The Count's Millions
M. Fortunat left the restaurant, almost on the run, for he feared that he might be pursued
and overtaken by M. Casimir. But after he had gone a couple of hundred paces, he
paused, not so much to take breath, as to collect his scattered wits; and though the
weather was cold, he seated himself on a bench to reflect.
Never in all his changeful life had he known such intense anxiety and torturing suspense
as he had just experienced in that little room in the restaurant. He had longed for positive
information and he had obtained it; but it had upset all his plans and annihilated all his
hopes. Imagining that the count's heirs had been lost sight of, he had determined to find
them and make a bargain with them, before they learned that they were worth their
millions. But on the contrary, these heirs were close at hand, watching M. de Chalusse,
and knowing their rights so well that they were ready to fight for them. "For it was
certainly the count's sister who wrote the letter which I have in my pocket," he
murmured. "Not wishing to receive him at her own home, she prudently appointed a
meeting at a hotel. But what about this name of Huntley? Is it really hers, or is it only
assumed for the occasion? Is it the name of the man who enticed her from home, or is it
the name given to the son from whom she has separated herself?"
But after all what was the use of all these conjectures? There was but one certain and
positive thing, and this was that the money he had counted upon had escaped him; and he
experienced as acute a pang as if he had lost forty thousand francs a second time.
Perhaps, at that moment, he was sorry that he had severed his connection with the
marquis. Still, he was not the man to despond, however desperate his plight might appear,
without an attempt to better his situation. He knew how many surprising and sudden
changes in fortune have been brought about by some apparently trivial action. "I must
discover this sister," he said to himself--" I must ascertain her position and her plans. If
she has no one to advise her, I will offer my services; and who knows----"
A cab was passing; M. Fortunat hailed it, and ordered the Jehu to drive him to the Rue du
Helder, No. 43, Hotel de Homburg.
Was it by chance or premeditation that this establishment had received the name of one
of the gambling dens of Europe? Perhaps the following information may serve to answer
the question. The Hotel de Homburg was one of those flash hostelries frequented by
adventurers of distinction, who are attracted to Paris by the millions that are annually
squandered there. Spurious counts and questionable Russian princesses were sure to find
a cordial welcome there with princely luxury, moderate prices, and--but very little
confidence. Each person was called by the title which it pleased him to give on his
arrival--Excellency or Prince, according to his fancy. He could also find numerous
servants carefully drilled to play the part of old family retainers, and carriages upon
which the most elaborate coat-of-arms could be painted at an hour's notice. Nor was there
any difficulty whatever in immediately procuring all the accessories of a life of grandeur-
-all that is needful to dazzle the unsuspecting, to throw dust in people's eyes, and to dupe