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Other People's Money by Emile Gaboriau

Part 10 out of 10

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questioning this man. Nevertheless, I give orders to have him
searched. No paper is discovered upon him to establish his identity;
but, in one of the pockets of his pantaloons, do you know what they
find? Two bank-notes of a thousand francs each, carefully wrapped
up in a fragment of newspaper."

M. de Tregars had shuddered.

"What a revelation!" he murmured.

It was not to the present circumstance that he applied that word.
But the commissary naturally mistook him.

"Yes," he went on, "it was a revelation. To me these two thousand
francs were worth a confession: they could only be the wages of a
crime. So, without losing a moment, I jump into a cab, and drive to
Brion's. Everybody was upside down, because the horses had just
been brought back. I question; and, from the very first words, the
correctness of my presumption is demonstrated to me. The wretch who
had just died was not one of Brion's coachmen. This is what had
happened. At two o'clock, when the carriage ordered by M. Van
Klopen was ready to go for Mlle. Lucienne, they had been compelled
to send for the driver and the footman, who had forgotten themselves
drinking in a neighboring wine-shop, with a man who had called to
see them in the morning. They were slightly under the influence of
wine, but not enough so to make it imprudent to trust them with
horses; and it was even probable that the fresh air would sober them
completely. They had then started; but, they had not gone very far,
for one of their comrades had seen them stop the carriage in front
of a wine-shop, and join there the same individual with whom they
had been drinking all the morning."

"And who was no other than the man who was killed?"

"Wait. Having obtained this information, I get some one to take me
to the wine-shop; and I ask for the coachman and the footman from
Brion's. They were there still; and they are shown to me in a
private room, lying on the floor, fast asleep. I try to wake them
up, but in vain. I order to water them freely; but a pitcher of
water thrown on their faces has no effect, save to make them utter
an inarticulate groan. I guess at once what they have taken. I
send for a physician, and I call on the wine-merchant for
explanations. It is his wife and his barkeeper who answer me.
They tell me, that, at about two o'clock, a man came in the shop,
who stated that he was employed at Brion's, and who ordered three
glasses for himself and two comrades, whom he was expecting.

"A few moments later, a carriage stops at the door; and the driver
and the footman leave it to come in. They were in a great hurry,
they said, and only wished to take one glass. They do take three,
one after another; then they order a bottle. They were evidently
forgetting their horses, which they had given to hold to a
commissionaire. Soon the man proposes a game. The others accept;
and here they are, settled in the back-room, knocking on the table
for sealed wine. The game must have lasted at least twenty minutes.
At the end of that time, the man who had come in first appeared,
looking very much annoyed, saying that it was very unpleasant, that
his comrades were dead drunk, that they will miss their work, and
that the boss, who is anxious to please his customers, will
certainly dismiss them. Although he had taken as much, and more
than the rest, he was perfectly steady; and, after reflecting for
a moment,--'I have an idea,' he says. 'Friends should help each
other, shouldn't they? I am going to take the coachman's livery,
and drive in his stead. I happen to know the customer they were
going after. She is a very kind old lady, and I'll tell her a
story to explain the absence of the footman.'

"Convinced that the man is in Brion's employment, they have no
objection to offer to this fine project.

"The brigand puts on the livery of the sleeping coachman, gets up
on the box, and starts off, after stating that he will return for
his comrades as soon as he has got through the job, and that
doubtless they will be sober by that time."

M. de Tregars knew well enough the savoir-faire of the commissary
not to be surprised at his promptness in obtaining precise information.

Already he was going on,

"Just as I was closing my examination, the doctor arrived. I show
him my drunkards; and at once he recognizes that I have guessed
correctly, and that these men have been put asleep by means of one
of those narcotics of which certain thieves make use to rob their
victims. A potion, which he administers to them by forcing their
teeth open with a knife, draws them from this lethargy. They open
their eyes, and soon are in condition to reply to my questions.
They are furious at the trick that has been played upon them; but
they do not know the man. They saw him, they swear to me, for the
first time that very morning; and they are ignorant even of his
name."

There was no doubt possible after such complete explanations. The
commissary had seen correctly, and he proved it.

It was not of a vulgar accident that Mlle. Lucienne had just been
the victim, but of a crime laboriously conceived, and executed with
unheard-of audacity,--of one of those crimes such as too many are
committed, whose combinations, nine times out of ten, set aside
even a suspicion, and foil all the efforts of human justice.

M. de Tregars knew now what had taken place, as clearly as if he
had himself received the confession of the guilty parties.

A man had been found to execute that perilous programme,--to make
the horses run away, and then to run into some heavy wagon. The
wretch was staking his life on that game; it being evident that
the light carriage must be smashed in a thousand pieces. But he
must have relied upon his skill and his presence of mind, to avoid
the shock, to jump off safe and sound; whilst Mlle. Lucienne,
thrown upon the pavement, would probably be killed on the spot.
The event had deceived his expectations, and he had been the victim
of his rascality; but his death was a misfortune.

"Because now," resumed the commissary, "the thread is broken in our
hands which would infallibly have led us to the truth. Who is it
that ordered the crime, and paid for it? We know it, since we know
who benefits by the crime. But that is not sufficient. Justice
requires something more than moral proofs. Living, this bandit
would have spoken. His death insures the impunity of the wretches
of whom he was but the instrument."

"Perhaps," said M. Tregars.

And at the same time he took out of his pocket, and showed the note
found in Vincent Favoral's pocket-book,--that note, so obscure the
day before, now so terribly clear.

"I cannot understand your negligence. You should get through with
that Van Klopen affair: there is the danger."

The commissary of police cast but a glance upon it, and, replying
to the objections of his old experience rather more than addressing
himself to M. de Tregars,

"There can be no doubt about it," he murmured. "It is to the crime
committed to-day that these pressing recommendations relate; and,
directed as they are to Vincent Favoral, they attest his complicity.
It was he who had charge of finishing the Van Klopen affair; in other
words, to get rid of Lucienne. It was he, I'd wager my head, who
had treated with the false coachman."

He remained for over a minute absorbed in his own thoughts, then,

"But who is the author of these recommendations to Vincent Favoral?
Do you know that, M. le Marquis?" he said.

They looked at each other; and the same name rose to their lips,

"The Baroness de Thaller!"

This name, however, they did not utter.

The commissary had placed himself under the gasburner which gave
light to the Fortin's office; and, adjusting his glasses, he was
scrutinizing the note with the most minute attention, studying the
grain and the transparency of the paper, the ink, and the
handwriting. And at last,

"This note," he declared, "cannot constitute a proof against its
author: I mean an evident, material proof, such as we require to
obtain from a judge an order of arrest."

And, as Marius was protesting,

"This note," he insisted, "is written with the left hand, with
common ink, on ordinary foolscap paper, such as is found everywhere.
Now all left-hand writings look alike. Draw your own conclusions."

But M. de Tregars did not give it up yet.

"Wait a moment," he interrupted.

And briefly, though with the utmost exactness, he began telling his
visit to the Thaller mansion, his conversation with Mlle. Cesarine,
then with the baroness, and finally with the baron himself.

He described in the most graphic manner the scene which had taken
place in the grand parlor between Mme. de Thaller and a worse than
suspicious-looking man,--that scene, the secret of which had been
revealed to him in its minutest details by the looking-glass. Its
meaning was now as clear as day.

This suspicious-looking man had been one of the agents in arranging
the intended murder: hence the agitation of the baroness when she
had received his card, and her haste to join him. If she had
started when he first spoke to her, it was because he was telling
her of the successful execution of the crime. If she had afterwards
made a gesture of joy, it was because he had just informed her that
the coachman had been killed at the same time, and that she found
herself thus rid of a dangerous accomplice.

