Other People’s Money

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Author: Emile Gaboriau

V

Had the commissary received any information in advance? or was he guided only by the scent peculiar to men of his profession, and the habit of suspecting every thing, even that which seems most unlikely?

At any rate he expressed himself in a tone of absolute certainty.

The agents who had accompanied and assisted him in his researches were winking at each other, and giggling stupidly. The situation struck them as rather pleasant.

The others, M. Desclavettes, M. Chapelain, and the worthy M. Desormeaux himself, could have racked their brains in vain to find terms wherein to express the immensity of their astonishments. Vincent Favoral, their old friend, paying for cashmeres, diamonds, and parlor sets! Such an idea could not enter in their minds. For whom could such princely gifts be intended? For a mistress, for one of those redoubtable creatures whom fancy represents crouching in the depths of love, like monsters at the bottom of their caves!

But how could any one imagine the methodic cashier of the Mutual Credit Society carried away by one of those insane passions which knew no reason? Ruined by gambling, perhaps, but by a woman!

Could any one picture him, so homely and so plain here, Rue St. Gilles, at the head of another establishment, and leading elsewhere in one of the brilliant quarters of Paris, a reckless life, such as strike terror in the bosom of quiet families?

Could any one understand the same man at once miserly-economical and madly-prodigal, storming when his wife spent a few cents, and robbing to supply the expenses of an adventuress, and collecting in the same drawer the jeweler’s accounts and the butcher’s bills?

"It is the climax of absurdity," murmured good M. Desormeaux.

Maxence fairly shook with wrath. Mlle. Gilberte was weeping.

Mme. Favoral alone, usually so timid, boldly defended, and with her utmost energy, the man whose name she bore. That he might have embezzled millions, she admitted: that he had deceived and betrayed her so shamefully, that he had made a wretched dupe of her for so many years, seemed to her insensate, monstrous, impossible.

And purple with shame:

"Your suspicions would vanish at once, sir," she said to the commissary, "if I could but explain to you our mode of life."

Encouraged by his first discovery, he was proceeding more minutely with his perquisitions, undoing the strings of every bundle.

"It is useless, madame," he answered in that brief tone which made so much impression upon M. Desclavettes. "You can only tell me what you know; and you know nothing."

"Never, sir, did a man lead a more regular life than M. Favoral."

"In appearance, you are right. Besides, to regulate one’s disorder is one of the peculiarities of our time. We open credits to our passions, and we keep account of our infamies by double entry. We operate with method. We embezzle millions that we may hang diamonds to the ears of an adventuress; but we are careful, and we keep the receipted bills."

"But, sir, I have already told you that I never lost sight of my husband."

"Of course."

"Every morning, precisely at nine o’clock, he left home to go to M. de Thaller’s office."

"The whole neighborhood knows that, madame."

"At half-past five he came home."

"That, also, is a well-known fact."

"After dinner he went out to play a game, but it was his only amusement; and at eleven o’clock he was always in bed."

"Perfectly correct."

"Well, then, sir, where could M. Favoral have found time to abandon himself to the excesses of which you accuse him?"

Imperceptibly the commissary of police shrugged his shoulders.

"Far from me, madame,’ he uttered, "to doubt your good faith. What matters it, moreover, whether your husband spent in this way or in that way the sums which he is charged with having appropriated? But what do your objections prove? Simply that M. Favoral was very skillful, and very much self-possessed. Had he breakfasted when he left you at nine? No. Pray, then, where did he breakfast? In a restaurant? Which? Why did he come home only at half-past five, when his office actually closed at three o’clock? Are you quite sure that it was to the Caf Turc that he went every evening? Finally, why do not you say any thing of the extra work which he, always had to attend to, as he pretended, once or twice a month? Sometimes it was a loan, sometimes a liquidation, or a settlement of dividends, which devolved upon him. Did he come home then? No. He told you that he would dine out, and that it would be more convenient for him to have a cot put up in his office; and thus you were twenty-four or forty-eight hours without seeing him. Surely this double, existence must have weighed heavily upon him; but he was forbidden from breaking off with you, under penalty of being caught the very next day with his hand in the till. It is the respectability of his official life here which made the other possible, - that which has absorbed such enormous sums. The harsher and the closer he were here, the more magnificent he could show himself elsewhere. His household in the Rue St. Gilles was for him a certificate of impunity. Seeing him so economical, every one thought him rich. People who seem to spend nothing are always trusted. Every privation which he imposed upon you increased his reputation of austere probity, and raised him farther above suspicion."

Big tears were rolling down Mme. Favoral’s cheeks.

"Why not tell me the whole truth?" she stammered.

"Because I do not know it," replied the commissary; "because these are all mere presumptions. I have seen so many instances of similar calculations!"

Then regretting, perhaps, to have said so much,

"But I may be mistaken," he added: "I do not pretend to be infallible." He was just then completing a brief inventory of all the papers found in the old desk. There was nothing left but to examine the drawer which was used for a cash drawer. He found in it in gold, notes, and small change, seven hundred and eighteen francs.

Having counted this sum; the commissary offered it to Mme. Favoral, saying,

"This belongs to you madame."

But instinctively she withdrew her hand.

"Never!" she said.

The commissary went on with a gesture of kindness, - "I understand your scruples, madame, and yet I must insist. You may believe me when I tell you that this little sum is fairly and legitimately yours. You have no personal fortune."

The efforts of the poor woman to keep from bursting into loud sobs were but too visible.

"I possess nothing in the world, sir," she said in a broken voice. "My husband alone attended to our business-affairs. He never spoke to me about them; and I would not have dared to question him. Alone he disposed of our money. Every Sunday he handed me the amount which he thought necessary for the expenses of the week, and I rendered him an account of it. When my children or myself were in need of any thing, I told him so, and he gave me what he thought proper. This is Saturday: of what I received last Sunday I have five francs left: that, is our whole fortune."

Positively the commissary was moved.

"You see, then, madame," he said, "that you cannot hesitate: you must live."

Maxence stepped forward.

"Am I not here, sir?" he said.

The commissary looked at him keenly, and in a grave tone,

"I believe indeed, sir," he replied, "that you will not suffer your mother and sister to want for any thing. But resources are not created in a day. Yours, if I have not been deceived, are more than limited just now."

And as the young man blushed, and did not answer, he handed the seven hundred francs to Mlle. Gilberte, saying,

"Take this, mademoiselle: your mother permits it." His work was done. To place his seals upon M. Favoral’s study was the work of a moment.

Beckoning, then, to his agents to withdraw, and being ready to leave himself,

"Let not the seals cause you any uneasiness, madame," said the commissary of police to Mme. Favoral. "Before forty-eight hours, some one will come to remove these papers, and restore to you the free use of that room."

He went out; and, as soon as the door had closed behind him,

"Well?" exclaimed M. Desormeaux;

But no one had any thing to say. The guests of that house where misfortune had just entered were making haste to leave. The catastrophe was certainly terrible and unforeseen; but did it not reach them too? Did they not lose among them more than three hundred thousand francs?

Thus, after a few commonplace protestations, and some of those promises which mean nothing, they withdrew; and, as they were going down the stairs,

"The commissary took Vincent’s escape too easy," remarked M. Desormeaux. "He must know some way to catch him again."

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Chicago: Emile Gaboriau, "V," Other People’s Money, ed. Burton, Isabel, Lady, 1831-1896 and trans. Douglas, Robert B. (Robert Bruce) in Other People’s Money (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1921), Original Sources, accessed February 24, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=94BFQQHGQP7BUD2.

MLA: Gaboriau, Emile. "V." Other People’s Money, edited by Burton, Isabel, Lady, 1831-1896, and translated by Douglas, Robert B. (Robert Bruce), in Other People’s Money, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 1921, Original Sources. 24 Feb. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=94BFQQHGQP7BUD2.

Harvard: Gaboriau, E, 'V' in Other People’s Money, ed. and trans. . cited in 1921, Other People’s Money, Henry Holt and Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 24 February 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=94BFQQHGQP7BUD2.