Read CHAPTER III - ON THE BRINK of Castles in the Air, free online book, by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, on ReadCentral.com.

1.

You would have thought that after the shameful way in which Theodore treated me in the matter of the secret treaty that I would then and there have turned him out of doors, sent him back to grub for scraps out of the gutter, and hardened my heart once and for all against that snake in the grass whom I had nurtured in my bosom.

But, as no doubt you have remarked ere this, I have been burdened by Nature with an over-sensitive heart.  It is a burden, my dear Sir, and though I have suffered inexpressibly under it, I nevertheless agree with the English poet, George Crabbe, whose works I have read with a great deal of pleasure and profit in the original tongue, and who avers in one of his inimitable “Tales” that it is “better to love amiss than nothing to have loved.”

Not that I loved Theodore, you understand?  But he and I had shared so many ups and downs together of late that I was loath to think of him as reduced to begging his bread in the streets.  Then I kept him by me, for I thought that he might at times be useful to me in my business.

I kept him to my hurt, as you will presently see.

In those days-I am now speaking of the time immediately following the Restoration of our beloved King Louis XVIII to the throne of his forbears-Parisian society was, as it were, divided into two distinct categories:  those who had become impoverished by the revolution and the wars of the Empire, and those who had made their fortunes thereby.  Among the former was M. Marquis de Firmin-Latour, a handsome young officer of cavalry; and among the latter was one Mauruss Mosenstein, a usurer of the Jewish persuasion, whose wealth was reputed in millions, and who had a handsome daughter biblically named Rachel, who a year ago had become Madame la Marquise de Firmin-Latour.

From the first moment that this brilliant young couple appeared upon the firmament of Parisian society I took a keen interest in all their doings.  In those days, you understand, it was in the essence of my business to know as much as possible of the private affairs of people in their position, and instinct had at once told me that in the case of M. Marquis de Firmin-Latour such knowledge might prove very remunerative.

Thus I very soon found out that M. Marquis had not a single louis of his own to bless himself with, and that it was Papa Mosenstein’s millions that kept up the young people’s magnificent establishment in the Rue de Grammont.

I also found out that Mme. la Marquise was some dozen years older than Monsieur, and that she had been a widow when she married him.  There were rumours that her first marriage had not been a happy one.  The husband, M. Compte de Naquet, had been a gambler and a spendthrift, and had dissipated as much of his wife’s fortune as he could lay his hands on, until one day he went off on a voyage to America, or goodness knows where, and was never heard of again.  Mme. la Comtesse, as she then was, did not grieve over her loss; indeed, she returned to the bosom of her family, and her father-a shrewd usurer, who had amassed an enormous fortune during the wars-succeeded, with the aid of his apparently bottomless moneybags, in having his first son-in-law declared deceased by Royal decree, so as to enable the beautiful Rachel to contract another, yet more brilliant alliance, as far as name and lineage were concerned, with the Marquis de Firmin-Latour.

Indeed, I learned that the worthy Israélite’s one passion was the social advancement of his daughter, whom he worshipped.  So, as soon as the marriage was consummated and the young people were home from their honeymoon, he fitted up for their use the most extravagantly sumptuous apartment Paris had ever seen.  Nothing seemed too good or too luxurious for Mme. la Marquise de Firmin-Latour.  He desired her to cut a brilliant figure in Paris society-nay, to be the Ville Lumiere’s brightest and most particular star.  After the town house he bought a chateau in the country, horses and carriages, which he placed at the disposal of the young couple; he kept up an army of servants for them, and replenished their cellars with the choicest wines.  He threw money about for diamonds and pearls which his daughter wore, and paid all his son-in-law’s tailors’ and shirt-makers’ bills.  But always the money was his, you understand?  The house in Paris was his, so was the chateau on the Loire; he lent them to his daughter.  He lent her the diamonds, and the carriages, and the boxes at the opera and the Francais.  But here his generosity ended.  He had been deceived in his daughter’s first husband; some of the money which he had given her had gone to pay the gambling debts of an unscrupulous spendthrift.  He was determined that this should not occur again.  A man might spend his wife’s money-indeed, the law placed most of it at his disposal in those days-but he could not touch or mortgage one sou that belonged to his father-in-law.  And, strangely enough, Mme. la Marquise de Firmin-Latour acquiesced and aided her father in his determination.  Whether it was the Jewish blood in her, or merely obedience to old Mosenstein’s whim, it were impossible to say.  Certain it is that out of the lavish pin-money which her father gave her as a free gift from time to time, she only doled out a meagre allowance to her husband, and although she had everything she wanted, M. Marquis on his side had often less than twenty francs in his pocket.

A very humiliating position, you will admit, Sir, for a dashing young cavalry officer.  Often have I seen him gnawing his finger-nails with rage when, at the end of a copious dinner in one of the fashionable restaurants-where I myself was engaged in a business capacity to keep an eye on possibly light-fingered customers-it would be Mme. la Marquise who paid the bill, even gave the pourboire to the waiter.  At such times my heart would be filled with pity for his misfortunes, and, in my own proud and lofty independence, I felt that I did not envy him his wife’s millions.

Of course, he borrowed from every usurer in the city for as long as they would lend him any money; but now he was up to his eyes in debt, and there was not a Jew inside France who would have lent him one hundred francs.

You see, his precarious position was as well known as were his extravagant tastes and the obstinate parsimoniousness of M. Mosenstein.

But such men as M. Marquis de Firmin-Latour, you understand, Sir, are destined by Nature first and by fortuitous circumstances afterwards to become the clients of men of ability like myself.  I knew that sooner or later the elegant young soldier would be forced to seek the advice of someone wiser than himself, for indeed his present situation could not last much longer.  It would soon be “sink” with him, for he could no longer “swim.”

And I was determined that when that time came he should turn to me as the drowning man turns to the straw.

So where M. Marquis went in public I went, when possible.  I was biding my time, and wisely too, as you will judge.

2.

Then one day our eyes met:  not in a fashionable restaurant, I may tell you, but in a discreet one situated on the slopes of Montmartre.  I was there alone, sipping a cup of coffee after a frugal dinner.  I had drifted in there chiefly because I had quite accidentally caught sight of M. Marquis de Firmin-Latour walking arm-in-arm up the Rue Lepic with a lady who was both youthful and charming-a well-known dancer at the opera.  Presently I saw him turn into that discreet little restaurant, where, in very truth, it was not likely that Mme. la Marquise would follow him.  But I did.  What made me do it, I cannot say; but for some time now it had been my wish to make the personal acquaintance of M. de Firmin-Latour, and I lost no opportunity which might help me to attain this desire.

