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Baron Trigault's Vengeance

Chapter 5
How was it that a clever man like M. Fortunat made such a blunder as to choose
a Sunday, and a racing Sunday too, to call on M. Wilkie. His anxiety might
explain the mistake, but it did not justify it. He felt certain, that under any other
circumstances he would not have been dismissed so cavalierly. He would at
least have been allowed to develop his proposals, and then who knows what
might have happened?
But the races had interfered with his plans. M. Wilkie had been compelled to
attend to Pompier de Nanterre, that famous steeplechaser, of which he owned
one-third part, and he had, moreover, to give orders to the jockey, whose lord
and master he was to an equal extent. These were sacred duties, since Wilkie's
share in a race-horse constituted his only claim to a footing in fashionable
society. But it was a strong claim--a claim that justified the display of whips and
spurs that decorated his apartments in the Rue du Helder, and allowed him to
aspire to the character of a sporting man. Wilkie really imagined that folks were
waiting for him at Vincennes; and that the fete would not be complete without his
Still, when he presented himself inside the enclosure, a cigar in his mouth, and
his racing card dangling from his button-hole, he was obliged to confess that his
entrance did not create much of a sensation. An astonishing bit of news had
imparted unusual excitement to the ring. People were eagerly discussing the
Marquis de Valorsay's sudden determination to pay forfeit and withdraw his
horses from the contest; and the best informed declared that in the betting-rooms
the evening before he had openly announced his intention of selling his racing
stable. If the marquis had hoped that by adopting this course he would silence
the suspicions which had been aroused, he was doomed to grievous
disappointment. The rumor that he had secretly bet against his own horse,
Domingo, on the previous Sunday, and that he had given orders not to let the
animal win the race, was steadily gaining credence.
Large sums had been staked on Domingo's success. He had been the favorite in
the betting ring and the losers were by no means pleased. Some declared that
they had seen the jockey hold Domingo back; and they insisted that it was
necessary to make an example, and disqualify both the marquis and his jockey.
Still one weighty circumstance pleaded in M. de Valorsay's favor--his fortune, or,
at least, the fortune he was supposed to possess. "Why should such a rich man
stoop to cheat?" asked his defenders. "To put money into one's pocket in this
way is even worse than to cheat at cards! Besides, it's impossible! Valorsay is
above such contemptible charges. He is a perfect gentleman."
"Perhaps so," replied the skeptical bystanders. "But people said exactly the same
of Croisenois, of the Duc de H., and Baron P., who were finally convicted of the
same rascality that Valorsay is accused of."
"It's an infamous slander! If he had been inclined to cheat, he could have easily
diverted suspicion. He would have let Domingo come in second, not third!"