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Émile Gaboriau
Baron Trigault's Vengeance

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However, if he expected these disclosures to elevate him in his subordinate's estimation he was greatly mistaken. Chupin had sufficient experience and common sense to read his master's character and discern his motives. He saw plainly enough that this honest impulse on M. Fortunat's part came from disappointed avarice and wounded vanity, and that the agent would have allowed the Marquis de Valorsay to carry out his infamous scheme without any compunctions of conscience, providing he, himself, had not been injured by it. Still, the young fellow did not allow his real feelings to appear on his face. First, it was not his business to tell M. Fortunat his opinion of him; and in the second place, he did not deem it an opportune moment for a declaration of his sentiments. So, when his employer paused, he exclaimed: "Well, we must outwit these scoundrels - for I'll join you, m'sieur; and I flatter myself that I can be very useful to you. Do you want the particulars of the viscount's past life? If so, I can furnish them. I know the brigand. He's married, as I told you before, and I'll find his wife for you in a few days. I don't know exactly where she lives, but she keeps a tobacco store, somewhere, and that's enough. She'll tell you how much he's a viscount. Ha! ha! Viscount just as much as I am - and no more. I can tell you the scrapes he has been in."

"No doubt; but the most important thing is to know how he's living now, and on what!"

"Not by honest work, I can tell you. But give me a little time, and I'll find out for sure. As soon as I can go home, change my clothes, and disguise myself, I'll start after him; and may I be hung, if I don't return with a complete report before Tuesday."

A smile of satisfaction appeared on M. Fortunat's face. "Good, Victor!" he said, approvingly, "very good! I see that you will serve me with your usual zeal and intelligence. Rest assured that you will be rewarded as you have never been rewarded before. As long as you are engaged in this affair, you shall have ten francs a day; and I'll pay your board, your cab-hire, and all your expenses."

This was a most liberal offer, and yet, far from seeming delighted, Chupin gravely shook his head. "You know how I value money, m'sieur," he began.

"Too much, Victor, my boy, too much -  - "

"Excuse me, it's because I have responsibilities, m'sieur. You know my establishment" - he spoke this word with a grandiloquent air - "you have seen my good mother - my expenses are heavy -  - "

"In short, you don't think I offer you enough?"

"On the contrary, sir - but you don't allow me to finish. I love money, don't I? But no matter, I don't want to be paid for this business. I don't want either my board or my expenses, not a penny - nothing. I'll serve you, but for my own sake, for my own pleasure - gratis."

M. Fortunat could not restrain an exclamation of astonishment. Chupin, who was as eager for gain as an old usurer - Chupin, as grasping as avarice itself, refuse money! This was something which he had never seen before, and which he would no doubt never see again.

Victor had become very much excited; his usually pale cheeks were crimson, and in a harsh voice, he continued: "It's a fancy of mine - that's all. I have eight hundred francs hidden in my room, the fruit of years of work. I'll spend the last penny of it if need be; and if I can see Coralth in the mire, I shall say, 'My money has been well expended.' I'd rather see that day dawn than be the possessor of a hundred thousand francs. If a horrible vision haunted you every night, and prevented you from sleeping, wouldn't you give something to get rid of it? Very well! that brigand's my nightmare. There must be an end to it."

M. de Coralth, who was a man of wide experience, would certainly have felt alarmed if he had seen his unknown enemy at the present moment, for Victor's eyes, usually a pale and undecided blue, were glittering like steel, and his hands were clinched most threateningly. "For he was the cause of all my trouble," he continued, gloomily. "I've told you, sir, that I was guilty of an infamous deed once upon a time. If it hadn't been for a miracle I should have killed a man - the king of men. Ah, well! if Monsieur Andre had broken his back by falling from a fifth-floor window, my Coralth would be the Duc de Champdoce to-day. And shall he be allowed to ride about in his carriage, and deceive and ruin honest people? No - there are too many such villains at large for public safety. Wait a little, Coralth - I owe you something, and I always pay my debts. When M. Andre saved me, though I richly deserved to have my throat cut, he made no conditions. He only said, 'If you are not irredeemably bad you will be honest after this.' And he said these words as he was lying there as pale as death with his shoulder broken, and his body mangled from his fall. Great heavens! I felt smaller than - than nothing before him. But I swore that I would do honor to his teachings - and when evil thoughts enter my mind, and when I feel a thirst for liquor, I say to myself, 'Wait a bit, and - and M. Andre will take a glass with you.' And that quenches my thirst instantly. I have his portrait at home, and every night, before going to bed, I tell him the history of the day - and sometimes I fancy that he smiles at me. All this is very absurd, perhaps, but I'm not ashamed of it. M. Andre and my good mother, they are my supports, my crutches, and with them I'm not afraid of making a false step." Schebel, the German philosopher, who has written a treatise on Volition, in four volumes, was no greater a man than Chupin. "So you may keep your money, sir," he resumed. "I'm an honest fellow, and honest men ought to ask no reward for the performance of a duty. Coralth mustn't be allowed to triumph over the innocent chap he ruined. What did you call him? Ferailleur? It's an odd name. Never mind - we'll get him out of this scrape; he shall marry his sweetheart after all; and I'll dance at the wedding."

As he finished speaking he laughed a shrill, dangerous laugh, which revealed his sharp teeth - but such invincible determination was apparent on his face, that M. Fortunat felt no misgivings. He was sure that this volunteer would be of more service than the highest-priced hireling. "So I can count on you, Victor?" he inquired.

"As upon yourself."

"And you hope to have some positive information by Tuesday?"

"Before then, I hope, if nothing goes amiss."

"Very well; I will devote my attention to Ferailleur then. As to Valorsay's affairs, I am better acquainted with them than he is himself. We must be prepared to enter upon the campaign when Mademoiselle Marguerite comes, and we will act in accordance with her instructions."

 




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