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PART I


I

There is not, perhaps, in all Paris, a quieter street than the Rue
St. Gilles in the Marais, within a step of the Place Royale. No
carriages there; never a crowd. Hardly is the silence broken by
the regulation drums of the Minims Barracks near by, by the chimes
of the Church of St. Louis, or by the joyous clamors of the pupils
of the Massin School during the hours of recreation.

At night, long before ten o'clock, and when the Boulevard
Beaumarchais is still full of life, activity, and noise, every thing
begins to close. One by one the lights go out, and the great windows
with diminutive panes become dark. And if, after midnight, some
belated citizen passes on his way home, he quickens his step, feeling
lonely and uneasy, and apprehensive of the reproaches of his
concierge, who is likely to ask him whence he may be coming at so
late an hour.

In such a street, every one knows each other: houses have no mystery;
families, no secrets, - a small town, where idle curiosity has always
a corner of the veil slyly raised, where gossip flourishes as rankly
as the grass on the street.

Thus on the afternoon of the 27th of April, 1872 (a Saturday), a fact
which anywhere else might have passed unnoticed was attracting
particular attention.

A man some thirty years of age, wearing the working livery of
servants of the upper class, - the long striped waistcoat with
sleeves, and the white linen apron, - was going from door to door.

"Who can the man be looking for?" wondered the idle neighbors,
closely watching his evolutions.

He was not looking for any one. To such as he spoke to, he stated
that he had been sent by a cousin of his, an excellent cook, who,
before taking a place in the neighborhood, was anxious to have all
possible information on the subject of her prospective masters. And
then, "Do you know M. Vincent Favoral?" he would ask.

Concierges and shop-keepers knew no one better; for it was more than
a quarter of a century before, that M. Vincent Favoral, the day after
his wedding, had come to settle in the Rue St. Gilles; and there
his two children were born, - his son M. Maxence, his daughter Mme.
Gilberte.

He occupied the second story of the house. No. 38, - one of those
old-fashioned dwellings, such as they build no more, since ground is
sold at twelve hundred francs the square metre; in which there is no
stinting of space. The stairs, with wrought iron balusters, are wide
and easy, and the ceilings twelve feet high.

"Of course, we know M. Favoral," answered every one to the servant's
questions; "and, if there ever was an honest man, why, he is
certainly the one. There is a man whom you could trust with your
funds, if you had any, without fear of his ever running off to
Belgium with them." And it was further explained, that M. Favoral
was chief cashier, and probably, also, one of the principal
stockholders, of the Mutual Credit Society, one of those admirable
financial institutions which have sprung up with the second empire,
and which had won at the Bourse the first installment of their
capital, the very day that the game of the Coup d' Etat was being
played in the street.

I know well enough the gentleman's business," remarked the servant;
"but what sort of a man is he? That's what my cousin would like to
know."

The wine-man at No. 43, the oldest shop-keeper in the street, could
best answer. A couple of petits-verres politely offered soon started
his tongue; and, whilst sipping his Cognac

"M. Vincent Favoral," he began, "is a man some fifty-two or three
years old, but who looks younger, not having a single gray hair. He
is tall and thin, with neatly-trimmed whiskers, thin lips, and small
yellow eyes; not talkative. It takes more ceremony to get a word
from his throat than a dollar from his pocket. 'Yes,' 'no,'
'good-morning,' 'good-evening;' that's about the extent of his
conversation. Summer and winter, he wears gray pantaloons, a long
frock-coat, laced shoes, and lisle-thread gloves. 'Pon my word, I
should say that he is still wearing the very same clothes I saw upon
his back for the first time in 1845, did I not know that he has two
full suits made every year by the concierge at No. 29, who is also a
tailor."

"Why, he must be an old miser," muttered the servant.

"He is above all peculiar," continued the shop-keeper, "like most
men of figures, it seems. His own life is ruled and regulated like
the pages of his ledger. In the neighborhood they call him Old
Punctuality; and, when he passes through the Rue Turenne, the
merchants set their watches by him. Rain or shine, every morning of
the year, on the stroke of nine, he appears at the door on the way
to his office. When he returns, you may be sure it is between twenty
and twenty-five minutes past five. At six he dines; at seven he goes
to play a game of dominoes at the Caf Turc; at ten he comes home
and goes to bed; and, at the first stroke of eleven at the Church of
St. Louis, out goes his candle."

"Hem!" grumbled the servant with a look of contempt, "the question
is, Will my cousin be willing to live with a man who is a sort of
walking clock?"

"It isn't always pleasant," remarked the wine-man; "and the best
evidence is, that the son, M. Maxence, got tired of it."

