Baron Trigault's Vengeance by Emile Gaboriau
Unusual strength of character, unbounded confidence in one's own energy, with thorough contempt of danger, and an invincible determination to triumph or perish, are all required of the person who, like Mademoiselle Marguerite, intrusts herself to the care of strangers--worse yet, to the care of actual enemies. It is no small matter to place yourself in the power of smooth-tongued hypocrites and impostors, who are anxious for your ruin, and whom you know to be capable of anything. And the task is a mighty one-- to brave unknown dangers, perilous seductions, perfidious counsels, and perhaps even violence, at the same time retaining a calm eye and smiling lips. Yet such was the heroism that Marguerite, although scarcely twenty, displayed when she left the Hotel de Chalusse to accept the hospitality of the Fondege family. And, to crown all, she took Madame Leon with her--Madame Leon, whom she knew to be the Marquis de Valorsay's spy.
But, brave as she was, when the moment of departure came her heart almost failed her. There was despair in the parting glance she cast upon the princely mansion and the familiar faces of the servants. And there was no one to encourage or sustain her. Ah, yes! standing at a window on the second floor, with his forehead pressed close against the pane of glass, she saw the only friend she had in the world--the old magistrate who had defended, encouraged, and sustained her--the man who had promised her his assistance and advice, and prophesied ultimate success.
"Shall I be a coward?" she thought; "shall I be unworthy of Pascal?" And she resolutely entered the carriage, mentally exclaiming: "The die is cast!"
The General insisted that she should take a place beside Madame de Fondege on the back seat; while he found a place next to Madame Leon on the seat facing them. The drive was a silent and tedious one. The night was coming on; it was a time when all Paris was on the move, and the carriage was delayed at each street corner by a crowd of passing vehicles. The conversation was solely kept alive by the exertions of Madame de Fondege, whose shrill voice rose above the rumble of the wheels, as she chronicled the virtues of the late Count de Chalusse, and congratulated Mademoiselle Marguerite on the wisdom of her decision. Her remarks were of a commonplace description, and yet each word she uttered evinced intense satisfaction, almost delight, as if she had won some unexpected victory. Occasionally, the General leaned from the carriage window to see if the vehicle laden with Mademoiselle Marguerite's trunks was following them, but he said nothing.
At last they reached his residence in the Rue Pigalle. He alighted first, offered his hand successively to his wife, Mademoiselle Marguerite, and Madame Leon, and motioned the coachman to drive away.
But the man did not stir. "Pardon--excuse me, monsieur," he said, "but my employers bade--requested me----"
"To ask you--you know, for the fare--thirty-five francs--not counting the little gratuity."
"Very well!--I will pay you to-morrow."
"Excuse me, monsieur; but if it is all the same to you, would you do so this evening? My employer said that the bill had been standing a long time already."
But Madame de Fondege, who was on the point of entering the house, suddenly stepped back, and drawing out her pocketbook, exclaimed: "That's enough! Here are thirty-five francs."
The man went to his carriage lamp to count the money, and seeing that he had the exact amount--"And my gratuity?" he asked.
"I give none to insolent people," replied the General.
"You should take a cab if you haven't money enough to pay for coaches," replied the driver with an oath. "I'll be even with you yet."
Marguerite heard no more, for Madame de Fondege caught her by the arm and hurried her up the staircase, saying: "Quick! we must make haste. Your baggage is here already, and we must see if the rooms I intended for you--for you and your companion--suit you."
When Marguerite reached the second floor, Madame de Fondege hunted in her pocket for her latch-key. Not finding it, she rang. A tall man-servant of impudent appearance and arrayed in a glaring livery opened the door, carrying an old battered iron candlestick, in which a tiny scrap of candle was glaring and flickering. "What!" exclaimed Madame de Fondege, "the reception-room not lighted yet? This is scandalous! What have you been doing in my absence? Come, make haste. Light the lamp. Tell the cook that I have some guests to dine with me. Call my maid. See that M. Gustave's room is in order. Go down and see if the General doesn't need your assistance about the baggage."
Finding it difficult to choose between so many contradictory orders, the servant did not choose at all. He placed his rusty candlestick on one of the side-tables in the reception-room, and gravely, without saying a single word, went out into the passage leading to the kitchen. "Evariste!" cried Madame de Fondege, crimson with anger, "Evariste, you insolent fellow!"
