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Baron Trigault's Vengeance
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The other quickly pocketed the coin, not a little surprised by this sudden decision which she had scarcely hoped for, and which she by no means understood. Still she was so delighted with this denouement that she expressed her willingness to enter upon her duties at once; and to get rid of her Madame Ferailleur was obliged to send her out to purchase the necessary supplies for breakfast. Then, as soon as she was alone with her son, she turned to him and asked: "Well, Pascal?"
But the wretched man seemed turned to stone, and seeing that he neither spoke nor moved, she continued in a severe tone: "Is this the way you keep your resolutions and your oaths! You express your intention of accomplishing a task which requires inexhaustible patience and dissimulation, and at the very first unforeseen circumstance your coolness deserts you, and you lose your head completely. If it had not been for me you would have betrayed yourself in that woman's presence. You must renounce your revenge, and tamely submit to be conquered by the Marquis de Valorsay if your face is to be an open book in which any one may read your secret plans and thoughts."
Pascal shook his head dejectedly. "Didn't you hear, mother?" he faltered.
"What that vile woman said? This young lady whom she spoke of, whom her husband recognized, can be none other than Marguerite."
"I am sure of it."
He recoiled in horror. "You are sure of it!" he repeated; "and you can tell me this unmoved - coldly, as if it were a natural, a possible thing. Didn't you understand the shameful meaning of her insinuations? Didn't you see her hypocritical smile and the malice gleaming in her eyes?" He pressed his hands to his burning brow, and groaned "And I did not crush the infamous wretch! I did not fell her to the ground!"
Ah! if she had obeyed the impulse of her heart. Madame Ferailleur would have thrown her arms round her son's neck, and have mingled her tears with his, but reason prevailed. The worthy woman's heart was pervaded with that lofty sentiment of duty which sustains the humble heroines of the fireside, and lends them even more courage than the reckless adventurers whose names are recorded by history could boast of. She felt that Pascal must not be consoled, but spurred on to fresh efforts; and so mustering all her courage, she said: "Are you acquainted with Mademoiselle Marguerite's past life? No. You only know that hers has been a life of great vicissitudes - and so it is not strange that she should be slandered."
"In that case, mother," said Pascal, "you were wrong to interrupt Madame Vantrasson. She would probably have told us many things."
"I interrupted her, it is true, and sent her away - and you know why. But she is in our service now; and when you are calm, when you have regained your senses, nothing will prevent you from questioning her. It may be useful for you to know who this man Vantrasson is, and how and where he met Mademoiselle Marguerite."
Shame, sorrow, and rage, brought tears to Pascal's eyes. "My God!" he exclaimed, "to be reduced to the unspeakable misery of hearing my mother doubt Marguerite!" He did not doubt her. HE could have listened to the most infamous accusations against her without feeling a single doubt. However, Madame Ferailleur had sufficient self-control to shrug her shoulders. "Ah, well! silence this slander," she exclaimed. "I wish for nothing better; but don't forget that we have ourselves to rehabilitate. To crush your enemies will be far more profitable to Mademoiselle Marguerite than vain threats and weak lamentations. It seemed to me that you had sworn to act, not to complain."
This ironical thrust touched Pascal's sensitive mind to the quick; he rose at once to his feet, and coldly said, "That's true. I thank you for having recalled me to myself."
She made no rejoinder, but mentally thanked God. She had read her son's heart, and perceiving his hesitation and weakness she had supplied the stimulus he needed. Now she saw him as she wished to see him. Now he was ready to reproach himself for his lack of courage and his weakness in displaying his feelings. And as a test of his powers of endurance, he decided not to question Madame Vantrasson till four or five days had elapsed. If her suspicions had been aroused, this delay would suffice to dispel them.
He said but little during breakfast; for he was now eager to commence the struggle. He longed to act, and yet he scarcely knew how to begin the campaign. First of all, he must study the enemy's position - gain some knowledge of the men he had to deal with, find out exactly who the Marquis de Valorsay and the Viscount de Coralth were. Where could he obtain information respecting these two men? Should he be compelled to follow them and to gather up here and there such scraps of intelligence as came in his way? This method of proceeding would be slow and inconvenient in the extreme. He was revolving the subject in his mind when he suddenly remembered the man who, on the morning that followed the scene at Madame d'Argeles's house, had come to him in the Rue d'Ulm to give him a proof of his confidence. He remembered that this strange man had said: "If you ever need a helping hand, come to me." And at the recollection he made up his mind. "I am going to Baron Trigault's," he remarked to his mother; "if my presentiments don't deceive me, he will be of service to us."
In less than half an hour he was on his way. He had dressed himself in the oldest clothes he possessed; and this, with the change he had made by cutting off his hair and beard, had so altered his appearance that it was necessary to look at him several times, and most attentively, to recognize him. The visiting cards which he carried in his pocket bore the inscription: "P. Maumejan, Business Agent, Route de la Revolte." His knowledge of Parisian life had induced him to choose the same profession as M. Fortunat followed - a profession which opens almost every door. "I will enter the nearest cafe and ask for a directory," he said to himself. "I shall certainly find Baron Trigault's address in it."
The baron lived in the Rue de la Ville-l'Eveque. His mansion was one of the largest and most magnificent in the opulent district of the Madeleine, and its aspect was perfectly in keeping with its owner's character as an expert financier, and a shrewd manufacturer, the possessor of valuable mines. The marvellous luxury so surprised Pascal, that he asked himself how the owner of this princely abode could find any pleasure at the gaming table of the Hotel d'Argeles. Five or six footmen were lounging about the courtyard when he entered it. He walked straight up to one of them, and with his hat in his hand, asked: "Baron Trigault, if you please?"
If he had asked for the Grand Turk the valet would not have looked at him with greater astonishment. His surprise, indeed, seemed so profound that Pascal feared he had made some mistake and added: "Doesn't he live here?"
The servant laughed heartily. "This is certainly his house," he replied, "and strange to say, by some fortunate chance, he's here."
"I wish to speak with him on business."
The servant called one of his colleagues. "Eh! Florestan - is the baron receiving?"
"The baroness hasn't forbidden it."
This seemed to satisfy the footman; for, turning to Pascal he said: "In that case, you can follow me."