“Here, madame, towards yourself and your children, I have no doubt; for seeing is believing: but elsewhere—”
He was interrupted by the arrival of the locksmith, who, in less than five minutes, had picked all the locks of the old desk.
But in vain did the commissary search all the drawers. He found only those useless papers which are made relics of by people who have made order their religious faith,—uninteresting letters, grocers’ and butchers’ bills running back twenty years.
“It is a waste of time to look for any thing here,” he growled.
And in fact he was about to give up his perquisitions, when a bundle thinner than the rest attracted his attention. He cut the thread that bound it; and almost at once:
“I knew I was right,” he said. And holding out a paper to Mme. Favoral:
“Read, madame, if you please.”
It was a bill. She read thus:
“Sold to M. Favoral an India
Cashmere, fr. 8,500.
Received payment, FORBE & Towler.”
“Is it for you, madame,” asked the commissary, “that this magnificent shawl was bought?”
Stupefied with astonishment, the poor woman still refused to admit the evidence.
“Madame de Thaller spends a great deal,” she stammered. “My husband often made important purchases for her account.”
“Often, indeed!” interrupted the commissary of police; “for here are many other receipted bills,—earrings, sixteen thousand francs; a bracelet, three thousand francs; a parlor set, a horse, two velvet dresses. Here is a part, at least, if not the whole, of the ten millions.”
Had the commissary received any information in advance? or was he guided only by the scent peculiar to men of his profession, and the habit of suspecting every thing, even that which seems most unlikely?
At any rate he expressed himself in a tone of absolute certainty.
The agents who had accompanied and assisted him in his researches were winking at each other, and giggling stupidly. The situation struck them as rather pleasant.
The others, M. Desclavettes, M. Chapelain, and the worthy M. Desormeaux himself, could have racked their brains in vain to find terms wherein to express the immensity of their astonishments. Vincent Favoral, their old friend, paying for cashmeres, diamonds, and parlor sets! Such an idea could not enter in their minds. For whom could such princely gifts be intended? For a mistress, for one of those redoubtable creatures whom fancy represents crouching in the depths of love, like monsters at the bottom of their caves!
But how could any one imagine the methodic cashier of the Mutual Credit Society carried away by one of those insane passions which knew no reason? Ruined by gambling, perhaps, but by a woman!
Could any one picture him, so homely and so plain here, Rue St. Gilles, at the head of another establishment, and leading elsewhere in one of the brilliant quarters of Paris, a reckless life, such as strike terror in the bosom of quiet families?