Somehow the man interested me.  His social and financial position was peculiar, you will admit, and here, methought, was the beginning of an adventure which might prove the turning-point in his career and . . . my opportunity.  I was not wrong, as you will presently see.  Whilst silently eating my simple dinner, I watched M. de Firmin-Latour.

He had started the evening by being very gay; he had ordered champagne and a succulent meal, and chatted light-heartedly with his companion, until presently three young women, flashily dressed, made noisy irruption into the restaurant.

M. de Firmin-Latour’s friend hailed them, introduced them to him, and soon he was host, not to one lady, but to four, and instead of two dinners he had to order five, and more champagne, and then dessert-peaches, strawberries, bonbons, liqueurs, flowers, and what not, until I could see that the bill which presently he would be called upon to pay would amount to far more than his quarterly allowance from Mme. la Marquise, far more, presumably, than he had in his pocket at the present moment.

My brain works with marvellous rapidity, as you know.  Already I had made up my mind to see the little comedy through to the end, and I watched with a good deal of interest and some pity the clouds of anxiety gathering over M. de Firmin-Latour’s brow.

The dinner party lasted some considerable time; then the inevitable cataclysm occurred.  The ladies were busy chattering and rouging their lips when the bill was presented.  They affected to see and hear nothing:  it is a way ladies have when dinner has to be paid for; but I saw and heard everything.  The waiter stood by, silent and obsequious at first, whilst M. Marquis hunted through all his pockets.  Then there was some whispered colloquy, and the waiter’s attitude lost something of its correct dignity.  After that the proprietor was called, and the whispered colloquy degenerated into altercation, whilst the ladies-not at all unaware of the situation-giggled amongst themselves.  Finally, M. Marquis offered a promissory note, which was refused.

Then it was that our eyes met.  M. de Firmin-Latour had flushed to the roots of his hair.  His situation was indeed desperate, and my opportunity had come.  With consummate sang-froid, I advanced towards the agitated group composed of M. Marquis, the proprietor, and the head waiter.  I glanced at the bill, the cause of all this turmoil, which reposed on a metal salver in the head waiter’s hand, and with a brief: 

“If M. Marquis will allow me . . .”  I produced my pocket-book.

The bill was for nine hundred francs.

At first M. Marquis thought that I was about to pay it-and so did the proprietor of the establishment, who made a movement as if he would lie down on the floor and lick my boots.  But not so.  To begin with, I did not happen to possess nine hundred francs, and if I did, I should not Have been fool enough to lend them to this young scapegrace.  No!  What I did was to extract from my notebook a card, one of a series which I always keep by me in case of an emergency like the present one.  It bore the legend:  “Comte Hercule de Montjoie, secrétaire particulier de M. Duc d’Otrante,” and below it the address, “Palais du Commissariat de Police, 12 Quai d’Orsay.”  This card I presented with a graceful flourish of the arm to the proprietor of the establishment, whilst I said with that lofty self-assurance which is one of my finest attributes and which I have never seen equalled: 

“M. Marquis is my friend.  I will be guarantee for this trifling amount.”

The proprietor and head waiter stammered excuses.  Private secretary of M. Duc d’Otrante!  Think of it!  It is not often that such personages deign to frequent the .restaurants of Montmartre.  M. Marquis, on the other hand, looked completely bewildered, whilst I, taking advantage of the situation, seized him familiarly by the arm, and leading him toward the door, I said with condescending urbanity: 

“One word with you, my dear Marquis.  It is so long since we have met.”

I bowed to the ladies.

“Mesdames,” I said, and was gratified to see that they followed my dramatic exit with eyes of appreciation and of wonder.  The proprietor himself offered me my hat, and a moment or two later M. de Firmin-Latour and I were out together in the Rue Lepic.

“My dear Comte,” he said as soon as he had recovered his breath, “how can I think you? . . .”

“Not now, Monsieur, not now,” I replied.  “You have only just time to make your way as quickly as you can back to your palace in the Rue de Grammont before our friend the proprietor discovers the several mistakes which he has made in the past few minutes and vents his wrath upon your fair guests.”

“You are right,” he rejoined lightly.  “But I will have the pleasure to call on you to-morrow at the Palais du Commissariat.”

“Do no such thing, Monsieur Marquis,” I retorted with a pleasant laugh.  “You would not find me there.”

“But-” he stammered.

“But,” I broke in with my wonted business-like and persuasive manner, “if you think that I have conducted this delicate affair for you with tact and discretion, then, in your own interest I should advise you to call on me at my private office, N Rue Daunou.  Hector Ratichon, at your service.”

He appeared more bewildered than ever.

“Rue Daunou,” he murmured.  “Ratichon!”

“Private inquiry and confidential agent,” I rejoined.  “My brains are at your service should you desire to extricate yourself from the humiliating financial position in which it has been my good luck to find you, and yours to meet with me.”

With that I left him, Sir, to walk away or stay as he pleased.  As for me, I went quickly down the street.  I felt that the situation was absolutely perfect; to have spoken another word might have spoilt it.  Moreover, there was no knowing how soon the proprietor of that humble hostelry would begin to have doubts as to the identity of the private secretary of M. Duc d’Otrante.  So I was best out of the way.

3.

The very next day M. Marquis de Firmin-Latour called upon me at my office in the Rue Daunou.  Theodore let him in, and the first thing that struck me about him was his curt, haughty manner and the look of disdain wherewith he regarded the humble appointments of my business premises.  He himself was magnificently dressed, I may tell you.  His bottle-green coat was of the finest cloth and the most perfect cut I had ever seen.  His kerseymere pantaloons fitted him without a wrinkle.  He wore gloves, he carried a muff of priceless zibeline, and in his cravat there was a diamond the size of a broad bean.

He also carried a malacca cane, which he deposited upon my desk, and a gold-rimmed spy-glass which, with a gesture of supreme affectation, he raised to his eye.

“Now, M. Hector Ratichon,” he said abruptly, “perhaps you will be good enough to explain.”

I had risen when he entered.  But now I sat down again and coolly pointed to the best chair in the room.

“Will you give yourself the trouble to sit down, M. Marquis?” I riposted blandly.

He called me names-rude names! but I took no notice of that . . . and he sat down.

“Now!” he said once more.

“What is it you desire to know, M. Marquis?” I queried.

