Meantime, Mme. Favoral, whispering to Mme. Desclavettes:
"Positively," she said in a troubled voice, "something serious must have happened to - my husband. He to forget! He to fail in one of his habits! It is the first time in twenty-six years."
The appearance of Maxence at this moment prevented her from going on. M. Favoral was about to administer a sound reprimand to his son, when dinner was announced.
"Come," exclaimed M. Chapelain, the old lawyer, the conciliating man par excellence, - "come, let us to the table."
They sat down. But Mme. Favoral had scarcely helped the soup, when the bell rang violently. Almost at the same moment the servant appeared, and announced:
More pale than his napkin, the cashier stood up. "The manager," he stammered, "the director of the Mutual Credit Society."
Close upon the heels of the servant M. de Thaller came.
Tall, thin, stiff, he had a very small head, a flat face, pointed nose, and long reddish whiskers, slightly shaded with silvery threads, falling half-way down his chest. Dressed in the latest style, he wore a loose overcoat of rough material, pantaloons that spread nearly to the tip of his boots, a wide shirt-collar turned over a light cravat, on the bow of which shone a large diamond, and a tall hat with rolled brims. With a blinking glance, he made a rapid estimate of the dining-room, the shabby furniture, and the guests seated around the table. Then, without even condescending to touch his hat, with his large hand tightly fitted into a lavender glove, in a brief and imperious tone, and with a slight accent which he affirmed was the Alsatian accent: