The Count's Millions HTML version

Chapter 17.
M. Isidore Fortunat was not the man to go to sleep over a plan when it was once formed.
Whenever he said to himself, "I'll do this, or that," he did it as soon as possible--that very
evening, rather than the next day. Having sworn that he would find out Madame
d'Argeles's son, the heir to the Count de Chalusse's millions, it did not take him long to
decide which of his agents he would select to assist him in this difficult task. Thus his
first care, on returning home, was to ask his bookkeeper for Victor Chupin's address.
"He lives in the Faubourg Saint-Denis," replied the bookkeeper, "at No.--."
"Very well," muttered M. Fortunat; "I'll go there as soon as I have eaten my dinner." And,
indeed, as soon as he had swallowed his coffee, he requested Madame Dodelin to bring
him his overcoat, and half an hour later he reached the door of the house where his clerk
The house was one of those huge, ungainly structures, large enough to shelter the
population of a small village, with three or four courtyards, as many staircases as there
are letters in the alphabet, and a concierge who seldom remembers the names of the
tenants except on quarter-days when he goes to collect the rent, and at New Year, when
he expects a gratuity. But, by one of those lucky chances made expressly for M. Fortunat,
the porter did recollect Chupin, knew him and was kindly disposed toward him, and so he
told the visitor exactly how and where to find him. It was very simple. He had only to
cross the first courtyard, take staircase D, on the left-hand side, ascend to the sixth floor,
go straight ahead, etc., etc.
Thanks to this unusual civility, M. Fortunat did not lose his way more than five times
before reaching the door upon which was fastened a bit of pasteboard bearing Victor
Chupin's name. Noticing that a bell-rope hung beside the door, M. Fortunat pulled it,
whereupon there was a tinkling, and a voice called out, "Come in!" He complied, and
found himself in a small and cheaply furnished room, which was, however, radiant with
the cleanliness which is in itself a luxury. The waxed floor shone like a mirror; the
furniture was brilliantly polished, and the counterpane and curtains of the bed were as
white as snow. What first attracted the agent's attention was the number of superfluous
articles scattered about the apartment--some plaster statuettes on either side of a gilt
clock, an etagere crowded with knickknacks, and five or six passable engravings. When
he entered, Victor Chupin was sitting, in his shirt-sleeves, at a little table, where, by the
light of a small lamp, and with a zeal that brought a flush to his cheeks, he was copying,
in a very fair hand a page from a French dictionary. Near the bed, in the shade, sat a
poorly but neatly clad woman about forty years of age, who was knitting industriously
with some long wooden needles.
"M. Victor Chupin?" inquired M. Fortunat.