The commissary of police shook his head.

"All this is quite probable," he murmured; "but that's all."

Again M. de Tregars stopped him.

"I have not done yet," he said.

And he went on saying how he had been suddenly and brutally
assaulted by an unknown man in a restaurant; how he had collared
this abject scoundrel, and taken out of his pocket a crushing letter,
which left no doubt as to the nature of his mission.

The commissary's eyes were sparkling,

"That letter!" he exclaimed, "that letter!" And, as soon as he had
looked over it,

"Ah! This time," he resumed, "I think that we have something
tangible. 'A troublesome gentleman to keep quiet,'--the Marquis
de Tregars, of course, who is on the right track. 'It will be for
you the matter of a sword-thrust.' Naturally, dead men tell no
tales. 'It will be for us the occasion of dividing a round amount.'
An honest trade, indeed!"

The good man was rubbing his hand with all his might.

"At last we have a positive fact," he went on,--"a foundation upon
which to base our accusations. Don't be uneasy. That letter is
going to place into our hands the scoundrel who assaulted you,--who
will make known the go-between, who himself will not fail to
surrender the Baroness de Thaller. Lucienne shall be avenged. If
we could only now lay our hands on Vincent Favoral! But we'll find
him yet. I set two fellows after him this afternoon, who have a
superior scent, and understand their business."

He was here interrupted by Maxence, who was returning all out of
breath, holding in his hand the medicines which he had gone after.

"I thought that druggist would never get through," he said.

And regretting to have remained away so long, feeling uneasy, and
anxious to return up stairs,

"Don't you wish to see Lucienne?" he added, addressing himself to M.
de Tregars rather more than to the commissary.

For all answer, they followed him at once.

A cheerless-looking place was Mlle. Lucienne's room, without any
furniture but a narrow iron bedstead, a dilapidated bureau, four
straw-bottomed chairs, and a small table. Over the bed, and at
the windows, were white muslin curtains, with an edging that had
once been blue, but had become yellow from repeated washings.

Often Maxence had begged his friend to take a more comfortable
lodging, and always she had refused.

"We must economize," she would say. "This room does well enough
for me; and, besides, I am accustomed to it."

When M. de Tregars and the commissary walked in, the estimable
hostess of the Hotel des Folies was kneeling in front of the fire,
preparing some medicine.

Hearing the footsteps, she got up, and, with a finger upon her
lips,

"Hush!" she said. "Take care not to wake her up!" The precaution
was useless.

"I am not asleep," said Mlle. Lucienne in a feeble voice. "Who
is there?"

"I," replied Maxence, advancing towards the bed.

It was only necessary to see the poor girl in order to understand
Maxence's frightful anxiety. She was whiter than the sheet; and
fever, that horrible fever which follows severe wounds, gave to her
eyes a sinister lustre.

"But you are not alone," she said again.

"I am with him, my child," replied the commissary. "I come to beg
your pardon for having so badly protected you."

She shook her head with a sad and gentle motion.

"It was myself who lacked prudence," she said; "for to-day, while
out, I thought I noticed something wrong; but it looked so foolish
to be afraid! If it had not happened to-day, it would have happened
some other day. The villains who have been pursuing me for years
must be satisfied now. They will soon be rid of me."

"Lucienne," said Maxence in a sorrowful tone.

M. de Tregars now stepped forward.

"You shall live, mademoiselle," he uttered in a grave voice. "You
shall live to learn to love life."

And, as she was looking at him in surprise,

"You do not know me," he added.

Timidly, and as if doubting the reality,

"You," she said, "the Marquis de Tregars!"

"Yes, mademoiselle, your brother."

Had he had the control of events, Marius de Tregars would probably
not have been in such haste to reveal this fact.

But how could he control himself in presence of that bed where a
poor girl was, perhaps, about to die, sacrificed to the terrors
and to the cravings of the miserable woman who was her mother,--to
die at twenty, victim of the basest and most odious of crimes? How
could he help feeling an intense pity at the sight of this
unfortunate young woman who had endured every thing that a human
being can suffer, whose life had been but a long and painful
struggle, whose courage had risen above all the woes of adversity,
and who had been able to pass without a stain through the mud and
mire of Paris.

Besides, Marius was not one of those men who mistrust their first
impulse, who manifest their emotion only for a purpose, who reflect
and calculate before giving themselves up to the inspirations of
their heart.

Lucienne was the daughter of the Marquis de Tregars: of that he was
absolutely certain. He knew that the same blood flowed in his veins
and in hers; and he told her so.

He told her so, above all, because he believed her in danger; and
he wished, were she to die, that she should have, at least, that
supreme joy. Poor Lucienne! Never had she dared to dream of such
happiness. All her blood rushed to her cheeks; and, in a voice
vibrating with the most intense emotion,

"Ah, now, yes," she uttered, "I would like to live."

The commissary of police, also, felt moved.

"Do not be alarmed, my child," he said in his kindest tone.
"Before two weeks you will be up. M. de Tregars is a great
physician."

In the mean time, she had attempted to raise herself on her pillow;
and that simple effort had wrung from her a cry of anguish.

"Dear me! How I do suffer!"

"That's because you won't keep quiet, my darling," said Mme. Fortin
in a tone of gentle scolding. "Have you forgotten that the doctor
has expressly forbidden you to stir?"

Then taking aside the commissary, Maxence, and M. de Tregars, she
explained to them how imprudent it was to disturb Mlle. Lucienne's
rest. She was very ill, affirmed the worthy hostess; and her advice
was, that they should send for a sick-nurse as soon as possible.

She would have been extremely happy, of course, to spend the night
by the side of her dear lodger; but, unfortunately, she could not
think of it, the hotel requiring all her time and attention.
Fortunately, however, she knew in the neighborhood a widow, a very
honest woman, and without her equal in taking care of the sick.

With an anxious and beseeching look, Maxence was consulting M. de
Tregars. In his eyes could be read the proposition that was burning
upon his lips,

"Shall I not go for Gilberte?"

But that proposition he had no time to express. Though they had
been speaking very low, Mlle. Lucienne had heard.

"I have a friend," she said, "who would certainly be willing to sit
up with me."

They all went up to her.

"What friend," inquired the commissary of police.

"You know her very well, sir. It is that poor girl who had taken
me home with her at Batignolles when I left the hospital, who came
to my assistance during the Commune, and whom you helped to get
out of the Versailles prisons."

"Do you know what has become of her?"

"Only since yesterday, when I received a letter from her, a very
friendly letter. She writes that she has found money to set up a
dressmaking establishment, and that she is relying upon me to be
her forewoman. She is going to open in the Rue St. Lazare; but,
in the mean time, she is stopping in the Rue du Cirque."

M. de Tregars and Maxence had started slightly.

"What is your friend's name?" they inquired at once.

Not being aware of the particulars of the two young men's visit to
the Rue du Cirque, the commissary of police could not understand
the cause of their agitation.

"I think," he said, "that it would hardly be proper now to send for
that girl."

"It is to her alone, on the contrary, that we must resort,"
interrupted M. de Tregars.

And, as he had good reasons to mistrust Mme. Fortin, he took the
commissary outside the room, on the landing; and there, in a few
words, he explained to him that this Zelie was precisely the same
woman whom they had found in the Rue du Cirque, in that sumptuous
mansion where Vincent Favoral, under the simple name of Vincent, had
been living, according to the neighbors, in such a princely style.

The commissary of police was astounded. Why had he not known all
this sooner? Better late than never, however.

"Ah! you are right, M. le Marquis, a hundred times right!" he
declared. "This girl must evidently know Vincent Favoral's secret,
the key of the enigma that we are vainly trying to solve. What
she would not tell to you, a stranger, she will tell to Lucienne,
her friend."

Maxence offered to go himself for Zelie Cadelle.

"No," answered Marius. "If she should happen to know you, she
would mistrust you, and would refuse to come."

It was, therefore, M. Fortin who was despatched to the Rue du
Cirque, and who went off muttering, though he had received five
francs to take a carriage, and five francs for his trouble.

"And now," said the commissary of police to Maxence, "we must both
of us get out of the way. I, because the fact of my being a
commissary would frighten Mme. Cadelle; you because, being Vincent
Favoral's son, your presence would certainly prove embarrassing
to her."

And so they went out; but M. de Tregars did not remain long alone
with Mlle. Lucienne. M. Fortin had had the delicacy not to tarry
on the way.

Eleven o'clock struck as Zelie Cadelle rushed like a whirlwind
into her friend's room.

Such had been his haste, that she had given no thought whatever to
her dress. She had stuck upon her uncombed hair the first bonnet
she had laid her hand upon, and thrown an old shawl over the
wrapper in which she had received Marius in the afternoon.

"What, my poor Lucienne!" she exclaimed. "Are you so sick as all
that?"

But she stopped short as she recognized M. de Tregars; and, in a
suspicious tone,

"What a singular meeting!" she said.

Marius bowed.

"You know Lucienne?"

What she meant by that he understood perfectly. "Lucienne is my
sister, madame," he said coldly.

She shrugged her shoulders. "What humbug!"

"It's the truth," affirmed Mlle. Lucienne; "and you know that I
never lie."

Mme. Zelie was dumbfounded.

"If you say so," she muttered. "But no matter: that's queer."

M. de Tregars interrupted her with a gesture,

"And, what's more, it is because Lucienne is my sister that you see
her there lying upon that bed. They attempted to murder her to-day!"

"Oh!"

"It was her mother who tried to get rid of her, so as to possess
herself of the fortune which my father had left her; and there is
every reason to believe that the snare was contrived by Vincent
Favoral."

Mme. Zelie did not understand very well; but, when Marius and Mlle.
Lucienne had informed her of all that it was useful for her to know,

"Why," she exclaimed, "what a horrid rascal that old Vincent must
be!"

And, as M. de Tregars remained dumb,

"This afternoon," she went on, "I didn't tell you any stories; but
I didn't tell you every thing, either." She stopped; and, after a
moment of deliberation,

"Well, I don't care for old Vincent," she said. "Ah! he tried to
have Lucienne killed, did he? Well, then, I am going to tell every
thing I know. First of all, he wasn't any thing to me. It isn't
very flattering; but it is so. He has never kissed so much as the
end of my finger. He used to say that he loved me, but that he
respected me still more, because I looked so much like a daughter
he had lost. Old humbug! And I believed him too! I did, upon my
word, at least in the beginning. But I am not such a fool as I
look. I found out very soon that he was making fun of me; and that
he was only using me as a blind to keep suspicion away from another
woman."

"From what woman?"

"Ah! now, I do not know! All I know is that she is married, that
he is crazy about her, and that they are to run away together."

"Hasn't he gone, then?"

Mme. Cadelle's face had become somewhat anxious, and for over a
minute she seemed to hesitate.

"Do you know," she said at last, "that my answer is going to cost
me a lot? They have promised me a pile of money; but I haven't got
it yet. And, if I say any thing, good-by! I sha'n't have any thing."

M. de Tregars was opening his lips to tell her that she might rest
easy on that score; but she cut him short.

"Well, no," she said: "Old Vincent hasn't gone. He got up a comedy,
so he told me, to throw the lady's husband off the track. He sent
off a whole lot of baggage by the railroad; but he staid in Paris."

"And do you know where he is hid?"

"In the Rue St. Lazare, of course: in the apartment that I hired
two weeks ago."

In a voice trembling with the excitement of almost certain success,
"Would you consent to take me there?" asked M. de Tregars.

"Whenever you like,--to-morrow."

IX

As he left Mlle. Lucienne's room,

"There is nothing more to keep me at the Hotel des Folies," said
the commissary of police to Maxence. "Every thing possible will be
done, and well done, by M. de Tregars. I am going home, therefore;
and I am going to take you with me. I have a great deal to do and
you'll help me."

That was not exactly true; but he feared, on the part of Maxence,
some imprudence which might compromise the success of M. de
Tregars' mission.

He was trying to think of every thing to leave as little as possible
to chance; like a man who has seen the best combined plans fail for
want of a trifling precaution.

Once in the yard, he opened the door of the lodge where the
honorable Fortins, man and wife, were deliberating, and exchanging
their conjectures, instead of going to bed. For they were
wonderfully puzzled by all those events that succeeded each other,
and anxious about all these goings and comings.

"I am going home," the commissary said to them; "but, before that,
listen to my instructions. You will allow no one, you understand,
--no one who is not known to you, to go up to Mlle. Lucienne's
room. And remember that I will admit of no excuse, and that you
must not come and tell me afterwards, 'It isn't our fault, we can't
see everybody that comes in,' and all that sort of nonsense."

He was speaking in that harsh and imperious tone of which
police-agents have the secret, when they are addressing people who
have, by their conduct, placed themselves under their dependence.

"We are going to close our front-door," replied the estimable
hotel-keepers. "We will comply strictly with your orders."

"I trust so; because, if you should disobey me, I should hear it,
and the result would be a serious trouble to you. Besides your
hotel being unmercifully closed up, you would find yourselves
implicated in a very bad piece of business."

The most ardent curiosity could be read in Mme. Fortin's little eyes.

"I understood at once," she began, "that something extraordinary
was going on."

But the commissary interrupted her,

"I have not done yet. It may be that to-night or to-morrow some
one will call and inquire how Mlle. Lucienne is."

"And then?"

"You will answer that she is as bad as possible; and that she has
neither spoken a word, nor recovered her senses, since the accident;
and that she will certainly not live through the day."

The effort which Mme. Fortin made to remain silent gave, better than
any thing else, an idea of the terror with which the commissary
inspired her.

"That is not all," he went on. "As soon as the person in question
has started off, you will follow him, without affectation, as far
as the street-door, and you will point him out with your finger,
here, like that, to one of my agents, who will happen to be on the
Boulevard."

"And suppose he should not be there?"

"He shall be there. You can make yourself easy on that score."

The looks of distress which the honorable hotel-keepers were
exchanging did not announce a very tranquil conscience.

"In other words, here we are under surveillance," said M. Fortin
with a groan. "What have we done to be thus mistrusted?"

To reply to him would have been a task more long than difficult.

"Do as I tell you," insisted the commissary harshly, "and don't
mind the rest, and, meantime, good-night."

He was right in trusting implicitly to his agent's punctuality;
for, as soon as he came out of the Hotel des Folies, a man passed
by him, and without seeming to address him, or even to recognize
him, said in a whisper,

"What news?"

"Nothing," he replied, "except that the Fortins are notified. The
trap is well set. Keep your eyes open now, and spot any one who
comes to ask about Mlle. Lucienne."

And he hurried on, still followed by Maxence, who walked along like
a body without soul, tortured by the most frightful anguish.

As he had been away the whole evening, four or five persons were
waiting for him at his office on matters of current business. He
despatched them in less than no time; after which, addressing
himself to an agent on duty,

"This evening," he said, "at about nine o'clock, in a restaurant on
the Boulevard, a quarrel took place. A person tried to pick a
quarrel with another.

"You will proceed at once to that restaurant; you will get the
particulars of what took place; and you will ascertain exactly who
this man is, his name, his profession, and his residence."

Like a man accustomed to such errands,

"Can I have a description of him?" inquired the agent.

"Yes. He is a man past middle age, military bearing, heavy mustache,
ribbons in his buttonhole."

"Yes, I see: one of your regular fighting fellows."

"Very well. Go then. I shall not retire before your return. Ah,
I forgot; find out what they thought to-night on the 'street' about
the Mutual Credit affair, and what they said of the arrest of one
Saint Pavin, editor of 'The Financial Pilot,' and of a banker named
Jottras."

"Can I take a carriage?"

"Do so."

The agent started; and he was not fairly out of the house, when the
commissary, opening a door which gave into a small study, called,
"Felix!"

It was his secretary, a man of about thirty, blonde, with a gentle
and timid countenance, having, with his long coat, somewhat the
appearance of a theological student. He appeared immediately.

"You call me, sir?"

"My dear Felix," replied the commissary, "I have seen you, sometimes,
imitate very nicely all sorts of hand-writings."

The secretary blushed very much, no doubt on account of Maxence, who
was sitting by the side of his employer. He was a very honest
fellow; but there are certain little talents of which people do not
like to boast; and the talent of imitating the writing of others is
of the number, for the reason, that, fatally and at once, it suggests
the idea of forgery.

"It was only for fun that I used to do that, sir," he stammered.

"Would you be here if it had been otherwise?" said the commissary.
"Only this time it is not for fun, but to do me a favor that I
wish you to try again."

And, taking out of his pocket the letter taken by M. de Tregars
from the man in the restaurant,

"Examine this writing," he said, "and see whether you feel capable
of imitating it tolerably well."

Spreading the letter under the full light of the lamp, the secretary
spent at least two minutes examining it with the minute attention of
an expert. And at the same time he was muttering,

"Not at all convenient, this. Hard writing to imitate. Not a
salient feature, not a characteristic sign! Nothing to strike the
eye, or attract attention. It must be some old lawyer's clerk who
wrote this."

In spite of his anxiety of mind, the commissary smiled.

"I shouldn't be surprised if you had guessed right."

Thus encouraged,

"At any rate," Felix declared, "I am going to try."

He took a pen, and, after trying a dozen times,

"How is this?" he asked, holding out a sheet of paper.

The commissary carefully compared the original with the copy.

"It is not perfect," he murmured; "but at night, with the imagination
excited by a great peril--Besides, we must risk something."

"If I had a few hours to practise!"

"But you have not. Come, take up your pen, and write as well as
you can, in that same hand, what I am going to tell you."

And after a moment's thought, he dictated as follows:

"All goes well. T. drawn into a quarrel, is to fight in the morning
with swords. But our man, whom I cannot leave, refuses to go ahead,
unless he is paid two thousand francs before the duel. I have not
the amount. Please hand it to the bearer, who has orders to wait
for you."

The commissary, leaning over his secretary's shoulder, was following
his hand, and, the last word being written,

"Perfect!" he exclaimed. "Now quick, the address: Mme. la Baronne
de Thaller, Rue de le Pepiniere."

There are professions which extinguish, in those who exercise them,
all curiosity. It is with the most complete indifference, and
without asking a question, that the secretary had done what he had
been requested.

"Now, my dear Felix," resumed the commissary, "you will please get
yourself up as near as possible like a restaurant-waiter, and take
this letter to its address."

"At this hour!"

"Yes. The Baroness de Thaller is out to a ball. You will tell the
servants that you are bringing her an answer concerning an important
matter. They know nothing about it; but they will allow you to wait
for their mistress in the porter's lodge. As soon as she comes in,
you will hand her the letter, stating that two gentlemen who are
taking supper in your restaurant are waiting for the answer. It may
be that she will exclaim that you are a scoundrel, that she does not
know what it means: in that case, we shall have been anticipated, and
you must get away as fast as you can. But the chances are, that she
will give you two thousand francs; and then you must so manage, that
she will be seen plainly when she does it. Is it all understood?"

"Perfectly."

"Go ahead, then, and do not lose a minute. I shall wait."

Away from Mlle. Lucienne, Maxence had gradually been recalled to
the strangeness of the situation; and it was with a mingled feeling
of curiosity and surprise that he observed the commissary acting
and bustling about.

The good man had found again all the activity of his youth, together
with that fever of hope and that impatience of success, which
usually disappear with age.

He was going over the whole of the case again,--his first meeting
with Mlle. Lucienne, the various attempts upon her life; and he had
just taken out of the file the letter of information which had been
intrusted to him, in order to compare the writing with that of the
letter taken from his adversary by M. de Tregars, when the latter
came in all out of breath.

"Zelie has spoken!" he said.

And, at once addressing Maxence,

"You, my dear friend," he resumed, "you must run to the Hotel des
Folies."

"Is Lucienne worse?"

"No. Lucienne is getting on well enough. Zelie has spoken; but
there is no certainty, that, after due reflection, she will not
repent, and go and give the alarm. You will return, therefore,
and you will not lose sight of her until I call for her in the
morning. If she wishes to go out, you must prevent her."

The commissary had understood the importance of the precaution.

"You must prevent her," he added, "even by force; and I authorize
you, if need be, to call upon the agent whom I have placed on duty,
watching the Hotel des Folies, and to whom I am going to send word
immediately."

Maxence started off on a run.

"Poor fellow!" murmured Marius, "I know where your father is. What
are we going to learn now?"

He had scarcely had time to communicate the information he had
received from Mme. Cadelle, when the first of the commissary's
emissaries made his appearance.

"The commission is done," he said, in that confident tone of a man
who thinks he has successfully accomplished a difficult task.

"You know the name of the individual who sought a quarrel with M.
de Tregars?"

"His name is Corvi. He is well known in all the tables d'hote,
where there are women, and where they deal a healthy little game
after dinner. I know him well too. He is a bad fellow, who passes
himself off for a former superior officer in the Italian army."

"His address?"

"He lives at Rue de la Michodiere, in a furnished house. I went
there. The porter told me that my man had just gone out with an
ill-looking individual, and that they must be in a little cafe on
the corner of the next street. I ran there, and found my two
fellows drinking beer."

"Won't they give us the slip?"

"No danger of that: I have got them fixed."

"How is that?"

"It is an idea of mine. I just thought, 'Suppose they put off?'
And at once I went to notify some policemen, and I returned to
station myself near the cafe. It was just closing up. My two
fellows came out: I picked a quarrel with them; and now they are
in the station-house, well recommended."

The commissary knit his brows.

"That's almost too much zeal," he murmured. "Well, what's done is
done. Did you make any inquiries about the Saint Pavin and Jottras
matter?"

"I had no time, it was too late. You forget, perhaps, sir, that it
is nearly two o'clock."

Just as he got through, the secretary who had been sent to the Rue
de la Pepiniere came in.

"Well?" inquired the commissary, not without evident anxiety.

"I waited for Mme. de Thaller over an hour," he said. "When she
came home, I gave her the letter. She read it; and, in presence of
a number of her servants, she handed me these two thousand francs."

At the sight of the bank notes, the commissary jumped to his feet.

"Now we have it!" he exclaimed. "Here is the proof that we wanted."

X

It was after four o'clock when M. de Tregars was at last permitted
to return home. He had minutely, and at length, arranged every
thing with the commissary: he had endeavored to anticipate every
eventuality. His line of conduct was perfectly well marked out,
and he carried with him the certainty that on the day which was
about to dawn the strange game that he was playing must be finally
won or lost. When he reached home,

"At last, here you are, sir!" exclaimed his faithful servant.

It was doubtless anxiety that had kept up the old man all night; but
so absorbed was Marius's mind, that he scarcely noticed the fact.

"Did any one call in my absence?" he asked.

"Yes, sir. A gentleman called during the evening, M. Costeclar, who
appeared very much vexed not to find you in. He stated that he came
on a very important matter that you would know all about: and he
requested me to ask you to wait for him to-morrow, that is to-day,
by twelve o'clock."

Was M. Costeclar sent by M. de Thaller? Had the manager of the
Mutual Credit changed his mind? and had he decided to accept the
conditions which he had at first rejected? In that case, it was
too late. It was no longer in the power of any human being to
suspend the action of justice. Without giving any further thought
to that visit,

"I am worn out with fatigue," said M. de Tregars, "and I am going
to lie down. At eight o'clock precisely you will call me."

But it was in vain that he tried to find a short respite in sleep.
For forty-eight hours his mind had been taxed beyond measure, his
nerves had been wrought up to an almost intolerable degree of
exaltation.

As soon as he closed his eyes, it was with a merciless precision
that his imagination presented to him all the events which had taken
place since that afternoon in the Place-Royale when he had ventured
to declare his love to Mlle. Gilberte. Who could have told him then,
that he would engage in that struggle, the issue of which must
certainly be some abominable scandal in which his name would be
mixed? Who could have told him, that gradually, and by the very
force of circumstances, he would be led to overcome his repugnance,
and to rival the ruses and the tortuous combinations of the wretches
he was trying to reach?

But he was not of those who, once engaged, regret, hesitate, and
draw back. His conscience reproached him for nothing. It was for
justice and right that he was battling; and Mlle. Gilberte was the
prize that would reward him.

Eight o'clock struck; and his servant came in.

"Run for a cab," he said: "I'll be ready in a moment."

He was ready, in fact, when the old servant returned; and, as he
had in his pocket some of those arguments that lend wings to the
poorest cab-horses, in less than ten minutes he had reached the
Hotel des Folies.

"How is Mlle. Lucienne?" he inquired first of all of the worthy
hostess.

The intervention of the commissary of police had made M. Fortin and
his wife more supple than gloves, and more gentle than doves.

"The poor dear child is much better," answered Mme. Fortin; "and
the doctor, who has just left, now feels sure of her recovery. But
there is a row up there."

"A row?"

"Yes. That lady whom my husband went after last night insists upon
going out; and M. Maxence won't let her: so that they are quarreling
up there. Just listen."

The loud noise of a violent altercation could be heard distinctly.
M. de Tregars started up stairs, and on the second-story landing he
found Maxence holding on obstinately to the railing, whilst Mme.
Zelie Cadelle, redder than a peony, was trying to induce him to let
her pass, treating him at the same time to some of the choicest
epithets of her well-stocked repertory. Catching sight of Marius,

"Is it you," she cried, "who gave orders to keep me here against my
wishes? By what right? Am I your prisoner?"

To irritate her would have been imprudent.

"Why did you wish to leave," said M. de Tregars gently, "at the very
moment when you knew that I was to call for you?"

But she interrupted him, and, shrugging her shoulders,

"Why don't you tell the truth?" she said. "You were afraid to
trust me."

"Oh!"

"You are wrong! What I promise to do I do. I only wanted to go
home to dress. Can I go in the street in this costume?"

And she was spreading out her wrapper, all faded and stained.

"I have a carriage below," said Marius. "No one will see us."

Doubtless she understood that it was useless to hesitate.

"As you please," she said.

M. de Tregars took Maxence aside, and in a hurried whisper,

"You must," said he, "go at once to the Rue St. Gilles, and in my
name request your sister to accompany you. You will take a closed
carriage, and you'll go and wait in the Rue St. Lazare, opposite
No. 25. It may be that Mlle. Gilberte's assistance will become
indispensable to me. And, as Lucienne must not be left alone, you
will request Mme. Fortin to go and stay with her."

And, without waiting for an answer,

"Let us go," he said to Mme. Cadelle.

They started but the young woman was far from being in her usual
spirits. It was clear that she was regretting bitterly having gone
so far, and not having been able to get away at the last moment.
As the carriage went on, she became paler and a frown appeared upon
her face.

"No matter," she began: "it's a nasty thing I am doing there."

"Do you repent then, assisting me to punish your friend's assassins?"
said M. de Tregars.

She shook her head.

"I know very well that old Vincent is a scoundrel," she said; "but
he had trusted me, and I am betraying him."

"You are mistaken, madame. To furnish me the means of speaking to
M. Favoral is not to betray him; and I shall do every thing in my
power to enable him to escape the police, and make his way abroad."

"What a joke!"

"It is the exact truth: I give you my word of honor." She seemed
to feel easier; and, when the carriage turned into the Rue St.
Lazare, "Let us stop a moment," she said.

"Why?"

"So that I can buy old Vincent's breakfast. He can't go out to eat,
of course; and so I have to take all his meals to him."

Marius's mistrust was far from being dissipated; and yet he did not
think it prudent to refuse, promising himself, however, not to lose
sight of Mme. Zelie. He followed her, therefore, to the baker's
and the butcher's; and when she had done her marketing, he entered
with her the house of modest appearance where she had her apartment.

They were already going up stairs, when the porter ran out of his
lodge.

"Madame!" he said, "madame!"

Mme. Cadelle stopped.

"What is the matter?"

"A letter for you."

"For me?"

"Here it is. A lady brought it less than five minutes ago. Really,
she looked annoyed not to find you in. But she is going to come
back. She knew you were to be here this morning."

M. de Tregars had also stopped.

"What kind of a looking person was this lady?" he asked.

"Dressed all in black, with a thick veil on her face."

"All right. I thank you."

The porter returned to his lodge. Mme. Zelie broke the seal. The
first envelope contained another, upon which she spelt, for she did
not read very fluently, "To be handed to M. Vincent."

"Some one knows that he is hiding here," she said in a tone of utter
surprise. "Who can it be?"

"Who? Why, the woman whose reputation M. Favoral was so anxious to
spare when he put you in the Rue du Cirque house."

There was nothing that irritated the young woman so much as this idea.

"You are right," she said. "What a fool he made of me; the old rascal!
But never mind. I am going to pay him for it now."

Nevertheless when she reached her story, the third, and at the moment
of slipping the key into the keyhole, she again seemed perplexed.

"If some misfortune should happen," she sighed.

"What are you afraid of?"

"Old Vincent has got all sorts of arms in there. He has sworn to me
that the first person who forced his way into the apartments, he
would kill him like a dog. Suppose he should fire at us?"

She was afraid, terribly afraid: she was livid, and her teeth
chattered.

"Let me go first," suggested M. de Tregars.

"No. Only, if you were a good fellow, you would do what I am going
to ask you. Say, will you?"

"If it can be done."

"Oh, certainly! Here is the thing. We'll go in together; but you
must not make any noise. There is a large closet with glass doors,
from which every thing can be heard and seen that goes on in the
large room. You'll get in there. I'll go ahead, and draw out old
Vincent into the parlor and at the right moment, v'lan! you appear."

It was after all, quite reasonable.

"Agreed!" said Marius.

"Then," she said, "every thing will go on right. The entrance of
the closet with the glass doors is on the right as you go in. Come
along now, and walk easy."

And she opened the door.

