That much of the report has no foundation."
Duroy hastened to the room of the governor, whom he found somewhat cool, and with a look of suspicion in his eye.
After having listened to the statement of the case, Monsieur Walter said: "Go and see the woman yourself, and contradict the paragraph in such terms as will put a stop to such things being written about you any more.
I mean the latter part of the paragraph.
It is very annoying for the paper, for yourself, and for me.
A journalist should no more be suspected than C?sar's wife."
Duroy got into a cab, with Saint-Potin as his guide, and called out to the driver:
"Number 18 Rue de l'Ecureuil, Montmartre."
It was a huge house, in which they had to go up six flights of stairs.
An old woman in a woolen jacket opened the door to them.
"What is it you want with me now?" said she, on catching sight of Saint-Potin.
He replied: "I have brought this gentleman, who is an inspector of police, and who would like to hear your story."
Then she let him in, saying:
"Two more have been here since you, for some paper or other, I don't know which," and turning towards Duroy, added: "So this gentleman wants to know about it?"
Were you arrested by an _agent des moeurs_?"
She lifted her arms into the air.
"Never in my life, sir, never in my life.
This is what it is all about.
I have a butcher who sells good meat, but who gives bad weight.
I have often noticed it without saying anything; but the other day, when I asked him for two pounds of chops, as I had my daughter and my son-in-law to dinner, I caught him weighing in bits of trimmings--trimmings of chops, it is true, but not of mine.
I could have made a stew of them, it is true, as well, but when I ask for chops it is not to get other people's trimmings.
I refused to take them, and he calls me an old shark. I called him an old rogue, and from one thing to another we picked up such a row that there were over a hundred people round the shop, some of them laughing fit to split.
So that at last a police agent came up and asked us to settle it before the commissary.
We went, and he dismissed the case.
Since then I get my meat elsewhere, and don't even pass his door, in order to avoid his slanders."
She ceased talking, and Duroy asked: "Is that all?"
"It is the whole truth, sir," and having offered him a glass of cordial, which he declined, the old woman insisted on the short weight of the butcher being spoken of in the report.
On his return to the office, Duroy wrote his reply:
"An anonymous scribbler in the _Plume_ seeks to pick a quarrel with me on the subject of an old woman whom he states was arrested by an _agent des moeurs_, which fact I deny.
I have myself seen Madame Aubert--who is at least sixty years of age--and she told me in detail her quarrel with the butcher over the weighing of some chops, which led to an explanation before the commissary of police.
This is the whole truth.
As to the other insinuations of the writer in the _Plume_, I despise them.
Besides, a man does not reply to such things when they are written under a mask.
Monsieur Walter and Jacques Rival, who had come in, thought this note satisfactory, and it was settled that it should go in at once.
Duroy went home early, somewhat agitated and slightly uneasy.
What reply would the other man make?
Who was he?
Why this brutal attack?
With the brusque manners of journalists this affair might go very far.
He slept badly.
When he read his reply in the paper next morning, it seemed to him more aggressive in print than in manuscript.
He might, it seemed to him, have softened certain phrases.
He felt feverish all day, and slept badly again at night.
He rose at dawn to get the number of the _Plume_ that must contain a reply to him.
The weather had turned cold again, it was freezing hard.
The gutters, frozen while still flowing, showed like two ribbons of ice alongside the pavement.
The morning papers had not yet come in, and Duroy recalled the day of his first article,
"The Recollections of a Chasseur d'Afrique."