The first time that Mme. Favoral saw her son struck, she was seized with one of those wild fits of anger which do not reason, and never forgive. To be beaten herself would have seemed to her less atrocious, less humiliating. Hitherto she had found it impossible to love a husband such as hers: henceforth, she took him in utter aversion: he inspired her with horror. She looked upon her son as a martyr for whom she could hardly ever do enough.
And so, after these harrowing scenes, she would press him to her heart in the most passionate embrace; she would cover with her kisses the traces of the blows; and she would strive, by the most delirious caresses, to make him forget the paternal brutalities. With him she sobbed. Like him, she would shake her clinched fists in the vacant space; exclaiming, "Coward, tyrant, assassin!" The little Gilberte mingled her tears with theirs; and, pressed against each other, they deplored their destiny, cursing the common enemy, the head of the family.
Thus did Maxence spend his boyhood between equally fatal exaggerations, between the revolting brutalities of his father, and the dangerous caresses of his mother; the one depriving him of every thing, the other refusing him nothing.
For Mme. Favoral had now found a use for her humble savings.
If the idea had never come to the cashier of the Mutual Credit Society to put a few sous in his son's pocket, the too weak mother would have suggested to him the want of money in order to have the pleasure of gratifying it.
She who had suffered so many humiliations in her life, she could not bear the idea of her son having his pride wounded, and being unable to indulge in those little trifling expenses which are the vanity of schoolboys.
"Here, take this," she would tell him on holidays, slipping a few francs into his hands.
Unfortunately, to her present she joined the recommendation not to allow his father to know any thing about it; forgetting that she was thus training Maxence to dissimulate, warping his natural sense of right, and perverting his instincts: