of our common ancestors, come back to the light of kindliness，
"Even if I entreated you on my knees not to do so?"
Madame d'Argeles's eyes flashed. "Very well. I will show you that this estate can never be yours. By what right will you lay claim to it? Because you are my son? But I will deny that you are. I will declare upon oath that you are nothing to me, and that I don't even know you."
But even this did not daunt Wilkie. He drew from his pocket a scrap of paper, and flourishing it triumphantly, he exclaimed: "It would be extremely cruel on your part to deny me, but I foresaw such a contingency, and here is my answer, copied from the civil code: 'Article 341. Inquiry as to maternity allowed, etc., etc.'"
What the exact bearing of Wilkie's threat might be Madame d'Argeles did not know. But she felt that this Article 341 would no doubt destroy her last hope; for the person who had chosen this weapon from the code to place it in Wilkie's hand must have chosen it carefully. She understood the situation perfectly. With her experience of life, she could not fail to understand the despicable part Wilkie was playing. And though it was not her son who had conceived this odious plot, it was more than enough to know that he had consented to carry it into execution. Should she try to persuade Wilkie to abandon this shameful scheme? She might have done so if she had not been so horrified by the utter want of principle which she had discovered in his character. But, under the circumstances, she realized that any effort in this direction would prove unavailing. So it was purely from a sense of duty and to prevent her conscience from reproaching her that she exclaimed: "So you will apply to the courts in order to constrain me to acknowledge you as my son?"
"If you are not reasonable----"
"That is to say, you care nothing for the scandal that will be created by such a course. In order to prove yourself a member of the Chalusse family you will begin by disgracing the name and dragging it through the mire."
Wilkie had no wish to prolong this discussion. So much talk about an affair, which, in his opinion, at least, was an extremely simple one, seemed to him utterly ridiculous, and irritated him beyond endurance. "It strikes me this is much ado about nothing," he remarked. "One would suppose, to hear you talk, that you were the greatest criminal in the world. Goodness is all very well in its way, but there is such a thing as having too much of it! Break loose from this life to-morrow, assume your rightful name, install yourself at the Hotel de Chalusse, and in a week from now no one will remember that you were once known as Lia d'Argeles. I wager one hundred louis on it. Why, if people attempted to rake up the past life of their acquaintances, they should have far too much to do. Folks do not trouble themselves as to whether a person has done this or that; the essential thing is to have plenty of money. And if any fool speaks slightingly of you, you can reply: 'I have an income of five hundred thousand francs,' and he'll say no more."
Madame d'Argeles listened, speechless with horror and disgust. Was it really her son who was speaking in this style, and to her of all people in the world? M. Wilkie misunderstood her silence. He had an excellent opinion of himself, but he was rather surprised at the effect of his eloquence. "Besides, I'm tired of vegetating, and having only one name," he continued. "I want to be on the move. Even with the small allowance I've had, I have gained a very good position in society; and if I had plenty of money I should be the most stylish man in Paris. The count's estate belongs to me, and so I must have it--in fact, I will have it. So believe me when I tell you that it will be much better for you if you acknowledge me without any fuss! Now, will you do so? No? Once, twice, three times? Is it still no? Very well then; to- morrow, then, you may expect an official notice. I wish you good- evening."
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