“Why you interfered in my affairs last night?”

“Do you complain?” I asked.

“No,” he admitted reluctantly, “but I don’t understand your object.”

“My object was to serve you then,” I rejoined quietly, “and later.”

“What do you mean by ’later’?”

“To-day,” I replied, “to-morrow; whenever your present position becomes absolutely unendurable.”

“It is that now,” he said with a savage oath.

“I thought as much,” was my curt comment.

“And do you mean to assert,” he went on more earnestly, “that you can find a way out of it?”

“If you desire it-yes!” I said.

“How?”

He drew his chair nearer to my desk, and I leaned forward, with my elbows on the table, the finger-tips of one hand in contact with those of the other.

“Let us begin by reviewing the situation, shall we, Monsieur?” I began.

“If you wish,” he said curtly.

“You are a gentleman of refined, not to say luxurious tastes, who finds himself absolutely without means to gratify them.  Is that so?”

He nodded.

“You have a wife and a father-in-law who, whilst lavishing costly treasures upon you, leave you in a humiliating dependence on them for actual money.”

Again he nodded approvingly.

“Human nature,” I continued with gentle indulgence, “being what it is, you pine after what you do not possess-namely, money.  Houses, équipages, servants, even good food and wine, are nothing to you beside that earnest desire for money that you can call your own, and which, if only you had it, you could spend at your pleasure.”

“To the point, man, to the point!” he broke in impatiently.

“One moment, M. Marquis, and I have done.  But first of all, with your permission, shall we also review the assets in your life which we will have to use in order to arrive at the gratification of your earnest wish?”

“Assets?  What do you mean?”

“The means to our end.  You want money; we must find the means to get it for you.”

“I begin to understand,” he said, and drew his chair another inch or two closer to me.

“Firstly, M. Marquis,” I resumed, and now my voice had become earnest and incisive, “firstly you have a wife, then you have a father-in-law whose wealth is beyond the dreams of humble people like myself, and whose one great passion in life is the social position of the daughter whom he worships.  Now,” I added, and with the tip of my little finger I touched the sleeve of my aristocratic client, “here at once is your first asset.  Get at the money-bags of papa by threatening the social position of his daughter.”

Whereupon my young gentleman jumped to his feet and swore and abused me for a mudlark and a muckworm and I don’t know what.  He seized his malacca cane and threatened me with it, and asked me how the devil I dared thus to speak of Mme. la Marquise de Firmin-Latour.  He cursed, and he stormed and he raved of his sixteen quarterings and of my loutishness.  He did everything in fact except walk out of the room.

I let him go on quite quietly.  It was part of his programme, and we had to go through the performance.  As soon as he gave me the chance of putting in a word edgeways I rejoined quietly: 

“We are not going to hurt Madame la Marquise, Monsieur; and if you do not want the money, let us say no more about it.”

Whereupon he calmed down; after a while he sat down again, this time with his cane between his knees and its ivory knob between his teeth.

“Go on,” he said curtly.

Nor did he interrupt me again whilst I expounded my scheme to him-one that, mind you, I had evolved during the night, knowing well that I should receive his visit during the day; and I flatter myself that no finer scheme for the bleeding of a parsimonious usurer was ever devised by any man.

If it succeeded-and there was no reason why it should not-M. de Firmin-Latour would pocket a cool half-million, whilst I, sir, the brain that had devised the whole scheme, pronounced myself satisfied with the paltry emolument of one hundred thousand francs, out of which, remember, I should have to give Theodore a considerable sum.

We talked it all over, M. Marquis and I, the whole afternoon.  I may tell you at once that he was positively delighted with the plan, and then and there gave me one hundred francs out of his own meagre purse for my preliminary expenses.

The next morning we began work.

I had begged M. Marquis to find the means of bringing me a few scraps of the late M. Comte de Naquet’s-Madame la Marquise’s first husband-handwriting.  This, fortunately, he was able to do.  They were a few valueless notes penned at different times by the deceased gentleman and which, luckily for us all, Madame had not thought it worth while to keep under lock and key.

I think I told you before, did I not? what a marvellous expert I am in every kind of calligraphy, and soon I had a letter ready which was to represent the first fire in the exciting war which we were about to wage against an obstinate lady and a parsimonious usurer.

My identity securely hidden under the disguise of a commissionnaire, I took that letter to Mme. la Marquise de Firmin-Latour’s sumptuous abode in the Rue de Grammont.

M. Marquis, you understand, had in the meanwhile been thoroughly primed in the rôle which he was to play; as for Theodore, I thought it best for the moment to dispense with his aid.

The success of our first skirmish surpassed our expectations.

Ten minutes after the letter had been taken upstairs to Mme. la Marquise, one of the maids, on going past her mistress’s door, was startled to hear cries and moans proceeding from Madame’s room.  She entered and found Madame lying on the sofa, her face buried in the cushions, and sobbing and screaming in a truly terrifying manner.  The maid applied the usual restoratives, and after a while Madame became more calm and at once very curtly ordered the maid out of the room.

M. Marquis, on being apprised of this mysterious happening, was much distressed; he hurried to his wife’s apartments, and was as gentle and loving with her as he had been in the early days of their honeymoon.  But throughout the whole of that evening, and, indeed, for the next two days, all the explanation that he could get from Madame herself was that she had a headache and that the letter which she had received that afternoon was of no consequence and had nothing to do with her migraine.

But clearly the beautiful Rachel was extraordinarily agitated.  At night she did not sleep, but would pace up and down her apartments in a state bordering on frenzy, which of course caused M. Marquis a great deal of anxiety and of sorrow.

Finally, on the Friday morning it seemed as if Madame could contain herself no longer.  She threw herself into her husband’s arms and blurted out the whole truth.  M. Comte de Naquet, her first husband, who had been declared drowned at sea, and therefore officially deceased by Royal decree, was not dead at all.  Madame had received a letter from him wherein he told her that he had indeed suffered shipwreck, then untold misery on a desert island for three years, until he had been rescued by a passing vessel, and finally been able, since he was destitute, to work his way back to France and to Paris.  Here he had lived for the past few months as best he could, trying to collect together a little money so as to render himself presentable before his wife, whom he had never ceased to love.

