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VIII

In the Rue St. Giles the hours were dragging, slow and gloomy.
After Maxence had left to go and meet M. de Tregars, Mme. Favoral
and her daughter had remained alone with M. Chapelain, and had been
compelled to bear the brunt of his wrath, and to hear his
interminable complaints.

He was certainly an excellent man, that old lawyer, and too just to
hold Mlle. Gilberte or her mother responsible for Vincent Favoral's
acts. He spoke the truth when he assured them that he had for them
a sincere affection, and that they might rely upon his devotion.
But he was losing a hundred and sixty thousand francs; and a man
who loses such a large sum is naturally in bad humor, and not much
disposed to optimism.

The cruellest enemies of the poor women would not have tortured
them so mercilessly as this devoted friend.

He spared them not one sad detail of that meeting at the Mutual
Credit office, from which he had just come. He exaggerated the
proud assurance of the manager, and the confiding simplicity of the
stockholders. "That Baron de Thaller," he said to them, "is
certainly the most impudent scoundrel and the cleverest rascal I
have ever seen. You'll see that he'll get out of it with clean
hands and full pockets. Whether or hot he has accomplices, Vincent
will be the scapegoat. We must make up our mind to that."

His positive intention was to console Mme. Favoral and Gilberte.
Had he sworn to drive them to distraction, he could not have
succeeded better.

"Poor woman!" he said, "what is to become of you? Maxence is a
good and honest fellow, I am sure, but so weak, so thoughtless, so
fond of pleasure! He finds it difficult enough to get along by
himself. Of what assistance will he be to you?"

Then came advice.

Mme. Favoral, he declared, should not hesitate to ask for a
separation, which the tribunal would certainly grant. For want
of this precaution, she would remain all her life under the burden
of her husband's debts, and constantly exposed to the annoyances of
the creditors.

And always he wound up by saying,

"Who could ever have expected such a thing from Vincent, - a friend
of twenty years' standing! A hundred and sixty thousand francs!
Who in the world can be trusted hereafter?"

Big tears were rolling slowly down Mme. Favoral's withered cheeks.
But Mlle. Gilberte was of those for whom the pity of others is the
worst misfortune and the most acute suffering.

Twenty times she was on the point of exclaiming,

"Keep your compassion, sir: we are neither so much to be pitied nor
so much forsaken as you think. Our misfortune has revealed to us a
true friend, - one who does not speak, but acts."

At last, as twelve o'clock struck, M. Chapelain withdrew, announcing
that he would return the next day to get the news, and to bring
further consolation.

"Thank Heaven, we are alone at last!" said Mlle. Gilberte.

But they had not much peace, for all that.

Great as had been the noise of Vincent Favoral's disaster, it had
not reached at once all those who had intrusted their savings to him.
All day long, the belated creditors kept coming in; and the scenes
of the morning were renewed on a smaller scale. Then legal summonses
began to pour in, three or four at a time. Mme. Favoral was losing
all courage.

"What disgrace!" she groaned. "Will it always be so hereafter?"

And she exhausted herself in useless conjectures upon the causes of
the catastrophe; and such was the disorder of her mind, that she
knew not what to hope and what to fear, and that from one minute to
another she wished for the most contradictory things.

She would have been glad to hear that her husband was safe out of
the country, and yet she would have deemed herself less miserable,
had she known that he was hid somewhere in Paris.

And obstinately the same questions returned to her lips,

"Where is he now? What is he doing? What is he thinking about?
How can he leave us without news? Is it possible that it is a
woman who has driven him into the precipice? And, if so, who is
that woman?"

Very different were Mlle. Gilberte's thoughts.

The great calamity that befell her family had brought about the
sudden realization of her hopes. Her father's disaster had given
her an opportunity to test the man she loved; and she had found
him even superior to all that she could have dared to dream. The
name of Favoral was forever disgraced;, but she was going to be
the wife of Marius, Marquise de Tregars.

And, in the candor of her loyal soul, she accused herself of not
taking enough interest in her mother's grief, and reproached
herself for the quivers of joy which she felt within her.

"Where is Maxence?" asked Mme. Favoral.

"Where is M. de Tregars? Why have they told us nothing of their
projects?"

"They will, no doubt, come home to dinner," replied Mlle. Gilberte.

So well was she convinced of this, that she had given orders to the
servant to have a somewhat better dinner than usual; and her heart
was beating at the thought of being seated near Marius, between her
mother and her brother.

At about six o'clock, the bell rang violently.

"There he is!" said the young girl, rising to her feet.

But no: it was only the porter, bringing up a summons ordering Mme.
Favoral, under penalty of the law, to appear the next day, at one
o'clock precisely, before the examining judge, Barban d'Avranchel,
at his office in the Palace of Justice.

The poor woman came near fainting.

"What can this judge want with me? It ought to be forbidden to
call a wife to testify against her husband," she said.

"M. de Tregars will tell you what to answer, mamma," said Mlle.
Gilberte.

Meantime, seven o'clock came, then eight, and still neither Maxence
nor M. de Tregars had come.

Both mother and daughter were becoming anxious, when at last, a
little before nine, they heard steps in the hall.

Marius de Tregars appeared almost immediately.

He was pale; and his face bore the trace of the crushing fatigues of
the day, of the cares which oppressed him, of the reflections which
had been suggested to his mind by the quarrel of which he had nearly
been the victim a few moments since.