"He does not live with his parents any more?"

"He dines with them; but he has his own lodgings on the Boulevard du
Temple. The falling-out made talk enough at the time; and some
people do say that M. Maxence is a worthless scamp, who leads a very
dissipated life; but I say that his father kept him too close. The
boy is twenty-five, quite good looking, and has a very stylish
mistress: I have seen her....I would have done just as he did."

"And what about the daughter, Mme. Gilberte?"

"She is not married yet, although she is past twenty, and pretty as
a rosebud. After the war, her father tried to make her marry a
stock-broker, a stylish man who always came in a two-horse carriage;
but she refused him outright. I should not be a bit surprised to
hear that she has some love-affair of her own. I have noticed
lately a young gentleman about here who looks up quite suspiciously
when he goes by No. 38." The servant did not seem to find these
particulars very interesting.

"It's the lady," he said, "that my cousin would like to know most
about."

"Naturally. Well, you can safely tell her that she never will have
had a better mistress. Poor Madame Favoral! She must have had a
sweet time of it with her maniac of a husband! But she is not young
any more; and people get accustomed to every thing, you know. The
days when the weather is fine, I see her going by with her daughter
to the Place Royale for a walk. That's about their only amusement."

"The mischief!" said the servant, laughing. "If that is all, she
won't ruin her husband, will she?"

"That is all," continued the shop-keeper, "or rather, excuse me, no:
every Saturday, for many years, M. and Mme. Favoral receive a few
of their friends: M. and Mme. Desclavettes, retired dealers in
bronzes, Rue Turenne; M. Chapelain, the old lawyer from the Rue St.
Antoine, whose daughter is Mlle. Gilberte's particular friend; M.
Desormeaux, head clerk in the Department of Justice.; and three or
four others; and as this just happens to be Saturday"

But here he stopped short, and pointing towards the street.

"Quick," said he, "look! Speaking of the - you know - It is twenty
minutes past five, there is M. Favoral coming home."

It was, in fact, the cashier of the Mutual Credit Society, looking
very much indeed as the shop-keeper had described him. Walking with
his head down, he seemed to be seeking upon the pavement the very
spot upon which he had set his foot in the morning, that he might set
it back again there in the evening.

With the same methodical step, he reached his house, walked up the
two pairs of stairs, and, taking out his pass-key, opened the door
of his apartment.

The dwelling was fit for the man; and every thing from the very hall,
betrayed his peculiarities. There, evidently, every piece of
furniture must have its invariable place, every object its irrevocable
shelf or hook. All around were evidences, if not exactly of poverty,
at least of small means, and of the artifices of a respectable
economy. Cleanliness was carried to its utmost limits: every thing
shone. Not a detail but betrayed the industrious hand of the
housekeeper, struggling to defend her furniture against the ravages
of time. The velvet on the chairs was darned at the angles as with
the needle of a fairy. Stitches of new worsted showed through the
faded designs on the hearth-rugs. The curtains had been turned so
as to display their least worn side.

All the guests enumerated by the shop-keeper, and a few others
besides, were in the parlor when M. Favoral came in. But, instead
of returning their greeting:

"Where is Maxence?" he inquired.

"I am expecting him, my dear," said Mme. Favoral gently.

"Always behind time," he scolded. "It is too trifling."

His daughter, Mlle. Gilberte, interrupted him:

"Where is my bouquet, father?" she asked.

M. Favoral stopped short, struck his forehead, and with the accent
of a man who reveals something incredible, prodigious, unheard of,

"Forgotten," he answered, scanning the syllables: "I have for-got-ten
it."

It was a fact. Every Saturday, on his way home, he was in the habit
of stopping at the old woman's shop in front of the Church of St.
Louis, and buying a bouquet for Mlle. Gilberte. And to-day...

"Ah! I catch you this time, father!" exclaimed the girl.

Meantime, Mme. Favoral, whispering to Mme. Desclavettes:

"Positively," she said in a troubled voice, "something serious must
have happened to - my husband. He to forget! He to fail in one of
his habits! It is the first time in twenty-six years."

The appearance of Maxence at this moment prevented her from going on.
M. Favoral was about to administer a sound reprimand to his son, when
dinner was announced.

"Come," exclaimed M. Chapelain, the old lawyer, the conciliating man
par excellence, - "come, let us to the table."

They sat down. But Mme. Favoral had scarcely helped the soup, when
the bell rang violently. Almost at the same moment the servant
appeared, and announced:

"The Baron de Thaller!"

More pale than his napkin, the cashier stood up. "The manager," he
stammered, "the director of the Mutual Credit Society."





Other People's Money by Emile Gaboriau
Category:
General Fiction
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