Inquiries discreetly conducted had revealed the terrible truth, that Madame had been faithless to him, had light-heartedly assumed the death of her husband, and had contracted what was nothing less than a bigamous marriage.  Now he, M. de Naquet, standing on his rights as Rachel Mosenstein’s only lawful husband, demanded that she should return to him, and as a prelude to a permanent and amicable understanding, she was to call at three o’clock precisely on the following Friday at N Rue Daunou, where their reconciliation and reunion was to take place.

The letter announcing this terrible news and making this preposterous demand she now placed in the hands of M. Marquis, who at first was horrified and thunderstruck, and appeared quite unable to deal with the situation or to tender advice.  For Madame it meant complete social ruin, of course, and she herself declared that she would never survive such a scandal.  Her tears and her misery made the loving heart of M. Marquis bleed in sympathy.  He did all he could to console and comfort the lady, whom, alas! he could no longer look upon as his wife.  Then, gradually, both he and she became more composed.  It was necessary above all things to make sure that Madame was not being victimized by an impostor, and for this purpose M. Marquis generously offered himself as a disinterested friend and adviser.  He offered to go himself to the Rue Daunou at the hour appointed and to do his best to induce M. Comte de Naquet-if indeed he existed-to forgo his rights on the lady who had so innocently taken on the name and hand of M. Marquis de Firmin-Latour.  Somewhat more calm, but still unconsoled, the beautiful Rachel accepted this generous offer.  I believe that she even found five thousand francs in her privy purse which was to be offered to M. de Naquet in exchange for a promise never to worry Mme. la Marquise again with his presence.  But this I have never been able to ascertain with any finality.  Certain it is that when at three o’clock on that same afternoon M. de Firmin-Latour presented himself at my office, he did not offer me a share in any five thousand francs, though he spoke to me about the money, adding that he thought it would look well if he were to give it back to Madame, and to tell her that M. de Naquet had rejected so paltry a sum with disdain.

I thought such a move unnecessary, and we argued about it rather warmly, and in the end he went away, as I say, without offering me any share in the emolument.  Whether he did put his project into execution or not I never knew.  He told me that he did.  After that there followed for me, Sir, many days, nay, weeks, of anxiety and of strenuous work.  Mme. la Marquise received several more letters from the supposititious M. de Naquet, any one of which would have landed me, Sir, in a vessel bound for New Caledonia.  The discarded husband became more and more insistent as time went on, and finally sent an ultimatum to Madame saying that he was tired of perpetual interviews with M. Marquis de Firmin-Latour, whose right to interfere in the matter he now wholly denied, and that he was quite determined to claim his lawful wife before the whole world.

Madame la Marquise, in the meanwhile, had passed from one fit of hysterics into another.  She denied her door to everyone and lived in the strictest seclusion in her beautiful apartment of the Rue de Grammont.  Fortunately this all occurred in the early autumn, when the absence of such a society star from fashionable gatherings was not as noticeable as it otherwise would have been.  But clearly we were working up for the climax, which occurred in the way I am about to relate.

4.

Ah, my dear Sir, when after all these years I think of my adventure with that abominable Marquis, righteous and noble indignation almost strikes me dumb.  To think that with my own hands and brains I literally put half a million into that man’s pocket, and that he repaid me with the basest ingratitude, almost makes me lose my faith in human nature.  Theodore, of course, I could punish, and did so adequately; and where my chastisement failed, Fate herself put the finishing touch.

But M. de Firmin-Latour . . .!

However, you shall judge for yourself.

As I told you, we now made ready for the climax; and that climax, Sir, I can only describe as positively gorgeous.  We began by presuming that Mme. la Marquise had now grown tired of incessant demands for interviews and small doles of money, and that she would be willing to offer a considerable sum to her first and only lawful husband in exchange for a firm guarantee that he would never trouble her again as long as she lived.

We fixed the sum at half a million francs, and the guarantee was to take the form of a deed duly executed by a notary of repute and signed by the supposititious Comte de Naquet.  A letter embodying the demand and offering the guarantee was thereupon duly sent to Mme. la Marquise, and she, after the usual attack of hysterics, duly confided the matter to M. de Firmin-Latour.

The consultation between husband and wife on the deplorable subject was touching in the extreme; and I will give that abominable Marquis credit for playing his rôle in a masterly manner.  At first he declared to his dear Rachel that he did not know what to suggest, for in truth she had nothing like half a million on which she could lay her hands.  To speak of this awful pending scandal to Papa Mosenstein was not to be thought of.  He was capable of repudiating the daughter altogether who was bringing such obloquy upon herself and would henceforth be of no use to him as a society star.

As for himself in this terrible emergency, he, of course, had less than nothing, or his entire fortune would be placed-if he had one-at the feet of his beloved Rachel.  To think that he was on the point of losing her was more than he could bear, and the idea that she would soon become the talk of every gossip-monger in society, and mayhap be put in prison for bigamy, wellnigh drove him crazy.

What could be done in this awful perplexity he for one could not think, unless indeed his dear Rachel were willing to part with some of her jewellery; but no! he could not think of allowing her to make such a sacrifice.

Whereupon Madame, like a drowning man, or rather woman, catching at a straw, bethought her of her emeralds.  They were historic gems, once the property of the Empress Marie-Therese, and had been given to her on her second marriage by her adoring father.  No, no! she would never miss them; she seldom wore them, for they were heavy and more valuable than elegant, and she was quite sure that at the Mont de Piété they would lend her five hundred thousand francs on them.  Then gradually they could be redeemed before papa had become aware of their temporary disappearance.  Madame would save the money out of the liberal allowance she received from him for pin-money.  Anything, anything was preferable to this awful doom which hung over her head.

But even so M. Marquis demurred.  The thought of his proud and fashionable Rachel going to the Mont de Piété to pawn her own jewels was not to be thought of.  She would be seen, recognized, and the scandal would be as bad and worse than anything that loomed on the black horizon of her fate at this hour.

What was to be done?  What was to be done?

Then M. Marquis had a brilliant idea.  He knew of a man, a very reliable, trustworthy man, attorney-at-law by profession, and therefore a man of repute, who was often obliged in the exercise of his profession to don various disguises when tracking criminals in the outlying quarters of Paris.  M. Marquis, putting all pride and dignity nobly aside in the interests of his adored Rachel, would borrow one of these disguises and himself go to the Mont de Piété with the emeralds, obtain the five hundred thousand francs, and remit them to the man whom he hated most in all the world, in exchange for the aforementioned guarantee.