"Maxence is not here?" he asked at once.

"We have not seen him," answered Mlle. Gilberte.

He seemed so much surprised, that Mme. Favoral was frightened.

"What is the matter again, good God!" she exclaimed.

"Nothing, madame," said M. de Tregars, - "nothing that should alarm
you. Compelled, about two hours ago, to part from Maxence, I was to
have met him here. Since he has not come, he must have been
detained. I know where; and I will ask your permission to run and
join him."

He went out; but Mlle. Gilberte followed him in the hall, and,
taking his hand,

"How kind of you!" she began, "and how can we ever sufficiently
thank you?"

He interrupted her.

"You owe me no thanks, my beloved; for, in what I am doing, there
is more selfishness than you think. It is my own cause, more than
yours, that I am defending. Any way, every thing is going on well."

And, without giving any more explanations, he started again. He
had no doubt that Maxence, after leaving him, had run to the Hotel
des Folies to give to Mlle. Lucienne an account of the day's work.
And, though somewhat annoyed that he had tarried so long, on second
thought, he was not surprised.

It was, therefore, to the Hotel des Folies that he was going. Now
that he had unmasked his batteries and begun the struggle, he was
not sorry to meet Mlle Lucienne.

In less than five minutes he had reached the Boulevard du Temple.
In front of the Fortins' narrow corridor a dozen idlers were
standing, talking.

M. de Tregars was listening as he went along.

"It is a frightful accident," said one, - "such a pretty girl, and
so young too!"

"As to me," said another, "it is the driver that I pity the most;
for after all, if that pretty miss was in that carriage, it was for
her own pleasure; whereas, the poor coachman was only attending to
his business."

A confused presentiment oppressed M. de Tregars' heart. Addressing
himself to one of those worthy citizens,

"Have you heard any particulars?

Flattered by the confidence,

"Certainly I have," he replied. "I didn't see the thing with my
own proper eyes; but my wife did. It was terrible. The carriage,
a magnificent private carriage too, came from the direction of the
Madeleine. The horses had run away; and already there had been an
accident in the Place du Chateau d'Eau, where an old woman had been
knocked down. Suddenly, here, over there, opposite the toy-shop,
which is mine, by the way, the wheel of the carriage catches into
the wheel of an enormous truck; and at once, palata! the coachman
is thrown down, and so is the lady, who was inside, - a very
pretty girl, who lives in this hotel."

Leaving there the obliging narrator, M. de Tregars rushed through
the narrow corridor of the Hotel des Folies. At the moment when
he reached the yard, he found himself in presence of Maxence.

Pale, his head bare, his eyes wild, shaking with a nervous chill,
the poor fellow looked like a madman. Noticing M. de Tregars,

"Ah, my friend!" he exclaimed, "what misfortune'"

"Lucienne?"

"Dead, perhaps. The doctor will not answer for her recovery. I
am going to the druggist's to get a prescription."

He was interrupted by the commissary of police, whose kind
protection had hitherto preserved Mlle. Lucienne. He was coming
out of the little room on the ground-floor, which the Fortins used
for an office, bedroom, and dining-room.

He had recognized Marius de Tregars, and, coming up to him, he
pressed his hand, saying, "Well, you know?"

"Yes."

"It is my fault, M. le Marquis; for we were fully notified. I knew
so well that Mlle. Lucienne's existence was threatened, I was so
fully expecting a new attempt upon her life, that, whenever she went
out riding, it was one of my men, wearing a footman's livery, who
took his seat by the side of the coachman. To-day my man was so
busy, that I said to myself, 'Bash, for once!' And behold the
consequences!"

It was with inexpressible astonishment that Maxence was listening.
It was with a profound stupor that he discovered between Marius and
the commissary that serious intimacy which is the result of long
intercourse, real esteem, and common hopes.

"It is not an accident, then," remarked M. de Tregars.

"The coachman has spoken, doubtless?"

"No: the wretch was killed on the spot."

And, without waiting for another question,

"But don't let us stay here," said the commissary.

"Whilst Maxence runs to the drug-store, let us go into the Fortins'
office."

The husband was alone there, the wife being at that moment with
Mlle. Lucienne.

"Do me the favor to go and take a walk for about fifteen minutes,"
said the commissary to him. "We have to talk, this gentleman and
myself."

Humbly, without a word, and like a man who does himself justice,
M. Fortin slipped off.

And at once, - "It is clear, M. le Marquis, it is manifest, that a
crime has been committed. Listen, and judge for yourself. I was
just rising from dinner, when I was notified of what was called
our poor Lucienne's accident. Without even changing my clothes, I
ran. The carriage was lying in the street, broken to pieces. Two
policemen were holding the horses, which had been stopped. I
inquire. I learn that Lucienne, picked up by Maxence, has been able
to drag herself as far as the Hotel des Folies, and that the driver
has been taken to the nearest drug-store. Furious at my own
negligence, and tormented by vague suspicions, it is to the druggist's
that I go first, and in all haste. The driver was in a backroom,
stretched on a mattress.

"His head having struck the angle of the curbstone, his skull was
broken; and he had just breathed his last. It was, apparently, the
annihilation of the hope which I had, of enlightening myself by
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 bad 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."





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