"How is Monsieur de Vaudrec?
I hear that he has been unwell these last few days."
The man replied: "The Count is very bad indeed, sir.
They are afraid he will not live through the night; the gout has mounted to his heart."
Du Roy was so startled that he no longer knew what he ought to do.
Confused and disquieting ideas shot through his mind that he dared not even admit to himself.
He stammered: "Thank you; I will call again," without knowing what he was saying.
Then he jumped into a cab and was driven home.
His wife had come in.
He went into her room breathless, and said at once:
"Have you heard?
Vaudrec is dying."
She was sitting down reading a letter.
She raised her eyes, and repeating thrice:
"Oh! what do you say, what do you say, what do you say?"
"I say that Vaudrec is dying from a fit of gout that has flown to the heart."
Then he added: "What do you think of doing?"
She had risen livid, and with her cheeks shaken by a nervous quivering, then she began to cry terribly, hiding her face in her hands.
She stood shaken by sobs and torn by grief.
But suddenly she mastered her sorrow, and wiping her eyes, said:
"I--I am going there--don't bother about me--I don't know when I shall be back--don't wait for me."
He replied: "Very well, dear."
They shook hands, and she went off so hurriedly that she forgot her gloves.
George, having dined alone, began to write his article.
He did so exactly in accordance with the minister's instructions, giving his readers to understand that the expedition to Morocco would not take place.
Then he took it to the office, chatted for a few minutes with the governor, and went out smoking, light-hearted, though he knew not why.
His wife had not come home, and he went to bed and fell asleep.
Madeleine came in towards midnight.
George, suddenly roused, sat up in bed.
"Well?" he asked.
He had never seen her so pale and so deeply moved.
She murmured: "He is dead."
"Ah!--and he did not say anything?"
He had lost consciousness when I arrived."
George was thinking.
Questions rose to his lips that he did not dare to put.
"Come to bed," said he.
She undressed rapidly, and slipped into bed beside him, when he resumed:
"Were there any relations present at his death-bed?"
"Only a nephew."
Did he see this nephew often?"
They had not met for ten years."
"Had he any other relatives?"
"No, I do not think so."
"Then it is his nephew who will inherit?"
"I do not know."