The word he uttered was so vile that no man could fail to resent it, much less the baron, who was already frantic with passion. His faced turned as purple as if he were stricken with apoplexy, and such furious rage gleamed in his eyes that Madame d'Argeles was frightened. She feared she should see her son butchered before her very eyes, and she extended her arms as if to protect him. "Jacques," she said beseechingly, "Jacques!"
This was the name which was indelibly impressed upon Wilkie's memory--the name he had heard when he was but a child. Jacques-- that was the name of the man who had brought him cakes and toys in the comfortable rooms where he had remained only a few days. He understood, or at least he thought he understood, everything. "Ah, ha!" he exclaimed, with a laugh that was at once both ferocious and idiotic. "This is very fine--monsieur is the lover. He has the say here--he--"
He did not have time to finish his sentence, for quick as thought the baron caught him by the collar, lifted him from the ground with irresistible strength, and flung him on his knees at Madame d'Argeles's feet, exclaiming: "Ask her pardon, you vile wretch! Ask her pardon, or----" "Or" meant the baron's clinched fist descending like a sledge-hammer on M. Wilkie's head.
The worthy youth was frightened--so terribly frightened that his teeth chattered. "Pardon!" he faltered.
"Louder--speak up better than that. Your mother must answer you!"
Alas! the poor woman could no longer hear. She had endured so much during the past hour that her strength was exhausted, and she had fallen back in her arm-chair in a deep swoon. The baron waited for a moment, and seeing that her eyes remained obstinately closed, he exclaimed: "This is your work, wretch!"
And lifting him again, as easily as if he had been a child, he set him on his feet, saying in a calmer tone, but in one that admitted of no reply: "Arrange your clothes and go."
This advice was not unnecessary. Baron Trigault had a powerful hand; and M. Wilkie's attire was decidedly the worse for the encounter. He had lost his cravat, his shirt-front was crumpled and torn, and his waistcoat--one of those that open to the waist and are fastened by a single button--hung down in the most dejected manner. He obeyed the baron's order without a word, but not without considerable difficulty, for his hands trembled like a leaf. When he had finished, the baron exclaimed: "Now be off; and never set foot here again--understand me--never set foot here again, never!"