Madame la Marquise, overcome with gratitude, threw herself, in the midst of a flood of tears, into the arms of the man whom she no longer dared to call her husband, and so the matter was settled for the moment.  M. Marquis undertook to have the deed of guarantee drafted by the same notary of repute whom he knew, and, if Madame approved of it, the emeralds would then be converted into money, and the interview with M. Comte de Naquet fixed for Wednesday, October 10th, at some convenient place, subsequently to be determined on-in all probability at the bureau of that same ubiquitous attorney-at-law, M. Hector Ratichon, at 96 Rue Daunon.

All was going on excellently well, as you observe.  I duly drafted the deed, and M. de Firmin-Latour showed it to Madame for her approval.  It was so simply and so comprehensively worded that she expressed herself thoroughly satisfied with it, whereupon M. Marquis asked her to write to her shameful persecutor in order to fix the date and hour for the exchange of the money against the deed duly signed and witnessed.  M. Marquis had always been the intermediary for her letters, you understand, and for the small sums of money which she had sent from time to time to the factitious M. de Naquet; now he was to be entrusted with the final negotiations which, though at a heavy cost, would bring security and happiness once more in the sumptuous palace of the Rue de Grammont.

Then it was that the first little hitch occurred.  Mme. la Marquise-whether prompted thereto by a faint breath of suspicion, or merely by natural curiosity-altered her mind about the appointment.  She decided that M. Marquis, having pledged the emeralds, should bring the money to her, and she herself would go to the bureau of M. Hector Ratichon in the Rue Daunou, there to meet M. de Naquet, whom she had not seen for seven years, but who had once been very dear to her, and herself fling in his face the five hundred thousand francs, the price of his silence and of her peace of mind.

At once, as you perceive, the situation became delicate.  To have demurred, or uttered more than a casual word of objection, would in the case of M. Marquis have been highly impolitic.  He felt that at once, the moment he raised his voice in protest:  and when Madame declared herself determined he immediately gave up arguing the point.

The trouble was that we had so very little time wherein to formulate new plans.  Monsieur was to go the very next morning to the Mont de Piété to negotiate the emeralds, and the interview with the fabulous M. de Naquet was to take place a couple of hours later; and it was now three o’clock in the afternoon.

As soon as M. de Firmin-Latour was able to leave his wife, he came round to my office.  He appeared completely at his wits’ end, not knowing what to do.

“If my wife,” he said, “insists on a personal interview with de Naquet, who does not exist, our entire scheme falls to the ground.  Nay, worse! for I shall be driven to concoct some impossible explanation for the non-appearance of that worthy, and heaven only knows if I shall succeed in wholly allaying my wife’s suspicions.

“Ah!” he added with a sigh, “it is doubly hard to have seen fortune so near one’s reach and then to see it dashed away at one fell swoop by the relentless hand of Fate.”

Not one word, you observe, of gratitude to me or of recognition of the subtle mind that had planned and devised the whole scheme.

But, Sir, it is at the hour of supreme crises like the present one that Hector Ratichon’s genius soars up to the empyrean.  It became great, Sir; nothing short of great; and even the marvellous schemes of the Italian Macchiavelli paled before the ingenuity which I now displayed.

Half an hour’s reflection had sufficed.  I had made my plans, and I had measured the full length of the terrible risks which I ran.  Among these New Caledonia was the least.  But I chose to take the risks, Sir; my genius could not stoop to measuring the costs of its flight.  While M. de Firmin-Latour alternately raved and lamented I had already planned and contrived.  As I say, we had very little time:  a few hours wherein to render ourselves worthy of Fortune’s smiles.  And this is what I planned.

You tell me that you were not in Paris during the year 1816 of which I speak.  If you had been, you would surely recollect the sensation caused throughout the entire city by the disappearance of M. Marquis de Firmin-Latour, one of the most dashing young officers in society and one of its acknowledged leaders.  It was the 10th day of October.  M. Marquis had breakfasted in the company of Madame at nine o’clock.  A couple of hours later he went out, saying he would be home for dejeuner.  Madame clearly expected him, for his place was laid, and she ordered the dejeuner to be kept back over an hour in anticipation of his return.  But he did not come.  The afternoon wore on and he did not come.  Madame sat down at two o’clock to dejeuner alone.  She told the major-domo that M. Marquis was detained in town and might not be home for some time.  But the major-domo declared that Madame’s voice, as she told him this, sounded tearful and forced, and that she ate practically nothing, refusing one succulent dish after another.

The staff of servants was thus kept on tenterhooks all day, and when the shadows of evening began to draw in, the theory was started in the kitchen that M. Marquis had either met with an accident or been foully murdered.  No one, however, dared speak of this to Madame la Marquise, who had locked herself up in her room in the early part of the afternoon, and since then had refused to see anyone.  The major-domo was now at his wits’ end.  He felt that in a measure the responsibility of the household rested upon his shoulders.  Indeed he would have taken it upon himself to apprise M. Mauruss Mosenstein of the terrible happenings, only that the worthy gentleman was absent from Paris just then.

Mme. la Marquise remained shut up in her room until past eight o’clock.  Then she ordered dinner to be served and made pretence of sitting down to it; but again the major-domo declared that she ate nothing, whilst subsequently the confidential maid who had undressed her vowed that Madame had spent the whole night walking up and down the room.

Thus two agonizing days went by; agonizing they were to everybody.  Madame la Marquise became more and more agitated, more and more hysterical as time went on, and the servants could not help but notice this, even though she made light of the whole affair, and desperate efforts to control herself.  The heads of her household, the major-domo, the confidential maid, the chef de cuisine, did venture to drop a hint or two as to the possibility of an accident or of foul play, and the desirability of consulting the police; but Madame would not hear a word of it; she became very angry at the suggestion, and declared that she was perfectly well aware of M. Marquis’s whereabouts, that he was well and would return home almost immediately.

As was only natural, tongues presently began to wag.  Soon it was common talk in Paris that M. Marquis de Firmin-Latour had disappeared from his home and that Madame was trying to put a bold face upon the occurrence.  There were surmises and there was gossip- oh! interminable and long-winded gossip!  Minute circumstances in connexion with M. Marquis’s private life and Mme. la Marquise’s affairs were freely discussed in the cafes, the clubs and restaurants, and as no one knew the facts of the case, surmises soon became very wild.