XI

The apartment was exactly as described by Mme. Cadelle. In the
dark and narrow ante-chamber, three doors opened,--on the left,
that of the dining-room; in the centre, that of a parlor and
bedroom which communicated; on the right, that of the closet. M.
de Tregars slipped in noiselessly through the latter, and at once
recognized that Mme. Zelie had not deceived him, and that he would
see and hear every thing that went on in the parlor. He saw the
young woman walk into it. She laid her provisions down upon the
table, and called,

"Vincent!"

The former cashier of the Mutual Credit appeared at once, coming
out of the bedroom.

He was so changed, that his wife and children would have hesitated
in recognizing him. He had cut off his beard, pulled out almost
the whole of his thick eye-brows, and covered his rough and
straight hair under a brown curly wig. He wore patent-leather boots,
wide pantaloons, and one of those short jackets of rough material,
and with broad sleeves which French elegance has borrowed from
English stable-boys. He tried to appear calm, careless, and playful;
but the contraction of his lips betrayed a horrible anguish, and
his look had the strange mobility of the wild beasts' eye, when,
almost at bay, they stop for a moment, listening to the barking of
the hounds.

"I was beginning to fear that you would disappoint me," he said to
Mme. Zelie.

"It took me some time to buy your breakfast."

"And is that all that kept you?"

"The porter detained me too, to hand me a letter, in which I found
one for you. Here it is."

"A letter!" exclaimed Vincent Favoral.

And, snatching it from her, he tore off the envelope. But he had
scarcely looked over it, when he crushed it in his hand, exclaiming,

"It is monstrous! It is a mean, infamous treason!" He was
interrupted by a violent ringing of the door-bell.

"Who can it be?" stammered Mme. Cadelle.

"I know who it is," replied the former cashier. "Open, open quick."

She obeyed; and almost at once a woman walked into the parlor,
wearing a cheap, black woolen dress. With a sudden gesture, she
threw off her veil; and M. de Tregars recognized the Baroness de
Thaller.

"Leave us!" she said to Mme. Zelie, in a tone which one would hardly
dare to assume towards a bar-maid.

The other felt indignant.

"What, what!" she began. "I am in my own house here."

"Leave us!" repeated M. Favoral with a threatening gesture.
"Go, go!"

She went out but only to take refuge by the side of M. de Tregars.

"You hear how they treat me," she said in a hoarse voice.

He made no answer. All his attention was centred upon the parlor.
The Baroness de Thaller and the former cashier were standing
opposite each other, like two adversaries about to fight a duel.

"I have just read your letter," began Vincent Favoral.

Coldly the baroness said, "Ah!"

"It is a joke, I suppose."

"Not at all."

"You refuse to go with me?"

"Positively."

"And yet it was all agreed upon. I have acted wholly under your
urgent, pressing advice. How many times have you repeated to me
that to live with your husband had become an intolerable torment
to you! How many times have you sworn to me that you wished to be
mine alone, begging me to procure a large sum of money, and to fly
with you!"

"I was in earnest at the time. I have discovered, at the last
moment, that it would be impossible for me thus to abandon my
country, my daughter, my friends."

"We can take Cesarine with us."

"Do not insist."

He was looking at her with a stupid, gloomy gaze.

"Then," he stammered, "those tears, those prayers, those oaths!"

"I have reflected."

"It is not possible! If you spoke the truth, you would not be here."

"I am here to make you understand that we must give up projects
which cannot be realized. There are some social conventionalities
which cannot be torn up." As if he scarcely understood what she
said, he repeated,

"Social conventionalities!"

And suddenly falling at Mme. de Thaller's feet, his head thrown
back, and his hands clasped together,

"You lie!" he said. "Confess that you lie, and that it is a final
trial which you are imposing upon me. Or else have you, then,
never loved me? That's impossible! I would not believe you if you
were to say so. A woman who does not love a man cannot be to him
what you have been to me: she does not give herself up thus so
joyously and so completely. Have you, then, forgotten every thing?
Is it possible that you do not remember those divine evenings in the
Rue de Cirque?--those nights, the mere thought of which fires my
brain, and consumes my blood."

He was horrible to look at, horrible and ridiculous at the same
time. As he wished to take Mme. de Thaller's hands, she stepped
back, and he followed her, dragging himself on his knees.

"Where could you find," he continued, "a man to worship you like me,
with an ardent, absolute, blind, mad passion? With what can you
reproach me? Have I not sacrificed to you without a murmur every
thing that a man can sacrifice here below,--fortune, family, honor,
--to supply your extravagance, to anticipate your slightest fancies,
to give you gold to scatter by the handful? Did I not leave my own
family struggling with poverty? I would have snatched bread from
my children's mouths in order to purchase roses to scatter under
your footsteps. And for years did ever a word from me betray the
secret of our love? What have I not endured? You deceived me. I
knew it, and I said nothing. Upon a word from you I stepped aside
before him whom your caprice made happy for a day. You told me,
'Steal!' and I stole. You told me, 'Kill!' and I tried to kill."

"Fly. A man who has twelve hundred thousand francs in gold,
bank-notes, and good securities, can always get along."

"And my wife and children?"

"Maxence is old enough to help his mother. Gilberte will find a
husband: depend upon it. Besides, what's to prevent you from
sending them money?"

"They would refuse it."

"You will always be a fool, my dear!"

To Vincent Favoral's first stupor and miserable weakness now
succeeded a terrible passion. All the blood had left his face:
his eyes was flashing.

"Then," he resumed, "all is really over?"

"Of course."

"Then I have been duped like the rest,--like that poor Marquis de
Tregars, whom you had made mad also. But he, at least saved his
honor; whereas I--And I have no excuse; for I should have known.
I knew that you were but the bait which the Baron de Thaller held
out to his victims."

He waited for an answer; but she maintained a contemptuous silence.

"Then you think," he said with a threatening laugh, "that it will
all end that way?"

"What can you do?"

"There is such a thing as justice, I imagine, and judges too. I can
give myself up, and reveal every thing."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"That would be throwing yourself into the wolf's mouth for nothing,"
she said. "You know better than any one else that my precautions
are well enough taken to defy any thing you can do or say. I have
nothing to fear."

"Are you quite sure of that?"

"Trust to me," she said with a smile of perfect security.

The former cashier of the Mutual Credit made a terrible gesture; but,
checking himself at once, he seized one of the baroness's hands.
She withdrew it quickly, however, and, in an accent of insurmountable
disgust,

"Enough, enough!" she said.

In the adjoining closet Marius de Tregars could feel Mme. Zelie
Cadelle shuddering by his side.

"What a wretch that woman is!" she murmured; "and he--what a base
coward!"

The former cashier remained prostrated, striking the floor with his
head.

"And you would forsake me," he groaned, "when we are united by a
past such as ours! How could you replace me? Where would you find
a slave so devoted to your every wish?"

The baroness was getting impatient.

"Stop!" she interrupted,--"stop these demonstrations as useless
as ridiculous."

This time he did start up, as if lashed with a whip and, double
locking the door which communicated with the ante-chamber, he put
the key in his pocket; and, with a step as stiff and mechanical as
that of an automaton, he disappeared in the sleeping-room.

"He is going for a weapon," whispered Mme. Cadelle.

It was also what Marius thought.

"Run down quick," he said to Mme. Zelie. "In a cab standing
opposite No. 25, you will find Mlle. Gilberte Favoral waiting. Let
her come at once."

And, rushing into the parlor,

"Fly!" he said to Mme. Thaller.

But she was as petrified by this apparition.

"M. de Tregars!"

"Yes, yes, me. But hurry and go!"

And he pushed her into the closet.

