This story of M. Vincent, as told by these two honest companions,
was something like the vulgar legend of other people's money, so
eagerly craved, and so madly dissipated. Easily-gotten wealth is
easily gotten rid of. Stolen money has fatal tendencies, and turns
irresistibly to gambling, horse-jockeys, fast women, all the ruinous
fancies, all the unwholesome gratifications.
They are rare indeed, among the daring cut-throats of speculation,
those to whom their ill-gotten gain proves of real service, - so
rare, that they are pointed out, and are as easily numbered as the
girls who leap some night from the street to a ten-thousand-franc
apartment, and manage to remain there.
Seized with the intoxication of sudden wealth, they lose all measure
and all prudence. Whether they believe their luck inexhaustible, or
fear a sudden turn of fortune, they make haste to enjoy themselves,
and they fill the noted restaurants, the leading cafes, the theatres,
the clubs, the race-courses, with their impudent personality, the
clash of their voice, the extravagance of their mistresses, the
noise of their expenses, and the absurdity of their vanity. And
they go on and on, lavishing other people's money, until the fatal
hour of one of those disastrous liquidations which terrify the
courts and the exchange, and cause pallid faces and a gnashing of
teeth in the "street," until the moment when they have the choice
between a pistol-shot, which they never choose, the criminal court,
which they do their best to avoid, and a trip abroad.
What becomes of them afterwards? To what gutters do they tumble
from fall to fall? Does any one know what becomes of the women who
disappear suddenly after two or three years of follies and of
But it happens sometimes, as you step out of a carriage in front of
some theatre, that you wonder where you have already seen the face
of the wretched beggar who opens the door for you, and in a husky
voice claims his two sous. You saw him at the Caf Riche, during
the six months that he was a big financier.
Some other time you may catch, in the crowd, snatches of a strange
conversation between two crapulous rascals.
"It was at the time," says one, "when I drove that bright chestnut
team that I had bought for twenty thousand francs of the eldest son
of the Duke de Sermeuse."
"I remember," replies the other; "for at that moment I gave six
thousand francs a month to little Cabriole of the Varieties."
And, improbable as this may seem, it is the exact truth; for one
was manager of a manufacturing enterprise that sank ten millions;
and the other was at the head of a financial operation that ruined
five hundred families. They had house like the one in the Rue du
Cirque, mistresses more expensive than Mme. Zelie Cadelle, and
servants like those who were now talking within a step of Maxence
and Marius de Tregars. The latter had resumed their conversation;
and the oldest one, the coachman with the red nose, was saying to
his younger comrade,
"This Vincent affair must be a lesson to you. If ever you find
yourself again in a house where so much money is spent, remember
that it hasn't cost much trouble to make it, and manage somehow
to get as big a share of it as you can."
"That's what I've always done wherever I have been."
"And, above all, make haste to fill your bag, because, you see,
in houses like that, one is never sure, one day, whether, the
next, the gentleman will not be at Mazas, and the lady at St.
They had done their second bowl of punch, and finished their
conversation. They paid, and left.
And Maxence and M. de Traggers were able, at last, to throw down
Maxence was very pale; and big tears were rolling down his cheeks.
"What disgrace!" he murmured: "This, then, is the other side of
my father's existence! This is the way in which he spent the
millions which he stole; whilst, in the Rue St. Gilles, he
deprived his family of the necessaries of life!
And, in a tone of utter discouragement,
"Now it is indeed all over, and it is useless to continue our
search. My father is certainly guilty.
But M. de Traggers was not the man thus to give up the game.
"Guilty? Yes," he said, "but dupe also."
"That's what we'll find out, you may depend upon it."
"What! after what we have just heard?"
"I have more hope than ever."
"Did you learn any thing from Mme. Zelie Cadelle, then?"
"Nothing more than you know by those two rascals' conversation."
A dozen questions were pressing upon Maxence's lips; but M. de
Traggers interrupted him.
In this case, my friend, less than ever must we trust appearances.
