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For the first time; M. Saint Pavin took the trouble to examine hisvisitor; and he, who knew life too well not to be a judge of men,he seemed surprised.

"Please excuse me, sir," he uttered with a politeness very differentfrom his usual manner, "and permit me to ask you if you know thereasons why M. de Thaller is so prodigiously anxious to have youfor a son-in-law.""I think," replied M. de Traggers coldly, "that M. de Thaller wouldnot be sorry to deprive me of the right to seek the causes of myfather's ruin.

But he was interrupted by a great noise of voices in the adjoiningroom; and almost at once there was a loud knock at the door, and avoice called,"In the name of the law!"The editor of "The Pilot" had become whiter than his shirt.

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"That's what I was afraid of," he said. "Thaller has got ahead ofme; and perhaps I may be lost."Meantime he did not lose his wits. Quick as thought he took out ofa drawer a package of letters, threw them into the fireplace, andset fire to them, saying, in a voice made hoarse by emotion andanger,"No one shall come in until they are burnt."But it required an incredibly long time to make them catch fire;and M. Saint Pavin, kneeling before the hearth; was stirring themup, and scattering them, to make them burn faster.

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"And now," said M. de Traggers, "will you hesitate to deliver upthe Baron de Thaller into the hands of justice?"He turned around with flashing eyes.

"Now," he replied, "if I wish to save myself, I must save him too.

Don't you understand that he holds me?"And, seeing that the last sheets of his correspondence were consumed,"You may open now," he said to Maxence.

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Maxence obeyed; and a commissary of police, wearing his scarf ofoffice, rushed into the room; whilst his men, not without difficulty,kept back the crowd in the outer office.

The commissary, who was an old hand, and had perhaps been on ahundred expeditions of this kind, had surveyed the scene at aglance. Noticing in the fireplace the carbonized debris, uponwhich still fluttered an expiring flame,"That's the reason, then," he said, "why you were so long openingthe door?"A sarcastic smile appeared upon the lips of the editor of "The Pilot.""Private matters," he replied; "women's letters.""This will be moral evidence against you, sir.""I prefer it to material evidence."Without condescending to notice the impertinence, the commissarywas casting a suspicious glance on Maxence and M. de Traggers.

"Who are these gentlemen who were closeted with you?" he asked.

"Visitors, sir. This is M. Favoral.""The son of the cashier of the Mutual Credit?""Exactly; and this gentleman is the Marquis de Tregars.""You should have opened the door when you heard a knocking in thename of the law," grumbled the commissary.

But he did not insist. Taking a paper from his pocket, he openedit, and, handing it to M. Saint Pavin,"I have orders to arrest you," he said. "Here is the warrant."With a careless gesture, the other pushed it back. "What's the useof reading?" he said. "When I heard of the arrest of that poorJottras, I guessed at once what was in store for me. It is aboutthe Mutual Credit swindle, I imagine.""Exactly.""I have no more to do with it than yourself, sir; and I shall havevery little trouble in proving it. But that is not your business.

And you are going, I suppose, to put the seals on my papers?""Except on those that you have burnt."M. Saint Pavin burst out laughing. He had recovered his coolnessand his impudence, and seemed as much at ease as if it were themost natural thing in theworld.

"Shall I be allowed to speak to my clerks," he asked, "and to givethem my instructions?""Yes," replied the commissary, "but in my presence."The clerks, being called, appeared, consternation depicted upontheir countenances, but joy sparkling in their eyes. In realitythey were delighted at the misfortune which befell their employer.

"You see what happens to me, my boys," he said. "But don't beuneasy. In less than forty-eight hours, the error of which I amthe victim will be recognized, and I shall be liberated on bail.