It was but time. Vincent Favoral reappeared upon the threshold of
the bedroom. But, if it was a weapon he had gone for, it was not
for the one which Marius and Mme. Cadelle supposed. It was a bundle
of papers which he held in his hand. Seeing M. de Tregars there,
instead of Mme. de Thaller, an exclamation of terror and surprise
rose to his lips. He understood vaguely what must have taken place;
that the man who stood there must have been concealed in the glass
closet, and that he had assisted the baroness to escape.

"Ah, the miserable wretch!" he stammered with a tongue made thick
by passion, "the infamous wretch! She has betrayed me; she has
surrendered me. I am lost!"

Mastering the most terrible emotion he had ever felt,

"No, no! you shall not be surrendered," uttered M. de Tregars.

Collecting all the energy that the devouring passion which had
blasted his existence had left him, the former cashier of the
Mutual Credit took one or two steps forward.

"Who are you, then?" he asked.

"Do you not know me? I am the son of that unfortunate Marquis de
Tregars of whom you spoke a moment since. I am Lucienne's brother."

Like a man who has received a stunning blow, Vincent Favoral sank
heavily upon a chair.

"He knows all," he groaned.

"Yes, all!"

"You must hate me mortally."

"I pity you."

The old cashier had reached that point when all the faculties, after
being strained to their utmost limits, suddenly break down, when
the strongest man gives up, and weeps like a child.

"Ah, I am the most wretched of villains!" he exclaimed.

He had hid his face in his hands; and in one second,--as it happens,
they say, to the dying on the threshold of eternity,--he reviewed
his entire existence.

"And yet," he said, "I had not the soul of a villain. I wanted to
get rich; but honestly, by labor, and by rigid economy. And I
should have succeeded. I had a hundred and fifty thousand francs
of my own when I met the Baron de Thaller. Alas! why did I meet
him? 'Twas he who first gave me to understand that it was stupid
to work and save, when, at the bourse, with moderate luck, one might
become a millionaire in six months."

He stopped, shook his head, and suddenly,

"Do you know the Baron de Thaller?" he asked. And, without giving
Marius time to answer,

"He is a German," he went on, "a Prussian. His father was a
cab-driver in Berlin, and his mother waiting-maid in a brewery. At
the age of eighteen, he was compelled to leave his country, owing
to some petty swindle, and came to take up his residence in Paris.
He found employment in the office of a stock-broker, and was living
very poorly, when he made the acquaintance of a young laundress
named Affrays, who had for a lover a very wealthy gentleman, the
Marquis de Tregars, whose weakness was to pass himself off for a
poor clerk. Affrays and Thaller were well calculated to agree.
They did agree, and formed an association,--she contributing her
beauty; he, his genius for intrigue; both, their corruption and
their vices. Soon after they met, she gave birth to a child, a
daughter; whom she intrusted to some poor gardeners at Louveciennes,
with the firm and settled intention to leave her there forever.
And yet it was upon this daughter, whom they firmly hoped never to
see again, that the two accomplices were building their fortune.

"It was in the name of that daughter that Affrays wrung
considerable sums from the Marquis de Tregars. As soon as Thaller
and she found themselves in possession of six hundred thousand
francs, they dismissed the marquis, and got married. Already, at
that time, Thaller had taken the title of baron, and lived in some
style. But his first speculations were not successful. The
revolution of 1848 finished his ruin, and he was about being expelled
from the bourse, when he found me on his way,--I, poor fool, who
was going about everywhere, asking how I could advantageously invest
my hundred and fifty thousand francs."

He was speaking in a hoarse voice, shaking his clinched fist in the
air, doubtless at the Baron de Thaller.

"Unfortunately," he resumed, "it was only much later that I
discovered all this. At the moment, M. de Thaller dazzled me. His
friends, Saint Pavin and the bankers Jottras, proclaimed him the
smartest and the most honest man in France. Still I would not have
given my money, if it had not been for the baroness. The first time
that I was introduced to her, and that she fixed upon me her great
black eyes, I felt myself moved to the deepest recesses of my soul.
In order to see her again, I invited her, together with her husband
and her husband's friends, to dine with me, by the side of my wife
and children. She came. Her husband made me sign every thing he
pleased; but, as she went off, she pressed my hand."

He was still shuddering at the recollection of it, the poor fellow!

"The next day," he went on, "I handed to Thaller all I had in the
world; and, in exchange, he gave me the position of cashier in the
Mutual Credit, which he had just founded. He treated me like an
inferior, and did not admit me to visit his family. But I didn't
care: the baroness had permitted me to see her again, and almost
every afternoon I met her at the Tuileries; and I had made bold to
tell her that I loved her to desperation. At last, one evening,
she consented to make an appointment with me for the second
following day, in an apartment which I had rented.

"The day before I was to meet her, and whilst I was beside myself
with joy, the Baron de Thaller requested me to assist him, by
means of certain irregular entries, to conceal a deficit arising
from unsuccessful speculations. How could I refuse a man, whom,
as I thought, I was about to deceive grossly! I did as he wished.
The next day Mme. de Thaller became my mistress; and I was a lost
man."

Was he trying to exculpate himself? Was he merely yielding to that
imperious sentiment, more powerful than the will or the reason,
which impels the criminal to reveal the secret which oppresses him?

"From that day," he went on, "began for me the torment of that
double existence which I underwent for years. I had given to my
mistress all I had in the world; and she was insatiable. She
wanted money always, any way, and in heaps. She made me buy the
house in the Rue du Cirque for our meetings; and, between the
demands of the husband and those of the wife, I was almost insane.
I drew from the funds of the Mutual Credit as from an inexhaustible
mine; and, as I foresaw that some day must come when all would be
discovered, I always carried about me a loaded revolver, with
which to blow out my brains when they came to arrest me."

And he showed to Marius the handle of a revolver protruding from his
pocket.

"And if only she had been faithful to me!" he continued, becoming
more and more animated. "But what have I not endured! When the
Marquis de Tregars returned to Paris, and they set about defrauding
him of his fortune, she did not hesitate a moment to become his
mistress again. She used to tell me, 'What a fool you are! all
I want is his money. I love no one but you.' But after his death
she took others. She made use of our house in the Rue du Cirque
for purposes of dissipation for herself and her daughter Cesarine.
And I--miserable coward that I was!--I suffered all, so much
did I tremble to lose her, so much did I fear to be weaned from
the semblance of love with which she paid my fearful sacrifices.
And now she would betray me, forsake me! For every thing that has
taken place was suggested by her in order to procure a sum wherewith
to fly to America. It was she who imagined the wretched comedy
which I played, so as to throw upon myself the whole responsibility.
M. de Thaller has had millions for his share: I have only had twelve
hundred thousand francs."

Violent nervous shudders shook his frame: his face became purple.
He drew himself up, and, brandishing the letters which he held in
his hand,

"But all is not over!" he exclaimed. "There are proofs which
neither the baron nor his wife know that I have. I have the proof
of the infamous swindle of which the Marquis de Tregars was the
victim. I have the proof of the farce got up by M. de Thaller and
myself to defraud the stockholders of the Mutual Credit!"

"What do you hope for?"

He was laughing a stupid laugh.

"I? I shall go and hide myself in some suburb of Paris, and write
to Affrays to come. She knows that I have twelve hundred thousand
francs. She will come; and she will keep coming as long as I have
any money. And when I have no more:--"

He stopped short, starting back, his arms outstretched as if to
repel a terrifying apparition. Mlle. Gilberte had just appeared
at the door.

"My daughter!" stammered the wretch. "Gilberte!"

"The Marquise de Tregars," uttered Marius.

An inexpressible look of terror and anguish convulsed the features
of Vincent Favoral: he guessed that it was the end.

"What do you want with me?" he stammered.

