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The Champdoce Mystery

A Melancholy Masher
When Mascarin spoke of suppressing the man who stood in his way as easily as
if he was alluding to extinguishing a candle, he was not aware that there was one
circumstance which considerably enhanced the difficulty of his task, for Andre
had been forewarned, and this note of warning had been sounded on the day on
which he had received that letter from Sabine, in which she spoke in such
despairing terms of her approaching marriage, which she had been compelled to
agree to to save the honor of her family. This feeling was strengthened by a long
conversation he had had with M. de Breulh-Faverlay and the Viscountess de
Bois Arden, in which it was unanimously decided that the Count and Countess de
Mussidan were victims of some plot of which Henri de Croisenois was certainly
one of the promoters. He had no conception on what side to look for the danger,
but he had an instinctive feeling that it was impending. He prepared, therefore, to
act on the defensive. It was not only his life that was in danger, but his love and
his future happiness. M. de Breulh-Faverlay had also serious apprehensions for
the safety of a man for whom he entertained so great a respect and regard.
"I would lay a heavy wager," said he, "that we have to do with some villainous
blackmailers, and the difficulty of the business is, that we must do the work
ourselves, for we dare not invite the aid of the police. We have no proof to offer,
and the police will not stir a foot on mere suppositions, and we should not earn
the thanks of those we are desirous of assisting if we called the attention of the
law to certain acts in their past lives; for who can say what the terrible secret is,
that some vile wretch holds over the heads of M. and Madame de Mussidan?
And it is quite on the cards that the Count and the Countess might be compelled
to join the blackmailers and oppose us. We must act with the greatest prudence
and caution. Remember, that if you are out at night, you must avoid dark corners,
for it would be the easiest thing in the world to put a knife into your back."
The conclusion that was arrived at, at this interview, was that for the present
Andre and De Breulh should cease to see each other so frequently. They felt
convinced that a watch had been set on them, and that their intimacy would
certainly be notified to De Croisenois; and of course they had every desire to
cause him to imagine that they were not acting in any way together. The
arrangement, therefore, that they entered into was that each should act from his
own point of vantage against Henri de Croisenois, and that when necessary they
should meet in the evening to compare notes in a small café in the Champs
Elysees, not far from the house in which Andre was at work.
His courage was still as high as ever, but the first symptoms of rashness had
vanished. He was a born diplomatist, and fully realized that cunning and
treachery must be met by similar weapons. He must not break his engagement to
M. Gandelu; but how could he superintend the workmen and keep an eye on
Croisenois at the same time? Money was absolutely necessary, and yet he felt a