My laughter frightened Woola, his antics ceased and he，
"So your property is seized. You make no opposition, and next week we shall have flaming posters on all the walls, telling Paris that the furniture, wardrobe, cashmeres, laces, and diamonds of Madame Lia d'Argeles will be sold without reserve, at public auction, in the Rue Drouot, with the view of satisfying the claims of her creditors. You can imagine the sensation this announcement will create. I can see your friends and the frequenters of your drawing-room meeting one another in the street, and saying: 'Ah, well! what's this about poor d'Argeles?' 'Pshaw!--no doubt it's a voluntary sale.' 'Not at all; she's really ruined. Everything is mortgaged above its value.' 'Indeed, I'm very sorry to hear it. She was a good creature.' 'Oh, excellent; a deal of amusement
could be found at her house,--only between you and me----' 'Well?' 'Well, she was no longer young.' 'That's true. However, I shall attend the sale, and I think I shall bid.' And, in fact, your acquaintances won't fail to repair to the Hotel Drouot, and maybe your most intimate friends will yield to their generous impulses sufficiently to offer twenty sous for one of the dainty trifles on your etageres."
Overcome with shame, Madame d'Argeles hung her head. She had never before so keenly felt the disgrace of her situation. She had never so clearly realized what a deep abyss she had fallen into. And this crushing humiliation came from whom? From the only friend she possessed--from the man who was her only hope, Baron Trigault.
And what made it all the more frightful was, that he did not seem to be in the least degree conscious of the cruelty of his words. Indeed, he continued, in a tone of bitter irony: "Of course, you will have an exhibition before the sale, and you will see all the dolls that hairdressers, milliners and fools call great ladies, come running to the show. They will come to see how a notorious woman lives, and to ascertain if there are any good bargains to be had. This is the right form. These great ladies would be delighted to display diamonds purchased at the sale of a woman of the demi monde. Oh! don't fear--your exhibition will be visited by my wife and daughter, by the Viscountess de Bois d'Ardon, by Madame de Rochecote, her five daughters, and a great many more. Then the papers will take up the refrain; they will give an account of your financial difficulties, and tell the public what you paid for your pictures."
It was with a sort of terror-stricken curiosity that Madame d'Argeles watched the baron. It had been many years since she had seen him in such a frame of mind--since she had heard him talk in such a cynical fashion. "I am ready to follow your advice," said she, "but afterward?"
"What, don't you understand the object I have in view? Afterward you will disappear. I know five or six journalists; and it would be very strange if I could not convince one of them that you had died upon an hospital pallet. It will furnish the subject of a touching, and what is better, a moral article. The papers will say, 'Another star has disappeared. This is the miserable end of all the poor wretches whose passing luxury scandalizes honest women.'"
"A respected woman, Lia. You will go to England, install yourself in some pretty cottage near London, and create a new identity for yourself. The proceeds of your sale will supply your wants and Wilkie's for more than a year. Before that time has elapsed you will have succeeded in accumulating the necessary proofs of your identity, and then you can assert your claims and take possession of your brother's estate."
Madame d'Argeles sprang to her feet. "Never never!" she exclaimed, vehemently.
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