第149章 CHAPTER XI EXPLANATIONS AND WHAT CAME OF THEM(4)
"I don't know anything about Cerizet except through you," he said;"you introduced him to me as a manager, offering every guarantee; but, allowing him to be blacker than the devil, and supposing that this communication comes from him, I don't see, my friend, that all that makes YOU any the whiter.""No doubt I was to blame," said la Peyrade, "for putting such a man into relations with you; but we wanted some one who understood journalism, and that value he really had for us. But who can ever sound the depths of souls like his? I thought him reformed. A manager, I said to myself, is only a machine; he can do no harm. I expected to find him a man of straw; well, I was mistaken, he will never be anything but a man of mud.""All that is very fine," said Thuillier, "but those twenty-five thousand francs found so conveniently in your possession, where did you get them? That is the point you are forgetting to explain.""But to reason about it," said la Peyrade; "a man of my character in the pay of the police and yet so poor that I could not pay the ten thousand francs your harpy of a sister demanded with an insolence which you yourself witnessed--""But," said Thuillier, "if the origin of this money is honest, as Isincerely desire it may be, what hinders you from telling me how you got it?""I cannot," said la Peyrade; "the history of that money is a secret entrusted to me professionally.""Come, come, you told me yourself that the statutes of your order forbid all barristers from doing business of any kind.""Let us suppose," said la Peyrade, "that I have done something not absolutely regular; it would be strange indeed after what I risked, as you know, for you, if you should have the face to reproach me with it.""My poor friend, you are trying to shake off the hounds; but you can't make me lose the scent. You wish to keep your secret; then keep it. Iam master of my own confidence and my own esteem; by paying you the forfeit stipulated in our deed I take the newspaper into my own hands.""Do you mean that you dismiss me?" cried la Peyrade. "The money that you have put into the affair, all your chances of election, sacrificed to the calumnies of such a being as Cerizet!""In the first place," said Thuillier, "another editor-in-chief can be found; it is a true saying that no man is indispensable. As for election to the Chamber I would rather never receive it than owe it to the help of one who--""Go on," said la Peyrade, seeing that Thuillier hesitated, "or rather, no, be silent, for you will presently blush for your suspicions and ask my pardon humbly."By this time la Peyrade saw that without a confession to which he must compel himself, the influence and the future he had just recovered would be cut from under his feet. Resuming his speech he said, solemnly:--"You will remember, my friend, that you were pitiless, and, by subjecting me to a species of moral torture, you have forced me to reveal to you a secret that is not mine.""Go on," said Thuillier, "I take the whole responsibility upon myself.
Make me see the truth clearly in this darkness, and if I have done wrong I will be the first to say so.""Well," said la Peyrade, "those twenty-five thousand francs are the savings of a servant-woman who came to me and asked me to take them and to pay her interest.""A servant with twenty-five thousand francs of savings! Nonsense; she must serve in monstrously rich households.""On the contrary, she is the one servant of an infirm old savant; and it was on account of the discrepancy which strikes your mind that she wanted to put her money in my hands as a sort of trustee.""Bless me! my friend," said Thuillier, flippantly, "you said we were in want of a romance-feuilletonist; but really, after this, I sha'n't be uneasy. Here's imagination for you!""What?" said la Peyrade, angrily, "you don't believe me?""No, I do not believe you. Twenty-five thousand francs savings in the service of an old savant! that is about as believable as the officer of La Dame Blanche buying a chateau with his pay.""But if I prove to you the truth of my words; if I let you put your finger upon it?""In that case, like Saint Thomas, I shall lower my flag before the evidence. Meanwhile you must permit me, my noble friend, to wait until you offer me that proof."Thuillier felt really superb.
"I'd give a hundred francs," he said to himself, "if Brigitte could have been here and heard me impeach him.""Well," said la Peyrade, "suppose that without leaving this office, and by means of a note which you shall read, I bring into your presence the person from whom I received the money; if she confirms what I say will you believe me?"This proposal and the assurance with which it was made rather staggered Thuillier.
"I shall know what to do when the time comes," he replied, changing his tone. "But this must be done at once, now, here.""I said, without leaving this office. I should think that was clear enough.""And who will carry the note you write?" asked Thuillier, believing that by thus examining every detail he was giving proofs of amazing perspicacity.
"Carry the note! why, your own porter of course," replied la Peyrade;"you can send him yourself."
"Then write it," said Thuillier, determined to push him to the wall.
La Peyrade took a sheet of paper with the new heading and wrote as follows, reading the note aloud:--Madame Lambert is requested to call at once, on urgent business, at the office of the "Echo de la Bievre," rue Saint-Dominique d'Enfer. The bearer of this note will conduct her. She is awaited impatiently by her devoted servant, Theodose de la Peyrade.
"There, will that suit you?" said the barrister, passing the paper to Thuillier.
"Perfectly," replied Thuillier, taking the precaution to fold the letter himself and seal it. "Put the address," he added.
Then he rang the bell for the porter.
"You will carry this letter to its address," he said to the man, "and bring back with you the person named. But will she be there?" he asked, on reflection.
Honore de Balzac