As he deigned no reply, she rushed out in pursuit of him. And soon the sound of a violent altercation arose; the servant lavishing insults upon his mistress, and she unable to find any response, save, "I dismiss you; you are an insolent scamp--I dismiss you."
Madame Leon, who was standing near Mademoiselle Marguerite in the reception-room, seemed greatly amused. "This is a strange household," said she. "A fine beginning, upon my word."
But the worthy housekeeper was the last person on earth to whom Mademoiselle Marguerite wished to reveal her thoughts. "Hush, Leon," she replied. "We are the cause of all this disturbance, and I am very sorry for it."
The retort that rose to the housekeeper's lips was checked by the return of Madame de Fondege, followed by a servant-girl with a turn-up nose, a pert manner, and who carried a lighted candle in her hand.
"How can I apologize, madame," began Mademoiselle Marguerite, "for all the trouble I am giving you?"
"Ah! my dear child, I've never been so happy. Come, come, and see your room." And while they crossed several scantily-furnished apartments, Madame de Fondege continued: "It is I who ought to apologize to you. I fear you will pine for the splendors of the Hotel de Chalusse. We are not millionaires like your poor father. We have only a modest competence, no more. But here we are!"
The maid had opened a door, and Mademoiselle Marguerite entered a good-sized room lighted by two windows, hung with soiled wall paper, and adorned with chintz curtains, from which the sun had extracted most of the coloring. Everything was in disorder here, and in fact, the whole room was extremely dirty. The bed was not made, the washstand was dirty, some woollen stockings were hanging over the side of the rumpled bed, and on the mantel-shelf stood an ancient clock, an empty beer bottle, and some glasses. On the floor, on the furniture, in the corners, everywhere in fact, stumps of cigars were scattered in profusion, as if they had positively rained down.
"What!" gasped Madame de Fondege, "you haven't put this room in order, Justine?"
"Indeed, madame, I haven't had time."
"But it's more than a month since M. Gustave slept here?"
"I know it; but madame must remember that I have been very much hurried this last month, having to do all the washing and ironing since the laundress----"
"That's sufficient," interrupted Madame de Fondege. And turning to Marguerite, she said: "You will, I am sure, excuse this disorder, my dear child. By this time to-morrow the room shall be transformed into one of those dainty nests of muslin and flowers which young girls delight in."
Connected with this apartment, which was known to the household as the lieutenant's room, there was a much smaller chamber lighted only by a single window, and originally intended for a dressing- room. It had two doors, one of them communicating with Marguerite's room, and the other with the passage; and it was now offered to Madame Leon, who on comparing these quarters with the spacious suite of rooms she had occupied at the Hotel de Chalusse, had considerable difficulty in repressing a grimace. Still she did not hesitate nor even murmur. M. de Valorsay's orders bound her to Marguerite, and she deemed it fortunate that she was allowed to follow her. And whether the marquis succeeded or not, he had promised her a sufficiently liberal reward to compensate for all personal discomfort. So, in the sweetest of voices, and with a feigned humility of manner, she declared this little room to be even much too good for a poor widow whose misfortunes had compelled her to abdicate her position in society.
The attentions which M. and Madame de Fondege showed her contributed not a little to her resignation. Without knowing exactly what the General and his wife expected from Mademoiselle Marguerite, she was shrewd enough to divine that they hoped to gain some important advantage. Now her "dear child" had declared her to be a trusted friend, who was indispensable to her existence and comfort. "So these people will pay assiduous court to me," she thought. And being quite ready to play a double part as the spy of the Marquis de Valorsay, and the Fondege family, and quite willing to espouse the latter's cause should that prove to be the more remunerative course, she saw a long series of polite attentions and gifts before her.
That very evening her prophecies were realized; and she received a proof of consideration which positively delighted her. It was decided that she should take her meals at the family table, a thing which had never happened at the Hotel de Chalusse. Mademoiselle Marguerite raised a few objections, which Madame Leon answered with a venomous look, but Madame de Fondege insisted upon the arrangement, not understanding, she said, graciously, why they need deprive themselves of the society of such an agreeable and distinguished person. Madame Leon in no wise doubted but this favor was due to her merit alone, but Mademoiselle Marguerite, who was more discerning, saw that their hostess was really furious at the idea, but was compelled to submit to it by the imperious necessity of preventing Madame Leon from coming in contact with the servants, who might make some decidedly compromising disclosures. For there were evidently many little mysteries and make-shifts to be concealed in this household. For instance, while the servants were carrying the luggage upstairs, Marguerite discovered Madame de Fondege and her maid in close consultation, whispering with that volubility which betrays an unexpected and pressing perplexity. What were they talking about? She listened without any compunctions of conscience, and the words "a pair of sheets," repeated again and again, furnished her with abundant food for reflection. "Is it possible," she thought, "that they have no sheets to give us?"
