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Well, indeed, a nice place I had tumbled into! And such was my luck, for the one time in my life when I had good wages.

"M. Xavier has not yet come in to-night," said the valet de chambre.

"Oh!" exclaimed the cook, looking at me persistently, "perhaps he will return now."

And the valet de chambre related that that very morning a creditor of M. Xavier had come again to raise a row. It must have been a very dirty matter, for Monsieur had sung small, and had been obliged to pay a heavy sum, — at least four thousand francs.

"Monsieur was in a pretty rage," he added; "I heard him say to Madame: 'This cannot last; he will disgrace us; he will disgrace us.'"

The cook, who seemed very philosophical, shrugged her shoulders.

"Disgrace them?" said she, with a chuckle; "little they care about that. It is the having to pay that bothers them."

This conversation made me ill at ease. I understood vaguely that there might be some relation between Madame's garments, Madame's words, and M. Xavier. But exactly what?

"It is having to pay that bothers them!"

I did not sleep at all well that night, haunted by strange dreams and impatient to see M. Xavier.

The valet de chambre had not lied. A queer box, indeed!