Do you break the law on the Internet?

Do you break the law on the Internet?

In hunting for debtors, La Méchain was one of the helpers whom Busch was fondest of employing; for although he was obliged to have a little band of 'game-beaters' in his service, he lived in distrust of these disreputable, famishing assistants; whereas La Méchain had property of her own—an entire cité behind the Butte Montmartre, the Cité de Naples, as it was called, a vast tract of land covered with tumble-down shanties, which she let out by the month, a nook of frightful poverty, where starvelings were heaped together in filth, a crowd of pigsties which the wretched fought for, and whence she pitilessly swept away her tenants and their dung-heaps as soon as ever they ceased to pay her. However, her unfortunate passion for speculation consumed her, ate up all the profits of her cité. And she had also a taste for financial[Pg 29] losses, ruins, and fires, amid which melted jewels can be stolen. When Busch charged her with obtaining some information, or ferreting out a debtor, she would sometimes even spend money out of her own pocket in view of furthering her researches, such was the pleasure she took in them. She called herself a widow, but no one had ever known her husband. She came, too, no one knew whence, and seemed always to have been about fifty years old, and monstrously fat, with the piping voice of a little girl.

On this occasion, as soon as La Méchain had taken her seat on the single chair in Busch's office, the room became full, blocked up by her mass of flesh. Busch stood like a prisoner at his desk, buried, as it were, with only his square head showing above the ocean of papers. 'Here,' said she, removing from her old bag the huge pile of papers that distended it, 'here is what Fayeux has sent me from Vend?me. He bought everything for you at that sale in connection with the Charpier failure, which you told me to call to his attention—one hundred and ten francs.'

Fayeux, whom she called her cousin, had just established an office down there as a collector of dividends. His ostensible business was to cash the coupons of the petty bondholders of the district; and, as the depositary of these coupons and the cash they yielded, he speculated in the most frenzied manner.

'The country isn't worth much,' muttered Busch, 'but there are discoveries to be made there all the same.'

He sniffed the papers, and began sorting them out with an expert hand, roughly classifying them in accordance with a first appraisement, in which he seemed to be guided by their mere smell. As he proceeded, his flat face grew dark, and he paused at last with an expression of disappointment.

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'Humph! there is no fat here, nothing to bite. Fortunately it did not cost much. Here are some notes, and here some more. If they are signed by young people, who have come to Paris, we shall perhaps catch them.' Then, with a slight exclamation of surprise, he added: 'Hallo, what's this?'

At the bottom of a sheet of stamped paper he had just found the signature of the Count de Beauvilliers, and the sheet contained only three lines of large handwriting, evidently traced by an old man: 'I promise to pay the sum of ten thousand francs to Mademoiselle Léonie Cron on the day she attains her majority.

'The Count de Beauvilliers,' he slowly continued, thinking aloud; 'yes, he had several farms, quite a large estate, in the vicinity of Vend?me. He died of a hunting accident, leaving a wife and two children in straitened circumstances. I held some of his notes formerly, which with difficulty I got them to pay—he was a wild droll, not good for much——'

Suddenly he burst into a loud laugh, reconstructing in his mind the story attaching to the note.

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'Ah! the old sharper, he played the little one a nice trick with this bit of paper, which is legally valueless. Then he died. Let me see, this is dated 1854, ten years ago. The girl must be of age now. But how could this acknowledgment have got into Charpier's hands? He was a grain merchant, who lent money by the week. No doubt the girl left this on deposit with him in order to get a few crowns, or perhaps he had undertaken to collect it.'

'But this is very good,' interrupted La Méchain—'a real stroke of luck.'

Busch shrugged his shoulders disdainfully. 'Oh no, I tell you that it is legally worth nothing. If I should present it to the heirs, they may send me about my business, for it would be necessary to prove that the money is really due. Only, if we find the girl, I may induce them to be reasonable, and come to an understanding with us, in order to avoid a disagreeable scandal. You understand? Look for this Léonie Cron; write to Fayeux, and tell him to hunt her up down there. That done, we may perhaps have a laugh.'