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“I think, Auguste," said Monsieur Dubois, addressing his friend, 6 that as you and monsieur are both beginners, you can't do better than have a game together. I am, in truth, an old hand, and if we were to make a poule I should carry off all the eggs !
All laughed at the joke, which the rustic breeder of horses declared was famous; he then expressed his willingness to play if monsieur would condescend to excuse his ignorance. Mr. Yates did condescend, and the game began.
Any one wholly in the secret would have been entertained with the process. It was a trial of skill as to which should exhibit the greatest awkwardness, make the most natural mistakes, and accomplish the most difficult strokes by apparently the merest chance. Monsieur Dubois, with that frank bonhomie which seemed a part of his nature, acknow. ledged that neither of the players were très forts, but he made allowances for the table being strange to monsieur, and if it was agreeable to his friend Mercier he would not mind wagering a trifle that the gentleman would beat him, in--say the best of seven games. No. Monsieur Mercier felt his inferiority, and would not tempt his fortune ; besides, he seldom or ever played for anything. It was enough for him to lose a siugle game. Monsieur Dubois saw that his friend had grown miserly; rich men generally were so. Would he not risk something for the good of the house? A bottle of vieux Macon, a pot de cidre, a petit verre de trois-six all round, or of sacré chien tout pur, if he preferred it ? To this taunt Monsieur Mercier replied that he never tasted “spiritueux,” cider was his usual beverage, but as monsieur, he observed, drank wine, he would break through his general rule and stake a bottle. Mr. Yates, having reflected a moment, thought he might as well win on this occasion, and on his part Monsieur Mercier was equally disposed to lose: the result, accordingly, agreed with the intention of each. Monsieur Dubois, as he poured out the wine, could not restrain his mirth at the expense of his country friend, and the latter, whose temper was evidently hasty, became irritated, and threw down a five-franc piece for the next stake. He lost again, of course and again. At last he was fifty francs to the bad, and goaded to desperation by his ill-luck--there could be no other reason-madly challenged monsieur to play for what he liked. There were five hundred francs in that bag, the price of a horse he had just sold; would monsieur put down a similar sum ? Here Monsieur Dubois interposed, in the interest of his friend. Could he not see that monsieur was the best player ? He must inevitably come off the worst ! Was he not content with what he had lost already? No matter, he claimed his revenge. Monsieur Dubois was vexed in his turn. A man who would not listen to reason deserved to suffer, and sulkily he withdrew to the counter, resolved no longer to countenance his friend's folly. He did not play his part badly, neither did Monsieur Auguste Mercier--neither did Mr. Yates, whose air of triumph seemed as genuine as if he were really the dupe of the other two.
Once more the antagonists went to work. It was a match of seven games, as bad been originally proposed by Monsieur Dubois. Marvellously bad were the strokes on both sides, singularly fortunate the accidents which made the players three games all. It was so even a thing, this time, that the cabaretier got the better of his indignation, and, from mere curiosity, came back to witness the termination of the match. Each
had marked a few points of the seventh game, but the balls would not break: they never do with bad players ! To score seemed next to impossible, but in the face of absurdity Mr. Yates made the attempt, and was successful. The confederates looked at each other with surprise. Mr. Yates observed the intelligence between them. He played again. The stroke was as difficult as before : he made it. The surprise of the confederates was now dismay: the game was on the balls. Mr. Yates looked up, and laughed:
“ You have waited too long," he said ; "shall I go on?” The blousard at once comprehended the state of the case.
He turned to the cabaretier :
“ Satire-mâtin," he muttered, “v'là du cavé. Est-il alpiou l'pot-debière? Faut faire du raisiné." (We are done! The Englishman is a cheat. He must be let blood !)
As he spoke, his hand stole into his bosom, and he fixed on Mr. Yates a glance of deadly meaning.
Although it was hardily encountered, the keeper drew back a pace, and shifted the end of his cue so as to hold it like a club: he knew the value of his weapon, and had the billiard-table between him and the street door. The other, baulked of his intention, thought better of his menace, withdrew his hand from beneath his blouse, and held out his open palm.
“I don't ask you," he said, " to finish the game. Be friends! Give me back my money, and let us drink another bottle together!"
Willingly," replied the Keeper, who, though a resolute man, was glad at heart to be so well out of the scrape.
There was freemasonry between the ruffians, and before Mr. Yates left the cabaret, the boon companions knew that, whatever each other's antecedents, they stood upon equal terms.
