Dubuche was going to dine out; Fagerolles had an appointment; in vain did Jory, Mahoudeau, and Gagniere try to drag Claude to Foucart's, a twenty-five sous' restaurant; Sandoz was already taking him away on his arm, feeling anxious at seeing him so excited. 'Come along, I promised my mother to be back for dinner. You'll take a bit with us. It will be nice; we'll finish the day together.
There would be ten of them all the men comrades of the old band, without a single outsider, in order that the good understanding and jollity might be complete. Henriette, who was more mistrustful than her husband, hesitated when this list of guests was decided upon. 'Oh! Fagerolles? You believe in having Fagerolles with the others?
Fagerolles himself, gibing Parisian though he might be, believed in the necessity of forming an army; while even Jory, although he had a coarser appetite, with a deal of the provincial still about him, displayed much useful comradeship, catching various artistic phrases as they fell from his companions' lips, and already preparing in his mind the articles which would herald the advent of the band and make them known.
Fagerolles himself is very anxious. If he isn't here to-night, it's because matters are not going smoothly. Ah! he has had his bite at the cherry; all that painting for millions is cracking to bits! There was a laugh, expressive of spite finally satisfied, and even Gagniere at the other end of the table joined in the sneering.
'You are telling a lie, said she, interrupting him in a clear voice. And to cut short his protestations 'Fagerolles was here, she added, 'so you see that you are telling a lie. Then, turning to Claude, 'No, it's too disgusting. You can't conceive what a liar he is. He tells lies like a woman, for the pleasure of it, for the merest trifle.
Their voices, at first mere whispers, gradually grew louder, till at last they began to shout. 'Oh! the man, I abandon the man to you, said Jory, who was speaking of Fagerolles. 'He isn't worth much. And he out-generalled you, it's true. Ah! how he did get the better of you fellows, by breaking off from you and carving success for himself on your backs! You were certainly not at all cute.
Fagerolles isn't the only one who pillages you; they all imitate you now; you have revolutionised them since your "Open Air," which they laughed so much about. Look, look! there's an "open air" effect, and there's another, and here and there they all do it. He waved his hand towards the pictures as he and Claude passed along the galleries.
M. Fagerolles, senior, a manufacturer of artistic zinc-work, had his workshops on the ground floor of the building, and having converted two large front rooms on the first floor into a warehouse, he personally occupied a small, dark, cellar-like apartment overlooking the courtyard.
Once outside he slowly resumed his walk in haphazard fashion. When he got to the Place de l'Hotel de Ville, however, a fresh idea made him quicken his pace. Why had he not thought of Fagerolles? Fagerolles was a nice fellow, gay, and by no means a fool, although he studied at the School of Arts. One could talk with him, even when he defended bad painting.
Dubuche was expected that evening, for he had formally promised to come. 'Yes, explained Henriette, 'there will only be nine of us. Fagerolles wrote this morning to apologise; he is forced to go to some official dinner, but he hopes to escape, and will join us at about eleven o'clock. At that moment, however, a servant came in with a telegram. It was from Dubuche, who wired: 'Impossible to stir.