On the third day of M. Marquis’s disappearance Papa Mosenstein returned to Paris from Vichy, where he had just completed his annual cure.  He arrived at Rue de Grammont at three o’clock in the afternoon, demanded to see Mme. la Marquise at once, and then remained closeted with her in her apartment for over an hour.  After which he sent for the inspector of police of the section, with the result that that very same evening M. Marquis de Firmin-Latour was found locked up in an humble apartment on the top floor of a house in the Rue Daunou, not ten minutes’ walk from his own house.  When the police-acting on information supplied to them by M. Mauruss Mosenstein-forced their way into that apartment, they were horrified to find M. Marquis de Firmin-Latour there, tied hand and foot with cords to a chair, his likely calls for help smothered by a woollen shawl wound loosely round the lower part of his face.

He was half dead with inanition, and was conveyed speechless and helpless to his home in the Rue de Grammont, there, presumably, to be nursed back to health by Madame his wife.

5.

Now in all this matter, I ask you, Sir, who ran the greatest risk?  Why, I-Hector Ratichon, of course ­Hector Ratichon, in whose apartment M. de Firmin-Latour was discovered in a position bordering on absolute inanition.  And the proof of this is, that that selfsame night I was arrested at my lodgings at Passy, and charged with robbery and attempted murder.

It was a terrible predicament for a respectable citizen, a man of integrity and reputation, in which to find himself; but Papa Mosenstein was both tenacious and vindictive.  His daughter, driven to desperation at last, and terrified that M. Marquis had indeed been foully murdered by M. de Naquet, had made a clean breast of the whole affair to her father, and he in his turn had put the minions of the law in full possession of all the facts; and since M. Comte de Naquet had vanished, leaving no manner of trace or clue of his person behind him, the police, needing a victim, fell back on an innocent man.  Fortunately, Sir, that innocence clear as crystal soon shines through every calumny.  But this was not before I had suffered terrible indignities and all the tortures which base ingratitude can inflict upon a sensitive heart.

Such ingratitude as I am about to relate to you has never been equalled on this earth, and even after all these years, Sir, you see me overcome with emotion at the remembrance of it all.  I was under arrest, remember, on a terribly serious charge, but, conscious of mine own innocence and of my unanswerable system of defence, I bore the preliminary examination by the juge d’instruc-tion with exemplary dignity and patience.  I knew, you see, that at my very first confrontation with my supposed victim the latter would at once say: 

“Ah! but no!  This is not the man who assaulted me.”

Our plan, which so far had been overwhelmingly successful, had been this.

On the morning of the tenth, M. de Firmin-Latour having pawned the emeralds, and obtained the money for them, was to deposit that money in his own name at the bank of Raynal Frères and then at once go to the office in the Rue Daunou.

There he would be met by Theodore, who would bind him comfortably but securely to a chair, put a shawl around his mouth and finally lock the door on him.  Theodore would then go to his mother’s and there remain quietly until I needed his services again.

It had been thought inadvisable for me to be seen that morning anywhere in the neighbourhood of the Rue Daunou, but that perfidious reptile Theodore ran no risks in doing what he was told.  To begin with he is a past master in the art of worming himself in and out of a house without being seen, and in this case it was his business to exercise a double measure of caution.  And secondly, if by some unlucky chance the police did subsequently connect him with the crime, there was I, his employer, a man of integrity and repute, prepared to swear that the man had been in my company at the other end of Paris all the while that M. Marquis de Firmin-Latour was, by special arrangement, making use of my office in the Rue Daunou, which I had lent him for purposes of business.

Finally it was agreed between us that when M. Marquis would presently be questioned by the police as to the appearance of the man who had assaulted and robbed him, he would describe him as tall and blond, almost like an Angliche in countenance.  Now I possess-as you see, Sir-all the finest characteristics of the Latin race, whilst Theodore looks like nothing on earth, save perhaps a cross between a rat and a monkey.

I wish you to realize, therefore, that no one ran any risks in this affair excepting myself.  I, as the proprietor of the apartment where the assault was actually supposed to have taken place, did run a very grave risk, because I could never have proved an alibi.  Theodore was such a disreputable mudlark that his testimony on my behalf would have been valueless.  But with sublime sacrifice I accepted these risks, and you will presently see, Sir, how I was repaid for my selflessness.  I pined in a lonely prison-cell while these two limbs of Satan concocted a plot to rob me of my share in our mutual undertaking.

Well, Sir, the day came when I was taken from my prison-cell for the purpose of being confronted with the man whom I was accused of having assaulted.  As you will imagine, I was perfectly calm.  According to our plan the confrontation would be the means of setting me free at once.  I was conveyed to the house in the Rue de Grammont, and here I was kept waiting for some little time while the juge d’instruction went in to prepare M. Marquis, who was still far from well.  Then I was introduced into the sick-room.  I looked about me with the perfect composure of an innocent man about to be vindicated, and calmly gazed on the face of the sick man who was sitting up in his magnificent bed, propped up with pillows.

I met his glance firmly whilst M. Juge d’instruction placed the question to him in a solemn and earnest tone: 

“M. Marquis de Firmin-Latour, will you look at the prisoner before you and tell us whether you recognize in him the man who assaulted you?”

And that perfidious Marquis, Sir, raised his eyes and looked me squarely-yes! squarely-in the face and said with incredible assurance: 

“Yes, Monsieur Juge, that is the man!  I recognize him.”

To me it seemed then as if a thunderbolt had crashed through the ceiling and exploded at my feet.  I was like one stunned and dazed; the black ingratitude, the abominable treachery, completely deprived me of speech.  I felt choked, as if some poisonous effluvia-the poison, Sir, of that man’s infamy-had got into my throat.  That state of inertia lasted, I believe, less than a second; the next I had uttered a hoarse cry of noble indignation.

“You vampire, you!” I exclaimed.  “You viper!  You . . .”

I would have thrown myself on him and strangled him with glee, but that the minions of the law had me by the arms and dragged me away out of the hateful presence of that traitor, despite my objurgations and my protestations of innocence.  Imagine my feelings when I found myself once more in a prison-cell, my heart filled with unspeakable bitterness against that perfidious Judas.  Can you wonder that it took me some time before I could collect my thoughts sufficiently to review my situation, which no doubt to the villain himself who had just played me this abominable trick must have seemed desperate indeed?  Ah!  I could see it all, of course!  He wanted to> see me sent to New Caledonia, whilst he enjoyed the fruits of his unpardonable backsliding.  In order to retain the miserable hundred thousand francs which he had promised me he did not hesitate to plunge up to the neck in this heinous conspiracy.