A DEFEAT, A DISCOVERY, AND A COMPACT. Mr. Yates laid a somewhat disturbed head on his pillow that night, but it arose from physical causes only. When he surrendered his conscience to his employers, he at the same time made over to them responsibility for all his acts, and so was never troubled by any qualms of mor. bid feeling. He was not in the habit of drinking quite so much bad brandy as he had imbibed at the cabaret of the “Champ de Foire aux Boissons” in cementing friendship with Messieurs Mercier and Dubois, and this, with the wine
taken before and afterwards, had slightly muddled his generally clear intellect. The only effect, however, of his potations, was to make him sleep a little sounder and wake a little later than usual ; but when he did awake he was fully prepared for the business on hand.
He had rather looked for some deprecatory message or visit on the part of Rachel, if it were only a tribute to his own importance. Still, he felt no misgiving at not having heard from or seen her, and proceeded to Monsieur Perrotin's to claim Walter Cobham as coolly as a tax-gatherer calls for the parish rates. But even tax-gatherers sometimes reckon without their host, and so, we need hardly say, did Mr. Yates.
Dispensing with the ceremony of knocking, he entered the house with his accustomed freedom, but instead of finding Rachel as he had anticipated, he beheld only Monsieur Perrotin.
“Where is your wife ?” he abruptly inquired.
Monsieur Perrotin, who was reading, looked up from his book. He expected the visit, and replied by asking a question also :
os Who are you?”
“Come," said he, “this kind of thing won't do with me! I suppose you know what brought me here ?"
“ Hardly-unless you tell your name."
wife stole away from Yorkshire." away from Yorkshire !" repeated Monsieur Perrotin. “ Put it how you like. Stole or inveigled, it's all one in the eye of the law. Where is he?"
“I know not.” 6 You refuse to say ?” “I refuse to give answer to you, sir.” "You shall answer, then, to somebody else. But I'm not to be put off in this way. I must search the house."
“ Search where you please,” returned Monsieur Perrotin; “I help you to look."
Mr. Yates stared with astonishment. What was the meaning of this reception—so different from the terror exhibited by Rachel ? Had they ventured to remove the boy? He would soon see !
Crossing the apartment hastily, he threw open a door. The next room was a kitchen, where the femme de ménage was busy with her pot-au-feu. The Keeper saw at a glance that she was alone, and rushed up-stairs, Monsieur Perrotin following. In an instant everything was turned topsyturvy; cupboards ransacked, furniture displaced, the clothes torn from the beds and dashed on the floor, no possible place of concealment left unvisited—but all to no purpose; yet hastily as all this was done it did not prevent Mr. Yates from observing the effect upon Monsieur Perrotin. Much to his disappointment, he read no fear of discovery in his countepance. It was clear, then, that advantage had been taken of the interval he had allowed Rachel for reflection. Inwardly cursing his own folly, he turned upon Monsieur Perrotin and began to bully. Unless he told him what had become of the boy he should go at once to the
police. A long night's consideration had reassured Monsieur Perrotin : he no longer feared
the visit of Mrs. Scrope's emissary. For Rachel's sake, as well as for Walter's, it was better that neither of them should spot, but when Mr. Yates threatened him with the police, he smiled. “ Listen to me, sir,” he said. “Your insolent manners I
pass over with contempt. They are not worthy of my notice, but in respect of what you say last I give to you some instruction. In France, the who violates the sanctity of a private domicile has reason himself to fear the police. That, sir, is your category. As to the rest, you come here,
you tell me, to claim somebody's child. In that case you are armed with all the proofs to make good your claim which the law of France requires ! You have brought with you the certificate of marriage of the child's parents, the acte de naissance, where and how the child was born, the authority from the magistrate or state's officer to justify your demandthe signature to all those papers by the consul of your country in this city? If by some oversight you forget those so necessary documents, the justice of France shall laugh you in the face, as I! Or, perhaps, they do something more. They punish you for a false pretension. Now, sir, if you please, I accompany you to the public tribunal.”
Monsieur Perrotin delivered this speech with perfect calmness and resolution. The more he had meditated, since his wife's departure, on the Keeper's mission, the more he felt satisfied he had discovered its real object. If no sinister purpose had been at the bottom of it, Mrs. Scrope would have acted upon legal advice and made her demand formally, in the manner he suggested. The character of her present agent and the course adopted by him convinced Monsieur Perrotin that he might safely appeal to the authority by which he was menaced.
