More smiling than ever,
“I am at your orders, madame,” answered Marius, “but, in mercy, spare me.”
She took out some tickets from a small shell pocket-book.
“Twenty, at ten francs,” she said. “It isn’t too much, is it?”
“It is a great deal for my modest resources.”
She pocketed the ten napoleons which he handed her, and, in a tone of ironical compassion,
“Are you so very poor, then?” she asked.
“Why, I am neither banker nor broker, you know.”
She had risen, and was smoothing the folds of her dress.
“Well, my dear marquis,” she resumed, “it is certainly not me who will pity you. When a man of your age, and with your name, remains poor, it is his own fault. Are there no rich heiresses?”
“I confess that I haven’t tried to find one yet.” She looked at him straight in the eyes, and then suddenly bursting out laughing,
“Look around you,” she said, “and I am sure you’ll not be long discovering a beautiful young girl, very blonde, who would be delighted to become Marquise de Tregars, and who would bring in her apron a dowry of twelve or fifteen hundred thousand francs in good securities,—securities which the Favorals can’t carry off. Think well, and then come to see us. You know that M. de Thaller is very fond of you; and, after all the trouble we have been having, you owe us a visit.”
Whereupon she went out, M. de Tregars going down to escort her to her carriage. But as he came up,
“Attention!” he cried to Maxence; “for it’s very evident that the Thallers have wind of something.”
It was a revelation, that visit of Mme. de Thaller’s; and there was no need of very much perspicacity to guess her anxiety beneath her bursts of laughter, and to understand that it was a bargain she had come to propose. It was evident, therefore, that Marius de Tregars held within his hands the principal threads of that complicated intrigue which had just culminated in that robbery of twelve millions. But would he be able to make use of them? What were his designs, and his means of action? That is what Maxence could not in any way conjecture.
He had no time to ask questions.
“Come,” said M. Tregars, whose agitation was manifest,—“come, let us breakfast: we have not a moment to lose.”
And, whilst his servant was bringing in his modest meal,
“I am expecting M. d’Escajoul,” he said. “Show him in as soon as he comes.”
Retired as he had lived from the financial world, Maxence had yet heard the name of Octave d’Escajoul.