Let me speak. Was your father a simpleton? No! His ability to
dissimulate, for years, his double existence, proves, on the
contrary, a wonderful amount of duplicity. How is it, then, that
latterly his conduct has been so extraordinary and so absurd? But
you will doubtless say it was always such. In that case, I answer
you, No; for then his secret could not have been kept for a year.
We hear that other women lived in that house before Mme. Zelie
Cadelle. But who were they? What has become of them? Is there
any certainty that they have ever existed? Nothing proves it.
"The servants having been all changed, Amanda, the chambermaid, is
the only one who knows the truth; and she will be very careful to
say nothing about it. Therefore, all our positive information
goes back no farther than five months. And what do we hear? That
your father seemed to try and make his extravagant expenditures as
conspicuous as possible. That he did not even take the trouble to
conceal the source of the money he spent so profusely; for he told
Mme. Zelie that he was at the end of his tether, and that, after
having spent his own fortune, he was spending other people's money.
He had announced his intended departure; he had sold the house, and
received its price. Finally, at the last moment, what does he do?
"Instead of going off quietly and secretly, like a man who is
running away, and who knows that he is pursued, he tells every one
where he intends to go; he writes it on all his trunks, in letters
half a foot high; and then rides in great display to the railway
station, with a woman, several carriages, servants, etc. What is
the object of all this? To get caught? No, but to start a false
scent. Therefore, in his mind, every thing must have been arranged
in advance, and the catastrophe was far from taking him by surprise;
therefore the scene with M. de Thaller must have been prepared;
therefore, it must have been on purpose that he left his pocketbook
behind, with the bill in it that was to lead us straight here;
therefore all we have seen is but a transparent comedy, got up for
our special benefit, and intended to cover up the truth, and
mislead the law."
But Maxence was not entirely convinced.
"Still," he remarked, "those enormous expenses."
M. de Tregars shrugged his shoulders.
"Have you any idea," he said, "what display can be made with a
million? Let us admit that your father spent two, four millions
even. The loss of the Mutual Credit is twelve millions. What has
become of the other eight?"
And, as Maxence made no answer,
"It is those eight millions," he added, "that I want, and that I
shall have. It is in Paris that your father is hid, I feel certain.
We must find him; and we must make him tell the truth, which I
already more than suspect."
Whereupon, throwing on the table the pint of beer which he had not
drunk, he walked out of the caf with Maxence.
"Here you are at last!" exclaimed the coachman, who had been
waiting at the corner for over three hours, a prey to the utmost
But M. de Traggers had no time for explanations; and, pushing
Maxence into the cab, he jumped in after him, crying to the
"24 Rue Joquelet. Five francs extra for yourself." A driver who
expects an extra five francs, always has, for five minutes at least,
a horse as fast as Gladiateur.
Whilst the cab was speeding on to its destination,
"What is most important for us now," said M. de Tregars to Maxence,
"is to ascertain how far the Mutual Credit crisis has progressed;
and M. Latterman of the Rue Joquelet is the man in all Paris who
can best inform us."
Whoever has made or lost five hundred francs at the bourse knows M.
Latterman, who, since the war, calls himself an Alsatian and curses
with a fearful accent those "parparous Broossians." This worthy
speculator modestly calls himself a money-changer; but he would
be a simpleton who should ask him for change: and it is certainly
not that sort of business which gives him the three hundred thousand
francs' profits which he pockets every year.
When a company has failed, when it has been wound up, and the
defrauded stockholders have received two or three per cent in all
on their original investment, there is a prevailing idea that the
certificates of its stocks are no longer good for any thing, except
to light the fire. That's a mistake. Long after the company has
foundered, its shares float, like the shattered debris which the
sea casts upon the beach months after the ship has been wrecked.
These shares M. Latterman collects, and carefully stores away; and
upon the shelves of his office you may see numberless shares and
bonds of those numerous companies which have absorbed, in the past
twenty years, according to some statistics, twelve hundred millions,
and, according to others, two thousand millions, of the public
Say but a word, and his clerks will offer you some "Franco-American
Company," some "Steam Navigation Company of Marseilles," some "Coal
and Metal Company of the Asturias," some " Transcontinental
Memphis and El Paso" (of the United States), some "Caumart Slate
Works," and hundreds of others, which, for the general public, have
no value, save that of old paper, that is from three to five cents
a pound. And yet speculators are found who buy and sell these
In an obscure corner of the bourse may be seen a miscellaneous
population of old men with pointed beards, and overdressed young
men, who deal in every thing salable, and other things besides.
