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"You!" he interrupted insolently: "I do not know you."Imperturbable, M. de Tregars was drawing off his gloves.

"Are you quite certain of that?" he replied. "Come, you certainlyknow my old friend, M. de Villegre?"An evident feeling of anxiety appeared on M. Costeclar's countenance.

"I do," he stammered.

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"Did not M. Villegre call upon you before the war?""He did.""Well, 'twas I who sent him to you; and the commands which hedelivered to you were mine."Yours?"Mine. I am Marius de Tregars."A nervous shudder shook M. Costeclar's lean frame. Instinctivelyhis eye turned towards the door.

"You see," Marius went on with the same gentleness, "we are, youand I, old acquaintances. For you quite remember me now, don'tyou? I am the son of that poor Marquis de Tregars who came toParis, all the way from his old Brittany with his whole fortune,- two millions.""I remember," said the stock-broker: "I remember perfectly well.""On the advice of certain clever people, the Marquis de Tregarsventured into business. Poor old man! He was not very sharp. Hewas firmly persuaded that he had already more than doubled hiscapital, when his honorable partners demonstrated to him that he wasruined, and, besides, compromised by certain signatures imprudentlygiven."Mlle. Gilberte was listening, her mouth open, and wondering whatMarius was aiming at, and how he could remain so calm.

"That disaster," he went on, "was at the time the subject of anenormous number of very witty jokes. The people of the boursecould hardly admire enough these bold financiers who had, so deftlyrelieved that candid marquis of his money. That was well done forhim; what was he meddling with? As to myself, to stop theprosecutions with which my father was threatened, I gave up all Ihad. I was quite young, and, as you see, quite what you call, Ibelieve, 'green.' I am no longer so now. Were such a thing tohappen to me to-day, I should want to know at once what had becomeof the millions: I would feel all the pockets around me. I wouldsay, 'Stop thief!'"At every word, as it were, M. Costeclar's uneasiness became moremanifest.

"It was not I," he said, "who received the benefit of M. de Tregars'

fortune."Marius nodded approvingly.

"I know now," he replied, "among whom the spoils were divided. You,M. Costeclar, you took what you could get, timidly, and according toyour means. Sharks are always accompanied by small fishes, to whichthey abandon the crumbs they disdain. You were but a small fishthen: you accommodated yourself with what your patrons, the sharks,did not care about. But, when you tried to operate alone, you werenot shrewd enough: you left proofs of your excessive appetite forother people's money. Those proofs I have in my possession."M. COSTECLAR was now undergoing perfect torture.

"I am caught," he said, "I know it: I told M. de Villegre so.""Why are you here, then?""How did I know that the count had been sent by you?""That's a poor reason, sir.""Besides, after what has occurred, after Favoral's flight, I thoughtmyself relieved of my engagement.""Indeed!""Well, if you insist upon it, I am wrong, I suppose.""Not only you are wrong," uttered Marius still perfectly cool, "butyou have committed a great imprudence. By failing to keep yourengagements, you have relieved me of mine. The pact is broken.

According to the agreement, I have the right, as I leave here, to gostraight to the police."M. COSTECLAR's dull eye was vacillating.

"I did not think I was doing wrong," he muttered. "Favoral was myfriend.""And that's the reason why you were coming to propose to Mlle.

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Favoral to become your mistress? There she is, you thought, withoutresources, literally without bread, without relatives, withoutfriends to protect her: this is the time to come forward. Andthinking you could be cowardly, vile, and infamous with impunity,you came."To be thus treated, he, the successful man, in presence of thisyoung girl, whom, a moment before, he was crushing with his impudentopulence, no M. Costeclar could not stand it. Losing completelyhis head,"You should have let me know, then," he exclaimed, "that she wasyour mistress."Something like a flame passed over M. de Tregars' face. His eyesflashed. Rising in all the height of his wrath, which broke outterrible at last,"Ah, you scoundrel!" he exclaimed.

M. Costeclar threw himself suddenly to one side.

"Sir!"But at one bound M. de Tregars had caught him.

"On your knees!" he cried.

And, seizing him by the collar with an iron grip, he lifted himclear off the floor, and then threw him down violently upon bothknees.

"Speak!" he commanded. "Repeat, - 'Mademoiselle'