Yes, conspiracy! for the very next day, when I was once more hailed before the juge d’instruction, another confrontation awaited me:  this time with that scurvy rogue Theodore.  He had been suborned by M. Marquis to turn against the hand that fed him.  What price he was paid for this Judas trick I shall never know, and all that I do know is that he actually swore before the juge d’instruction that M. Marquis de Firmin-Latour called at my office in the late forenoon of the tenth of October; that I then ordered him-Theodore-to go out to get his dinner first, and then to go all the way over to Neuilly with a message to someone who turned out to be non-existent.  He went on to assert that when he returned at six o’clock in the afternoon he found the office door locked, and I-his employer-presumably gone.  This at first greatly upset him, because he was supposed to sleep on the premises, but seeing that there was nothing for it but to accept the inevitable, he went round to his mother’s rooms at the back of the fish-market and remained there ever since, waiting to hear from me.

That, Sir, was the tissue of lies which that jailbird had concocted for my undoing, knowing well that I could not disprove them because it had been my task on that eventful morning to keep an eye on M. Marquis whilst he went to the Mont de Piété first, and then to mm.  Raynal Frères, the bankers where he deposited the money.  For this purpose I had been obliged to don a disguise, which I had not discarded till later in the day, and thus was unable to disprove satisfactorily the monstrous lies told by that perjurer.

Ah!  I can see that sympathy for my unmerited misfortunes has filled your eyes with tears.  No doubt in your heart you feel that my situation at that hour was indeed desperate, and that I-Hector Ratichon, the confidant of kings, the benefactor of the oppressed-did spend the next few years of my life in a penal settlement, where those arch-malefactors themselves should have been.  But no, Sir!  Fate may be a fickle jade, rogues may appear triumphant, but not for long, Sir, not for long!  It is brains that conquer in the end . . . brains backed by righteousness and by justice.

Whether I had actually foreseen the treachery of those two rattlesnakes, or whether my habitual caution and acumen alone prompted me to take those measures of precaution of which I am about to tell you, I cannot truthfully remember.  Certain it is that I did take those precautions which ultimately proved to be the means of compensating me for most that I had suffered.

It had been a part of the original plan that, on the day immediately following the tenth of October, I, in my own capacity as Hector Ratichon, who had been absent from my office for twenty-four hours, would arrive there in the morning, find the place locked, force an entrance into the apartment, and there find M. Marquis in his pitiable plight.  After which I would, of course, immediately notify the police of the mysterious occurrence.

That had been the rôle which I had intended to play.  M. Marquis approved of it and had professed himself quite willing to endure a twenty-four-hours’ martyrdom for the sake of half a million francs.  But, as I have just had the honour to tell you, something which I will not attempt to explain prompted me at the last moment to modify my plan in one little respect.  I thought it too soon to go back to the Rue Daunou within twenty-four hours of our well-contrived coup, and I did not altogether care for the idea of going myself to the police in order to explain to them that I had found a man gagged and bound in my office.  The less one has to do with these minions of the law the better.  Mind you, I had envisaged the possibility of being accused of assault and robbery, but I did not wish to take, as it were, the very first steps myself in that direction.  You might call this a matter of sentiment or of prudence, as you wish.

So I waited until the evening of the second day before I got the key from Theodore.  Then before the concierge at 96 Rue Daunou had closed the porte-cochère for the night, I slipped into the house unobserved, ran up the stairs to my office and entered the apartment.  I struck a light and made my way to the inner room where the wretched Marquis hung in the chair like a bundle of rags.  I called to him, but he made no movement.  As I had anticipated, he had fainted for want of food.  Of course, I was very sorry for him, for his plight was pitiable, but he was playing for high stakes, and a little starvation does no man any harm.  In his case there was half a million at the end of his brief martyrdom, which could, at worst, only last another twenty-four hours.  I reckoned that Mme. la Marquise could not keep the secret of her husband’s possible whereabouts longer than that, and in any event I was determined that, despite all risks, I would go myself to the police on the following day.

In the meanwhile, since I was here and since M. Marquis was unconscious, I proceeded then and there to take the precaution which prudence had dictated, and without which, seeing this man’s treachery and Theodore’s villainy, I should undoubtedly have ended my days as a convict.  What I did was to search M. Marquis’s pockets for anything that might subsequently prove useful to me.

I had no definite idea in the matter, you understand; but I had vague notions of finding the bankers’ receipt for the half-million francs.

Well, I did not find that, but I did find the receipt from the Mont de Piété for a parure of emeralds on which half a million francs had been lent.  This I carefully put away in my waistcoat pocket, but as there was nothing else I wished to do just then I extinguished the light and made my way cautiously out of the apartment and out of the house.  No one had seen me enter or go out, and M. Marquis had not stirred while I went through his pockets.

6.

That, Sir, was the precaution which I had taken in order to safeguard myself against the machinations of traitors.  And see how right I was; see how hopeless would have been my plight at this hour when Theodore, too, turned against me like the veritable viper that he was.  I never really knew when and under what conditions the infamous bargain was struck which was intended to deprive me of my honour and of my liberty, nor do I know what emolument Theodore was to receive for his treachery.  Presumably the two miscreants arranged it all some time during that memorable morning of the tenth even whilst I was risking my life in their service.

As for M. de Firmin-Latour, that worker of iniquity who, in order to save a paltry hundred thousand francs from the hoard which I had helped him to acquire, did not hesitate to commit such an abominable crime, he did not long remain in the enjoyment of his wealth or of his peace of mind.

The very next day I made certain statements before M. Juge d’instruction with regard to M. Mauruss Mosenstein, which caused the former to summon the worthy Israelite to his bureau, there to be confronted with me.  I had nothing more to lose, since those execrable rogues had already, as it were, tightened the rope about my neck, but I had a great deal to gain-revenge above all, and perhaps the gratitude of M. Mosenstein for opening his eyes to the rascality of his son-in-law.

In a stream of eloquent words which could not fail to carry conviction, I gave then and there in the bureau of the juge d’instruction my version of the events of the past few weeks, from the moment when M. Marquis de Firmin-Latour came to consult me on the subject of his wife’s first husband, until the hour when he tried to fasten an abominable crime upon me.  I told how I had been deceived by my own employe, Theodore, a man whom I had rescued out of the gutter and loaded with gifts, how by dint of a clever disguise which would have deceived his own mother he had assumed the appearance and personality of M. Comte de Naquet, first and only lawful lord of the beautiful Rachel Mosenstein.  I told of the interviews in my office, my earnest desire to put an end to this abominable blackmailing by informing the police of the whole affair.  I told of the false M. de Naquet’s threats to create a gigantic scandal which would forever ruin the social position of the so-called Marquis de Firmin-Latour.  I told of M. Marquis’s agonized entreaties, his prayers, supplications, that I would do nothing in the matter for the sake of an innocent lady who had already grievously suffered.  I spoke of my doubts, my scruples, my desire to do what was just and what was right.