There are found foreign merchants, who will offer you stocks of
merchandise, goods from auction, good claims to recover, and who
at last will take out of their pockets an opera-glass, a Geneva
watch (smuggled in), a revolver, or a bottle of patent
Such is the market to which drift those shares which were once
issued to represent millions, and which now represent nothing but
a palpable proof of the audacity of swindlers, and the credulity
of their dupes. And there are actually buyers for these shares,
and they go up or down, according to the ordinary laws of supply
and demand; for there is a demand for them, and here comes in the
usefulness of M. Latterman's business.
Does a tradesman, on the eve of declaring himself bankrupt, wish
to defraud his creditors of a part of his assets, to conceal
excessive expenses, or cover up some embezzlement, at once he goes
to the Rue Joquelet, procures a select assortment of " Cantonal
Credit," "Rossdorif Mines," or "Maumusson Salt Works," and puts
them carefully away in his safe.
And, when the receiver arrives,
"There are my assets," he says. "I have there some twenty, fifty,
or a hundred thousand francs of stocks, the whole of which is not
worth five francs to-day; but it isn't my fault. I thought it a
good investment; and I didn't sell, because I always thought the
price would come up again."
And he gets his discharge, because it would really be too cruel to
punish a man because he has made unfortunate investments.
Better than any one, M. Latterman knows for what purpose are
purchased the valueless securities which he sells; and he actually
advises his customers which to take in preference, in order that
their purchase at the time of their issue may appear more natural,
and more likely. Nevertheless, he claims to be a perfectly honest
man, and declares that he is no more responsible for the swindles
that are committed by means of his stocks than a gunsmith for a
murder committed with a gun that he has sold.
"But he will surely be able to tell us all about the Mutual Credit,"
repeated Maxence to M. de Traggers.
Four o'clock struck when the carriage stopped in the Rue Joquelet.
The bourse had just closed; and a few groups were still standing in
the square, or along the railings.
"I hope we shall find this Latterman at home," said Maxence.
They started up the stairs (for it is up on the second floor that
this worthy operator has his offices) ; and, having inquired,
"M. Latterman is engaged with a customer," answered a clerk.
" Please sit down and wait."
M. Latterman's office was like all other caverns of the same kind.
A very narrow space was reserved to the public; and all around,
behind a heavy wire screen, the clerks could be seen busy with
figures, or handling coupons. On the right, over a small window,
appeared the word, "CASHIER." A small door on the left led to
the private office.
M. de Tregars and Maxence had patiently taken a seat on a hard
leather bench, once red; and they were listening and looking on.
There was considerable animation about the place. Every few
minutes, well-dressed young men came in with a hurried and
important look, and, taking out of their pocket a memorandum-book,
they would speak a few sentences of that peculiar dialect,
bristling with figures, which is the language of the bourse. At
the end of fifteen or twenty minutes,
"Will M. Latterman be engaged much longer?" inquired M. de Traggers.
"I do not know," replied a clerk.
At that very moment, the little door on the left opened, and the
customer came out who had detained M. Latterman so long. This
customer was no other than M. Costeclar. Noticing M. de Traggers
and Maxence, who had risen at the noise of the door, he appeared
most disagreeably surprised. He even turned slightly pale, and
took a step backwards, as if intending to return precipitately
into the room that he was leaving; for M. Latterman's office,
like that of all other large operators, had several doors, without
counting the one that leads to the police-court. But M. de
Traggers gave him no time to effect this retreat. Stepping suddenly
"Well?" he asked him in a tone that was almost threatening.
The brilliant financier had condescended to take off his hat,
usually riveted upon his head, and, with the smile of a knave caught
in the act,
"I did not expect to meet you here, my lord-marquis," he said.
