Her father darted towards her; her mother sustained her, throwing her arms around her like invincible armor which would shield her from all harm. "Don't talk like that, you unhappy girl! It is nothing; it is only another attack which will pass away. Get into bed again, for mercy's sake. Your old friend Boutan is on his way here. You will be up and well again to-morrow."

At all events, she had for some time been ailing, and had finally been removed to the hospital. Mathieu had for a while employed her young sister Cecile, now seventeen, as a servant in the house at Chantebled, but she was of poor health and had returned to Paris, where, curiously enough, she also entered Doctor Gaude's clinic. And Boutan waxed indignant at the methods which Gaude employed.

And it was indeed in the same tragedy of sudden death that they again participated, only this time it was their own son whom they were to find in the same room, on the same bed, frigid, pale, and lifeless. Blaise had just expired. Boutan was there at the head of the bed, holding the inanimate hand in which the final pulsation of blood was dying away.

Boutan immediately attended to the child, who was much better with respect to his legs, but who still suffered from stomachic disturbance, the slightest departure from the prescribed diet leading to troublesome complications. Constance, though she did not confess it, had become really anxious about the boy, and questioned the doctor, and listened to him with all eagerness.

"It's the kind of stomach one finds among children who have not been brought up by their own mothers," continued Boutan. "Your plucky wife doesn't know that trouble; she can let her children eat whatever they fancy. But with that poor little Maurice, the merest trifle, such as four cherries instead of three, provokes indigestion. Well, so it is settled, I will drive you back to the works.

That question of the birth-rate and the present-day falling off in population was one which he thought he had completely mastered, and on which he held forth at length authoritatively. He began by challenging the impartiality of Boutan, whom he knew to be a fervent partisan of large families.

Boutan was there, and the question of children was discussed again. I will tell you all about that. On the other hand, the Moranges have promised to come. You can't have an idea of the delight and vanity they displayed in showing me their new flat. What with their eagerness to make a big fortune I'm much afraid that those worthy folks will do something very foolish. Oh! I was forgetting.

She was holding little Maurice against her knees, and gazing at him with the jealous love of a good bourgeoise, who carefully watched over the health of her only son, that son whom she wished to make a prince of industry and wealth. All at once, however, in reply to a remark from Boutan, she exclaimed: "Why then, doctor, you think me culpable?

And at about twenty minutes to seven Mathieu, on looking into the yard, and there catching sight of Denis, who was to return to Paris by the seven o'clock train, hastened down to tell him to call upon Boutan and beg the doctor to come at once. Then, as soon as his son had started, he rejoined Marianne upstairs, still unwilling to call or warn anybody.

All at once Monsieur Broquette darted forward, though whence he had come it was hard to say. At all events, he had seen Boutan, who was a client that needed attention. "Is my wife busy, then?" said he. "I cannot allow you to remain waiting here, doctor. Come, come, I pray you."