"The money that you have stolen, father," replied the girl in an
inexorable tone of voice,--"the twelve hundred thousand francs which
you have here, then the proofs which are in your hands, and, finally
your weapons."

He was trembling from head to foot.

"Take away my money!" he said. "Why, that would be compelling me
to give myself up! Do you wish to see me in prison?"

"The disgrace would fall back upon your children, sir," said M. de
Tregars. "We shall, on the contrary, do every thing in the world
to enable you to evade the pursuit of the police."

"Well, yes, then. But to-morrow I must write to Affrays: I must
see her!"

"You have lost your mind, father," said Mlle. Gilberte. "Come, do
as I ask you."

He drew himself up to his full height.

"And suppose I refuse?"

But it was the last effort of his will. He yielded, though not
without an agonizing struggle and gave up to his daughter the
money, the proofs and the arms. And as she was walking away,
leaning on M. de Tregars' arm,

"But send me your mother, at least," he begged. "She will
understand me: she will not be without pity. She is my wife: let
her come quick. I will not, I can not remain alone."

XII

It was with convulsive haste that the Baroness de Thaller went over
the distance that separated the Rue St. Lazare from the Rue de la
Pepiniere. The sudden intervention of M. de Tregars had upset all
her ideas. The most sinister presentiments agitated her mind. In
the courtyard of her residence, all the servants, gathered in a
group, were talking. They did not take the trouble to stand aside
to let her pass; and she even noticed some smiles and ironical
gigglings. This was a terrible blow to her. What was the matter?
What had they heard? In the magnificent vestibule, a man was
sitting as she came in. It was the same suspicious character that
Marius de Tregars had seen in the grand parlor, in close conference
with the baroness.

"Bad news," he said with a sheepish look.

"What?"

"That little Lucienne must have her soul riveted to her body. She
is only wounded; and she'll get over it."

"Never mind Lucienne. What about M. de Tregars?"

"Oh! he is another sharp one. Instead of taking up our man's
provocation, he collared him, and took away from him the note I
had sent him."

Mme. de Thaller started violently.

"What is the meaning, then," she asked, "of your letter of last
night, in which you requested me to hand two thousand francs to
the bearer?"

The man became pale as death.

"You received a letter from me," he stammered, "last night?"

"Yes, from you; and I gave the money."

The man struck his forehead.

"I understand it all!" he exclaimed.

"What?"

"They wanted proofs. They imitated my handwriting, and you swallowed
the bait. That's the reason why I spent the night in the
station-house; and, if they let me go this morning, it was to find
out where I'd go. I have been followed, they are shadowing me. We
are gone up, Mme. le Baronne. _Sauve qui peut!_"

And he ran out.

More agitated than ever Mme. de Thaller went up stairs. In the
little red-and-gold parlor, the Baron de Thaller and Mlle. Cesarine
were waiting for her. Stretched upon an arm-chair, her legs crossed,
the tip of her boot on a level with her eye, Mlle. Cesarine, with
a look of ironical curiosity, was watching her father, who, livid
and trembling with nervous excitement, was walking up and down, like
a wild beast in his cage. As soon as the baroness appeared,

"Things are going badly," said her husband, "very badly. Our game
is devilishly compromised."

"You think so?"

"I am but too sure of it. Such a well-combined stroke too! But
every thing is against us. In presence of the examining magistrate,
Jottras held out well; but Saint Pavin spoke. That dirty rascal
was not satisfied with the share allotted to him. On the
information furnished by him, Costeclar was arrested this morning.
And Costeclar knows all, since he has been your confidant, Vincent
Favoral's, and my own. When a man has, like him, two or three
forgeries in his record, he is sure to speak. He will speak.
Perhaps he has already done so, since the police has taken
possession of Latterman's office, with whom I had organized the
panic and the tumble in the Mutual Credit stock. What can we do
to ward off this blow?"

With a surer glance than her husband, Mme. de Thaller had measured
the situation.

"Do not try to ward it off," she replied: "It would be useless."

"Because?"

"Because M. de Tregars has found Vincent Favoral; because, at this
very moment, they are together, arranging their plans."

The baron made a terrible gesture.

"Ah, thunder and lightning!" he exclaimed. "I always told you that
this stupid fool, Favoral, would cause our ruin. It was so easy
for you to find an occasion for him to blow his brains out."

"Was it so difficult for you to accept M. de Tregars' offers?"

"It was you who made me refuse."

"Was it me, too, who was so anxious to get rid of Lucienne?"

For years, Mlle. Cesarine had not seemed so amused; and, in a half
whisper, she was humming the famous tune, from "The Pearl of
Poutoise,"

"Happy accord! Happy couple!"

M. de Thaller, beside himself, was advancing to seize the baroness:
she was drawing back, knowing him, perhaps to be capable of any
thing, when suddenly there was a violent knocking at the door.

"In the name of the law!"

It was a commissary of police.

And, whilst surrounded by agents, they were taken to a cab.

* * *

"Orphan on both sides!" exclaimed Mlle. Cesarine, "I am free, then.
Now we'll have some fun!"

At that very moment, M. de Tregars and Mlle. Gilberte reached the
Rue St. Gilles.

Hearing that her husband had been found,

"I must see him!" exclaimed Mme. Favoral.

And, in spite of any thing they could tell her, she threw a shawl
over her shoulders, and started with Mlle. Gilberte.

When they had entered Mme. Zelie's apartment, of which they had a
key, they found in the parlor, with his back towards them, Vincent
Favoral sitting at the table, leaning forward, and apparently
writing. Mme. Favoral approached on tiptoe, and over her husband's
shoulder she read what he had just written,

"Affrays, my beloved, eternally-adored mistress, will you forgive
me? The money that I was keeping for you, my darling, the proofs
which will crush your husband--they have taken every thing from me,
basely, by force. And it is my daughter--"

He had stopped there. Surprised at his immobility, Mme. Favoral
called,

"Vincent!"

He made no answer. She pushed him with her finger. He rolled to
the ground. He was dead.

Three months later the great Mutual Credit suit was tried before
the Sixth Court. The scandal was great; but public curiosity was
strangely disappointed. As in most of these financial affairs,
justice, whilst exposing the most audacious frauds, was not able
to unravel the true secret.

She managed, at least, to lay hands upon every thing that the
Baron de Thaller had hoped to save. That worthy was condemned to
five years' prison; M. Costeclar got off with three years; and M.
Jottras with two. M. Saint Pavin was acquitted.

Arrested for subornation of murder, the former Marquise de Javelle
the Baroness de Thaller, was released for want of proper proof. But,
implicated in the suit against her husband, she lost three-fourths
of her fortune, and is now living with her daughter, whose debut is
announced at the Bouffes-Parisiens, or at the Delassements-Comiques.

Already, before that time, Mlle. Lucienne, completely restored, had
married Maxence Favoral.

Of the five hundred thousand francs which were returned to her, she
applied three hundred thousand to discharge the debts of her
father-in-law, and with the rest she induced her husband to emigrate
to America. Paris had become odious to both.

Marius and Mlle. Gilberte, who has now become Marquise de Tregars,
have taken up their residence at the Chateau de Tregars, three
leagues from Quimper. They have been followed in their retreat by
Mme. Favoral and by General Count de Villegre.

The greater portion of his father's fortune, Marius had applied to
pay off all the personal creditors of the former cashier of the
Mutual Credit, all the trades-people, and also M. Chapelain, old
man Desormeaux, and M. and Mme. Desclavettes.

All that is left to the Marquis and Marquise de Tregars is some
twenty thousand francs a year, and if they ever lose them, it will
not be at the bourse.

The Mutual Credit is quoted at 467.25!

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