There is nothing fine about him, nothing romantic; nothing in his actions to cause a single thrill to the nerves of the most unsophisticated reader. Therefore, I apologize in that I have not held him up to a just obloquy because of his crimes, and I ask indulgence for his turpitudes because of the laughter which they provoke.
Emmuska orczy. Paris, 1921.
CASTLES IN THE AIR
A ROLAND FOR HIS OLIVER
My name is Ratichon—Hector Ratichon, at your service, and I make so bold as to say that not even my worst enemy would think of minimizing the value of my services to the State. For twenty years now have I placed my powers at the disposal of my country: I have served the Republic, and was confidential agent to Citizen Robespierre; I have served the Empire, and was secret factotum to our great Napoleon; I have served King Louis—with a brief interval of one hundred days— for the past two years, and I can only repeat that no one, in the whole of France, has been so useful or so zealous in tracking criminals, nosing out conspiracies, or denouncing traitors as I have been.
And yet you see me a poor man to this day: there has been a persistently malignant Fate which has worked against me all these years, and would—but for a happy circumstance of which I hope anon to tell you—have left me just as I was, in the matter of fortune, when I first came to Paris and set up in business as a volunteer police agent at No, 96 Rue Daunou.
My apartment in those days consisted of an antechamber, an outer office where, if need be, a dozen clients might sit, waiting their turn to place their troubles, difficulties, anxieties before the acutest brain in France, and an inner room wherein that same acute brain—mine, my dear Sir—was wont to ponder and scheme. That apartment was not luxuriously furnished—furniture being very dear in those days—but there were a couple of chairs and a table in the outer office, and a cupboard wherein I kept the frugal repast which served me during