At the title of "marquis," everybody looked up. "I believe you,
indeed," said M. de Traggers. "But what I want to know is, how
is the matter progressing?"
"The plot is thickening. Justice is acting."
"It is a fact. Jules Jottras, of the house of Jottras and Brother,
was arrested this morning, just as he arrived at the bourse."
"Because, it seems, he was an accomplice of Favoral; and it was
he who sold the bonds stolen from the Mutual Credit."
Maxence had started at the mention of his father's name but, with
a significant glance, M. de Traggers bid him remain silent, and,
in a sarcastic tone,
"Famous capture!" he murmured. "And which proves the
clear-sightedness of justice."
"But this is not all," resumed M. Costeclar. "Saint Pavin, the
editor of 'The Financial Pilot,' you know, is thought to be seriously
compromised. There was a rumor, at the close of the market, that a
warrant either had been, or was about to be, issued against him."
"And the Baron de Thaller?"
The employes of the office could not help admiring M. Costeclar's
extraordinary amount of patience.
"The baron," he replied, "made his appearance at the bourse this
afternoon, and was the object of a veritable ovation.."
"That is admirable! And what did he say?"
"That the damage was already repaired."
"Then the shares of the Mutual Credit must have advanced."
"Unfortunately, not. They did not go above one hundred and ten
"Were you not astonished at that?"
"Not much, because, you see, I am a business-man, I am; and I know
pretty well how things work. When they left M. de Thaller this
morning, the stockholders of the Mutual Credit had a meeting; and
they pledged themselves, upon honor, not to sell, so as not to break
the market. As soon as they had separated, each one said to himself,
'Since the others are going to keep their stock, like fools, I am
going to sell mine.' Now, as there were three or four hundred of
them who argued the same way, the market was flooded with shares."
Looking the brilliant financier straight in the eyes,
"And yourself?" interrupted M. de Traggers.
"I!" stammered M. Costeclar, so visibly agitated, that the clerks
could not help laughing.
"Yes. I wish to know if you have been more faithful to your word
than the stockholders of whom you are speaking, and whether you
have done as we had agreed."
"Certainly; and, if you find me here"
But M. de Traggers, placing his own hand over his shoulder, stopped
"I think I know what brought you here," he uttered; "and in a few
moments I shall have ascertained."
"I swear to you."
"Don't swear. If I am mistaken, so much the better for you. If I
am not mistaken, I'll prove to you that it is dangerous to try any
sharp game on me, though I am not a business-man."
Meantime M. Latterman, seeing no customer coming to take the place
of the one who had left, became impatient at last, and appeared
upon the threshold of his private office.
He was a man still young, small, thick-set, and vulgar. At the
first glance, nothing of him could be seen but his abdomen, - a big,
great, and ponderous abdomen, seat of his thoughts, and tabernacle
of his aspirations, over which dangled a double gold chain, loaded
with trinkets. Above an apoplectic neck, red as that of a
turkey-cock, stood his little head, covered with coarse red hair,
cut very short. He wore a heavy beard, trimmed in the form of a fan.
His large, full-moon face was divided in two by a nose as flat as a
Kalmuck's, and illuminated by two small eyes, in which could be read
the most thorough duplicity.
Seeing M. de Traggers and M. Costeclar engaged in conversation,
"Why! you know each other?" he said.
M. de Traggers advanced a step,
"We are even-intimate friends," he replied. "And it is very lucky
that we should have met. I am brought here by the same matter as
our dear Costeclar; and I was just explaining to him that he has
been too hasty, and that it would be best to wait three or four days
"That's just what I told him," echoed the honorable financier.
Maxence understood only one thing, - that M. de Tregars had
penetrated M. Costeclar's designs; and he could not sufficiently
admire his presence of mind, and his skill in grasping an unexpected
"Fortunately there is nothing done yet," added M. Latterman.
"And it is yet time to alter what has been agreed on," said M. de
Traggers. And, addressing himself to Costeclar,
"Come," he added, "we'll fix things with M. Latterman."
But the other, who remembered the scene in the Rue St. Gilles, and
who had his own reasons to be alarmed, would sooner have jumped out
of the window.
