26th April, 2018

f stamped paper he had just found

At the bottom of a sheet of stamped paper he had just found the signature of the Count de Beauvilliers, and the sheet contained only three lines of large handwriting, evidently traced by an old man: 『I promise to pay the sum of ten thousand francs to Mademoiselle Léonie Cron on the day she attains her majority.

『The Count de Beauvilliers,』 he slowly continued, thinking aloud; 『yes, he had several farms, quite a large estate, in the vicinity of Vend?me. He died of a hunting accident, leaving a wife and two children in straitened circumstances. I held some of his notes formerly, which with difficulty I got them to pay—he was a wild droll, not good for much——』

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Suddenly he burst into a loud laugh, reconstructing in his mind the story attaching to the note.

『Ah! the old sharper, he played the little one a nice trick with this bit of paper, which is legally valueless. Then he died. Let me see, this is dated 1854, ten years ago. The girl must be of age now. But how could this acknowledgment have got into Charpier’s hands? He was a grain merchant, who lent money by the week. No doubt the girl left this on deposit with him in order to get a few crowns, or perhaps he had undertaken to collect it.』

『But this is very good,』 interrupted La Méchain—’a real stroke of luck.』

Busch shrugged his shoulders disdainfully. 『Oh no, I tell you that it is legally worth nothing. If I should present it to the heirs, they may send me about my business, for it would be necessary to prove that the money is really due. Only, if we find the girl, I may induce them to be reasonable, and come to an understanding with us, in order to avoid a disagreeable scandal. You understand? Look for this Léonie Cron; write to Fayeux, and tell him to hunt her up down there. That done, we may perhaps have a laugh.』

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He had made two piles of the papers, with the intention of thoroughly examining them when he should be alone, and now sat motionless, with his hands open, one resting on each pile.

A spell of silence followed; then La Méchain resumed: 『I have been attending to the Jordan notes. I really thought[pg 31] that I had found our man again. He has been employed somewhere, and now he is writing for the newspapers. But they receive you so badly at the newspaper offices; they refuse to give you addresses. And besides, I think that he does not sign his articles with his real name.』

Without a word, Busch had stretched out his arm to take the Jordan portfolio from its place. It contained six notes of hand of fifty francs each, dated five years back and maturing monthly—a total sum of three hundred francs—which the young man had undertaken to pay to a tailor in days of poverty. Unpaid on presentation, however, the capital sum had been swollen by enormous costs, and the portfolio fairly overflowed with formidable legal documents. At the present time the debt had increased to the sum of seven hundred and thirty francs and fifteen centimes. 『If he has a future before him,』 muttered Busch, 『we shall catch him one of these days.』 Then, some sequence of ideas undoubtedly forming in his mind, he exclaimed: 『And that Sicardot affair, are we going to abandon it?』

La Méchain lifted her fat arms to heaven with a gesture of anguish. A ripple of despair seemed to course through her monstrous person. 『Oh, Lord!』 she wailed, with her piping voice, 『it will cost me my very skin.』