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Page:Gaston Leroux--The man with the black feather.djvu/102

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beer isn't spilt," Theophrastus went on in a jeering tone. "You know then, my good sir, that my head is worth twenty thousand francs; but you'd better act as if you didn't, or some unpleasantness will befall you. I promised you a story. Well, here it is:

"Just about two hundred years ago I was walking along Vaugirard Street, with my hands in my pockets and without a weapon of any kind on me, not even a sword, when a man accosted me at the corner of the street, greeted me with all the politeness imaginable and declared that my face had taken his fancy—just as you said and did, Signor Petito!—that his name was Bidel, and all his friends called him Good Old Bidel, and he had a secret to confide to me. I encouraged him with a friendly tap on the shoulder." At this point Theophrastus fetched Signor Petito such a thump on the shoulder that it drew a short howl from him; and he pulled out his money under the constraining desire to go out and see if the mist had dispersed. "Put away your money, Signor Petito, I'm paying for the drinks!" said Theophrastus sharply; and he went on in his easy, conversational tone. "Well, Good Old Bidel, encouraged by my friendly tap," Signor Petito slipped along the bench, "told me his secret.