“‘Let me alone!’ cried I; ’I am no longer fit to take an honest man’s hand; but we have money, money!’ And I threw the bags upon the table. One of them burst, and a flood of silver coins rolled to every part of the room.
“Marie started from her chair with upraised hands. ‘Money!’ she repeated, ‘money! we shall have food, and I won’t die.’
“My friends, Marquis, were not as they are now, and they started back in horror, fearing that I had committed some crime.
“‘No,’ said I, ’I have committed no crime, not one, at least, that will bring me within the reach of the strong arm of the law. This money is the price of our honor, but no one will know that fact but ourselves.’
“Marquis, there was no sleeping in the garret all that night; but when daylight peered through the broken windows, it beamed on a table covered with empty bottles, and round it were seated three men, who, having cast aside all honorable scruples, had sworn that they would arrive at wealth and prosperity by any means, no matter how foul and treacherous they might be. That is all.”
AN INFAMOUS TRADE.
Mascarin, who was anxious to make as deep an impression as possible upon Croisenois and Paul, broke off his story abruptly, and paced up and down the room. Had his intention been to startle his audience, he had most certainly succeeded. Paul was breathless with interest, and Croisenois broke down in attempting to make one of his usual trivial remarks. He was not particularly intelligent, except as regarded his self-interests, and though, of course, he knew that there must be some connection between his interests and the recital that Mascarin had just made, he could not for the life of him make out what it was. Mascarin seemed utterly careless of the effect that he had produced. But the next time that his walk brought him to his desk he stopped, and, adjusting his glasses, said, “I trust, Marquis, that you will forgive this long preliminary address, which would really make a good sensational novel; but we have now arrived at the really practical part of the business.” As he said these words, he took up an imposing attitude, with his elbow resting on the mantelpiece.