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Caught In The Net

14.
Father And Daughter
Van Klopen, the man-milliner, knew Paris and its people thoroughly like all
tradesmen who are in the habit of giving large credit. He knew all about the
business of his customers, and never forgot an item of information when he
received one. Thus, when Mascarin spoke to him about the father of the lovely
Flavia, whose charms had set the susceptible heart of Paul Violaine in a blaze,
the arbiter of fashion had replied,--
"Martin Rigal; yes, I know him; he is a banker." And a banker, indeed, Martin
Rigal was, dwelling in a magnificent house in the Rue Montmartre. The bank was
on the ground floor, while his private rooms were in the story above. Though he
did not do business in a very large way, yet he was a most respectable man, and
his connection was chiefly with the smaller trades-people, who seem to live a
strange kind of hand-to-mouth existence, and who might be happy were it not for
the constant reappearance of that grim phantom--bills to be met. Nearly all these
persons were in the banker's hands entirely. Martin Rigal used his power
despotically and permitted no arguments, and speedily quelled rebellion on the
part of any new customer who ventured to object to his arbitrary rules. In the
morning the banker was never to be seen, being engaged in his private office,
and not a clerk would venture to knock at his door. Even had one done so, no
reply would have been returned; for the experiment had been tried, and it was
believed that nothing short of an alarm of fire would have brought him out.
The banker was a big man, quite bald, his face was clean shaved, and his little
gray eyes twinkled incessantly. His manner was charmingly courteous, and he
said the most cruel things in the most honied accents, and invariably escorted to
the door the man whom he would sell up the next day. In his dress he affected a
fashionable style, much used by the modern school of Shylocks. When not in
business, he was a pleasant, and, as some say, a witty companion. He was not
looked on as an ascetic, and did not despise those little pleasures which enable
us to sustain life's tortuous journey. He liked a good dinner, and had always a
smile ready for a young and attractive face. He was a widower, and all his love
was concentrated on his daughter. He did not keep a very extravagant
establishment, but the report in the neighborhood was that Mademoiselle Flavia,
the daughter of the eminent banker, would one day come into millions. The
banker always did his business on foot, for the sake of his health, as he said; but
Flavia had a sweet little Victoria, drawn by two thoroughbred horses, to drive in
the Bois de Boulogne, under the protection of an old woman, half companion and
half servant, who was driven half mad by her charge's caprices. As yet her father
has never denied her anything. He worked harder than all his clerks put together,
for, after having spent the morning in his counting house over his papers, he
received all business clients.
On the day after Flavia and Paul Violaine had met at Van Klopen's, M. Martin
Rigal was, at about half-past five, closeted with one of his female clients. She
was young, very pretty, and dressed with simple elegance, but the expression of
 
 
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