Theodose, thankful to seize even this branch of willow, drew a chair beside Flavie's sofa, and there gave way to sobs that might have touched the oldest judge, while torrents of tears began to flow from his eyes. Flavie rose and left the room to say to her maid: "I am not at home to any one." Then she closed all doors and returned to Theodose, moved to the utmost pitch of maternal solicitude.
For six years he had longed to have children, but God did not bless him; although that poor Madame Thuillier had made novenas, and had even gone, uselessly, to Notra-Dame de Liesse! He depicted Celeste in various lights, which brought the words "Poor Thuillier!" from Flavie's lips. She herself was rather sad, having at the moment no dominant opinion.
He entered Flavie's room; she was alone, and when she saw Theodose she fancied her last hour had come. "What is the matter?" she cried. "I I " he said. "Do you love me, Flavie?" "Oh! how can you doubt it?" "Do you love me absolutely? if I were criminal, even?" "Has he murdered some one?" she thought, replying to his question by a nod.
Flavie's conduct gave such food for gossip, however, that Madame Rabourdin had declined all her invitations. The friend in Rabourdin's bureau to whom Colleville was so attached was named Thuillier. All who knew one knew the other. Thuillier, called "the handsome Thuillier," an ex-Lothario, led as idle a life as Colleville led a busy one.
After five minutes' general conversation Thuillier rose and said: "Messieurs, To the King and the royal family! I add nothing; the toast says all." "To the election of my brother!" said Mademoiselle Thuillier a moment later. "Now I'll make you laugh," whispered la Peyrade in Flavie's ear. And he rose.
"Madame," he said in Flavie's ear, "if any one here is capable of appreciating you it is certainly I. You seem to me a pearl dropped into the mire. You say you are forty-two, but a woman is no older than she looks, and many women of thirty would be thankful to have your figure and that noble countenance, where love has passed without ever filling the void in your heart.
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