“Wait, Moloch, wait; you and I are not done with each other yet! Wait! I shall come back, and when I do, look to yourself! Two million francs, and every one of them mine!”
He laid his head on his hands. It ached dully. Perhaps it was the wine.
THE BUTTERFLY MAN
The passing and repassing shadows of craft gave a fitful luster to the river; so crisply white were the spanning highways that the eye grew quickly dim with looking; the brisk channel breeze which moved with rough gaiety through the trees in the gardens of the Tuileries, had, long hours before, blown away the storm. Bright sunshine, expanses of deep cerulean blue, towering banks of pleasant clouds, these made Paris happy to-day, in spots.
The great minister gazed across the river, his hands under the tails of his frock, and the perturbation of his mind expressed by the frequent flapping of those somber woolen wings. To the little man who watched him, there was a faint resemblance to a fiddling cricket.
“Sometimes I am minded to trust the whole thing to luck, and bother no more about him.”
“Monsieur, I have obeyed orders for seven years, since we first recognized the unfortunate affair. Nothing he has done in this period is missing from my notebook; and up to the present time he has done—nothing. But just a little more patience. This very moment, when you are inclined to drop it, may be the one. One way or another, it is a matter of no real concern to me. There will always be plenty of work for me to do, in France, or elsewhere. But I am like an old soldier whose wound, twinging with rheumatism, announces the approach of damp weather. I have, then, monsieur, a kind of psychological rheumatism; prescience, bookmen call it. Presently we shall have damp weather.”
“You speak with singular conviction.”
“In my time I have made very few mistakes. You will recollect that. Twenty years have I served France. I was wrong to say that this affair does not concern me. I’m interested to see the end.”
“But will there be an end?” impatiently. “If I were certain of that! But seven years, and still no sign.”
“Monsieur, he is to be feared; this inactivity, to my mind, proves it. He is waiting; the moment is not ripe. There are many sentimental fools in this world. One has only to step into the street and shout ‘Down with!’ or ‘Long live!’ to bring these fools clattering about.”
“That is true enough,” flapping the tails of his coat again.
“This fellow was born across the Rhine. He has served in the navy; he is a German, therefore we can not touch him unless he commits some overt act. He waits; there is where the danger, the real danger, lies. He waits; and it is his German blood which gives him this patience. A Frenchman would have exploded long since.”