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There was only one way of completely reassuring the good woman, and that was to tell her all. Chupin did so with absolute frankness. "Ah, well!" she said, when the narrative was finished. "You see now how easy it is to lead you astray! How could you be induced to play the part of a spy, when you know so well what it leads to? It's only God's protecting care that has saved you again from an act which you would have reproached yourself for all your life. Your employer's intentions are good now; but they WERE criminal when he ordered you to follow Madame d'Argeles. Poor woman! She had sacrificed herself for her son, she had concealed herself from him, and you were working to betray her. Poor creature! how she must have suffered, and how much I pity her! To be what she is, and to see herself denounced by her own son! I, who am only a poor plebeian, should die of shame under such circumstances."
Chupin blew his nose so loudly that the window-panes rattled; this was his way of repressing his emotion whenever it threatened to overcome him. "You speak like the good mother that you are," he exclaimed at last," and I'm prouder of you than if you were the handsomest and richest lady in Paris, for you're certainly the most honest and virtuous; and I should be a thorough scoundrel if I caused you a moment's sorrow. And if ever I set my foot in such a mess again, I hope some one will cut it off. But for this once----"
"For this once, you may go, Toto; I give my consent."
He went off with a lighter heart; and on reaching the Rue d'Anjou he immediately began his investigations. They were not successful at first. At every house where he made inquiries nobody had any knowledge of the Viscount de Coralth. He had visited half the buildings in the street, when he reached one of the handsomest houses, in front of which stood a cart laden with plants and flowers. An old man, who seemed to be the concierge, and a valet in a red waistcoat, were removing the plants from the vehicle and arranging them in a line under the porte cochere. As soon as the cart was emptied, it drove away, whereupon Chupin stepped forward, and addressing the concierge, asked: "Does the Viscount de Coralth live here?"
"Yes. What do you want with him?"
Having foreseen this question, Chupin had prepared a reply. "I certainly don't come to call on him," he answered. "My reason for inquiring is this: just now, as I passed near the Madeleine, a very elegant lady called me, and said: 'M. de Coralth lives in the Rue d'Anjou, but I've forgotten the number. I can't go about from door to door making inquiries, so if you'll go there and ascertain his address for me, I'll give you five francs for yourself,' so my money's made."
Profiting by his old Parisian experience, Chupin had chosen such a clever excuse that both his listeners heartily laughed. "Well, Father Moulinet," cried the servant in the red waistcoat, "what do you say to that? Are there any elegant ladies who give five francs for YOUR address?"
"Is there any lady who's likely to send such flowers as these to YOU?" was the response.
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