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Chapter 8
With the reader's permission, we must now jump over an interval of rather more than a
year, and bring upon the stage a person who, though only of secondary importance, can
no longer be left behind the scenes.
We have already said that the loves of Quennebert and Madame Rapally were regarded
with a jealous eye by a distant cousin of the lady's late husband. The love of this
rejected suitor, whose name was Trumeau, was no more sincere than the notary's, nor
were his motives more honourable. Although his personal appearance was not such as
to lead him to expect that his path would be strewn with conquests, he considered that
his charms at least equalled those of his defunct relative; and it may be said that in thus
estimating them he did not lay himself--open to the charge of overweening vanity. But
however persistently he preened him self before the widow, she vouchsafed him not
one glance. Her heart was filled with the love of his rival, and it is no easy thing to tear a
rooted passion out of a widow's heart when that widow's age is forty-six, and she is silly
enough to believe that the admiration she feels is equalled by the admiration she
inspires, as the unfortunate Trumeau found to his cost. All his carefully prepared
declarations of love, all his skilful insinuations against Quennebert, brought him nothing
but scornful rebuffs. But Trumeau was nothing if not persevering, and he could not
habituate himself to the idea of seeing the widow's fortune pass into other hands than
his own, so that every baffled move only increased his determination to spoil his
competitor's game. He was always on the watch for a chance to carry tales to the
widow, and so absorbed did he become in this fruitless pursuit, that he grew yellower
and more dried up from day to day, and to his jaundiced eye the man who was at first
simply his rival became his mortal enemy and the object of his implacable hate, so that
at length merely to get the better of him, to outwit him, would, after so long-continued
and obstinate a struggle and so many defeats, have seemed to him too mild a
vengeance, too incomplete a victory.
Quennebert was well aware of the zeal with which the indefatigable Trumeau sought to
injure him. But he regarded the manoeuvres of his rival with supreme unconcern, for he
knew that he could at any time sweep away the network of cunning machinations,
underhand insinuations, and malicious hints, which was spread around him, by allowing
the widow to confer on him the advantages she was so anxious to bestow. The goal, he
knew, was within his reach, but the problem he had to solve was how to linger on the
way thither, how to defer the triumphal moment, how to keep hope alive in the fair one's
breast and yet delay its fruition. His affairs were in a bad way. Day by day full
possession of the fortune thus dangled before his eyes, and fragments of which came to
him occasionally by way of loan, was becoming more and more indispensable, and
tantalising though it was, yet he dared not put out his hand to seize it. His creditors
dunned him relentlessly: one final reprieve had been granted him, but that at an end, if
he could not meet their demands, it was all up with his career and reputation.