that the warriors did not know of my proficiency in their，
"Yes," he replied, drawling out the name affectedly, "I am M. Wilkie."
"Did you desire to speak with me?" inquired Madame d'Argeles, dryly.
"In fact--yes. I should like----"
"Very well. I will listen to you, although your visit is most inopportune, for I have eighty guests or more in my drawing-room. Still, speak!"
It was very easy to say "speak," but unfortunately for M. Wilkie he could not articulate a syllable. His tongue was as stiff, and as dry, as if it had been paralyzed. He nervously passed and repassed his fingers between his neck and his collar, but although this gave full play to his cravat, his words did not leave his throat any more readily. For he had imagined that Madame d'Argeles would be like other women he had known, but not at all. He found her to be an extremely proud and awe-inspiring creature, who, to use his own vocabulary, SQUELCHED him completely. "I wished to say to you," he repeated, "I wished to say to you----" But the words he was seeking would not come; and, so at last, angry with himself, he exclaimed: "Ah! you know as well as I, why I have come. Do you dare to pretend that you don't know?"
She looked at him with admirably feigned astonishment, glanced despairingly at the ceiling, shrugged her shoulders, and replied: "Most certainly I don't know--unless indeed it be a wager."
"A wager!" M. Wilkie wondered if he were not the victim of some practical joke, and if there were not a crowd of listeners hidden somewhere, who, after enjoying his discomfiture, would suddenly make their appearance, holding their sides. This fear restored his presence of mind. "Well, then," he replied, huskily, "this is my reason. I know nothing respecting my parents. This morning, a man with whom you are well acquainted, assured me that I was--your son. I was completely stunned at first, but after a while I recovered sufficiently to call here, and found that you had gone out."
He was interrupted by a nervous laugh from Madame d'Argeles. For she was heroic enough to laugh, although death was in her heart, and although the nails of her clinched hands were embedded deep in her quivering flesh. "And you believed him, monsieur?" she exclaimed. "Really, this is too absurd! I--your mother! Why, look at me----"
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