The Champdoce Mystery
This was the conclusion of the manuscript handed by Mascarin to Paul Violaine,
and the young man laid down the roll of paper with the remark, "And that is all."
He had consumed six hours in reading this sad account of the follies and crimes
of the owners of illustrious names.
Mascarin had listened with the complacency of an author who hears his own
work read aloud to him, but all the while he was keenly watching him beneath his
spectacles and the faces of his companions. The effect that was produced was
immense, and exactly what he had anticipated. Paul, Hortebise, and Catenac
gazed upon each other with faces in which astonishment at the strange recital,
and then at the power of the man who had collected these facts together, were
mingled, and Catenac was the first who spoke. The sound of his own voice
seemed gradually to dispel the vague sense of apprehension that hung about the
"Aha!" cried he, "I always said that our old friend Mascarin would make his mark
in literature. As soon as his pen touches the paper the business man vanishes;
we have no longer a collection of dry facts and proofs, but the stirring pages of a
"Do you really consider that as a mere romance?" asked Hortebise.
"It reads like one certainly; you must allow that."
"Catenac," remarked Mascarin in his bitterly sarcastic tone, "is best able to
pronounce upon the truth or falsehood of this narrative, as he is the professional
adviser of this same Duke de Champdoce, the very Norbert whose life has just
been read to you."
"I do not deny that there is some slight foundation to it," returned the lawyer.
"Then what is it that you do deny"
"Nothing, nothing; I merely objected, more in jest than otherwise, to the
sentimental manner in which you have set forward your case."
"Catenac," remarked Mascarin, addressing the others, "has received many
confidential communications from his noble client, which he has not thought fit to
communicate to us; and though he fancied that we were drifting into quicksands
and among breakers, he displayed no signal of warning to save us from our
danger, hoping, like a true friend, that, by this means, he might get rid of us."
Catenac began to utter protestations and denials, but Mascarin cut him short with
an imperative gesture, and, after a long pause, he again commenced,--