At any rate, she voluntarily informed Madeleine that a friend of hers, a first-class dressmaker, had just set up for herself, and would be glad to furnish materials and make the dresses on credit, for the sake of obtaining the patronage of Mme. Fauvel and her niece, which would at once bring her plenty of fashionable customers.
But, after this dilemma was settled, a still greater one presented itself.
Mme. Fauvel and her niece could not appear at a ball without jewelry; and every jewel they owned had been taken by Raoul, and pawned.
After thinking the matter over, Madeleine decided to ask Raoul to take some of the stolen money, and redeem the last set of jewels he had forced from his mother. She informed her aunt of her intention, and said, in a tone that admitted of no contradiction:
“Appoint an interview with Raoul: he will not dare to refuse you; and I will go in your stead.”
The next day, the courageous girl took a cab, and, regardless of the inclement weather, went to Vesinet.
She would have been filled with consternation had she known that M. Verduret and Prosper were following close behind, and witnessed her interview from the top of a ladder.
Her bold step was fruitless. Raoul swore that he had divided with Prosper; that his own half of the money was spent, and that he had not a napoleon wherewith to redeem anything.
He even refused to give up the pledges; and Madeleine had to resort to threats of exposure, before she could induce him to surrender the tickets of four or five trifling articles that were indispensable to their toilet.
Clameran had ordered him to refuse positively to give up a single ticket, because he hoped that in their distress they would call upon him for relief.
The violent altercation witnessed by Clameran’s new valet, Joseph Dubois, had been caused by the exaction of this promise.
The accomplices were at that time on very bad terms. Clameran was seeking a safe means of getting rid of Raoul; and the young scamp, having a presentiment of his uncle’s intentions, was determined to outwit him.
Nothing but the certainty of impending danger could reconcile them. The danger was revealed to them both at the Jandidier ball.
Who was the mysterious mountebank that indulged in such transparent allusions to Mme. Fauvel’s private troubles, and then said, with threatening significance to Louis: “I was the best friend of your brother Gaston?”
Who he was, where he came from, they could not imagine; but they clearly saw that he was a dangerous enemy, and forthwith attempted to assassinate him upon his leaving the ball.
Having been followed and watched by their would-be victim, they became alarmed—especially when he suddenly disappeared—and wisely decided that the safest thing they then could do was to return quietly to their hotel.