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Baron Trigault's Vengeance

Chapter 3
It was as if he had seen an apparition, and he was vainly striving to drive away a
terrible, mysterious fear, when a heavy footfall made the floor of the dining-room
creak anew. The noise restored him to consciousness of his position. "It is the
baron!" he thought; "he is coming this way! If he finds me here I am lost; he will
never consent to help me. A man would never forgive another man for hearing
what I have just heard."
Why should he not try to make his escape? The card, bearing the name of
Maumejan, would be no proof of his visit. He could see the baron somewhere
else some other day--elsewhere than at his own house, so that he need not fear
the recognition of the servants. These thoughts flashed through his mind, and he
was about to fly, when a harsh cry held him spell-bound. Baron Trigault was
standing on the threshold. His emotion, as is almost always the case with
corpulent people, was evinced by a frightful distortion of his features. His face
was transformed, his lips had become perfectly white, and his eyes seemed to be
starting from their sockets. "How came you here?" he asked, in a husky voice.
"Your servants ushered me into this room."
"Who are you?"
"What! monsieur, don't you recognize me?" rejoined Pascal, who in his agitation
forgot that the baron had seen him only twice before. He forgot the absence of
his beard, his almost ragged clothing, and all the precautions he had taken to
render recognition impossible.
"I have never met any person named Maumejan," said the baron.
"Ah! monsieur, that's not my name. Have you forgotten the innocent man who
was caught in that infamous snare set for him by the Viscount de Coralth?"
"Yes, yes," replied the baron, "I remember you now." And then recollecting the
terrible scene that had just taken place in the adjoining room: "How long have
you been here?" he asked.
Should Pascal tell a falsehood, or confess the truth? He hesitated, but his
hesitation lasted scarcely the tenth part of a second. "I have been here about half
an hour," he replied.
The baron's livid cheeks suddenly became purple, his eyes glittered, and it
seemed by his threatening gesture as if he were strongly tempted to murder this
man, who had discovered the terrible, disgraceful secrets of his domestic life. But
it was a mere flash of energy. The terrible ordeal which he had just passed
through had exhausted him mentally and physically, and it was in a faltering
voice that he resumed: "Then you have not lost a word--a word of what was said
in the other room?"
"Not a word."
The baron sank on to the divan. "So the knowledge of my disgrace is no longer
confined to myself!" he exclaimed. "A stranger's eye has penetrated the depths of
misery I have fallen into! The secret of my wretchedness and shame is mine no
longer!"
 
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