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CHAPTER XVII

THE FLIGHT FROM SCEAUX.

THE responsibility brought by the possession of such valuable state papers oppressed me greatly, to say nothing of the perils which would beset their custodian if it became Jerome's purpose to reclaim them. I thought it most prudent and proper under present conditions to see the dispatches safe in de Serigny's hands—then, at least, I would be absolved from any blame in the matter. Serigny held me responsible, and it would perhaps be the part of wisdom to act independently of Jerome, report fully to Serigny, and if it were then his wish that the investigation concerning Yvard and Madame du Maine be pressed to further discoveries, nothing would be easier than to return to Paris almost before Jerome could miss me. I need tell Serigny nothing of my suspicion of Jerome; even if true, his animosity would vanish with the cause which gave it birth.

There was much to acquaint Serigny with, much perchance he knew already. Paris swarmed with rumors. Every lip was busy with second-hand gossip coming, as each relator declared, from the most reliable sources. "My cousin, who is laundress to the Countess de Lanois, says," and upon this immaculate authority the

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