It did not take her long to discover the maid's opinion of the establishment in which she served; for while she brandished her broom and duster, this girl, exasperated undoubtedly by the increase of work she saw in store for her, growled and cursed the old barrack where one was worked to death, where one never had enough to eat, and where the wages were always in arrears. Mademoiselle Marguerite was doing her best to aid the maid, who was greatly surprised to find this handsome, queenly young lady so obliging, when Evariste, the same who had received warning an hour before, made his appearance, and announced in an insolent tone that "Madame la Comtesse was served."
For Madame de Fondege exacted this title. She had improvised it, as her husband had improvised his title of General, and without much more difficulty. By a search in the family archives she had discovered--so she declared to her intimate friends--that she was the descendant of a noble family, and that one of her ancestors had held a most important position at the court of Francis I. or of Louis XII. Indeed, she sometimes confounded them. However, people who had not known her father, the wood merchant, saw nothing impossible in the statements.
Evariste was dressed as a butler should be dressed when he announces dinner to a person of rank. In the daytime when he discharged the duties of footman, he was gorgeous in gold lace; but in the evening, he arrayed himself in severe black, such as is appropriate to the butler of an aristocratic household. Immediately after his announcement everybody repaired to the sumptuous dining-room which, with its huge side-boards, loaded with silver and rare china, looked not unlike a museum. Such was the display, indeed, that when Mademoiselle Marguerite took a seat at the table, between the General and his wife, and opposite Madame Leon, she asked herself if she had not been the victim of that dangerous optical delusion known as prejudice. She noticed that the supply of knives and forks was rather scanty; but many economical housewives keep most of their silver under lock and key; besides the china was very handsome and marked with the General's monogram, surmounted by his wife's coronet.
However, the dinner was badly cooked and poorly served. One might have supposed it to be a scullery maid's first attempt. Still the General devoured it with delight. He partook ravenously of every dish, a flush rose to his cheeks, and an expression of profound satisfaction was visible upon his countenance. "From this," thought Mademoiselle Marguerite, "I must infer that he usually goes hungry, and that this seems a positive feast to him." In fact, he seemed bubbling over with contentment. He twirled his mustaches a la Victor Emmanuel, and rolled his "r," as he said, "Sacr-r-r-r-r-e bleu!" even more ferociously than usual. It was only by a powerful effort that he restrained himself from indulging in various witticisms which would have been most unseemly in the presence of a poor girl who had just lost her father and all her hopes of fortune. But he did forget himself so much as to say that the drive to the cemetery had whetted his appetite, and to address his wife as Madame Range-a-bord, a title which had been bestowed upon her by a sailor brother.
Crimson with anger to the very roots of her coarse, sandy hair-- amazed to see her husband deport himself in this style, and almost suffocated by the necessity of restraining her wrath, Madame de Fondege was heroic enough to smile, though her eyes flashed ominously. But the General was not at all dismayed. On the contrary, he cared so little for his wife's displeasure that, when the dessert was served, he turned to the servant, and, with a wink that Mademoiselle Marguerite noticed, "Evariste," he ordered, "go to the wine-cellar, and bring me a bottle of old Bordeaux."
The valet, who had just received a week's notice, was only too glad of an opportunity for revenge. So with a malicious smile, and in a drawling tone, he replied: "Then monsieur must give me the money. Monsieur knows very well that neither the grocer nor the wine-merchant will trust him any longer."
M. de Fondege rose from the table, looking very pale; but before he had time to utter a word, his wife came to the rescue. "You know, my dear, that I don't trust the key of my cellar to this lad. Evariste, call Justine."
The pert-looking chambermaid appeared, and her mistress told her where she would find the key of the famous cellar. About a quarter of an hour afterward, one of those bottles which grocers and wine-merchants prepare for the benefit of credulous customers was brought in--a bottle duly covered with dust and mould to give it a venerable appearance, and festooned with cobwebs, such as the urchins of Paris collect and sell at from fifteen sous to two francs a pound, according to quality. But the Bordeaux did not restore the General's equanimity. He was silent and subdued; and his relief was evident when, after the coffee had been served, his wife exclaimed: "We won't keep you from your club, my dear. I want a chat with our dear child."
