"He shall never again set his foot here!" screamed the cashier of the Mutual Credit, thrown beside himself by an act of resistance which seemed to him unheard of. "I banish him. Let his clothes be packed up, and taken to some hotel: I never want to see him again."
For a long time Mme. Favoral and Gilberte fairly dragged themselves at his feet, before he consented to recall his determination.
"He will disgrace us all!" he kept repeating, seeming unable to understand that it was himself who had, as it were, driven Maxence on to the fatal road which he was pursuing, forgetting that the absurd seventies of the father prepared the way for the perilous indulgence of the mother, unwilling to own that the head of a family has other duties besides providing food and shelter for his wife and children, and that a father has but little right to complain who has not known how to make himself the friend and the adviser of his son.
At last, after the most violent recriminations, he forgave, in appearance at least.
But the scales had dropped from his eyes. He started in quest of information, and discovered startling enormities.
He heard from M. Chapelain that Maxence remained whole weeks at a time without appearing at the office. If he had not complained before, it was because he had yielded to the urgent entreaties of Mme. Favoral; and he was now glad, he added, of an opportunity to relieve his conscience by a full confession.
Thus the cashier discovered, one by one, all his son's tricks. He heard that he was almost unknown at the law-school, that he spent his days in the cafes, and that, in the evening, when he believed him in bed and asleep, he was in fact running out to theatres and to balls.
"Ah! that's the way, is it?" he thought. "Ah, my wife and children are in league against me, - me, the master. Very well, we'll see."