"I am expected,:' he stammered. "Arrange matters without me."
"Then you give me carte blanche?"
Ah, if the brilliant financier had dared! But he felt upon him such
threatening eyes, that he dared even make a gesture of denial.
"Whatever you do will be satisfactory," he said in the tone of a
man who sees himself lost.
And, as he was going out of the door, M. de Traggers stepped into
M. Latterman's private office. He remained only five minutes; and
when he joined Maxence, whom he had begged to wait for him,
"I think that we have got them," he said as they walked off.
Their next visit was to M. Saint Pavin, at the office of "The
Financial Pilot." Every one must have seen at least one copy of
that paper with, its ingenious vignette, representing a bold mariner
steering a boat, filled with timid passengers, towards the harbor
of Million, over a stormy sea, bristling with the rocks of failure
and the shoals of ruin. The office of "The Pilot" is, in fact,
less a newspaper office than a sort of general business agency.
As at M. Latterman's, there are clerks scribbling behind wire
screens, small windows, a cashier, and an immense blackboard, on
which the latest quotations of the Rente, and other French and
foreign securities, are written in chalk.
As "The Pilot" spends some hundred thousand francs a year in
advertising, in order to obtain subscribers; as, on the other hand,
it only costs three francs a year, - it is clear that it is not on
its subscriptions that it realizes any profits. It has other
sources of income: its brokerages first; for it buys, sells, and
executes, as the prospectus says, all orders for stocks, bonds, or
other securities, for the best interests of the client. And it has
plenty of business.
To the opulent brokerages, must be added advertising and puffing,
- another mine. Six times out of ten, when a new enterprise is set
on foot, the organizers send for Saint Pavin. Honest men, or
knaves, they must all pass through his hands. They know it, and
are resigned in advance.
"We rely upon you," they say to him.
"What advantages have you to offer?" he replies.
Then they discuss the operation, the expected profits of the new
company, and M. Saint Pavin's demands. For a hundred thousand
francs he promises bursts of lyrism; for fifty thousand he will be
enthusiastic only. Twenty thousand francs will secure a moderate
praise of the affair; ten thousand, a friendly neutrality. And,
if the said company refuses any advantages to "The Pilot"
"Ah, you must beware!" says Saint Pavin.
And from the very next number he commences his campaign. He is
moderate at first, and leaves a door open for his retreat. He
puts forth doubts only. He does not know much about it. "It may
be an excellent thing; it may be a wretched one: the safest is to
wait and see."
That's the first hint. If it remains without result, he takes up
his pen again, and makes his doubts more pointed.
He knows how to steer clear of libel suits, how to handle figures
so as to demonstrate, according to the requirements of the case,
that two and two make three, or make five. It is seldom, that,
before the, third article, the company does not surrender at
All Paris knows him; and he has many friends. When M. de Traggers
and Maxence arrived, they found the office full of people
- speculators, brokers, go-be-tweens-come there to discuss
the fluctuations of the day and the probabilities of the evening
"M. Saint Pavin is engaged," one of the clerks told them.
Indeed, his coarse voice could be distinctly heard behind the screen.
Soon he appeared, showing out an old gentleman, who seemed utterly
confused at the scene, and to whom he was screaming,
"No, sir, no! 'The Financial Pilot' does not take that sort of
business; and I find you very bold to come and propose to me a
twopenny rascality." But, noticing Maxence,
"M. Favoral!" he said. "By Jove! it is your good star that has
brought you here. Come into the private office, my dear sir: come,
we'll have some fun now."
Many of the people who were in the office had a word to say to M.
Saint Pavin, some advice to ask him, an order to transmit, or some
news to communicate. They had all stepped forward, and were holding
out their hands with a friendly smile. He set them aside with his
"By and by. I am busy now: leave me alone."
And pushing Maxence towards the office-door, which he had just
" Come in, come in!" he said in a tone of extraordinary impatience.
But M. de Traggers was coming in too; and, as he did not know him,
"What do you want, you?" he asked roughly.
