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The other, an old man, whose inflamed complexion and blossomingnose betrayed old habits of drunkenness, looked very much like acoachman out of place. Baseness and duplicity bloomed upon hiscountenance; and the brightness of his small eyes rendered stillmore alarming the slyly obsequious smile that was stereotyped uponhis thin and pale lips.

They were so completely absorbed in their conversation, that theypaid no attention whatever to what was going on around them.

"Then," the old one was saying, "it's all over.""Entirely. The house is sold.""And the boss?""Gone to America.""What! Suddenly, that way?""No. We supposed he was going on some journey, because, every daysince the beginning of the week, they were bringing in trunks andboxes; but no one knew exactly when he would go. Now, in the nightof Saturday to Sunday, he drops in the house like a bombshell, wakesup everybody, and says he must leave immediately. At once weharness up, we load the baggage up, we drive him to the WesternRailway Station, and good-by, Vincent!""And the young lady?""She's got to get out in the next twenty-four hours; but she don'tseem to mind it one bit. The fact is we are the ones who grievethe most, after all.""Is it possible?""It is so. She was a good girl; and we won't soon find one likeher."The old man seemed distressed.

"Bad luck!" he growled. "I would have liked that house myself.""Oh, I dare say you would!""And there is no way to get in?""Can't tell. It will be well to see the others, those who havebought. But I mistrust them: they look too stupid not to be mean."Listening intently to the conversation of these two men, it wasmechanically and at random that M. de Tregars and Maxence threwtheir cards on the table, and uttered the common terms of the gameof piquet,"Five cards! Tierce, major! Three aces."Meantime the old man was going on,"Who knows but what M. Vincent may come back?""No danger of that!""Why?"The other looked carefully around, and, seeing only two playersabsorbed in their game,"Because," he replied, "M. Vincent is completely ruined, it seems.

He spent all his money, and a good deal of other people's moneybesides. Amanda, the chambermaid, told me; and I guess she knows.""You thought he was so rich!"" He was. But no matter how big a bag is: if you keep taking outof it, you must get to the bottom.""Then he spent a great deal?""It's incredible! I have been in extravagant houses; but nowherehave I ever seen money fly as it has during the five months that Ihave been in that house. A regular pillage! Everybody helpedthemselves; and what was not in the house, they could get from thetradespeople, have it charged on the bill; and it was all paidwithout a word.""Then, yes, indeed, the money must have gone pretty lively," saidthe old one in a convinced tone.

"Well," replied the other, "that was nothing yet. Amanda thechambermaid who has been in the house fifteen years, told us somestories that would make you jump. She was not much for spending,Zelie; but some of the others, it seems...

It required the greatest effort on the part of Maxence and M. deTregars not to play, but only to pretend to play, and to continueto count imaginary points, - " One, two, three, four."Fortunately the coachman with the red nose seemed much interested.

"What others?" he asked.

"That I don't know any thing about," replied the younger valet.

"But you may imagine that there must have been more than one in thatlittle house during the many years that M. Vincent owned it, - a man whohadn't his equal for women, and who was worth millions.""And what was his business?""Don't know that, either.""What! there were ten of you in the house, and you didn't know theprofession of the man who paid you all?""We were all new.""The chambermaid, Amanda, must have known.""When she was asked, she said that he was a merchant. One thing issure, he was a queer old chap."So interested was the old coachman, that, seeing the punch-bowlempty, he called for another. His comrade could not fail to showhis appreciation of such politeness.

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"Ah, yes!" he went on, "old Vincent was an eccentric fellow; andnever, to see him, could you have suspected that he cut up suchcapers, and that he threw money away by the handful""Indeed!

"Imagine a man about fifty years old, stiff as a post, with a faceabout as pleasant as a prison-gate. That's the boss! Summer andwinter, he wore laced shoes, blue stockings, gray pantaloons thatwere too short, a cotton necktie, and a frock-coat that came downto his ankles. In the street, you would have taken him for a hosierwho had retired before his fortune was made.""You don't say so!""No, never have I seen a man look so much like an old miser. Youthink, perhaps, that he came in a carriage. Not a bit of it! Hecame in the omnibus, my boy, and outside too, for three sons; andwhen it rained he opened his umbrella. But the moment he hadcrossed the threshold of the house, presto, pass! complete changeof scene. The miser became pacha. He took off his old duds, puton a blue velvet robe; and then there was nothing handsome enough,nothing good enough, nothing expensive enough for him. And, whenhe had acted the my lord to his heart's content, he put on his oldtraps again, resumed his prison-gate face, climbed up on top of theomnibus, and went off as he came.""And you were not surprised, all of you, at such a life?""Very much so.""And you did not think that these singular whims must concealsomething?""Oh, but we did!""And you didn't try to find out what that something was?

"How could we?""Was it very difficult to follow your boss, and ascertain where hewent, after leaving the house?""Certainly not; but what then?""Why," he replied, "you would have found out his secret in the end;and then you would have gone to him and told him, 'Give me so much,or I peach.'"

This story of M. Vincent, as told by these two honest companions,was something like the vulgar legend of other people's money, soeagerly craved, and so madly dissipated. Easily-gotten wealth iseasily gotten rid of. Stolen money has fatal tendencies, and turnsirresistibly to gambling, horse-jockeys, fast women, all the ruinousfancies, all the unwholesome gratifications.

They are rare indeed, among the daring cut-throats of speculation,those to whom their ill-gotten gain proves of real service, - sorare, that they are pointed out, and are as easily numbered as thegirls who leap some night from the street to a ten-thousand-francapartment, and manage to remain there.

Seized with the intoxication of sudden wealth, they lose all measureand all prudence. Whether they believe their luck inexhaustible, orfear a sudden turn of fortune, they make haste to enjoy themselves,and they fill the noted restaurants, the leading cafes, the theatres,the clubs, the race-courses, with their impudent personality, theclash of their voice, the extravagance of their mistresses, thenoise of their expenses, and the absurdity of their vanity. Andthey go on and on, lavishing other people's money, until the fatalhour of one of those disastrous liquidations which terrify thecourts and the exchange, and cause pallid faces and a gnashing ofteeth in the "street," until the moment when they have the choicebetween a pistol-shot, which they never choose, the criminal court,which they do their best to avoid, and a trip abroad.