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THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER

horrified by the thought that he might have been the Comte de Charolais, renowned for his debaucheries, whose hobby was to shoot thatchers at work on the house-roofs. For forty-eight hours he was the Cardinal de Polignac before he was disgusted to learn that that great Churchman had not been a man of stainless virtue. Whenever he did find a person whom the historians painted in the most engaging colours and adorned with the most solid virtues, that personage invariably disobliged him by not having been shut up in the Conciergerie or betrayed on the First of April.

However he had just discovered, in the Journal de Barbier, a favourite of the Regent who, strangely enough, was exactly the man he was looking for, when there came a development of his case which plunged him into a profound consternation.

He had sent Marceline down to his country cottage on the banks of the Marne, to which it was their habit to betake themselves at the beginning of July; and Adolphe had gone down to the village inn, to help her get it in order for their stay. Their absence left him freer to prosecute his researches. Then on the morning of the anniversary of his wedding-day he went down to join them at the cottage.