"The gentleman is my best friend," said Maxence, turning to him;
"and I have no secret from him."
"Let him walk in, then; but, by Heaven, let us hurry!"
Once very sumptuous, the private office of the editor of "The
Financial Pilot" had fallen into a state of sordid dilapidation.
If the janitor had received orders never to use a broom or a duster
there, he obeyed them strictly. Disorder and dirt reigned supreme.
Papers and manuscripts lay in all directions; and on the broad
sofas the mud from the boots of all those who had lounged upon
them had been drying for months. On the mantel-piece, in the
midst of some half-dozen dirty glasses, stood a bottle of Madeira,
half empty. Finally, before the fireplace, on the carpet, and
along the furniture, cigar and cigarette stumps were heaped in
As soon as he had bolted the door, coming straight to Maxence,
"What has become of your father?" inquired M. Saint Pavin rudely.
Maxence started. That was the last question he expected to hear.
"I do not know," he replied.
The manager of "The Pilot" shrugged his shoulders. "That you
should say so to the commissary of police, to the judges, and to
all Favoral's enemies, I understand: it is your duty. That they
should believe you, I understand too; for, after all, what do
they care? But to me, a friend, though you may not think so, and
who has reasons not to be credulous"
"I swear to you that we have no idea where he has taken refuge."
Maxence said this with such an accent of sincerity, that doubt was
no longer possible. M. Saint Pavin's features expressed the utmost
"What!" he exclaimed, "your father has gone without securing the
means of hearing from his family?"
"Without saying a word of his intentions to your mother, or your
sister, or yourself?"
"Without one word.
"Without leaving any money, perhaps?"
"We found only an insignificant sum after he left." The editor of
"The Pilot" made a gesture of ironical admiration. "Well, the
thing is complete," he said; "and Vincent is a smarter fellow than
I gave him credit for; or else he must have cared more for those
infernal women of his than any one supposed."
M. de Traggers, who had remained hitherto silent, now stepped
"What women?" he asked.
"How do I know?" he replied roughly. "How could any one ever find
out any thing about a man who was more hermetically shut up in his
coat than a Jesuit in his gown?"
"M. Costeclar -"
"That's another nice bird! Still he may possibly have discovered
something of Vincent's life; for he led him a pretty dance.
Wasn't he about to marry Mlle. Favoral once?"
"Yes, in spite of herself even."
"Then you are right: he had discovered something. But, if you rely
on him to tell you anything whatever, you are reckoning without
"Who knows?" murmured M. de Traggers.
But M. Saint Pavin heard him not. Prey to a violent agitation, he
was pacing up and down the room.
"Ah, those men of cold appearance," he growled, "those men with
discreet countenance, those close-shaving calculators, those
moralists! What fools they do make of themselves when once
started! Who can imagine to what insane extremities this one
may have been driven under the spur of some mad passion!"
And stamping violently his foot upon the carpet, from which arose
clouds of dust,
"And yet," he swore, "I must find him. And, by thunder! wherever
he may be hid, I shall find him."
M. de Traggers was watching M. Saint Pavin with a scrutinizing eye.
"You have a great interest in finding him, then?" he said.
The other stopped short.
"I have the interest," he replied, "of a man who thought himself
shrewd, and who has been taken in like a child, - of a man to whom
they had promised wonders, and who finds his situation imperilled,
- of a man who is tired of working for a band of brigands who heap
millions upon millions, and to whom, for all reward, they offer
the police-court and a retreat in the State Prison for his old age,
-in a word, the interests of a man who will and shall have revenge,
by all that is holy!"
"On the Baron de Thaller, sir! How, in the world, has he been
able to compel Favoral to assume the responsibility of all, and
to disappear? What enormous sum has he given to him?"
"Sir," interrupted Maxence, "my father went off without a sou."
M. Saint Pavin burst out in a loud laugh.
"And the twelve millions?" he asked. "What has become of them?
Do you suppose they have been distributed in deeds of charity?"
