The Count's Millions
The clock on the mantel-shelf struck half-past four. The magistrate and Mademoiselle
Marguerite could hear stealthy footsteps in the hall, and a rustling near the door. The
servants were prowling round about the study, wondering what was the reason of this
prolonged conference. "I must see how the clerk is progressing with the inventory." said
the magistrate. "Excuse me if I absent myself for a moment; I will soon return." And so
saying he rose and left the room.
But it was only a pretext. He really wished to conceal his emotion and regain his
composure, for he had been deeply affected by the young girl's narrative. He also needed
time for reflection, for the situation had become extremely complicated since
Mademoiselle Marguerite had informed him of the existence of heirs--of those
mysterious enemies who had poisoned the count's peace. These persons would, of course,
require to know what had become of the millions deposited in the escritoire, and who
would be held accountable for the missing treasure? Mademoiselle Marguerite,
unquestionably. Such were the thoughts that flitted through the magistrate's mind as he
listened to his clerk's report. Nor was this all; for having solicited Mademoiselle
Marguerite's confidence, he must now advise her. And this was a matter of some
However, when he returned to the study he was quite self-possessed and impassive again,
and he was pleased to see that on her side the unfortunate girl had, to some extent, at
least, recovered her wonted composure. "Let us now discuss the situation calmly," he
began. "I shall convince you that your prospects are not so frightful as you imagine. But
before speaking of the future, will you allow me to refer to the past?" The girl bowed her
consent. "Let us first of all consider the subject of the missing millions. They were
certainly in the escritoire when M. de Chalusse replaced the vial; but now they are not to
be found, so that the count must have taken them away with him."
"That thought occurred to me also."
"Did the treasure form a large package?"
"Yes, it was large; but it could have been easily concealed under the cloak which M. de
"Very good! What was the time when he left the house?"
"About five o'clock."
"When was he brought back?"
"At about half-past six."