Since she dismissed the General so unceremoniously, Madame de Fondege evidently wished for a tete-a-tete with Mademoiselle Marguerite. At least Madame Leon thought so, or feigned to think so, and addressing the young girl, she said: "I shall be obliged to leave you for a couple of hours, my dear young lady. My relatives would never forgive me if I did not inform them of my change of residence."
This was the first time since she had been engaged by the Count de Chalusse, that the estimable "companion" had ever made any direct allusion to her relatives, and what is more, to relatives residing in Paris. She had previously only spoken of them in general terms, giving people to understand that her relatives had not been unfortunate like herself--that they still retained their exalted rank, though she had fallen, and that she found it difficult to decline the favors they longed to heap upon her.
However, Mademoiselle Marguerite evinced no surprise. "Go at once and inform your relatives, my dear Leon," she said, without a shade of sarcasm in her manner. "I hope they won't be offended by your devotion to me." But in her secret heart, she thought: "This hypocrite is going to report to the Marquis de Valorsay, and these relatives of hers will furnish her with excuses for future visits to him."
The General went off, the servants began to clear the table, and Mademoiselle Marguerite followed her hostess to the drawing-room. It was a lofty and spacious apartment, lighted by three windows, and even more sumptuous in its appointments than the dining-room. Furniture, carpets, and hangings, were all in rather poor taste, perhaps, but costly, very costly. As the evening was a cold one, Madame de Fondege ordered the fire to be lighted. She seated herself on a sofa near the mantelpiece, and when Mademoiselle Marguerite had taken a chair opposite her, she began, "Now, my dear child, let us have a quiet talk."
Mademoiselle Marguerite expected some important communication, so that she was not a little surprised when Madame de Fondege resumed: "Have you thought about your mourning?"
"About my mourning, madame?"
"Yes. I mean, have you decided what dresses you will purchase? It is an important matter, my dear--more important than you suppose. They are making costumes entirely of crepe now, puffed and plaited, and extremely stylish. I saw one that would suit you well. You may think that a costume for deep mourning made with puffs would be a trifle loud, but that depends upon tastes. The Duchess de Veljo wore one only eleven days after her husband's death; and she allowed some of her hair, which is superb, to fall over her shoulders, a la pleureuse, and the effect was extremely touching." Was Madame de Fondege speaking sincerely? There could be no doubt of it. Her features, which had been distorted with anger when the General took it into his head to order the bottle of Bordeaux, had regained their usual placidity of expression, and had even brightened a little. "I am entirely at your service, my dear, if you wish any shopping done," she continued. "And if you are not quite pleased with your dressmaker, I will take you to mine, who works like an angel. But how absurd I am. You will of course employ Van Klopen. I go to him occasionally myself, but only on great occasions. Between you and me, I think him a trifle too high in his charges."
Mademoiselle Marguerite could scarcely repress a smile. "I must confess, madame, that from my infancy I have been in the habit of making almost all my dresses myself."
The General's wife raised her eyes to Heaven in real or feigned astonishment. "Yourself!" she repeated four or five times, as if to make sure that she had heard aright. "Yourself! That is incomprehensible! You, the daughter of a man who possessed an income of five or six hundred thousand francs a year! Still I know that poor M. de Chalusse, though unquestionably a very worthy and excellent man, was peculiar in some of his ideas."
"Excuse me, madame. What I did, I did for my own pleasure."
But this assertion exceeded Madame de Fondege's powers of comprehension. "Impossible!" she murmured, "impossible! But, my poor child, what did you do for fashions--for patterns?"
The immense importance she attached to the matter was so manifest that Marguerite could not refrain from smiling. "I was probably not a very close follower of the fashions," she replied. "The dress that I am wearing now----."
"Is very pretty, my child, and it becomes you extremely; that's the truth. Only, to be frank, I must confess that this style is no longer worn--no--not at all. You must have your new dresses made in quite a different way."
"But I already have more dresses than I need, madame."
"What! black dresses?"
"I seldom wear anything but black."
