The Count's Millions HTML version

Chapter 14.
M. Casimir, the deceased Count de Chalusse's valet, was neither better nor worse than
most of his fellows. Old men tell us that there formerly existed a race of faithful servants,
who considered themselves a part of the family that employed them, and who
unhesitatingly embraced its interests and its ideas. At the same time their masters requited
their devotion by efficacious protection and provision for the future. But such masters
and such servants are nowadays only found in the old melodramas performed at the
Ambigu, in "The Emigre," for instance, or in "The Last of the Chateauvieux." At present
servants wander from one house to another, looking on their abode as a mere inn where
they may find shelter till they are disposed for another journey. And families receive
them as transient, and not unfrequently as dangerous, guests, whom it is always wise to
treat with distrust. The key of the wine-cellar is not confided to these unreliable inmates;
they are intrusted with the charge of little else than the children--a practice which is often
productive of terrible results.
M. Casimir was no doubt honest, in the strict sense of the word. He would have scorned
to rob his master of a ten-sous piece; and yet he would not have hesitated in the least to
defraud him of a hundred francs, if an opportunity had presented itself. Vain and
rapacious in disposition, he consoled himself by refusing to obey any one save his
employer, by envying him with his whole heart, and by cursing fate for not having made
him the Count de Chalusse instead of the Count de Chalusse's servant. As he received
high wages, he served passably well; but he employed the best part of his energy in
watching the count. He scented some great family secret in the household, and he felt
angry and humiliated that this secret had not been intrusted to his discretion. And if he
had discovered nothing, it was because M. de Chalusse had been caution personified, as
Madame Leon had declared.
Thus it happened that when M. Casimir saw Mademoiselle Marguerite and the count
searching in the garden for the fragments of a letter destroyed in a paroxysm of rage
which he had personally witnessed, his natural curiosity was heightened to such a degree
as to become unendurable. He would have given a month's wages, and something over, to
have known the contents of that letter, the fragments of which were being so carefully
collected by the count. And when he heard M. de Chalusse tell Mademoiselle Marguerite
that the most important part of the letter was still lacking, and saw his master relinquish
his fruitless search, the worthy valet vowed that he would be more skilful or more
fortunate than his master; and after diligent effort, he actually succeeded in recovering
five tiny scraps of paper, which had been blown into the shrubbery.
They were covered with delicate handwriting, a lady's unquestionably; but he was utterly
unable to extract the slightest meaning from them. Nevertheless, he preserved them with
jealous care, and was careful not to say that he had found them. The incoherent words
which he had deciphered on these scraps of paper mixed strangely in his brain, and he
grew more and more anxious to learn what connection there was between this letter and
the count's attack. This explains his extreme readiness to search the count's clothes when