A noble expose of the situation, Sir, you will admit.  It left me hot and breathless.  I mopped my head with a handkerchief and sank back, gasping, in the arms of the minions of the law.  The juge d’instruction ordered my removal, not back to my prison-cell but into his own ante-room, where I presently collapsed upon a very uncomfortable bench and endured the additional humiliation of having a glass of water held to my lips.  Water! when I had asked for a drink of wine as my throat felt parched after that lengthy effort at oratory.

However, there I sat and waited patiently whilst, no doubt, M. Juge d’Instruction and the noble Israelite were comparing notes as to their impression of my marvellous speech.  I had not long to wait.  Less than ten minutes later I was once more summoned into the presence of M. Juge; and this time the minions of the law were ordered to remain in the antechamber.  I thought this was of good augury; and I waited to hear M. Juge give forth the order that would at once set me free.  But it was M. Mosenstein who first addressed me, and in very truth surprise rendered me momentarily dumb when he did it thus: 

“Now then, you consummate rascal, when you have given up the receipt of the Mont de Piété which you stole out of M. Marquis’s pocket you may go and carry on your rogueries elsewhere and call yourself mightily lucky to have escaped so lightly.”

I assure you, Sir, that a feather would have knocked me down.  The coarse insult, the wanton injustice, had deprived me of the use of my limbs and of my speech.  Then the juge d’instruction proceeded dryly: 

“Now then, Ratichon, you have heard what M. Mauruss Mosenstein has been good enough to say to you.  He did it with my approval and consent.  I am prepared to give an ordonnance de non-lieu in your favour which will have the effect of at once setting you free if you will restore to this gentleman here the Mont de Piété receipt which you appear to have stolen.”

“Sir,” I said with consummate dignity in the face of this reiterated taunt, “I have stolen nothing-”

M. Juge’s hand was already on the bell-pull.

“Then,” he said coolly, “I can ring for the gendarmes to take you back to the cells, and you will stand your trial for blackmail, theft, assault and robbery.”

I put up my hand with an elegant and perfectly calm gesture.

“Your pardon, M. Juge,” I said with the gentle resignation of undeserved martyrdom, “I was about to say that when I re-visited my rooms in the Rue Daunou after a three days’ absence, and found the police in possession, I picked up on the floor of my private room a white paper which on subsequent examination proved to be a receipt from the Mont de Piété for some valuable gems, and made out in the name of M. Marquis de Firmin-Latour.”

“What have you done with it, you abominable knave?” the irascible old usurer rejoined roughly, and I regret to say that he grasped his malacca cane with ominous violence.

But I was not to be thus easily intimidated.

“Ah! voila, M. Juge,” I said with a shrug of the shoulders.  “I have mislaid it.  I do not know where it is.”

“If you do not find it,” Mosenstein went on savagely, “you will find yourself on a convict ship before long.”

“In which case, no doubt,” I retorted with suave urbanity, “the police will search my rooms where I lodge, and they will find the receipt from the Mont de Piété, which I had mislaid.  And then the gossip will be all over Paris that Mme. la Marquise de Firmin-Latour had to pawn her jewels in order to satisfy the exigencies of her first and only lawful husband who has since mysteriously disappeared; and some people will vow that he never came back from the Antipodes, whilst others-by far the most numerous-will shrug their shoulders and sigh:  ’One never knows!’ which will be exceedingly unpleasant for Mme. la Marquise.”

Both M. Mauruss Mosenstein and the juge d’instruc-tion said a great deal more that afternoon.  I may say that their attitude towards me and the language that they used were positively scandalous.  But I had become now the master of the situation and I could afford to ignore their insults.  In the end everything was settled quite amicably.  I agreed to dispose of the receipt from the Mont de Piété to M. Mauruss Mosenstein for the sum of two hundred francs, and for another hundred I would indicate to him the banking house where his precious son-in-law had deposited the half-million francs obtained for the emeralds.  This latter information I would indeed have offered him gratuitously had he but known with what immense pleasure I thus put a spoke in that knavish Marquis’s wheel of fortune.

The worthy Israelite further agreed to pay me an annuity of two hundred francs so long as I kept silent upon the entire subject of Mme. la Marquise’s first husband and of M. Marquis’s rôle in the mysterious affair of the Rue Daunou.  For thus was the affair classed amongst the police records.  No one outside the chief actors of the drama and M. Juge d’Instruction ever knew the true history of how a dashing young cavalry officer came to be assaulted and left to starve for three days in the humble apartment of an attorney-at-law of undisputed repute.  And no one outside the private bureau of M. Juge d’Instruction ever knew what it cost the wealthy M. Mosenstein to have the whole affair “classed” and hushed up.

As for me, I had three hundred francs as payment for work which I had risked my neck and my reputation to accomplish.  Three hundred instead of the hundred thousand which I had so richly deserved:  that, and a paltry two hundred francs a year, which was to cease the moment that as much as a rumour of the whole affair was breathed in public.  As if I could help people talking!

But M. Marquis did not enjoy the fruits of his villainy, and I had again the satisfaction of seeing him gnaw his finger-nails with rage whenever the lovely Rachel paid for his dinner at fashionable restaurants.  Indeed Papa Mosenstein tightened the strings of his money-bags even more securely than he had done in the past.  Under threats of prosecution for theft and I know not what, he forced his son-in-law to disgorge that half-million which he had so pleasantly tucked away in the banking house of Raynal Frères, and I was indeed thankful that prudence had, on that memorable morning, suggested to me the advisability of dogging the Marquis’s footsteps.  I doubt not but what he knew whence had come the thunderbolt which had crushed his last hopes of an independent fortune, and no doubt too he does not cherish feelings of good will towards me.

But this eventuality leaves me cold.  He has only himself to thank for his misfortune.  Everything would have gone well but for his treachery.  We would have become affluent, he and I and Theodore.  Theodore has gone to live with his mother, who has a fish-stall in the Halles; she gives him three sous a day for washing down the stall and selling the fish when it has become too odorous for the ordinary customers.

And he might have had five hundred francs for himself and remained my confidential clerk.