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Baron Trigault's Vengeance

Chapter 16
Stupefied with astonishment, M. Wilkie stood for a moment silent and motionless.
"Allow me," he faltered at last; "Allow me--I wish to explain." But Madame
d'Argeles did not even turn her head; the door closed behind her and he was left
alone.
However strong a man's nature may be, he always has certain moments of
weakness. For instance, at the present moment Wilkie was completely at a loss
what to do. Not that he repented, he was incapable of that; but there are hours
when the most hardened conscience is touched, and when long dormant
instincts at last assert their rights. If he had obeyed his first impulse, he would
have darted after his mother and thrown himself on his knees before her. But
reflection, remembrance of the Viscount de Coralth, and the Marquis de
Valorsay, made him silent the noblest voice that had spoken in his soul for many
a long day. So, with his head proudly erect, he went off, twirling his mustaches
and followed by the whispers of the servants--whispers which were ready to
change into hisses at any moment.
But what did he care for the opinion of these plebeians! Before he was a hundred
paces from the house his emotion had vanished, and he was thinking how he
could most agreeably spend the time until the hour appointed for his second
interview with M. de Valorsay. He had not breakfasted, but "his stomach was out
of sorts," as he said to himself, and it would really have been impossible for him
to swallow a morsel. Thus not caring to return home, he started in quest of one of
his former intimates, with the generous intention of overpowering him with the
great news. Unfortunately he failed to find this friend, and eager to vent the pride
that was suffocating him, in some way or other, he entered the shop of an
engraver, whom he crushed by his importance, and ordered some visiting cards
bearing the inscription W. de Gordon- Chalusse, with a count's coronet in one of
the corners.
Thus occupied, time flew by so quickly that he was a trifle late in keeping his
appointment with his dear friend the marquis. Wilkie found M. de Valorsay as he
had left him--in his smoking- room, talking with the Viscount de Coralth. Not that
the marquis had been idle, but it had barely taken him an hour to set in motion
the machinery which he had had in complete readiness since the evening before.
"Victory!" cried Wilkie, as he appeared on the threshold. "It was a hard battle, but
I asserted my rights. I am the acknowledged heir! the millions are mine!" And
without giving his friends time to congratulate him, he began to describe his
interview with Madame d'Argeles, presenting his conduct in the most odious light
possible, pretending he had indulged in all sorts of harsh rejoinders, and making
himself out to be "a man of bronze," or "a block of marble," as he said.
"You are certainly more courageous than I fancied," said M. de Valorsay gravely,
when the narrative was ended.
"Is that really so?"
 
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