the dear love,” cried the old gambler; “but it shall all be his; he pays his own money.”

Unhappily, Joseph did not know the way to any of the lottery-offices, which in those days were as well known to most people as the cigarshops to a smoker in ours. The painter ran along, reading the street names upon the lamps. When he asked the passers-by to show him a lottery-office, he was told they were all closed, except the one under the portico of the Palais–Royal which was sometimes kept open a little later. He flew to the Palais–Royal: the office was shut.

“Two minutes earlier, and you might have paid your stake,” said one of the vendors of tickets, whose beat was under the portico, where he vociferated this singular cry: “Twelve hundred francs for forty sous,” and offered tickets all paid up.

By the glimmer of the street lamp and the lights of the cafe de la Rotonde, Joseph examined these tickets to see if, by chance, any of them bore the Descoings’s numbers. He found none, and returned home grieved at having done his best in vain for the old woman, to whom he related his ill-luck. Agathe and her aunt went together to the midnight mass at Saint–Germain-desPres. Joseph went to bed. The collation did not take place. Madame Descoings had lost her head; and in Agathe’s heart was eternal mourning.

The two rose late on Christmas morning. Ten o’clock had struck before Madame Descoings began to bestir herself about the breakfast, which was only ready at half-past eleven. At that hour, the oblong frames containing the winning numbers are hung over the doors of the lottery-offices. If Madame Descoings had paid her stake and held her ticket, she would have gone by half-past nine o’clock to learn her fate at a building close to the ministry of Finance, in the rue Neuve-desPetits Champs, a situation now occupied by the Theatre Ventadour in the place of the same name. On the days when the drawings took place, an observer might watch with curiosity the crowd of old women, cooks, and old men assembled about the door of this building; a sight as remarkable as the cue of people about the Treasury on the days when the dividends are paid.

“Well, here you are, rolling in wealth!” said old Desroches, coming into the room just as the Descoings was swallowing her last drop of coffee.

“What do you mean?” cried poor Agathe.

“Her trey has turned up,” he said, producing the list of numbers written on a bit of paper, such as the officials of the lottery put by hundreds into little wooden bowls on their counters.

Joseph read the list. Agathe read the list. The Descoings read nothing; she was struck down as by a thunderbolt. At the change in her face, at the cry she gave, old Desroches and Joseph carried her to her bed. Agathe went for a doctor. The poor woman was seized with apoplexy, and she only recovered consciousness at four in the afternoon; old Haudry, her doctor, then said that, in spite of this improvement, she ought to settle her worldly affairs and think of her salvation. She herself only uttered two words:—

“Three millions!”

Old Desroches, informed by Joseph, with due reservations, of the state of things, related many instances where lottery-players had seen a fortune escape them on the very day when, by some fatality, they had forgotten to pay their stakes; but he thoroughly understood that such a blow might be fatal when it came after twenty years’ perseverance. About five o’clock, as a deep silence reigned in the little appartement, and the sick woman, watched by Joseph and his mother, the one sitting at the foot, the other at the head of her bed, was expecting her grandson Bixiou, whom Desroches had gone to fetch, the sound of Philippe’s step and cane resounded on the staircase.

“There he is! there he is!” cried the Descoings, sitting up in bed and suddenly able to use her paralyzed tongue.

Agathe and Joseph were deeply impressed by this powerful effect of the horror which violently agitated the old woman. Their painful suspense was soon ended by the sight of Philippe’s convulsed and purple face, his staggering walk, and the horrible state of his eyes, which were deeply sunken, dull, and yet haggard; he had a strong chill upon him, and his teeth chattered.

“Starvation in Prussia!” he cried, looking about him. “Nothing to eat or drink? — and my throat on fire! Well, what’s the matter? The devil is always meddling in our affairs. There’s my old Descoings in bed, looking at me with her eyes as big as saucers.”

“Be silent, monsieur!” said Agathe, rising. “At least, respect the sorrows you have caused.”

Monsieur, indeed!” he cried, looking at his mother. “My dear little mother, that won’t do. Have you ceased to love your son?”

“Are you worthy of love? Have you forgotten what you did yesterday? Go and find yourself another home; you cannot live with us any longer, — that is, after tomorrow,” she added; “for in the state you are in now it is difficult —”

“To turn me out — is that it?” he interrupted. “Ha! are you going to play the melodrama of ‘The Banished Son’? Well done! is that how you take things? You are all a pretty set! What harm have I done? I’ve cleaned out the old woman’s mattress. What the devil is the good of money kept in wool? Do you call that a crime? Didn’t she take twenty thousand francs from you? We are her creditors, and I’ve paid myself as much as I could get — that’s all.”

“My God! my God!” cried the dying woman, clasping her hands and praying.

“Be silent!” exclaimed Joseph, springing at his brother and putting his hand before his mouth.

“To the right about, march! brat of a painter!” retorted Philippe, laying his strong hand on Joseph’s head, and twirling him round, as he flung him on a sofa. “Don’t dare to touch the moustache of a commander of a squadron of the dragoons of the Guard!”

