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The Clique of Gold

Chapter 2
Generally it is in novels only that unknown people suddenly take it into their heads to tell
their whole private history, and to confide to their neighbors even their most important
and most jealously- guarded secrets. In real life things do not go quite so fast.
Long after the old merchant had left Henrietta, she lay pondering, and undecided as to
what she should do on the next day. In the first place, she asked herself who this odd man
could be, who had spoken of himself as a dangerous and suspicious person. Was he really
what he appeared to be? The girl almost doubted it. Although wholly inexperienced, she
still had been struck by certain astounding changes in Papa Ravinet. Thus, whenever he
became animated, his carriage, his gestures, and his manners, contrasted with his country-
fashioned costume, as if he had for the moment forgotten his lesson. At the same time his
language, usually careless and incorrect, and full of slang terms belonging to his trade,
became pure and almost elegant.
What was his business? Had he been a dealer in second-hand articles before he became a
tenant in No. 23 Grange Street, three years ago? One might very easily have imagined
that Papa Ravinet (was that his real name?) had before that been in a very different
position. And why not? Is not Paris the haven in which all shipwrecked sailors of society
seek a refuge? Does not Paris alone offer to all wretched and guilty people a hiding-place,
where they can begin a new life, lost and unknown in the vast multitude? What
discoveries might be made there? How many persons, once brilliant lights in the great
world, and then, of a sudden, sought for in vain by friend and foe, might be found there
again, disguised in strange costumes, and earning a livelihood in most curious ways!
Why should not the old merchant be one of this class?
But, even if this were so, it would not have satisfactorily explained to Henrietta the
eagerness of Papa Ravinet to serve her, nor his perseverance in offering her his advice.
Was it merely from charity that he did all this? Alas! Christian charity is not often so
pressing.
Did he know who Henrietta was? Had he at any period of her life come in contact with
her? or had his interests ever been mixed up with hers? Was he anxious to make a return
for some kindness shown to him? or did he count upon some reward in the future? Who
could tell?
"Would it not be the height of imprudence to put myself in the power of this man?"
thought the poor girl.
If, on the other hand, she rejected his offers, she fell back into that state of forlorn
wretchedness, from which she had only been able to save herself by suicide.
This view was all the more urgent, as the poor child, like all persons who have been
rescued from death only after having exhausted their sufferings, now began to cling to
 
 
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