The Honor of the Name
It was only two weeks since the Duc de Sairmeuse had returned to France; he had not yet
had time to shake the dust of exile from his feet, and already his imagination saw enemies
on every side.
He had been at Sairmeuse only two days, and yet he unhesitatingly accepted the
venomous reports which Chupin poured into his ears.
The suspicions which he was endeavoring to make Martial share were cruelly unjust.
At the moment when the duke accused the baron of conspiring against the house of
Sairmeuse, that unfortunate man was weeping at the bedside of his son, who was, he
believed, at the point of death.
Maurice was indeed dangerously ill.
His excessively nervous organization had succumbed before the rude assaults of destiny.
When, in obedience to M. Lacheneur's imperative order, he left the grove on the Reche,
he lost the power of reflecting calmly and deliberately upon the situation.
Marie-Anne's incomprehensible obstinacy, the insults he had received from the marquis,
and Lacheneur's feigned anger were mingled in inextricable confusion, forming one
immense, intolerable misfortune, too crushing for his powers of resistance.
The peasants who met him on his homeward way were struck by his singular demeanor,
and felt convinced that some great catastrophe had just befallen the house of the Baron
Some bowed; others spoke to him, but he did not see or hear them.
Force of habit--that physical memory which mounts guard when the mind is far away--
brought him back to his home.
His features were so distorted with suffering that Mme. d'Escorval, on seeing him, was
seized with a most sinister presentiment, and dared not address him.
He spoke first.
"All is over!" he said, hoarsely, "but do not be worried, mother; I have some courage, as
you shall see."
He did, in fact, seat himself at the table with a resolute air. He ate even more than usual;
and his father noticed, without alluding to it, that he drank much more wine than usual.