We only waited one minute with our noses glued against the windows of the Trois Tigres, just long enough to see Legros extracting the leather case from the pocket of the blouse, just long enough to hear the police inspector saying peremptorily:
“You, Legros, ought to be able to let the police know who stole the bracelet. You must know who left that blouse with you last night.”
Then we both fled incontinently down the street.
Now, Sir, was I not right when I said that honour and loyalty are the essential qualities in our profession? If Theodore had not been such a liar and such a traitor, he and I, between us, would have been richer by three thousand francs that day.
AN OVER-SENSITIVE HEART
No doubt, Sir, that you have noticed during the course of our conversations that Nature has endowed me with an over-sensitive heart. I feel keenly, Sir, very keenly. Blows dealt me by Fate, or, as has been more often the case, by the cruel and treacherous hand of man, touch me on the raw. I suffer acutely. I am highly strung. I am one of those rare beings whom Nature pre-ordained for love and for happiness. I am an ideal family man.
What? You did not know that I was married? Indeed, Sir, I am. And though Madame Ratichon does not perhaps fulfil all my ideals of exquisite womanhood, nevertheless she has been an able and willing helpmate during these last years of comparative prosperity. Yes, you see me fairly prosperous now. My industry, my genius—if I may so express myself—found their reward at last. You will be the first to acknowledge—you, the confidant of my life’s history—that that reward was fully deserved. I worked for it, toiled and thought and struggled, up to the last; and had Fate been just, rather than grudging, I should have attained that ideal which would have filled my cup of happiness to the brim.
But, anyway, the episode connected with my marriage did mark the close of my professional career, and is therefore worthy of record. Since that day, Sir—a happy one for me, a blissful one for Mme. Ratichon—I have been able, thanks to the foresight of an all-wise Providence, to gratify my bucolic tastes. I live now, Sir, amidst my flowers, with my dog and my canary and Mme. Ratichon, smiling with kindly indulgence on the struggles and the blunders of my younger colleagues, oft consulted by them in matters that require special tact and discretion. I sit and dream now beneath the shade of a vine-clad arbour of those glorious days of long ago, when kings and emperors placed the destiny of their inheritance in my hands, when autocrats and dictators came to me for assistance and advice, and the name of Hector Ratichon stood for everything that was most astute and most discreet. And if at times a gentle sigh of regret escapes my lips, Mme. Ratichon—whose thinness is ever my despair, for I admire comeliness, Sir, as being more womanly—Mme. Ratichon, I say, comes to me with the gladsome news that dinner is served; and though she is not all that I could wish in the matter of the culinary arts, yet she can fry a cutlet passably, and one of her brothers is a wholesale wine merchant of excellent reputation.