And without waiting for any further objections,
"And yet," he went on, "it is not with money alone that a man can
be induced to disgrace himself, to confess himself a thief and a
forger, to brave the galleys, to give up everything, - country,
family, friends. Evidently the Baron de Thaller must have had
other means of action, some hold on Favoral"
M. de Traggers interrupted him.
"You speak," he said, "as if you were absolutely certain of M. de Thaller's
"Why don't you inform on him, then?"
The editor of "The Pilot" started back. "What!" he exclaimed, "draw
the fingers of the law into my own business! You don't think of it!
Besides, what good would that do me? I have no proofs of my
allegations. Do you suppose that Thaller has not taken his
precautions, and tied my hands? No, no! without Favoral there is
nothing to be done."
"Do you suppose, then, that you could induce him to surrender
"No, but to furnish me the proofs I need, to send Thaller where they
have already sent that poor Jottras."
And, becoming more and more excited,
"But it is not in a month that I should want those proofs," he went
on, "nor even in two weeks, but to-morrow, but at this very moment.
Before the end of the week, Thaller will have wound up the operation,
realized, Heaven knows how many millions, and put every thing in
such nice order, that justice, who in financial matters is not of
the first capacity, will discover nothing wrong. If he can do that,
he is safe, he is beyond reach, and will be dubbed a first-class
financier. Then to what may he not aspire! Already he talks of
having himself elected deputy; and he says everywhere that he has
found, to marry his daughter, a gentleman who bears one of the
oldest names in France, - the Marquis de Tegars."
"Why, this is the Marquis de Tregars!" exclaimed Maxence, pointing
For the first time; M. Saint Pavin took the trouble to examine his
visitor; and he, who knew life too well not to be a judge of men,
he seemed surprised.
"Please excuse me, sir," he uttered with a politeness very different
from his usual manner, "and permit me to ask you if you know the
reasons why M. de Thaller is so prodigiously anxious to have you
for a son-in-law."
"I think," replied M. de Traggers coldly, "that M. de Thaller would
not be sorry to deprive me of the right to seek the causes of my
But he was interrupted by a great noise of voices in the adjoining
room; and almost at once there was a loud knock at the door, and a
"In the name of the law!"
The editor of "The Pilot" had become whiter than his shirt.
"That's what I was afraid of," he said. "Thaller has got ahead of
me; and perhaps I may be lost."
Meantime he did not lose his wits. Quick as thought he took out of
a drawer a package of letters, threw them into the fireplace, and
set fire to them, saying, in a voice made hoarse by emotion and
"No one shall come in until they are burnt."
But it required an incredibly long time to make them catch fire;
and M. Saint Pavin, kneeling before the hearth; was stirring them
up, and scattering them, to make them burn faster.
"And now," said M. de Traggers, "will you hesitate to deliver up
the Baron de Thaller into the hands of justice?"
He turned around with flashing eyes.
"Now," he replied, "if I wish to save myself, I must save him too.
Don't you understand that he holds me?"
And, seeing that the last sheets of his correspondence were consumed,
"You may open now," he said to Maxence.
Maxence obeyed; and a commissary of police, wearing his scarf of
office, rushed into the room; whilst his men, not without difficulty,
kept back the crowd in the outer office.
The commissary, who was an old hand, and had perhaps been on a
hundred expeditions of this kind, had surveyed the scene at a
glance. Noticing in the fireplace the carbonized debris, upon
which still fluttered an expiring flame,
"That's the reason, then," he said, "why you were so long opening
A sarcastic smile appeared upon the lips of the editor of "The Pilot."
"Private matters," he replied; "women's letters."
"This will be moral evidence against you, sir."
"I prefer it to material evidence."
Without condescending to notice the impertinence, the commissary
was casting a suspicious glance on Maxence and M. de Traggers.
"Who are these gentlemen who were closeted with you?" he asked.
"Visitors, sir. This is M. Favoral."
"The son of the cashier of the Mutual Credit?"
"Exactly; and this gentleman is the Marquis de Tregars."
"You should have opened the door when you heard a knocking in the
name of the law," grumbled the commissary.
But he did not insist. Taking a paper from his pocket, he opened
it, and, handing it to M. Saint Pavin,
"I have orders to arrest you," he said. "Here is the warrant."
