Madeleine looked through the half-open door, and saw Clameran consulting her uncle’s note-book, and whispering to Raoul. But what benefit would she derive from this proof of the marquis’s villany? She knew now that he was plotting to obtain her fortune, and she would be forced to yield it to him; that he had squandered his brother’s fortune, and was now frightened at the prospect of having to account for it. Still this did not explain Raoul’s conduct. Why did he show such fear?
Two hours later, Clameran was on the road to Vesinet with Raoul, explaining to him his plans.
“It is my precious brother, and no mistake,” he said. “But that need not alarm you so easily, my lovely nephew.”
“Merciful powers! Doesn’t the banker expect to see him any day? Is he not liable to pounce down on me to-morrow?”
“Don’t be an idiot!” interrupted Clameran. “Does he know that Fauvel is Valentine’s husband? That is what we must find out. If he knows that little fact, we must take to our heels; if he is ignorant of it, our case is not desperate.”
“How will you find out?”
“By simply asking him.”
Raoul exclaimed at his ally’s cunning:
“That is a dangerous thing to do,” he said.
“’Tis not as dangerous as sitting down with our hands folded. And, as to running away at the first suspicion of alarm, it would be imbecility.”
“Who is going to look for him?”
“Oh, oh, oh!” exclaimed Raoul in three different tones. Clameran’s audacity confounded him.
“But what am I going to do?” he inquired after a moment’s silence.
“You will oblige me by remaining here and keeping quiet. I will send you a despatch if there is danger; and then you can decamp.”
As they parted at Raoul’s door, Clameran said:
“Now, remember. Stay here, and during my absence be very intimate at your devoted mother’s. Be the most dutiful of sons. Abuse me as much as you please to her; and, above all, don’t indulge in any folly; make no demands for money; keep your eyes open. Good-by. To-morrow evening I will be at Oloron talking with this new Clameran.”
After leaving Valentine de la Verberie, Gaston underwent great peril and difficulty in effecting his escape.
But for the experienced and faithful Menoul, he never would have succeeded in embarking.
Having left his mother’s jewels with Valentine, his sole fortune consisted of not quite a thousand francs; and with this paltry sum in his pocket, the murderer of two men, a fugitive from justice, and with no prospect of earning a livelihood, he took passage for Valparaiso.
But Menoul was a bold and experienced sailor.
While Gaston remained concealed in a farm-house at Camargue, Menoul went to Marseilles, and that very evening discovered, from some of his sailor friends, that a three-masted American vessel was in the roadstead, whose commander, Captain Warth, a not over-scrupulous Yankee, would be glad to welcome on board an able-bodied man who would be of assistance to him at sea.