Evidently her hostess had never heard anything like this before. "Oh! all right," said she, "these dresses will doubtless do very well for your first months of mourning--but afterward? Do you suppose, my poor dear, that I'm going to allow you to shut yourself up as you did at the Hotel de Chalusse? Good heavens! how dull it must have been for you, alone in that big house, without society or friends."
A tear fell from Marguerite's long lashes. "I was very happy there, madame," she murmured.
"You think so; but you will change your mind. When one has never tasted real pleasure, one cannot realize how gloomy one's life really is. No doubt, you were very unhappy alone with M. de Chalusse."
"Tut! tut! my dear, I know what I am talking about. Wait until you have been introduced into society before you boast of the charms of solitude. Poor dear! I doubt if you have ever attended a ball in your whole life. No! I was sure of it, and you are twenty! Fortunately, I am here. I will take your mother's place, and we will make up for lost time! Beautiful as you are, my child-- for you are divinely beautiful--you will reign as a queen wherever you appear. Doesn't that thought make that cold little heart of yours throb more quickly? Ah! fetes and music, wonderful toilettes and the flashing of diamonds, the admiration of gentlemen, the envy of rivals, the consciousness of one's own beauty, are these delights not enough to fill any woman's life? It is intoxication, perhaps, but an intoxication which is happiness."
Was she sincere, or did she hope to dazzle this lonely girl, and then rule her through the tastes she might succeed in giving her? As is not unfrequently the case with callous natures, Madame de Fondege was a compound of frankness and cunning. What she was saying now she really meant; and as it was to her interest to say it, she urged her opinions boldly and even eloquently. Twenty- four hours earlier, proud and truthful Marguerite would have silenced her at once. She would have told her that such pleasures could never have any charm for her, and that she felt only scorn and disgust for such worthless aims and sordid desires. But having resolved to appear a dupe, she concealed her real feelings under an air of surprise, and was astonished and even ashamed to find that she could dissemble so well.
"Besides," continued Madame de Fondege, "a marriageable young girl should never shut herself up like a nun. She will never find a husband if she remains at home--and she must marry. Indeed, marriage is a sensible woman's only object in life, since it is her emancipation."
Was Madame de Fondege going to plead her son's cause? Mademoiselle Marguerite almost believed it--but the lady was too shrewd for that. She took good care not to mention as much as Lieutenant Gustave's name.
"The season will certainly be unusually brilliant," she said, "and it will begin very early. On the fifth of November, the Countess de Commarin will give a superb fete; all Paris will be there. On the seventh, there will be a ball at the house of the Viscountess de Bois d'Ardon. On the eleventh, there will be a concert, followed by a ball, at the superb mansion of the Baroness Trigault--you know--the wife of that strange man who spends all his time in playing cards."
"This is the first time I ever heard the name mentioned."
"Really! and you have been living in Paris for years. It seems incomprehensible. You must know then, my dear little ignoramus, that the Baroness Trigault is one of the most distinguished ladies in Paris, and certainly the best dressed. I am sure her bill at Van Klopen's is not less than a hundred thousand francs a year-- and that is saying enough, is it not?" And with genuine pride, she added: "The baroness is my friend. I will introduce you to her."
Having once started on this theme, Madame de Fondege was not easily silenced. It was evidently her ambition to be considered a woman of the world, and to be acquainted with all the leaders of fashionable society; and, in fact, if one listened to her conversation for an hour one could learn all the gossip of the day. Though she was unable to interest herself in this tittle- tattle, Marguerite was pretending to listen to it with profound attention when the drawing-room door suddenly opened and Evariste appeared with an impudent smile on his face. "Madame Landoire, the milliner, is here, and desires to speak with Madame la Comtesse," he said.
On hearing this name, Madame de Fondege started as if she had been stung by a viper. "Let her wait," she said quickly. "I will see her in a moment."
The order was useless, for the visitor was already on the threshold. She was a tall, dark-haired, ill-mannered woman. "Ah! I've found you at last," she said, rudely, "and I'm not sorry. This is the fourth time I've come here with my bill."
Madame de Fondege pointed to Mademoiselle Marguerite, and exclaimed: "Wait, at least, until I am alone before you speak to me on business."
Madame Landoire shrugged her shoulders. "As if you were ever alone," she growled. "I wish to put an end to this."
"Step into my room then, and we will put an end to it, and at once."
