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Three days after my return, they came to see me with long faces.
"My dear Louis," said George, "you know your cousin is not dead?"
"I cannot be sure of that," I replied, " for I am by no means convinced of his existence."
Well; but you know that this inheritance is only a hoax ?"
"To tell you the truth, I think we are the only people who are of that opinion."
“We have been very wrong to originate such a foolish invention; for which we are sincerely sorry."
"On the contrary, I am much obliged to you."
“But it is our duty to contradict it, and to confess how foolish we have been."
Truth cannot remain long concealed; people began to wonder that no news came from Martinique; the wise and prudent shook their heads ominously when my name was mentioned.
"The most ludicrous feature in the case is," said one, "that he has ended by believing in the truth of his own invention. For my part, I must say that I was always rather sceptical about that inheritance."
"And I also," said Mr. Felix," though it has cost me fifteen thousand francs."
On seeing a dozen letters on my table one morning, I guessed that the bubble had burst. Their contents were much alike; for instance—
"Mr. Mayer's respects to Mr. Meran, and having heavy payments to meet, will feel obliged by a cheque for the amount of the enclosed."
My replies disarmed all doubts of my perfect solvency.
"Mr. Meran thanks Mr. Mayer for having at last sent in his account, and encloses a cheque for the amount." My cool and unconcerned demeanour kept curiosity alive for a few days longer.
"What a lucky fellow !" said one.
"Luck has nothing to do with it," rejoined another; "he has played his cards well, and has won."
Once or twice, I confess, I felt compunction of conscience; but a moment's reflection convinced me that my own exertions had no share in my good fortune, and that I owed it all to a universal public worship of the Golden Calf, and to the truth of Albert's axiom, "the next best thing to capital is credit."
AM not in the habit of seeing the "Household Words" regularly; but a friend, who lately sent me some of the back numbers, recommended me to read "all the papers relating to the Detective and Protective Police,” which I accordingly did not as the generality of readers have done, as they appeared week by week, or with pauses between, but consecutively, as a popular history of the Metropolitan Police; and, as I suppose it may also be considered, a history of the Police force in every large town in England. When I had ended these papers, I did not feel disposed to read any others at that time, but preferred falling into a train of reverie and recollection.
First of all, I remembered, with a smile, the unexpected manner in which a relation of mine was discovered by an acquaintance, who had mislaid or forgotten Mr. B.'s address. Now, my dear cousin, Mr. B., charming as he is in many points, has the little peculiarity of liking to change his lodgings once every three months on an average, which occ ons some bewilderment to his country friends, who have no sooner learnt the 19, Belle Vue Road, Hampstead, than they have to take pains to forget that address, and to remember the 271, Upper Brown Street, Camberwell; and
so on, till I would rather learn a page of "Walker's Pronouncing Dictionary," than try to remember the variety of directions which I have had to put on my letters to Mr. B. during the last three years. Last summer it pleased him to remove to a beautiful village not ten miles out of London, where there is a railway station. Thither his friend sought him. (I do not now speak of the following scent there had been through three or four different lodgings, where Mr. B. had been residing, before his country friend ascertained that he was now lodging at R.) He spent the morning in making inquiries as to Mr. B.'s whereabouts in the village; but many gentlemen were lodging there for the summer, and neither butcher nor baker could inform him where Mr. B. was staying; his letters were unknown at the Post-office, which was accounted for by the circumstances of their always being directed to his office in town. At last the country friend sauntered back to the railway office, and while he waited for the train he made inquiry, as a last resource, of the book-keeper at the station. "No, sir, I cannot tell you where Mr. B. lodges-so many gentlemen go by the trains; but I have no doubt but that the person standing by that pillar can inform you." The individual to whom he directed the inquirer's attention had the appearance of a tradesman-respectable enough, yet with no pretensions to "gentility," and had, apparently, no more urgent employment than lazily watching the passengers who came dropping in to the station. However, when he was spoken to, he answered civilly and promptly. "Mr. B.? tall gentleman with light hair? Yes, sir, I know Mr. B. He lodges at No. 8 Morton Villas-has done these three weeks or more; but you'll not find him there, sir, now. He went to town by the eleven o'clock train, and does not usually return until the half-past four train."
The country friend had no time to lose in returning to the village, to ascertain the truth of this statement. He thanked his informant, and said he would call on Mr. B. at his office in town; but before he left R-station, he asked the book-keeper who the person was to whom he had referred him for information as to his friend's place of residence. "One of the Detective Police, sir," was the answer. I need hardly say, that Mr. B., not without a little surprise, confirmed the accuracy of the policeman's report in every particular.
When I heard this anecdote of my cousin and his friend, I thought that there could be no more romances written on the same kind of plot as Caleb Williams; the principal interest of which, to the superficial reader, consists in the alternation of hope and fear, that the hero may, or may not, escape his pursuer. It is long since I have read the story, and I forget the name of the offended and injured gentleman, whose privacy Caleb has invaded; but I know that his pursuit of Caleb his detection of the various hidingplaces of the latter his following up of slight clues—all, in fact, depended upon his own energy, sagacity, and perseverance. The interest was caused by the struggle of man against man; and the uncertainty as to which would ultimately be successful in his object; the unrelenting pursuer, or the ingenious Caleb, who seeks by every device to conceal himself. Now in 1851, the offended master would set the Detective Police to work; there would be no doubt as to their success; the only question would be as to the time that would elapse before the hiding-place could be detected, and that could not be a question long. It is no longer a struggle between man and man, but between a vast organised machinery, and a weak, solitary individual; we have no hopes, no fears-only certainty. But if the 6