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The Count's Millions

Chapter 1.
It was a Thursday evening, the fifteenth of October; and although only half-past six
o'clock, it had been dark for some time already. The weather was cold, and the sky was as
black as ink, while the wind blew tempestuously, and the rain fell in torrents.
The servants at the Hotel de Chalusse, one of the most magnificent mansions in the Rue
de Courcelles in Paris, were assembled in the porter's lodge, a little building comprising a
couple of rooms standing on the right hand side of the great gateway. Here, as in all large
mansions, the "concierge" or porter, M. Bourigeau, was a person of immense importance,
always able and disposed to make any one who was inclined to doubt his authority, feel it
in cruel fashion. As could be easily seen, he held all the other servants in his power. He
could let them absent themselves without leave, if he chose, and conceal all returns late at
night after the closing of public balls and wine-shops. Thus, it is needless to say that M.
Bourigeau and his wife were treated by their fellow- servants with the most servile
adulation.
The owner of the house was not at home that evening, so that M. Casimir, the count's
head valet, was serving coffee for the benefit of all the retainers. And while the company
sipped the fragrant beverage which had been generously tinctured with cognac, provided
by the butler, they all united in abusing their common enemy, the master of the house.
For the time being, a pert little waiting-maid, with an odious turn-up nose, had the floor.
She was addressing her remarks to a big, burly, and rather insolent- looking fellow, who
had been added only the evening before to the corps of footmen. "The place is really
intolerable," she was saying. "The wages are high, the food of the very best, the livery
just such as would show off a good-looking man to the best advantage, and Madame
Leon, the housekeeper, who has entire charge of everything, is not too lynx-eyed."
"And the work?"
"A mere nothing. Think, there are eighteen of us to serve only two persons, the count and
Mademoiselle Marguerite. But then there is never any pleasure, never any amusement
here."
"What! is one bored then?"
"Bored to death. This grand house is worse than a tomb. No receptions, no dinners--
nothing. Would you believe it, I have never seen the reception-rooms! They are always
closed; and the furniture is dropping to pieces under its coverings. There are not three
visitors in the course of a month."
She was evidently incensed, and the new footman seemed to share her indignation.
"Why, how is it?" he exclaimed. "Is the count an owl? A man who's not yet fifty years
old, and who's said to be worth several millions."
 
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