Baron Trigault's Vengeance
On this side, at least, Mademoiselle Marguerite had no very wide field of
investigation to explore. Her common sense told her that her task would merely
consist in carefully watching the behavior of the General and his wife, in noting
their expenditure, and so on. It was a matter of close attention, and of
infinitesimal trifles. Nor was she much encouraged by her first success. It was,
perhaps, important; and yet it might be nothing. For she felt that the real
difficulties would not begin until she became morally certain that the General had
stolen the millions that were missing from the count's escritoire. Even then it
would remain for her to discover how he had obtained possession of this money.
And when she had succeeded in doing this, would her task be ended? Certainly
not. She must obtain sufficient evidence to give her the right of accusing the
General openly, and in the face of every one. She must have material and
indisputable proofs before she could say: "A robbery has been committed. I was
accused of it. I was innocent. Here is the culprit!"
What a long journey must be made before this goal was reached! No matter!
Now that she had a positive and fixed point of departure, she felt that she
possessed enough energy to sustain her in her endeavors for years, if need be.
What troubled her most was that she could not logically explain the conduct of
her enemies from the time M. de Fondege had asked her hand for his son up to
the present moment. And first, why had they been so audacious or so imprudent
as to bring her to their own home if they had really stolen one of those immense
amounts that are sure to betray their possessors?" They are mad," she thought,
"or else they must deem me blind, deaf, and more stupid than mortal ever was!"
Secondly, why should they be so anxious to marry her to their son, Lieutenant
Gustave? This also was a puzzling question. However, she was fully decided on
one point: the suspicions of the Fondege family must not be aroused. If they
were on their guard, it would be the easiest thing in the world for them to pay
their debts quietly, and increase their expenditure so imperceptibly that she
would not be able to prove a sudden acquisition of wealth.
But the events of the next few days dispelled these apprehensions. That very
afternoon, although it was Sunday, it became evident that a shower of gold had
fallen on the General's abode. The door-bell rang incessantly for several hours,
and an interminable procession of tradesmen entered. It looked very much as if
M. de Fondege had called a meeting of his creditors. They came in haughty and
arrogant, with their hats upon their heads, and surly of speech, like people who
have made up their minds to accept their loss, but who intend to pay themselves
in rudeness. They were ushered into the drawing-room where the General was
holding his levee; they remained there from five to ten minutes, and then, bowing
low with hat in hand, they retired with radiant countenances, and an obsequious
smile on their lips. So they had been paid. And as if to prove to Mademoiselle
Marguerite that her suspicions were correct, she chanced to be present when the
livery stable-keeper presented his bill.