I thought it best to return them to you, sir.""Why?""Because I wished the fact known to you of the money having beenoffered and refused."M. Barban d'Avranchel was quietly stroking his whiskers, once of abright red, but now almost entirely white.

"Is this an insinuation against the manager of the Mutual Credit?"he asked.

Maxence looked straight at him; and, in a tone which affirmedprecisely the reverse,"I accuse no one,'," he said.

"I must tell you,"' resumed the judge, "that M. de Thaller hashimself informed me of this circumstance. When he called at yourhouse, he was ignorant, as yet, of the extent of the embezzlements,and was in hopes of being able to hush up the affair. That's whyhe wished his cashier to start for Belgium. This system ofhelping criminals to escape the just punishment of their crimes isto be bitterly deplored; but it is quite the habit of your financialmagnates, who prefer sending some poor devil of am employe to hanghimself abroad than run the risk of compromising their credit byconfessing that they have been robbed."Maxence might have had a great deal to say; but M. de Tregars hadrecommenced him the most extreme reserve. He remained silent.

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"On the other hand," resumed the judge, "the refusal to accept themoney so generously offered does not speak in favor of VincentFavoral. He was well aware, when he left, that it would require agreat deal of money to reach the frontier, escape pursuit, and hidehimself abroad; and, if he refused the fifteen thousand francs, itmust have been because he was well provided for already."Tears of shame and rage started from Maxence's eyes "I am certain,sir," he exclaimed, "that my father went off without a sou.""What has become of the millions, then?" he asked coldly.

Maxence hesitated. Why not mention his suspicions? He dared not.

"My father speculated at the bourse," he stammered. "And he led ascandalous conduct, keeping up, away from home, a style of livingwhich must have absorbed immense sums.""We knew nothing of it, sir; and our first suspicions were arousedby what the commissary of police told us."The judge insisted no more; and in a tone which indicated that hisquestion was a mere matter of form, and he attached but littleimportance to the answer,"You have no news from your father?" he asked.

"None whatever.""And you have no idea where he has gone?""None in the least."M. d'Avranchel had already resumed his seat at the table, and wasagain busy with his papers.

"You may retire," he said. You will be notified if I need you."Maxence felt much discouraged when he joined M. de Tregars at theentrance of the gallery.

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"The judge is convinced of M. de Thaller's entire innocence," hesaid.

But as soon as he had narrated, with a fidelity that did honor tohis memory, all that had just occurred,"Nothing is lost yet," declared M. de Tregars. And, taking fromhis pocket the bill for two trunks, which had been found in M.

Favoral's portfolio,"There," he said, "we shall know our fate."

M. de Tregars and Maxence were in luck. They had a good driver anda fair horse; and in twenty minutes they were at the trunk store.

As soon as the cab stopped,"Well," exclaimed M. de Tregars, "I suppose it has to be done."And, with the look of a man who has made up his mind to do somethingwhich is extremely repugnant to him, he jumped out, and, followedby Maxence, entered the shop.

"It was a modest establishment; and the people who kept it, husbandand wife, seeing two customers coming in, rushed to meet them, withthat welcoming smile which blossoms upon the lips of every Parisianshopkeeper.

"What will you have, gentlemen?"And, with wonderful volubility, they went on enumerating everyarticle which they had for sale in their shop, - from the"indispensable-necessary," containing seventy-seven pieces of solidsilver, and costing four thousand francs, down to the humblestcarpet-bag at thirty-nine cents.