This opportunity to escape from Madame de Fondege must not be allowed to pass; so Marguerite asked permission to withdraw, declaring, what was really the truth, that she felt completely tired out. After receiving a maternal kiss from her hostess, accompanied by a "sleep well, my dear child," she retired to her own room. Thanks to Madame Leon's absence, she found herself alone, and, drawing a blotting-pad from one of her trunks, she hastily wrote a note to M. Isidore Fortunat, telling him that she would call upon him on the following Tuesday. "I must be very awkward," she thought, "if to-morrow, on going to mass, I can't find an opportunity to throw this note into a letter-box without being observed."
It was fortunate that she had lost no time, for her writing-case was scarcely in its place again before Madame Leon entered, evidently out of sorts. "Well," asked Marguerite, "did you see your friends?"
"Don't speak of it, my dear young lady; they were all of them away from home--they had gone to the play."
"So I shall go again early to-morrow morning; you must realize how important it is."
"Yes, I understand."
But Madame Leon, who was usually so loquacious, did not seem to be in a talkative mood that evening, and, after kissing her dear young lady, she went into her own room.
"She did not succeed in finding the Marquis de Valorsay," thought Marguerite, "and being in doubt as to the part she is to play, she feels furious."
The young girl tried to sum up the impressions of the evening, and to decide upon a plan of conduct, but she felt sad and very weary. She said to herself that rest would be more beneficial than anything else, and that her mind would be clearer on the morrow; so after a fervent prayer in which Pascal Ferailleur's name was mentioned several times, she prepared for bed. But before she fell asleep she was able to collect another bit of evidence. The sheets on her bed were new.
If Marguerite had been born in the Hotel de Chalusse, if she had known a father's and a mother's tender care from her infancy, if she had always been protected by a large fortune from the stern realities of life, there would have been no hope for her now that she was left poor and alone--for how can a girl avoid dangers she is ignorant of? But from her earliest childhood Marguerite had studied the difficult science of real life under the best of teachers--misfortune. Cast upon her own resources at the age of thirteen, she had learned to look upon everybody and everything with distrust; and by relying only on herself, she had become strangely cautious and clear-sighted. She knew how to watch and how to listen, how to deliberate and how to act. Two men, the Marquis de Valorsay and M. de Fondege's son, coveted her hand; and one of the two, the marquis, so she believed, was capable of any crime. Still she felt no fears. She had been in danger once before when she was little more than a child, when the brother of her employer insulted her with his attentions, but she had escaped unharmed.
Deceit was certainly most repugnant to her truth-loving nature; but it was the only weapon of defence she possessed. And so on the following day she carefully studied the abode of her entertainers. And certainly the study was instructive. The General's household was truly Parisian in character; or, at least, it was what a Parisian household inevitably becomes when its inmates fall a prey to the constantly increasing passion for luxury and display, to the furore for aping the habits and expenditure of millionaires, and to the noble and elevated desire of humiliating and outshining their neighbors. Ease, health, and comfort had been unscrupulously sacrificed to show. The dining- room was magnificent, the drawing-room superb; but these were the only comfortably furnished apartments in the establishment. The other rooms were bare and desolate. It is true that Madame de Fondege had a handsome wardrobe with glass doors in her own room, but this was an article which the friend of the fashionable Baroness Trigault could not possibly dispense with. On the other hand, her bed had no curtains.
The aspect of the place fittingly explained the habits and manners of the inmates. What sinister fears must have haunted them! for how could this extreme destitution in one part of the establishment be reconciled with the luxury noticeable in the other, except by the fact that a desperate struggle to keep up appearances was constantly going on? And this constant anxiety made out-door noise, excitement, and gayety a necessity of their existence, and caused them to welcome anything that took them from the home where they had barely sufficient to deceive society, and not enough to impose upon their creditors. "And they keep three servants," thought Mademoiselle Marguerite--"three enemies who spend their time in ridiculing them, and torturing their vanity."
Thus, on the very first day after her arrival, she realized the real situation of the General and his wife. They were certainly on the verge of ruin when Mademoiselle Marguerite accepted their hospitality. Everything went to prove this: the coachman's insolent demand, the servants' impudence, the grocer's refusal to furnish a single bottle of wine on credit, the milliner's persistence, and, lastly, the new sheets on the visitors' beds. "Yes," thought Mademoiselle Marguerite to herself, "the Fondeges were ruined when I came here. They would never have sunk so low if they had not been utterly destitute of resources. So, if they rise again, if money and credit come back again, then the old magistrate is right--they have obtained possession of the Chalusse millions!"