“She has paid me back all that she owed me,” cried Agathe, rising and turning an angry face to her son; “and besides, that is my affair. You have killed her. Go away, my son,” she added, with a gesture that took all her remaining strength, “and never let me see you again. You are a monster.”

“I kill her?”

“Her trey has turned up,” cried Joseph, “and you stole the money for her stake.”

“Well, if she is dying of a lost trey, it isn’t I who have killed her,” said the drunkard.

“Go, go!” said Agathe. “You fill me with horror; you have every vice. My God! is this my son?”

A hollow rattle sounded in Madame Descoings’s throat, increasing Agathe’s anger.

“I love you still, my mother — you who are the cause of all my misfortunes,” said Philippe. “You turn me out of doors on Christmas-day. What did you do to grandpa Rouget, to your father, that he should drive you away and disinherit you? If you had not displeased him, we should all be rich now, and I should not be reduced to misery. What did you do to your father — you who are a good woman? You see by your own self, I may be a good fellow and yet be turned out of house and home — I, the glory of the family —”

“The disgrace of it!” cried the Descoings.

“You shall leave this room, or you shall kill me!” cried Joseph, springing on his brother with the fury of a lion.

“My God! my God!” cried Agathe, trying to separate the brothers.

At this moment Bixiou and Haudry the doctor entered. Joseph had just knocked his brother over and stretched him on the ground.

“He is a regular wild beast,” he cried. “Don’t speak another word, or I’ll —”

“I’ll pay you for this!” roared Philippe.

“A family explanation,” remarked Bixiou.

“Lift him up,” said the doctor, looking at him. “He is as ill as Madame Descoings; undress him and put him to bed; get off his boots.”

“That’s easy to say,” cried Bixiou, “but they must be cut off; his legs are swollen.”

Agathe took a pair of scissors. When she had cut down the boots, which in those days were worn outside the clinging trousers, ten pieces of gold rolled on the floor.

“There it is — her money,” murmured Philippe. “Cursed fool that I was, I forgot it. I too have missed a fortune.”

He was seized with a horrible delirium of fever, and began to rave. Joseph, assisted by old Desroches, who had come back, and by Bixiou, carried him to his room. Doctor Haudry was obliged to write a line to the Hopital de la Charite and borrow a strait-waistcoat; for the delirium ran so high as to make him fear that Philippe might kill himself — he was raving. At nine o’clock calm was restored. The Abbe Loraux and Desroches endeavored to comfort Agathe, who never ceased to weep at her aunt’s bedside. She listened to them in silence, and obstinately shook her head; Joseph and the Descoings alone knew the extent and depth of her inward wound.

“He will learn to do better, mother,” said Joseph, when Desroches and Bixiou had left.

“Oh!” cried the widow, “Philippe is right — my father cursed me: I have no right to — Here, here is your money,” she said to Madame Descoings, adding Joseph’s three hundred francs to the two hundred found on Philippe. “Go and see if your brother does not need something,” she said to Joseph.

“Will you keep a promise made to a dying woman?” asked Madame Descoings, who felt that her mind was failing her.

“Yes, aunt.”

“Then swear to me to give your property to young Desroches for a life annuity. My income ceases at my death; and from what you have just said, I know you will let that wretch wring the last farthing out of you.”

“I swear it, aunt.”

The old woman died on the 31st of December, five days after the terrible blow which old Desroches had so innocently given her. The five hundred francs — the only money in the household — were barely enough to pay for her funeral. She left a small amount of silver and some furniture, the value of which Madame Bixiou paid over to her grandson Bixiou. Reduced to eight hundred francs’ annuity paid to her by young Desroches, who had bought a business without clients, and himself took the capital of twelve thousand francs, Agathe gave up her appartement on the third floor, and sold all her superfluous furniture. When, at the end of a month, Philippe seemed to be convalescent, his mother coldly explained to him that the costs of his illness had taken all her ready money, that she should be obliged in future to work for her living, and she urged him, with the utmost kindness, to re-enter the army and support himself.

“You might have spared me that sermon,” said Philippe, looking at his mother with an eye that was cold from utter indifference. “I have seen all along that neither you nor my brother love me. I am alone in the world; I like it best!”

“Make yourself worthy of our affection,” answered the poor mother, struck to the very heart, “and we will give it back to you —”

“Nonsense!” he cried, interrupting her.

He took his old hat, rubbed white at the edges, stuck it over one ear, and went downstairs, whistling.

“Philippe! where are you going without any money?” cried his mother, who could not repress her tears. “Here, take this —”

She held out to him a hundred francs in gold, wrapped up in paper. Philippe came up the stairs he had just descended, and took the money.

“Well; won’t you kiss me?” she said, bursting into tears.

He pressed his mother in his arms, but without the warmth of feeling which was all that could give value to the embrace.

“Where shall you go?” asked Agathe.

“To Florentine, Girodeau’s mistress. Ah! they are real friends!” he answered brutally.

He went away. Agathe turned back with trembling limbs, and failing eyes, and aching heart. She fell upon her knees, prayed God to take her unnatural child into His own keeping, and abdicated her woeful motherhood.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31