blood from her nostrils. I was soon successful as her injuries，
The bare supposition of such treachery on the viscount's part brought a flush of indignant anger to Madame d'Argeles's cheek. "Ah! if I thought that!" she exclaimed. And then, remembering what reasons the baron had for hating M. de Coralth, she murmured: "No! Your animosity misleads you--he wouldn't dare!"
The baron read her thoughts. "So you are persuaded that it is personal vengeance that I am pursuing?" said he. "You think that fear of ridicule and public odium prevents me from striking M. de Coralth in my own name, and that I am endeavoring to find some other excuse to crush him. This might have been so once; but it is not the case now. When I promised M. Ferailleur to do all in my power to save the young girl he loves, Mademoiselle Marguerite, my wife's daughter, I renounced all thought of self, all my former plans. And why should you doubt Coralth's treachery? You, yourself, promised me to unmask HIM. If he has betrayed YOU, my poor Lia, he has only been a little in advance of you."
She hung her head and made no reply. She had forgotten this.
"Besides," continued the baron, "you ought to know that when I make such a statement I have some better foundation for it than mere conjecture. It was to some purpose that I watched M. de Coralth during your absence. When the servant handed you that card he turned extremely pale. Why? Because he knew whose card it was. After you left the room his hands trembled like leaves, and his mind was no longer occupied with the game. He--who is usually such a cautious player--risked his money recklessly. When the cards came to him he did still worse; and though luck favored him, he made the strangest blunders, and lost. His agitation and preoccupation were so marked as to attract attention; and one acquaintance laughingly inquired if he were ill, while another jestingly remarked that he had dined and wined a little too much. The traitor was evidently on coals of fire. I could see the perspiration on his forehead, and each time the door opened or shut, he changed color, as if he expected to see you and Wilkie enter. A dozen times I surprised him listening eagerly, as if by dint of attention, or by the magnetic force of his will, he hoped to hear what you and your son were saying. With a single word I could have wrung a confession from him."
This explanation was so plausible that Madame d'Argeles felt half convinced. "Ah! if you had only spoken that word!" she murmured. The baron smiled a crafty and malicious smile, which would have chilled M. de Coralth's very blood if he had chanced to see it. "I am not so stupid!" he replied. "We mustn't frighten the fish till we are quite ready. Our net is the Chalusse estate, and Coralth and Valorsay will enter it of their own accord. It is not my plan, but M. Ferailleur's. There's a man for you! and if Mademoiselle Marguerite is worthy of him they will make a noble pair. Without suspecting it, your son has perhaps rendered us an important service this evening--"
"Alas!" faltered Madame d'Argeles, "I am none the less ruined--the name of Chalusse is none the less dishonored!"
She wanted to return to the drawing-room; but she was compelled to relinquish this idea. The expression of her face betrayed too plainly the terrible ordeal she had passed through. The servants had heard M. Wilkie's parting words; and news of this sort flies about with the rapidity of lightning. That very night, indeed, it was currently reported at the clubs that there would be no more card-playing at the d'Argeles establishment, as that lady was a Chalusse, and consequently the aunt of the beautiful young girl whom M. and Madame de Fondege had taken under their protection.
Unusual strength of character, unbounded confidence in one's own energy, with thorough contempt of danger, and an invincible determination to triumph or perish, are all required of the person who, like Mademoiselle Marguerite, intrusts herself to the care of strangers--worse yet, to the care of actual enemies. It is no small matter to place yourself in the power of smooth-tongued hypocrites and impostors, who are anxious for your ruin, and whom you know to be capable of anything. And the task is a mighty one-- to brave unknown dangers, perilous seductions, perfidious counsels, and perhaps even violence, at the same time retaining a calm eye and smiling lips. Yet such was the heroism that Marguerite, although scarcely twenty, displayed when she left the Hotel de Chalusse to accept the hospitality of the Fondege family. And, to crown all, she took Madame Leon with her--Madame Leon, whom she knew to be the Marquis de Valorsay's spy.
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