"Oh! don't be alarmed. I have only some good news to communicate," and in a careless tone which cleverly concealed his anxiety, the viscount added: "I have come, my dear Wilkie, to ask you what you would be willing to give the man who put you in possession of a fortune of several millions?"
M. Wilkie's face turned from white to purple at least three times in ten seconds; and it was in a strangely altered voice that he replied: "Ah! that's good--very good--excellent!" He tried his best to laugh, but he was completely overcome; and, in fact, he had cherished so many extravagant hopes that nothing seemed impossible to him.
"Never in all my life have I spoken more seriously," insisted the viscount.
His companion at first made no reply. It was easy to divine the conflict that was raging in his mind, between the hope that the news was true and the fear of being made the victim of a practical joke. "Come, my friend," he said at last, "do you want to poke fun at me? That wouldn't be polite. A debtor is always sacred, and I owe you twenty-five louis. This is scarcely the time to talk of millions. My relatives have cut off my supplies; and my creditors are overwhelming me with their bills----"
But M. de Coralth checked him, saying gravely: "Upon my honor, I am not jesting. What would you give a man who--"
"I would give him half of the fortune he gave me."
He was in earnest, certainly. What wouldn't a man promise in all sincerity of soul to a fellow mortal who gave him money when he had none--when he needed it urgently and must have it to save himself from ruin?
At such a moment no commission, however large, seems exorbitant. It is afterward, when the day of settlement comes, that people begin to find fault with the rate of interest.