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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 hack. 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.





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