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Maupassant's Short Stories Vol. 6

The Baroness
"Come with me," said my friend Boisrene, "you will see some very interesting bric-a-
brac and works of art there."
He conducted me to the first floor of an elegant house in one of the big streets of Paris.
We were welcomed by a very pleasing man, with excellent manners, who led us from
room to room, showing us rare things, the price of which he mentioned carelessly. Large
sums, ten, twenty, thirty, fifty thousand francs, dropped from his lips with such grace and
ease that one could not doubt that this gentleman-merchant had millions shut up in his
safe.
I had known him by reputation for a long time Very bright, clever, intelligent, he acted as
intermediary in all sorts of transactions. He kept in touch with all the richest art amateurs
in Paris, and even of Europe and America, knowing their tastes and preferences; he
apprised them by letter, or by wire if they lived in a distant city, as soon as he knew of
some work of art which might suit them.
Men of the best society had had recourse to him in times of difficulty, either to find
money for gambling, or to pay off a debt, or to sell a picture, a family jewel, or a tapestry.
It was said that he never refused his services when he saw a chance of gain.
Boisrene seemed very intimate with this strange merchant. They must have worked
together in many a deal. I observed the man with great interest.
He was tall, thin, bald, and very elegant. His soft, insinuating voice had a peculiar,
tempting charm which seemed to give the objects a special value. When he held anything
in his hands, he turned it round and round, looking at it with such skill, refinement, and
sympathy that the object seemed immediately to be beautiful and transformed by his look
and touch. And its value increased in one's estimation, after the object had passed from
the showcase into his hands.
"And your Crucifix," said Boisrene, "that beautiful Renaissance Crucifix which you
showed me last year?"
The man smiled and answered:
"It has been sold, and in a very peculiar manner. There is a real Parisian story for you!
Would you like to hear it?"
"With pleasure."
"Do you know the Baroness Samoris?"
 
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