With a careless gesture, the other pushed it back. "What's the use
of reading?" he said. "When I heard of the arrest of that poor
Jottras, I guessed at once what was in store for me. It is about
the Mutual Credit swindle, I imagine."
"I have no more to do with it than yourself, sir; and I shall have
very little trouble in proving it. But that is not your business.
And you are going, I suppose, to put the seals on my papers?"
"Except on those that you have burnt."
M. Saint Pavin burst out laughing. He had recovered his coolness
and his impudence, and seemed as much at ease as if it were the
most natural thing in the
"Shall I be allowed to speak to my clerks," he asked, "and to give
them my instructions?"
"Yes," replied the commissary, "but in my presence."
The clerks, being called, appeared, consternation depicted upon
their countenances, but joy sparkling in their eyes. In reality
they were delighted at the misfortune which befell their employer.
"You see what happens to me, my boys," he said. "But don't be
uneasy. In less than forty-eight hours, the error of which I am
the victim will be recognized, and I shall be liberated on bail.
At any rate, I can rely upon you, can't I?"
They all swore that they would be more attentive and more zealous
And then addressing himself to his cashier, who was his
confidential and right-hand man,
"As to you, Bernard," he said, "you will run to M. de Thaller's,
and advise him of what's going on. Let him have funds ready; for
all our depositors will want to draw out their money at once. You
will then call at the printing-office: have my article on the
Mutual Credit kept out, and insert in its place some financial news
cut out from other papers. Above all, don't mention my arrest,
unless M. de Thaller should demand it. Go ahead, and let 'The
Pilot' appear as usual: that's important."
He had, whilst speaking, lighted a cigar. The honest man, victim
of human iniquity, has not a firmer and more tranquil countenance.
"Justice does not know," he said to the commissary, who was fumbling
in all the drawers of the desk, "what irreparable damage she may
cause by arresting so hastily a man who has charge of immense
interests like me. It is the fortune of ten or twelve small
capitalists that is put in jeopardy."
Already the witnesses of the arrest had retired, one by one, to go
and scatter the news along the Boulevard, and also to see what
could be made out of it; for, at the bourse, news is money.
M. de Traggers and Maxence left also. As they passed the door,
"Don't you say any thing about what I told you," M. Saint Pavin
recommended to them.
M. de Traggers made no answer. He had the contracted features and
tightly-drawn lips of a man who is maturing a grave determination,
which, once taken will be irrevocable.
Once in the street, and when Maxence had opened the carriage-door,
"We are going to separate here," he told him in that brief tone of
voice which reveals a settled plan. "I know enough now to venture
to call at M. de Thaller's. There only shall I be able to see how
to strike the decisive blow. Return to the Rue St. Gilles, and
relieve your mother's and sisters anxiety. You shall see me during
the evening, I promise you."
And, without waiting for an answer, he jumped into the cab, which
But it was not to the Rue St. Gilles that Maxence went. He was
anxious, first, to see Mlle. Lucienne, to tell her the events of
that day, the busiest of his existence; to tell her his discoveries,
his surprises, his anxieties, and his hopes.
To his great surprise, he failed to find her at the Hotel des
Folies. She had gone riding at three o'clock, M. Fortin told him,
and had not yet returned; but she could not be much longer, as it
was already getting dark. Maxence went out again then, to see if
he could not meet her. He had walked a little way along the
Boulevard, when, at some distance off, on the Place du Chateau
d'Eau, he thought he noticed an unusual bustle. Almost
immediately he heard shouts of terror. Frightened people were
running in all directions; and right before him a carriage, going
at full gallop, passed like a flash.
But, quick as it had passed, he had time to recognize Mlle.
Lucienne, pale, and clinging desperately to the seat. Wild with
fear, he started after it as fast as he could run. It was clear
that the driver had no control over his horses. A policeman who
tried to stop them was knocked down. Ten steps farther, the
hind-wheel of the carriage, catching the wheel of a heavy wagon,
broke to splinters; and Mlle. Lucienne was thrown into the street,
whilst the driver fell over on the sidewalk.