FROMONT AND RISLER - V4
FROMONT AND RISLER - V4
THE DAY OF RECKONING
The great clock of Saint-Gervais struck one in the morning. It was so
cold that the fine snow flying through the air hardened as it fell
covering the pavements with a slippery white blanket.
Risler wrapped in his cloak was hastening home from the brewery through
the deserted streets of the Marais. He had been celebrating in company
with his two faithful borrowers Chebe and Delobelle his first moment of
leisure the end of that almost endless period of seclusion during which
he had been superintending the manufacture of his press with all the
searchings the joys and the disappointments of the inventor. It had
been long very long. At the last moment he had discovered a defect.
The crane did not work well; and he had had to revise his plans and
drawings. At last on that very day the new machine had been tried.
Everything had succeeded to his heart's desire. The worthy man was
triumphant. It seemed to him that he had paid a debt by giving the
house of Fromont the benefit of a new machine which would lessen the
labor shorten the hours of the workmen and at the same time double
the profits and the reputation of the factory. He indulged in beautiful
dreams as he plodded along. His footsteps rang out proudly emphasized
by the resolute and happy trend of his thoughts.
Quickening his pace he reached the corner of Rue des Vieilles-
Haudriettes. A long line of carriages was standing in front of the
factory and the light of their lanterns in the street the shadows of
the drivers seeking shelter from the snow in the corners and angles that
those old buildings have retained despite the straightening of the
sidewalks gave an animated aspect to that deserted silent quarter.
"Yes yes! to be sure" thought the honest fellow "we have a ball at
our house." He remembered that Sidonie was giving a grand musical and
dancing party which she had excused him from attending by the way
knowing that he was very busy.
Shadows passed and repassed behind the fluttering veil of the curtains;
the orchestra seemed to follow the movements of those stealthy
apparitions with the rising and falling of its muffled notes. The guests
were dancing. Risler let his eyes rest for a moment on that
phantasmagoria of the ball and fancied that he recognized Sidonie's
shadow in a small room adjoining the salon.
She was standing erect in her magnificent costume in the attitude of a
pretty woman before her mirror. A shorter shadow behind her Madame
Dobson doubtless was repairing some accident to the costume retieing
the knot of a ribbon tied about her neck its long ends floating down to
the flounces of the train. It was all very indistinct but the woman's
graceful figure was recognizable in those faintly traced outlines and
Risler tarried long admiring her.
The contrast on the first floor was most striking. There was no light
visible with the exception of a little lamp shining through the lilac
hangings of the bedroom. Risler noticed that circumstance and as the
little girl had been ailing a few days before he felt anxious about her
remembering Madame Georges's strange agitation when she passed him so
hurriedly in the afternoon; and he retraced his steps as far as Pere
Achille's lodge to inquire.
The lodge was full. Coachmen were warming themselves around the stove
chatting and laughing amid the smoke from their pipes. When Risler
appeared there was profound silence a cunning inquisitive significant
silence. They had evidently been speaking of him.
"Is the Fromont child still sick?" he asked.
"No not the child Monsieur."
"Monsieur Georges sick?"
"Yes he was taken when he came home to-night. I went right off to get
the doctor. He said that it wouldn't amount to anything--that all
Monsieur needed was rest."
As Risler closed the door Pere Achille added under his breath with the
half-fearful half-audacious insolence of an inferior who would like to
be listened to and yet not distinctly heard:
"Ah! 'dame' they're not making such a show on the first floor as they
are on the second."
This is what had happened.
Fromont jeune on returning home during the evening had found his wife
with such a changed heartbroken face that he at once divined a
catastrophe. But he had become so accustomed in the past two years to
sin with impunity that it did not for one moment occur to him that his
wife could have been informed of his conduct. Claire for her part to
avoid humiliating him was generous enough to speak only of Savigny.
"Grandpapa refused" she said.
The miserable man turned frightfully pale.
"I am lost--I am lost!" he muttered two or three times in the wild
accents of fever; and his sleepless nights a last terrible scene which
he had had with Sidonie trying to induce her not to give this party on
the eve of his downfall M. Gardinois' refusal all these maddening
things which followed so closely on one another's heels and had agitated
him terribly culminated in a genuine nervous attack. Claire took pity
on him put him to bed and established herself by his side; but her
voice had lost that affectionate intonation which soothes and persuades.
There was in her gestures in the way in which she arranged the pillow