For the frst time in his life Mr. Yates was thoroughly taken aback. After his interview with Rachel on the day before he had never dreamt of opposition. Tears he could witness unmoved; to every form of entreaty he was deaf ; his callous soul cared nothing for woman's sorrow; but the steady defiance of Monsieur Perrotin upset all his calculations. He felt that the poor, simple Teacher of Languages had penetrated his secret, and that what he told him was perfectly true.
For a few moments after Monsieur Perrotin had ceased speaking, the Keeper stood glaring fiercely on him. “Curse you!" at last
, he growled, “ you'll get the worst of this. Remember, I tell
you He shook his clenched fist in Monsieur Perrotin's face, turned on his heel, and left the room.
His reflections as he walked towards his hotel were anything but pleasant. What excuse could he make to Mrs. Scrope for having allowed Walter to escape when he had him so completely in his clutches ? But her anger was the least part of his care: there was the loss of the promised reward! If he had succeeded in carrying off the boy and lodging him safely in the vessel that was to take him to Australia, a thousand pounds would have been paid. And to lose this prize through his own negligence and stupidity! He ought to have known that a woman's defence was always flight. Fool that he was to have given her the chance, instead of waiting and watching till he had secured his prey. What likelihood was there now of getting on Walter's track again ? If he applied to the police, he must tell a plausible story, to be afterwards substantiated-no easy matter with people of that description. He had been sent to work in the dark, and a single indiscreet word would throw a flood of light on Mrs. Scrope's affairs, and ruin the whole business. He must devise some other plan. Who was there that could help him ? The hotel commissioner? Yes—he might, through his assistance, discover in what direction Rachel and Walter had gone. Persons of his calling were familiar with all the movements of the place, it was their trade; besides, this Dufourmantelle knew the Perrotin family personally, and could make inquiry without exciting suspicion. But when the fact he
wished to learn was ascertained, how far was the question advanced ? They had removed further into the interior---probably to Paris. Who could reach them there ? Ah! the acquaintance he made yesterday might serve him now. Auguste Mercier was the man! As soon as he had spoken to the commissioner he would seek him out.
It so happened that at the very time Mr. Yates was thinking of Monsieur Dufourmantelle, the latter was thinking of him, and by a still more remarkable coincidence, the subject of their thoughts was the
Had the commissioner encountered Walter on the previous day, he meant to have told him how his letter was disposed of
, but owing to Rachel's precautions they did not meet. Next morning, in passing along the Rue des Carmes, remembering that Jules Vermeil saw his friend every day, Monsieur Dufourmantelle stopped at the confectioner's shop to leave a message for Walter. Neither father nor son were there, but in the salon he espied Mademoiselle Cécile sitting in a very pensive attitude.
The young lady had a very humid aspect, like the poet's rose "just washed in a shower”
The plentiful moisture encumber'd the flower,
And weigh'd down its beautiful headin other words, she looked as if she had been crying, and that very recently.
Monsieur Dufourmantelle apologised for the intrusion, but could he see her brother? Mademoiselle Cécile turned
gaze, and shook her “ beautiful head.”
Again the commissioner begged pardon; he feared that something unpleasant had occurred; he would immediately withdraw ; his business with her brother was a mere trifle-simply to request him to tell Monsieur Walterre
At this name, the flood of Mademoiselle Cécile's grief could no longer be restrained, and the tears fell thick and fast as she sobbingly said:
“ Alas, monsieur, he is not here to tell anything! Both of them are gone !"
“ Gone! Mon Dieu ! What misfortune this ? Gone !" “ Yes, monsieur. To Paris."
“Oh, is that all, Mademoiselle Cécile? To Paris only! Every one goes there. That is only an absence of a few days.'
“ No, no!” cried the young lady, still weeping—" they are gone perhaps for ever. I shall never see him again! Do you think he will come back ?”
Ignorant of the circumstances of the case, Monsieur Dufourmantelle could not possibly give a decisive answer to this question, and he therefore asked Mademoiselle Cécile for an explanation. It was a relief to her to speak of the absent, and she told him the history of her bereavement-how papa and Jules, and Madame Perrotin and Walter, had all set out for Paris the night before-how she knew nothing of the intention till half an hour before they went-how she had cried all nightand how her life had become a burden, with mauy other lamentable words and images of desolation, from which Monsieur Dufourmantelle,