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Standing behind Flory and Gustave Sédille, Saccard heard them whispering women's names. He smiled, and addressing himself to Flory, inquired: 'Haven't you seen Monsieur Mazaud?'

'Yes, monsieur, he came to give me an order, and then went down to his apartments again. I believe that his little boy is ill; he was told that the doctor had come. You had better ring at his door, for he will very likely go out without coming up again.'

Saccard thanked him, and hurried down to the floor below. Mazaud was one of the youngest of the official brokers, and an extremely lucky man to boot; for by the death of his uncle he had come into one of the largest businesses in Paris[Pg 85] at an age when one can still learn. Though short, he was very pleasant-looking, with a small brown moustache and piercing black eyes; and he displayed great activity, and a very alert mind. He was already known in the corbeille for his vivacity of mind and body, such a desideratum in his calling, and one which, coupled with a keen scent and remarkable intuition, was sure to place him in the first rank; to say nothing of the fact that he possessed a shrill piercing voice, received direct information from foreign Bourses, did business with all the great bankers, and was reputed to have a second cousin employed at the Havas News Agency. His wife, whom he had married for love, and who had brought him a dowry of twelve hundred thousand francs, was a charming young woman, and had already presented him with two children, a little girl now three years and a boy some eighteen months old.

As Saccard came down he found Mazaud ushering out the doctor, who was laughingly tranquillising his paternal anxiety.

'Come in,' said the broker to Saccard. 'It's true, you know—with these little creatures you at once get anxious; the slightest ailment, and you think them lost.'

So saying, he ushered him into the drawing-room, where his wife was still seated, holding the baby on her knees, while the little girl, glad to see her mother gay, was raising herself on tip-toe to kiss her.

'You see that we were foolish,' said he.

'Ah! that makes no difference, my friend,' she answered. 'I am so glad that he has reassured us!'

In presence of all this happiness, Saccard halted, bowing. The room, luxuriously furnished, was redolent of the happy life of this household, which nothing had yet disunited. During four years of wedlock, Mazaud had been accused of nothing save a fleeting curiosity with regard to a vocalist at the Opéra Comique. He remained a faithful husband, just as he had the reputation of not yet speculating too heavily on his own account, despite all the natural impetuosity of youth. And a pleasant perfume of luck, of unclouded felicity could[Pg 86] really be detected here, amid the discreet peacefulness of the apartment, amid the delicious odour with which a large bouquet of roses, overflowing from a china vase, had scented the entire room.

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Madame Mazaud, who was slightly acquainted with Saccard, addressed him gaily: 'Is it not true, monsieur, one need only wish it to be always happy?'

'I am convinced of it, madame,' he answered. 'And besides, there are persons so beautiful and good that misfortune never dares to touch them.'

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She had risen, radiant. Kissing her husband in her turn, she went out, carrying the little boy, and followed by the little girl, who had been hanging on her father's neck. The latter, wishing to hide his emotion, turned towards his visitor with the bantering remark: 'You see we don't lead a dull life here.'